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DVD: BREAKING GLASS (original cinema release 1980)

Well I'm not going to name the writer/director on this one, because a guy I used to share a pad with claimed he'd done much of script but didn't get a credit. I occupied a place in Kennington, south London, with the man in question - Steve Thorne aka Doctor Thorne - more than twenty years ago. Back then he'd spend the day writing, mainly plays for Radio 4, then come six o'clock would leave the house to wander off to Soho for an evening's drinking. Anyway, I can't prove Doctor Thorne's story is true but it's appropriate for a film that deals with rip offs in the music industry. This is the movie that broke Hazel O'Connor, who infamously and very spectacularly went on to screw her own career by getting into business disputes with her management and record company.

So in "Breaking Glass" O'Connor is trying to express herself thru music and meets Phil Daniels, a would-be music biz hustler working as a chart fixer. Daniels sacks O'Connor's old band and fixes her up with a new and better group. At this point the band (Breaking Glass) and manager are living and working in toilets. They try to move on but everything is stitched up. However, Daniels eventually manages to blackmail some of those he works for in the music biz into giving him a break. He is able to do this because he'd been paid to illegally hype records into the Top 40, and threatens to tell a journalist all about it unless his band get a deal. So the gigs improve and Breaking Glass are signed after playing the old Music Machine at the south end of Camden. Now this is what I actually like about the film, it takes you back because the Music Machine used to have the headline band come on at midnight, so in the late seventies when I used to go out to rock concerts at least four nights a week, I'd often wander out of the Marquee or 100 Club or wherever that closed at 11:pm and head off either to The Music Machine (or The Global village under the arches at The Embankment).

Now the Music Machine was big but it was a real wreck and while this film is about the sleaziness of rock pubs and clubs at the end of the seventies, as well as west London housing, it fails to capture just how dire the Music Machine was. Like there would always be a couple of inches of water on the toilet floor. So I'd be up there catching Chelsea or The Ants or The Subs or whoever it was, but generally one didn't piss at the venue unless really desperate. Still, on the sleazy side in the film, you get a load of nice radio voice-overs about strikes and political strife, mostly illustrated with shots of tower blocks and the Westway, so that's a good way to recall those times. Things start to take off for Breaking Glass when they are scheduled to play the 'Rock Against 1984' meet in Notting Hill. There are bands on lorries and clashes between rival left and right political factions, which results in a youth dying in a rock riot as Breaking Glass play on a truck. This incident gives the band their break into the big time, and simultaneously under record company pressure they get their sound and image softened by sleazy pop producer Bob Woods. This smoothie also breaks up the relationship between O'Connor and Daniels. So from here it is all down hill as O'Connor becomes a proper pop star whose image mimics classic moments of German Expressionist cinema and whose sound becomes increasingly bland. O'Connor has a break down after playing The Rainbow in Finsbury Park and ends up in a nursing home. Daniels finishes by ranting in pubs about bland crud not being rock and roll.

So all in all this is pretty entertaining, although O'Connor's music for "Breaking Glass" isn't nearly as cool as the cod disco pop pap Daniels' is hyping for a singer called Susie Saphire early on in the movie. But if this flick depended on O'Connor's music then it wouldn't be worth watching. What's great is being reminded of how crummy the tube trains looked in those days, and seeing a staged riot under the Westway close to the Acklam Hall where I was in a real riot in the summer of 79 at a Rock Against Racism benefit (which must be around the time this fake one was filmed). I also think it's a shame that these days we see even fewer female leads with looks as unconventional as Hazel O'Connor. Judging by the way she aborted her own music career, she was a natural, which is why she is so convincing in this movie. But then I'd go for her in terms of looks over a contemporary Hollywood clone any day. O'Connor is interesting to watch; whereas classical 'beauty' tends to be vacuous and bland. Daniels is good too, although I prefer him in "Quadrophenia", but that probably just comes down to the music and clothes (mod, mod, mod) being better in the latter Pete Townsend vehicle.

Oh and incidentally the producer of "Breaking Glass" was Dodi Fayed, so perhaps there's even something in here for conspiracy theorists. Like could it be that Princess Di was murdered because she had the bad taste to go out with the man who financed this crud? Yeah, its complete rubbish but I'd take entertaining bollocks like this over art any day. This makes me want to watch "Rock Follies" again and I haven't seen that since it was first screened in the seventies (and I only saw the first and not the second series). Watch "Breaking Glass" and if you didn't know it already, you will realise that the eighties actually began in the seventies (this might have been released in 1980 but most of it was lensed in 1979).

Jubilee (Jarman's punk movie)

Pressure (1970s London movie with reggae elements)

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (soul classic)

Weird World of LSD

From London In The Raw to Strip (sexploitation)



Breaking Glass movie poster

Breaking Glass soundtrack cover

Stewart Home in Melbourne 2004

Stewart Home tells it like it is...