RADIO / An accident that waited to happen: Nick Curtis welcomes the late arrival of Michael Wall's Headcrash, after three years in limbo, and says Happy Birthday to Mick Jagger
Tuesday 27 July 1993
Strong on mood and stingy with specifics, Wall's post-apocalyptic wasteland is peopled by a mixed bag of creeps, crazies, hitters and bozos. Our 'hitters' are Boy and Yuka, tooled-up and revved-up as they cruise the freeways, blowing away fellow travellers to gain advancement in a bizarre officially sanctioned game.
Yuka (Toyah Willcox) is smothered in bandages because her skin is disintegrating. Boy (Jeremy Flynn) was born in a highway pile-up, could drive before he could walk, and tries to keep a mental record of their life with the archaic words ('mother', 'crime') that pop into his head. Some time later we learn that they're related. But that's about all we learn.
Where and why this wasteland exists, who's in charge and how the game works never become clear. Hints at contemporary relevance and a vague suggestion it's all happening in Boy's head are dangled. But Headcrash decelerates to an almost apologetic halt with Boy becoming 'a real bastard', freed of encumbrances and able to kill with his eyes alone.
Even so, this was gripping stuff thanks to its evocation of the sensations, if not the sense, of a demented future world. Mia Soteriou and David Chilton provided a revolutionary soundtrack, the dialogue constantly underlaid by a driving electro-hum, its rhythm reminiscent of telegraph poles ticking past at speed. The effects - explosions, rat attacks, the scream of rending steel - were laced in to make a superb totality of sound.
Flynn was a little stilted as the confused Boy struggling to impose meaning on confusion. But Willcox was excellent in what was her radio debut, freaking out at the rodents, gleefully dismembering a posse of ambushing crazies, or eviscerating one of the 'Creeps' who enforce the game (an act in direct contravention of the rules, I might add). Of course, the theme of Headcrash is not remotely experimental. From Schwarzenegger to Sam Shepard, the idea has had more mileage than Boy could ever hope to travel. It is Wall's refusal to use the scenario as an obvious metaphor, and the technical excellence of Jeremy Mortimer's production that distinguish it. It's probably what kept it off the air for so long, too.
For the past week, it has been impossible to keep Mick Jagger off the radio. For those who've been living under a stone, that's because it was the Midnight Rambler's 50th birthday yesterday. Gazumping celebrations by two days, Nicky Campbell presented Mick Jagger: 50, Not Out (Saturday, Radio 1), a rockumentary so uncritical and uncomplicated it'll never get repeated in Studio 3.
Factually informative and entertaining, this was unfortunately steeped in the kind of rock lore that's difficult to take seriously in these post-Spinal Tap days. Campbell began by asking if it was time Jagger hung up his mojo, but slid gradually into hagiography as he ticked off all the usual bumps hit by the Rolling Stones. There was the repackaging of the band as satanic southern opposites to the cutesy, Liverpudlian Beatles; the drugs bust and William Rees-Mogg's subsequent Times editorial 'Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?'; the revelations that Mick was actually quite a nice boy. Satisfaction? Not much.
Listening to this you'd be forgiven for thinking the Rolling Stones were a duo, a sort of Peters and Lee called Mick 'n' Keef. Campbell and producer Kevin Hewlett ignored the other musicians and most of Jagger's private life (except to note that he doesn't like talking about it). Despite the contributions of eminent rockologists it was the comedian and actor John Sessions, of all people, who had the most insight.
Sessions' pinched Scottish drawl analysed Jagger's ambiguous sexual appeal: at the Hyde Park concert, the 'Little Red Rooster' had 'skin like chicken meat', and 'looked like he wanted to be laid by the garrison of a town'. But it was Sessions' mimickry that beautifully deconstructed Jagger's voice into its constituent parts: Cheyne Walk snob, American-inflected bluesman and incoherent cockney lout.
As Sessions said, no one challenges this absurd concoction because he's Mick Jagger. He's a man who made ugliness sexy; a middle-aged hipster in a medium he described at 30 as 'adolescent'; a man equally at home with Princess Margaret as Muddy Waters; half of the best living songwriting partnership and a fifth of the best rock band in the world. In short, he's a star, and as long as he's a star he can keep putting Campbell and the rest of us on.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head