Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pirate Radio (Rhoades)

“Pirate Radio” Rocks the Boat
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

On Fridays I co-host a radio program on KONK AM (1680 on your dial) with Michael Shields, a segment called Film on Fridays. Community radio at its finest. It reminds me of the freedom of expression we enjoy.

Back in the ’60s our friends in England didn’t have it so simple. The BBC preferred soothing music, not the raucous sounds of rock ’n roll. The solution to this was so-called pirate radio stations, illegal transmissions sent from ships anchored offshore in the Black Sea.

That era (and its music) is recalled in a new film appropriately titled “Pirate Radio.” This comedy is currently broadcasting its story at the Tropic Cinema.

The ensemble cast is led by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as The Count, a raucous American DJ. He’s joined by Tom Wisdom as Midnight Mark, Nick Frost as Dr. Dave, Chris O’Dowd as Breakfast DJ Simon, Rhys Darby as Angus “The Knut” Knutsford, Rhys Ifans as DJ Gavin, and Ralph Brown as DJ Smooth Bob.

The decrepit old ship is helmed by veteran actor Bill Nighy, well cast as the station’s tenacious boss. And Tom Sturridge is on board as his godson Carl.

The posters promise “One Boat. Eight DJs. No morals.”

Every story has a bad guy. Their nemesis is a government minister, wryly portrayed by Kenneth Branagh. His aim is to shut them down. Passing a law known as the Marine Offences Act, he sends an armada of boats out to arrest the malefactors.

The old tub that headquarters Radio Rock is not up to evasive maneuvers and begins to sink. Will the minister’s boats save the offensive rockers? Will listening fans be horrified? Will Phillip Seymour Hoffman sink beneath the seas like a stone?

Hey, it’s only rock ’n roll to me. Go see for yourself.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Love Actually”), this British production was originally titled “The Boat That Rocked.”

Bill Nighy has been here before with Richard Curtis. Although Nighy had been a working actor for 40 years, it was his portrayal of an aging rock star in Curtis’ “Love Actually” that put his career on the map.

“Whatever else the film might be,” says Nighy, “it was mainly an excuse for Richard to play all the songs from that period, the Who, the Small Faces, the Kinks. He is a slave to them. It’s funny but at the time, 1966, I just accepted that there was all this good music around. I thought that was the norm but, in retrospect, I realize that it was an extraordinary time for music. Extraordinary.”

Nighy remembers the pirate radio stations of the ’60s. “Radio Caroline was seen as a threat and was chased all over the seas. The best thing about them was they had a good signal. Radio Luxembourg was great but it would always drift off the signal. I would listen to it on a beautiful old wireless that I kept by my bed ... My dad just shook his head. It was beyond his comprehension.”

Pirate radio ended. But the battle was won. Today, there are 299 music radio stations across the UK playing rock and pop music 24 hours a day.

Rock on!
[from Solares Hill]


Anonymous said...

Just saw this movie and it's a hoot. The music is some of the best. Note, though, they were anchored in the NORTH Sea, not the Black Sea.

Anonymous said...

Right you are about the North Sea. Of course, since the Black Sea is way over in Russia/Ukraine.