In February 2004 Mike Peters’ revamped Alarm line-up released a new single, 45 RPM. It was a spiky, anthemic offering, reminiscent of the original Alarm’s early-eighties glory years. Problem was, that’s not very cool, is it? At least in the eyes of the music industry who tend to judge more on looks and image than talent and ability. That prompted Mike Peters to put the single out under the fictitious name The Poppy Fields, complete with a glossy MTV-friendly video performed by a group of carefully-selected 18-year old stand-ins.
The single was a hit, entering the UK singles chart at number 27 and creating a huge media buzz. In true rocker fashion Peters then blew the whole thing wide open, including his reasons for doing perpetrating the hoax, live on Radio 1. When revealed, the story went international, the publicity breathing new life into the Alarm and leaving a lot of people with egg on their faces. The song became most widely recognized for exposing the rampant ageism within the music industry. It was soon agreed that the story behind the single would make a great film. It took almost a decade for that to happen, but finally… it has.
For the movie version of this real-life Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle, Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia) is fantastic as washed-up rocker Johnny Jones, ex of made-up punk band Weapons of Happiness who, after a drunken recording session, attempt a comeback. However, their efforts fall on deaf ears and are met only with derision from record company bosses who no longer see them or their music as relevant. That forces them to go out an recruit a bunch of good-looking teenagers to be the public face of the group and mime to tunes performed by the original Weapons of Happiness. The young pretenders, given the name the Single Shots, soon find fame.
During auditions for the new ‘fake’ band singer meets a young upstart called Drainpipe (played by the excellent Jamie Blackley), and a cross-generational friendship flourishes. As the story progresses old tensions within the original group about who broke up the original band and why begin to surface, and Johnny Jones is forced into a fair amount of soul-searching. At times the film lapses into classic British comedy caper territory, but as it’s set against the breathtaking backdrop of north Wales, and boasts a great original soundtrack, with no small measure of true punk spirit, that is forgiveable.
Free Rock n’ Roll.
Vinyl is out on DVD now