The Political Power Of A Film That Might Have Been:
Ireland and the Rolling Stones 1965.
In their latest book, How Belfast Got the Blues – A Cultural History of Popular Music in The 1960s, authors Noel McLaughlin and Joanna Braniff revisit the Belfast music scene in the period via politics and the business of production. Through forensic research, they present evidence that popular music in Northern Ireland was central to the politics of the time, in ways not previously understood or explored.
Placing Northern Ireland at the forefront of a key moment in British and Irish cultural history, the authors weave a fascinating account of the popular-musical culture and local ‘scene’ in Northern Ireland with the broader and highly complex context social-political milieu.
In this talk, the authors introduce and examine the ‘lost’ debut film made for the Rolling Stones in Belfast and Dublin in 1965. Directed by the enigmatic and controversial Peter Whitehead, Charlie Is My Darling invokes not only the spirit of the United Irishmen but also directly links the disintegrating political and social circumstances in Belfast to the Civil Rights actions in the United States.
The film effectively disappeared for over 50 years through a bizarre set of circumstances, only re-emerging in 2012 on a collector’s DVD in a heavily modified form. The fallout from the making of this film was to profoundly affect many of those involved in this production for years.
In support of these claims, the authors offer a historically grounded analysis of the film, contextualising its images of Ireland, consider how these connect with the musical performances (especially ‘Satisfaction’) and explore how Whitehead’s collectivist ambitions and cinema verité style frames these.
The authors will open-up the connections between the film’s aesthetic, the group’s performance style, choice of repertoire, and Irish mise-en-scène, concluding with an explanation of how this made the political establishment in Britain and Northern Ireland nervous in the foment of the decade’s mid-point.
How Belfast Got the Blues has been recently nominated for the 2021 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.
Dr Noel McLaughlin is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Department of Arts, at Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. He has published widely on Irish rock and popular music. He has previously authored Rock and Popular Music in Ireland: Before and After U2 (with Martin McLoone, Irish Academic Press, 2012), and also published in major international peer-reviewed journals, including Popular Music and Popular Music History.
Joanna Braniff is an independent scholar based in Belfast. She was features editor of The Irish News from 2002 to 2008; after which she was the Director of Political Communications for the Green Party in the Northern Ireland Assembly from 2010 to 2015. Joanna now works as a freelance journalist, author and media consultant, specializing in arts and culture. Her interests include environmental and progressive politics in the Northern Irish context.
Find out more: howbelfastgottheblues.com