Do I like British teen pop movies, pre- "A Hard Day's Night"? I can't answer that question, since this is the first one I have ever seen; however, I certainly enjoyed Live It Up (released in the U.S. as "Sing and Swing"), even though it had a few spots that made absolutely no sense with the rest of the movie.
The plot centers around a group of boys (David Hemmings, Heinz Burt formerly of The Tornados, Steve Marriott, John Pike) that work for the GPO (General Post Office) and in their spare time dream of becoming famous rock stars with their band The Smart Alecs. They even mention once during the movie that they would like to be as famous as The Beatles. They cut a demo, but it gets lost, the band has a "bust up" over this, but eventually all works out in the end. A pretty simple plot that allowed not only The Smart Alecs to perform, but since the movie was revolving around music, allowed the insertion of other musical groups. To make things even better The Smart Alecs song "Live It Up" was actually good enough that it could have been a hit in real life.
Record producer Joe Meek wrote all of the songs in Live It Up and according to the commentary, all the artists in the movie, except for Kenny Ball, were from his stable of performers. Joe Meek is known as the Phil Spector of England and is best known to us here in the U.S. as the producer of The Tornados "Telstar", the first record by a British group to hit #1 in the U.S. Hot 100 charts.
It was nice seeing the parents and adults being supportive of the kids in Live It Up. The U.S. versions of this same type of movie during this period seemed to always have the parents degrading that evil rock and roll. Even the most resistant character to his son pursuing a music career here is Hemmings' father, who has given him 30 days to finally break into the business or to get a "real" job. When Hemmings wants to give up early, his father shows his support by insisting his son take the whole 30 days and not give up.
In this day and age, it was odd to see the young guys smoking during their scenes, but I guess in the early 60s, this didn't look out of place. The motorbikes and the messengers reminded me of "Quadrophenia" in which the lead character was a messenger. According to the commentary the time period of Live It Up is just a little bit before the Mods vs Rockers riots era. I imagine Pete Townshend had seen this movie in the UK and I wonder if it had any influence on him when he wrote his rock opera "Quadrophenia".
The commentary on the DVD is very strange, they did one commentary for both Live It Up and for its sequel "Be My Guest". About 1/2 way through the commentary, they stop talking about this movie, Live It Up, and start talking about the sequel Be My Guest. I stopped listening to the commentary, since I know it will also be on "Be My Guest", which I plan on watching in the future. I'm not much for listening to commentaries, but this one gave me a lot of insights into the UK during the time period of this movie.
There is one very odd part in the movie that was never mentioned in the commentary, but nonetheless sticks in my mind. The teen girl (Jennifer Moss) who was a brunette and had been trying to attract the attention of Hemmings changes her hair color to blond. After a short trip to find the missing demo tape, she suddenly is a brunette again. One of the other boys asks has she done something different with her hair, but she ignores him. Later Hemmings says with his back to the camera(making it appear this was a voice over) "I'm glad you lost that wig, I never did like blonds". I can only guess that this blond hair was going to be part of the plot, was abandoned and covered up with the above explanations.
Some of the musical numbers are worked coherently into the plot, but on a few occasions, a musical number just suddenly appears between scenes with no rhyme or reason. I'm not sure if this was poor editing, time restraint, or just "let's get another performance into the movie", but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of Live It Up.
The musicians featured in Live It Up: Steve Marriott (The Small Faces and Humble Pie) had been a child actor who had received raves for his earlier stage work in Oliver. His previous acting pays off well here since he is quite good in every scene he is in. You can also spot future Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the group the Outlaws (photo above), Jennifer Moss plays David Hemmings girlfriend, Gene Vincent who had moved to the UK because of tax problems in the U.S. does one song, Heinz Burt played the lead singer of The Smart Alecs, the Australian singer Patsy Ann Noble, Sounds Incorporated, Kim Roberts, and Andy Cavell and The Saints all perform one song each, Mitch Mitchell who would later play drums in The Jimi Hendrix Experience, plays Andrew (listed in the credits under his birth name John Mitchell) and Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five listed as David Clark is credited as Recording Man.