Keeping Score: Matthew Bell looks back to the
movie soundtrack that gives him the (Dr) Feelgood
factor, Julien Temple’s rock-doc Oil City Confidential
The problem with rock & roll films is that they’re not terribly, well, rock & roll when viewed from a plush cinema seat. No matter how hard the band on screen is rockin’, funkin’ or skankin’, the audience remains seated and mute.
More than 50 years ago, Teddy Boys solved this problem by dancing in the aisles to the sound of Bill Haley and his Comets in Blackboard Jungle. This impeccably liberal social drama, starring Glenn Ford as an inner-city school teacher and Sidney Poitier as his pupil, is an unlikely candidate for the first rock & roll film.
Haley, a portly former bandleader, was an even more unlikely figurehead for disaffected youth but his music drove the kids wild. In 1956 south London Teddy Boys slashed seats and rioted at an Elephant and Castle cinema, sparking copycat disturbances across the country. Since Blackboard Jungle, cinema and rock & roll have made for easy bedfellows, spawning many fine rockumentaries, concert films and bio-pics.
I was there when Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential received its first public screening at the Koko music venue in Camden, North London. The film – the concluding part of Temple’s fabulous 1970s music trilogy, following his film about the Sex Pistols, The Filth & The Fury, and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten – tells the story of Canvey Island rhythm and blues band Dr Feelgood, whose stripped-down sound and in-your-face approach were an inspiration to many of the punk groups that followed in their wake.