History has told us time and again that the music movie is not as easy as it looks. From pop stars who can’t act to rock stars who think they’re Orson Welles, hubris is all too often the culprit and the ensuing melee following release invariably leaves our formerly untouchable stars wounded. So without further ado, for those with a predilection for squirming, here are 10 of the worst music movies ever made.
Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Prince’s Graffiti Bridge could well be the worst film of all time – musical or otherwise – assuming that coveted title wasn’t already usurped by Under The Cherry Moon from 1986, another Prince vehicle (at least Under The Cherry Moon, shot in black and white in the South of France looks nice). Graffiti Bridge is an extended 90s pop promo with a terrible half-arsed plot involving two foes inheriting a nightclub and the ensuing struggle for power that nobody bar the protagonists could give a flying shit about. The unofficial sequel to Purple Rain sees Prince resume his role as The Kid, though the fact the lead character still answers to The Kid at 32 speaks volumes about this embarrassing charade. Who writes this rubbish? Prince apparently. Yeah, but who directs this cack? Prince apparently. Doh.
The Spice Girls were on top of the world in 1997, then came Spiceworld. It’s difficult to find anything remotely redeeming about this movie: Mel C is guilty of the worst stage school overacting, Victoria gurns away like Widow Twankey throughout while Mel B channels the ghost of Ena Sharples. Neither Richard E Grant nor Alan Cummin nor cameos from Roger Moore nor Hugh Laurie nor even Norm from Cheers can save the day. If we have to say something nice then Jools Holland – a man not known for his warmest of deliveries usually – comes out of this mess looking like Al Pacino when compared with everybody else.
The Song Remains The Same (1976)
The moment legendary cricket bat-wielding Led Zep manager Peter Grant turns up in a Bentley dressed as a gangster (ie. the first minute) and shoots dead a werewolf and a man with no face, you know The Song Remains The Same is going to stink. Let’s be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Led Zeppelin’s performance at Madison Square Garden in New York which this film is interspersed with – the Zep were an astonishing unit of awe and wonder – but all the extraneous alpha male fantasy gubbins is difficult to countenance; swashbuckling, maiden-ravishing, virgin blood-drinking, medieval twaddle. Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence involves the axeman climbing a cliff face at Aleister Crowley’s old abode, while Robert Plant’s fantasy sees sleeping giants Wolverhampton Wanderers win the European Cup. You’ve got me, that last bit was made up – too far fetched even for fantasy, right?
Truth or Dare (1991)
It was assumed audiences in the UK wouldn’t know what the game Truth or Dare was all about, so instead we got In Bed With Madonna in ‘91 which documented Madonna’s going-out-with-Warren-Beatty-period and her Blonde Ambition tour, arriving just before saucy coffee table book, Sex. No matter the title, we all got to see Madonna faceplant with Antonio Banderas and worse still where she fellates a glass bottle during a game of… what’s it called again? Truth or Dare? Sorry we’re British, we’ve no idea what that is, you’ve lost us I’m afraid. Honourable mention goes to Body of Evidence, not actually a music film at all but a picture that picked up a stunning 6% on RottenTomatoes.com mostly thanks to la Ciccone’s dismal turn in the piss poor Basic Instinct knock off.
The Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
In 1967 The Beatles thought they could do no wrong; they could. They’d just released Sgt Pepper to universal plaudits and having given up touring they had a lot of time on their hands, so Paul McCartney, the driving force behind the group in their latter years, suggested a bus trip to the West Country with a handful of actors with the cameramen leaving the tapes rolling. What the film itself actually comes across like is a bus trip to the West Country with a handful of actors with the cameramen leaving the tapes rolling. It has all the glamour of a broken down National Express coach five miles out of Tiverton Parkway, and even the Queen was believed to have given it the thumbs down when it aired on British television that Christmas. Great tunes though.
Rattle and Hum (1988)
Rattle and Hum marks the moment Bono turns from young humble Dublin Christian boy to megalomaniac rock star big head, stomping around America in cowboy boots like some weird messianic Napoleon figure in a leather waistcoat and no shirt. Ewww. He “steals back” ‘Helter Skelter’ back from Charles Manson without presumably asking The Beatles permission first, he aligns himself with the might of Elvis when he visits Graceland, he adds some lyrics to ‘All Along The Watchtower’ as if to say Dylan’s lyrics weren’t quite adequate enough and he offers the IRA out in a fight during ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. He’s an insufferable dickhead basically, who would only get worse from here on in.
Kurt and Courtney (1998)
Nick Broomfield has been responsible for some fine documentaries, though his forays into music are perhaps not worthy of inclusion. In Tupac and Biggie he appears to bottle it at the end when talking to the man mountain Suge Knight, while Kurt and Courtney is as aimless as rockumentaries come, feeding off conspiracies and sifting through the bins of Cobain’s suicide. It doesn’t quite have the bottle to point the finger, and merely insinuates as a parade of flawed characters from Cobain’s backstory come out of the woodwork. Courtney Love, the focus of ire for many of the interviewees, isn’t thrilled about the film being made, and who can blame her? We come away feeling great pity for Kurt’s aunt Mary who encouraged his musical development, and we’re left with the feeling that maybe Love isn’t the nicest person to know, which we might have concluded anyway. There goes 95 minutes of your life you’ll not get back.
All that glitters is not gold, a phrase that has no doubt been used a hundred times in relation to the 2001 Mariah Carey vehicle ‘Glitter’, a movie so terrible that Max Beesley in a muscle vest with a tosh New Yoik accent isn’t the worst thing in it. Interestingly the melismatic diva left Columbia in 2000 and signed a reported $100m record (in every sense of the word) contract with Virgin before the film went on release… and flopped. Her performance was savaged, Carey suffered a breakdown brought on from exhaustion and her career has never really properly recovered from that period onwards, which in hindsight looks like a microcosmic premonition of the 2008 fiscal meltdown we all suffered when the banks faltered. That’s right, if only we’d been paying attention, Mariah Carey could have taught us all something.
See also Britney Spears in Crossroads. Or maybe don’t.
It Might Get Loud (2008)
A documentary about three guitarists sat around talking about their six-strings was always going to be something of a muso circle jerk anyway, but getting Jimmy Page and Jack White – the two greatest living guitarists of their generation – to sign on the dotted line was something of a coup. But then what happened? Did Keith Richards pull out or did nobody have Tony Iommi’s phone number? You can just imagine the panic as the producers scurried to get the last axeman on board, and then those benign words: “It’s okay, we’ve got the guy with the hat out of U2”. Page and White show us some licks while The Edge (or Dave Evans to his mum) demonstrates how to play one note and feed it through six delay pedals. If you’re going to showboat fine, but nobody likes a clever dick.
The Wall (1982)
For people who ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd on record just isn’t indulgent enough for, here’s a 95 minute movie featuring Bob Geldof having a nervous breakdown, shaving his eyebrows off and becoming a Nazi. For those types scrambling around the floor looking for anything that’ll act as surrogate roach paper, it’s probably a movie full of intensity and meaning, while for the rest of us it has all the gravity of a sixth form drama revue. Self referential to the last, the Wall traces the life of the fictional character Pink Floyd from his boyhood days following WWII to his self-imposed isolation as a rock star – oh per-lease. Bob watches on as his wife starts an affair with a CND activist, and then bingo, he starts smashing the place up. There’s also some nice animation that subtly informs us school is a totalitarian regime and none of us know how to think for ourselves. Or something. Class dismissed!