Reviews: Music Moguls; Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll

Brian Pern Thotch

(Contains strong language)

With the recent passing of so many stars from the world of rock n roll, including Glen Frey, Lemmy and of course Mr Bowie (to name only a few), it is apt that the BBC has just finished broadcasting 2 series taking a look behind the curtain of the world of music and the music business.

The first, Music Moguls, is a reveal of the those mysterious jobs associated with rock and pop acts, the manager, the producer and PR, which many of us know very little about. Each episode is presented by a major name from each career path, Simon Napier Bell (Manager), Nile Rodgers (Producer) and Alan Edwards (PR).

Learning how these cats operate and how the roles have evolved from the 60’s (which is apparently when music was invented) to the present day is fascinating. The way ,anagers emerged from being little more than thugs and gangsters, to being slick businessmen but still negotiating like heavyweights, the delicate artistry of the producer and machiavellian craftiness of the PR agent, can only intrigue and illuminate any music fan.

Each presenter brings his own insights and connections to each show, and as they are top notch players, the musical acts interviewed are too The Osbournes, Pet-Shop Boys, Mark Ronson), giving the Music Moguls a lustre other documentaries do not have. All in all a fine series with each part hitting the mark, though the best is Nile Rodgers take on the producer; Rodgers is such an influential name and has produced so many top acts (Bowie, Madonna, Pharell) that his observations really sparkle and delight the viewer. It’s also amusing that after working with so many of the world’s elite pop acts that his favourite are Duran Duran.

++++

A lighter look at the industry is Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll. The third series of Fast Show alumni, Rhys Thomas and Simon Day’s, fly on the wall comedy about that stalwart of British cultural life, the ageing rocker.

This particular triptych focuses on Pern’s (Day) 45 year anniversary as a musician but really it just continues where the last 2 series left off, Thomas as the brazenly manipulative doc’ maker following the childlike but self-centred rock star as he meanders through his life and career, making bad decision after bad decision.

Brian Pern is a member of that species of comedies, where much like Steve Coogan’s Saxondale, there is not much laughter at the characters japes and misadventures, there is however a shit tonne of smiling. It’s nice, easy to watch and well made, but not brilliant.

The best moments come from the supporting cast, particularly Lucy Montgomery as Pern’s eccentric South American girlfriend, Pepita. The absolute stand out is Michael Kitchen who bristles with boredom as the Prog stars long-time manager, John Farrow and is a genuinely brilliant comic creation.

Indeed, I think if you took Kitchen away from the show, it would fall very, very flat, which is really the fault of the scripts. They plod along nicely but a lot of it seems like filler between gags on a sketch show and much of the comedy comes from the star qualities of its guest appearances (big shout out to Peter motherfucking Bowles!) and the choices they make more than the actual comic writing.

Rhys Thomas, who wrote and directed the series has been in the comedy game for 20 years now, and is in the unique position of being part of The Fast Show gang while also being a relatively young writer with much time to develop. The fact that he is survived for so long in the cut throat world of comedy, demonstrates to this reviewer that he probably will and I expect him to be around for a very long time, like some sort of Barry Cryer 2.0, a remnant of the good old days, who comes to prominence once his more talented peers have passed away. Sorry Rhys, that’s harsh.

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