ONE HOUR’S worth of story, 20 minutes of music (including Kenny Ball’s new hit ‘Rondo’) is the way they’ve planned Britain’s latest pop film, Live It Up.
I was told: “The public doesn’t just want to see a string of artists any more. You’ve got to have a story.”
This doesn’t mean you won’t see plenty of the big names who appear in the movie, Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen, Heinz, Gene Vincent, the Outlaws, Patsy Ann Noble, and Sounds Incorporated have managed to pack in 11 numbers, most of them written by Joe Meek. Norrie Paramor is another contributor.
But Heinz, the ex-Tomado who has gone solo as a singer, is the artist most likely to make his name from Live It Up. He has a leading acting role as a telegraph boy out to make the big time in show business.
“Leaving the Tornados was a terrific gamble,” he told me quietly when we met on the set at Pinewood recently. “It meant giving up ready-made fame. And seeing ‘Ice Cream Man’ in the charts doesn’t make it any easier.
“At the same time, you have to remember that I’ll be heard playing on the Tornados’ next ten-or-so discs. So the break isn’t that much of a jolt.
“We didn’t plan it that way. It’s just that Joe has a lot of Tornados’ material in the can, and I happen to be on it. I had plans to leave even before ‘Telstar’, and everyone knew.
“It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t make it as a singer. You have to take a gamble and if it doesn’t work out well that’s that.
“I took a heck of a gamble when I came up to London from the place where I lived near Southampton, but it worked out.
“I look at it this way: if I don’t make the grade as a singer, I’ve still had some great times and a lot of luck.
“For instance, the Tornados were actually formed around me. I really came to London to join the Outlaws — which is now my backing group!
“After I arrived I found the job wasn’t vacant anymore. But Joe Meek said ‘Don’t worry, we’ll build a group around you.’ That’s how the Tornados were born.”
Working on Live It Up helped Heinz forget the disappointments of his solo debut with Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent.
“I’ve been booed,” he told me frankly. “I’ve had it pretty rough. I could have understood it if it had been during my act, but sometimes they were booing even before I went on.
“The thing is, you get big male audiences at these Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis shows. I suppose the fellers go for all this tough black leather gear.
“Me, I’m a girls’ act. It’s no use trying to pretend I’m anything else, when I go on with my light hair and ‘pretty’ suits. The fellers don’t realty like it. I do a lot of wild rock stuff, you see, and I suppose they get a bit cheesed when the girls start screaming.
“Still, I’m glad I’ve got this experience right at the start. I’d really be worried if it happened half way through my career.
“I’m going to try and develop myself as an artist. Appearing in films is one way — this is my second, following Farewell Performance. Actually, my aim is to be as big a star as Cliff Richard. But I don’t think it will come to that.”
If the synopsis is any guide, Live It Up is going to be an out of the ordinary film. In fact, it’s actually a film within a film! A lot of the scenes show Kenny Ball making a musical, and Heinz’ attempts to get into the studio to see the producer, as one of the four telegraph boys who run a beat group.
During this part of the film we see many of the other stars featured though none of them seems to know about the promised “unusual ending.” Lyn Fairhurst, who’s based the story on an idea by music publisher Harold Shampan, says it will be “quite a surprise”!
How does Kenny Ball feel about appearing in Live It Up — after once proclaiming he and the band weren’t interested in making films?
“The thing was, we’d had to wait a long time for the right story and the right script,” Kenny told me.
“We feel Live It Up is just right — in fact, for a second-feature film I think it’s going to be great.
“Another reason we hesitated about films is, there’s a limit to what a jazz outfit can do. After records and TV you get to a point where you can’t really go any further. I don’t even know whether we want to.
“We’re all hoping like mad we’ll be able to go back to Australia this autumn. We were knocked out by our last visit. Apart from that, we haven’t got any foreign plans except a date at Croydon!”
“We’ll probably do something entirely different for our next single. And for our next album, I’d like to jazz up some pop tunes like Presley’s ‘Wooden Heart’.
“You have to keep doing something different. If you don’t, people grow tired.”
© Alan Smith, New Musical Express, 21 June 1963