Since its appearance in 1992, I've been heralding the Willie and the Poor Boys' Live—Tear It Up* as the absolute best revivalist band of 50s/60s rock. Another of Bill Wyman's larks, that release actually followed, as I was to find later, the 1985 band presented here (now sitting rather nicely in my collection as well). In all reality, though, Wyman/Willie dragged a buncha blokes together a bit earlier than that, in November 1984 for the very first play-through in order to help the Ronnie Lane Appeal for A.I.M.S. (see here for a later A.I.M.S. concert), and the ensemble was pretty stellar: Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Chris Rea, Andy Fairweather-Low, etc. Four months after, Bill reconvened most of the band, plus new sit-ins, for a reprise that's actually a great little stab at a feature-film fantasy…not really a concert (and you won't mind a bit the lip-synching usual to such ventures, trust me). As this DVD's liner notes point out, this was the first time members of the Rolling Stones (Wyman, Ronnie Wood [playing sax here!!], Charlies Watts) and the Beatles (Ringo Starr as 'The Janitor') got together for a music project.
Thus, Rea, Fairweather-Low, and Kenney Jones return along with Mickey Gee and sundry stalwarts...and where but here can you see King Crimson's Mel Collins in a horn unit with Raf Ravenscroft? Heh-heh-heh, nowhere, m'boy, nowhere. This One Night Only release from the MVD line, like the other A.I.M.S. event, is in truth a glorious fluke originating in a trove of materials Wyman had at home, relegated to the Way Cool "Failures" Closet, now published for public delectation. The movie itself is short, only 30 minutes long, but is flanked by a half-hour documentary, so you get a full hour—not that it matters: the very cool uber-professional attention lavished on the original project is not only a rarity but something that should've been emulated by others.
Yep, the music is top drawer and all the lads on their best behavior, but the jitterbugging dance sequences are as hip as the band, marvelous, killer, a breath of the Glenn Miller days come back to life. The film's most basic narrative revolves around a trio of teenybopping lasses acting out a mutual dare who sneak on-stage to chip in some Andrews Sister moves alongside their heroes,. Seamlessly concocted, the sequences flow into one another like a smoothly jiving dream and it's a shame the concept wasn't carried out for a full 90 minutes and released in theaters, but this is a finger-snapping second best thing. More, catch Henry Spinetti, the center of the band despite the heavy hitters, Jerry Lee Lewis-ing away at the keyboards and then switching over to a 'cordine.
In these latter days when long-lost hidden treasures are finally seeing the light of day, Willie and the Poor Boys is a particular gem. Full critic's disclosure, though: it was actually Andy La-Booga-Rooga-Low's presence that originally prompted me to get hip to the Boys, as I'll buy any album that cat's on, from his founding Fairweather days up to his obscure solo LPs to his involvement lately with the Pink Floyd boys. There's just something about that cat that adds magic to a project, much like when Andy Roberts used to play with Ian Matthews.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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