With Robin Askwith, Anthony Booth, and even a rampant Bob Todd shagging every dollybird in sight, Confessions of a Pop Performer could easily be written off as a minor example of that much-maligned form, the British sex comedy. Bear in mind, however, that the movie was a smash hit in the summer of 1975, and that Simon Sheridan’s essential guide to this shady corner of movie history ‘Keeping The British End Up’ has re-established the high profile that fare of this kind enjoyed on original release.
In addition, Pop Performer’s arrival, in the wake of such music biz exposés as Stardust and Flame, gives further evidence of the grasp our filmmakers had on the underbelly of the record industry - in the guise of a knockabout, raunchy comedy, at the heart of the film is a classic ‘rise and fall of an idol’ saga to match that of Jim MacLaine (or indeed the real-life Gary Glitter, whose poster presciently appears at one point here, tacked on to a transit van door). Fresh from their failed attempts to launch a career in chamois-wiping (see Confessions of a Window Cleaner, 1974), the entrepreneurial Sid Noggett (Booth) and his mercurial brother-in-law Timmy Lea (Askwith) discover the equally down-at-heel pub rock band ‘Bloater’ down the local - in a burst of pre-Malcolm McLaren inspiration, Sid forms ‘Noggo Enterprises’, changes Bloater’s name to Kipper, and launches them on the road to stardom.
Where does one begin to list the highlights of this utterly astonishing movie? Let’s start with Kipper themselves - Peter Cleall, already wonderfully well past his sell-by date in ‘Please Sir!’ but playing up the fact for all he was worth, totally dominates proceedings here as Kipper’s sub-Clockwork Orange lead singer ‘Nutter Normington’, all Doc Martens and outrageous blond hairdo; Mike King, Richard Warwick, and David Auker augment the line-up as ‘Blow’, ‘Petal’, and ‘Zombie’; and Maynard Williams, the son of series regular Bill Maynard, causes uproar among contemporary audiences, for Kipper’s humble bass player appears to have provided the source DNA for Liam Gallagher of Oasis! The band’s material ought to have taken its place in the annals of rock legend too, especially ‘Do The Clapham’, a spoof of all those ‘Bump’ type hits prevalent at the time but outdoing the lot in terms of thuggish bovver boy bravado, and the group’s signature anthem, ‘Kipper’, a Mott The Hoople-style self-referential (and reverential) glam gem (“Our name is Kipper, Kipper, mean as Jack The Ripper”). Cleall spits out the threatening lyrics with a pre-punk sneer and an accompanying wave of the fist, exhorting the crowd to “do this dance on someone’s head” or taking on the might of the establishment single-handed (“come on girls and boys, let’s make a little noise/and ‘ave ourselves a celebration/and if the police say it’s a breach of the peace/I’ll see you all dahn at the station - orwright?!”) in a way that makes the anti-authoritarian outpourings of The Clash and the Sex Pistols seem rather tame by comparison.
We also get to see Jill Gascoine naked, Bill Maynard wearing a gorilla suit, Peter Jones oozing unctuousness as ‘Maxy Naus’ (a brilliant parody of Hughie Green with a touch of the Delfonts thrown in for good measure), brief cameos from Rula Lenska (soon to co-star with Askwith in Queen Kong) and Dave Prowse (whose barely significant, wordless role as a driving instructor at the very end bridges neatly into the next Confessions escapade…); plus Askwith rampaging his way through the ever-available ranks of 1970s totty, managing to screw a contortionist, a disc emporium manageress, an industry partygoer, the wife of a record promoter, and even one half of a pantomime horse in a bizarre scene which gives new meaning to the phrase ‘go fuck yourself’! Among the abiding images offered by this tremendous ‘cockumentary’, though, the explosive climax of ‘Do The Clapham’ has to be the film’s crowning glory - amps, guitars, and even Cleall’s piano are inexplicably blown to smithereens simply by the sheer destructive frenzy of the number, while Askwith, possibly on the verge of electrocution from a dodgy mic connection, struts topless around the stage, a thrilling hybrid of Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, the very embodiment of rock’n’roll.
(There's now a Kipper website! Visit www.kipper.shorturl.com)