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A Hollywood High - snap review

Back in 2018, I wrote a review of the BBC show There’s Something You Should Know within an hour of the programme finishing. This had not been planned, and was inspired by the brilliance of the documentary. Here were Duran Duran presenting an innocence and vulnerability rarely seen before, managing to tell familiar stories in a fresh way, epitomised by that ride in the car when they sang along to Faster Than Light.

Tonight I find myself typing a review to A Hollywood High a couple of hours after the film finished. I have been delayed by a delightful drink with new friends made at the conclusion of the film. This may have been the highlight of the evening.

There’s Something You Should Know rooted the band in Birmingham. It was the bedrock for the telling of their story and the tone of the film.

A Hollywood High is a title that is immediately telling. Unbeknownst to us for 40 years, Los Angeles is apparently the spiritual home of Duran Duran. Simon tosses off New York with a sneer, and Roger assures us he couldn’t wait to leave the rainy old UK.

The highlight of the film is the recollections of the early days on Sunset Strip. Unfortunately, we are only teased with these stories. Nick goes into Old Dad mode when he deadpans that they were very naughty ‘back in the day.’ DISH THE DIRT, BOYS. We were promised / warned about ‘moderate drug references’ in the advert, and I waited keenly for a story or two of snorting something off some part or other off another human. But it was not to be. We got glimpses of famous seedy clubs, but never went in. Surely there must be some photos?

We are teased further when David Kershenbaum turns up, but he is a foil for Nick’s stories, at which he agrees that it was a long time ago and he had fun.

The film takes a screeching left turn when Warren is eulogised by Nick as “by far the most significant person we’ve played with.” Fair enough, as he got cut from the BBC doc, but let's hope Andy Taylor wasn't watching this whip-snap charge through Duran’s history.

There is another clunk moment when Nick, apropos of nothing, declares Duran are not, and have never been, political. This is so clearly bollocks it is hard to know why he said it or has been included. Edge Of America? Drowning Man? Maybe he missed Duran Duran’s various private parties in Moscow which didn’t seem to happen before the oligarchs took over?

That said, the majority of this first (15 minutes?) was interesting and engaging. Then the show started.

Having bigged up the gig as a carefully chosen special place, there is no sense of where it is, other than up high. The chosen few in attendance are barely seen, and the backdrop of Capital Records is not exactly the Taj Mahal. Los Angeles itself is a sea of concrete and cars, which the aerial shots show off as blandly as that sounds. At least the car park in shot at various times didn’t have people loading their shopping while a child screamed in a push chair.

By the time Notorious began I realised that that was it for the talking heads bit. This was a shame. The band looked like they were having fun and the songs themselves sounded great. But, within the theme of the 40th anniversary, some of the songs could have been introduced beforehand with clips and stories. It’s not as if there was pressure on the running time.

Simon gave a good introduction to Anniversary, noting that this anniversary has been going on for some time. [Indeed, There’s Something You Should Know was billed as a ‘40th anniversary special’ in 2018, in honour of the 1978 creation of the band]. The song sounded fine, with Simon having some help throughout from post-production LA ‘magic’.

Tonight United was thrilling as we got to see Dom from the aerial shots hiding behind a speaker at the side. Maybe he was doing the drug references we were warned about? It also has to be noted that the only two people to take a toilet break did so during this song.

Hungry Like The Wolf proved to be the last song. Simon introduced Dom on guitar – and then no one else. This seemed to sum up this film – anecdotes and themes got going and then were dropped. The song ended, Simon called out, “Enjoy the rest of your evening,” and the screen abruptly faded to black and the credits rolled. Oh, so that’s it, then. The opportunity for backstage access, and final thoughts were not taken. After a brief 72 minutes (including credits and White Lines) it was clear we were being turfed out.

Los Angeles surely offered more than a view of a large concrete building, however ‘iconic’ it might be. Personally, Duran Duran playing live back at The Roxy would have been more fitting to the theme. The band bigged up LA as the land of Rock’N’Roll, and their laddish young days formed the backdrop of their identity with the city. This then clashed with the hotel-lobby chic they displayed on the roof, which felt more Vegas than LA.

From the songs, Future Past was well represented and, along with Come Undone, were memorable. But overall, A Hollywood High was a missed opportunity.


Don't forget - the new issue of Cherry Lipstick 'The Power Station 1981 - 1997' is available NOW for pre-order. To be published and sent out later this month.

Get your copy HERE

LOW shipping prices guaranteed. Other fanzines (Rio at 40, Unseen Duran Duran 1981) still available while stocks last


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