Monday, 15 April 2013

It's Trad, Dad!

Even for a British cinematic tradition that includes several non-'Take Me High' Cliff Richard films, ‘It’s Trad, Dad!’ (also known as ‘Ring-a-Ding Rhythm’) is ridiculously tame, and the music is almost uniformly terrible. Directed (with some style) by Richard Lester, the gossamer thin plot concerns a new town where trad jazz and rock music are banned by the civic council. In time honoured fashion, the kids decide to put on a show to prove that pop music is fun rather than a threat, and set out to find artists to play at it and deejays to compere.

Sweet Gene Vincent.

I can't even remember who these blokes are.
They're brothers, they're British, and they are rubbish, if that helps.

Father, son and Unholy Ghost.

Del Boy.

The majority of the film is a crappy cavalcade of contemporary musical stars (including good ones like Gene Vincent and Del Shannon) performing really mediocre material whilst brylcreemed hipsters like Pete Murray, David Jacobs and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman try and click their arthritic fingers in time. As the poster states, there are twenty five separate musical numbers - even at only two minutes a go (and some seem much longer) that's fifty minutes out of a running time of an hour and twenty, so there's not much time for story or characterisation.

Arthur says 'yus' to The Twist.

In the end, the show goes on (it’s televised!) and the grown-ups have to grudgingly admit they were wrong and twist to a rubbish duet between stars Craig Douglas and Helen Shapiro. Even Arthur Mullard has a cavort - and when Arfur busts some moves, they stay busted.

Helen Sneer-peer-o.

He likes it.
A big success in its day, the film is so genial and harmless that criticising it is like punching a kitten, but it seems like a missed opportunity in many ways: pre-Beatles, there was a unique and peculiarly British approach to popular music, but that simply isn’t represented here so, as a document, it’s worthless, like a book about 20th century art that puts Margaret Keane or poker playing dogs at the centre of everything. That said, it isn’t supposed to be a document, it’s supposed to be fun, which it is, sometimes, when it’s not being really boring. Funnily enough, this was an early product of horror stalwarts and portmanteau experts Amicus, who would later give Alan Freeman another acting role in 'Doctor Terrible's House Of Horrors'.  

Home Counties Cowboys.

Ottilie Patterson. I think she's trying to be 'authentic'.

Acker Bilk fantasises about a foxy lady with a firearm. 
My biggest problem, really, is with the ‘trad’ part: I’ve never understood how a bunch of middle aged British blokes pretending to be in a New Orleans saloon caught on with the youth of this country, and I find it almost inconceivable that Mr. Acker Bilk or the late Kenny Ball and his Jazz Men posed a threat to the British way of life, or that a scruffy, souped up version of ‘There’s A Tavern In The Town’ could ever have been the soundtrack to any kind of rebellion. I like tradition, I like jazz, but I don’t like trad, Dad - and neither does my Dad (he’s more of a Dire Straits man). 

Two of the nine of the Seven.

The best performance comes from the delightfully deadpan Temperance Seven. Their first number is a masterpiece of mordant minimalism and both performances inspire director Lester to stretch himself a bit. Nice beards, too.

I'll bet Dolly Dolly will like this.


  1. It does have a lovely performance by The Paris Sisters in it too.

    And I believe this is the flick that got Lester the job of doing 'A Hard Day's Night'

  2. I fucking LOVE this film. If I had lots of money I would project it onto the clouds every night like a groovy jazz bat signal. I'm saying.

  3. whats the name of the track being played at 0.10? i assume its kenny ball...?

  4. Who were the backup singers in the movie for Rainbows in my Tears? Two brunettes and a blonde?