Pirate Radio a hip revolution

Before we get to the movie, let’s assume you’re near a computer that has iTunes. Go to “radio,” look under “alternative rock,” and go down to Radio Caroline.

Tom Sturridge

Pirate Radio

Three stars

Rated: R (for language and some sexual content, including brief nudity).

Before we get to the movie, let’s assume you’re near a computer that has iTunes. Go to “radio,” look under “alternative rock,” and go down to Radio Caroline.

I’ll tell you why in a moment. Don’t turn it up so loud that it drowns out my review.

Incredible but true: From the birth of rock ’n’ roll, through the rise of the Beatles and the Stones, all the way until the late 1960s, the BBC used to broadcast only about 30 minutes per day of pop music.

Thought for the Day did almost as well.

The old maids on the Beeb board of governors thought it was, in the words of a Conservative minister depicted in this movie, “immoral.”

Boredom abhors a vacuum. From pirate radio stations anchored offshore, a steady stream of rock was broadcast from powerful transmitters to the British mainland, where at a given moment, more than half of the radios may have been tuned in.

The most famous of these pirates was Radio Caroline. Yes, the very station we’re listening to right now. Webcasting is sort of piratical, no? (Right now on Radio Caroline: Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman.)

Caroline is the inspiration for Radio Rock, the floating transmitter in Pirate Radio.

Richard Curtis, who wrote and directed the film, was 10 years old in Radio Caroline’s heyday, but he must know people who worked onboard because the film has a real feel for the shipboard combination of excitement and desperation.

Think about it. You’re at the cutting edge of a cultural revolution, but you’re anchored outside the U.K. territorial waters.

It’s the Swinging ’60s, but the only woman on board is a lesbian.

Nobody is swinging, anyway.

(Now playing: The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again.)

The shipboard culture involves a mixed bag of oddballs and egomaniacs who hold sway over millions of listeners and then go back to their grotty cabins and smoke weed.

Well, it’s not a crime outside territorial waters.

Life really only happens for them when they’re on the air.

The best known of them is The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an American who has a focus on his work that can only be described as reverential.

The ranks of his rivals are peopled by a menagerie of British character actors, led by the Steve Buscemis of England, Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans. Hold on, Ifans is Welsh. (I Want You All to Myself, Joan Armatrading.)

Shifts on Rock Radio are long: more than a month, I think, and I get the impression some DJs never went ashore.

Everybody is stir-crazy. Nobody is a happy camper. (Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd.)

Aboard this ship of fools arrives one day a young man named Carl (Tom Sturridge), who is the godson of the station’s aloof and preoccupied manager, Quentin (Nighy).

What’s Carl doing aboard here? He’s on summer holiday and is rather uncertain in the midst of this hotbed.

It’s possible he may find the solution to a personal question onboard. (Complicated by Avril Lavigne.)

Richard Curtis is good at handling large casts, establishing all the characters and keeping them alive.

His credits include Love Actually and the scripts for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Here the plot doesn’t require a reason for the characters to keep running into one another; there’s nowhere they can hide.

No coincidences means more development.

And the wall-to-wall ’60s rock keeps things bright.

Meanwhile, back in Parliament, a tight-arsed Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) denounces pirate radio as “a sewer of dirty commercialism and no morals.”

As the threat of a shutdown looms, the prospect grows dire, and we begin to realize that among these pirates, as among the original ones, the shipboard community holds their identity and validates their stubborn dreams.

The government vows to sink the pirates and finally forces through the required legislation.

This is highly unpopular. Just imagine an American administration turning off your rock and forcing you to listen only to NPR. Wow, I’m sorry I wrote that.

There are probably fringers who think Obama is plotting to do just that.

No Beatles.

No, I don’t mean Obama would outlaw the Beatles. I mean I noticed Radio Caroline didn’t play their records.

Roger Ebert is a syndicated Chicago Sun-Times movie critic.

Just Posted

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

Red Deer officials will allow Calgary to trial alcohol in parks

The result could determine if local rules are relaxed

$25-a-day child care in high demand in Red Deer

Red Deer Child Care Society hopes program will expand

Red Deer city council could provide more clarity around closed-door meetings, says review

Confidential matters were found to be handled appropriately by city

Special lift improves Lacombe patients’ therapy

A new mobility lift is helping physical therapy patients at Lacombe Hospital… Continue reading

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Canadian tattoo artist inks Toronto skyline on Blue Jays pitcher Stroman

Marcus Stroman found a way to show his appreciation for Toronto when… Continue reading

Most Read