Blues rock band The Spencer Davis Group are playing on a barge on a river and everyone is having a great time grooving to the beat, but as the gig draws to a close who should turn up but their manager, Algernon (Nicholas Parsons)? He is keen to get them back out on the road, maybe a shade too keen as once aboard the boat he manages to fall over the drumkit and send the bass drum down the water. They all jump into various small craft, including rowboats, pedalboats and a bathtub, and set off in hot pursuit, but once they catch up with the instrument they find that an elderly man has ended up trapped inside it. He is butler Old Edwards (Jack Haig) - and he knows Algernon!
Seems like every band in the nineteen-sixties had their own spin-off movie, and The Spencer Davis Group were no exception. You might be able to put this down to the huge success of The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, but in truth the music cash-in genre stretched back way further than that, though the Fab Four proving there was a lot of money to be squeezed out of fans could not have put many managers off signing their groups and artists up for contracts that would plaster their faces over the silver screen, and more importantly generate interest in the band's catalogue. So it was that Davis and his cohorts were recruited to an item that curiously lost interest in them at the halfway mark.
With a title like The Ghost Goes Gear, you imagine anyone born after about 1980 would be baffled as to what that could possibly mean, but essentially it meant the ghost went all cool and on trend. But which ghost? Indeed, the phantom here was barely featured, it existed as a highly minor subplot to the main storyline where Algernon, reunited with the stately home he was brought up in by Old Edwards, is told by his parents that the pile is a severe drain on resources so he and the group he looks after decide to hold a concert in the grounds to generate funds. It's the sort of affair that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney could have starred in, except this had sixties Brit beat bands instead.
But it was about as innocuous as an old, Golden Age musical filler item too, and once we had established where the ghost came in, played by Lorne Gibson in doublet and hose and acoustic guitar, he was promptly forgotten about until the film was more or less over. Actually, pretty much all of the preceding forty minutes were dismissed so the chart-topping Davis combo could be brushed aside in favour of a bunch of acts you would have been hard pressed to remember even after the end credits had rolled, never mind well into the twenty-first century. This odd decision could be explained by Davis and company being the focal point and a collection of, not so much also-rans but more never-weres, piggybacking on their success in the hope that the audiences would buy that too.
Kind of a "Like this? Then you'll like this" strain of business optimism, but the inclusion of, say, Acker Bilk and his trad jazz band illustrated how far off the mark the bookers were, even if he was someone you might legitimately have heard of, unlike everyone else in the second, music-packed half. Girl group The Three Bells, for instance, were like The Beverly Sisters only not famous, and their light pop would not have appealed to the more serious blues aficionado who Davis would count among his fanbase. As for the central attraction, they were given sub-Beatles arseing about to participate in which they did with dutiful application (though young Steve Winwood appeared reticent at best), as did Sheila White who was forging a career in comedic roles and goofed around as a character who did not even register as love interest. With not one well-known tune in this, though the opening number was a minor hit, sixties ephemera was the best you could call it, and it was pleasant enough in its inessentially daft way.