Are The Kids Alright? - Michael's Punk Gang

Are The Kids Alright? Brass Tacks, BBC2 (1979)

Radio Times
14 August 1979
Brass Tacks
Are The Kids Alright?

With unemployment running at twice the national average, and further redundancies in the shipyards, the age of leisure has come early for many of Sunderland’s youngsters.

Michael is 16, on the dole, and buying a £300 guitar on HP. His recently-formed group – The Rejected – is receiving encouragement from the local community theatre, which also faces redundancies as government cutbacks begin to bite.

What use is Sunderland’s £7-million leisure centre and its pedestrian precincts to Michael’s generation? Indeed, what will make things all right for these kids?.

If you want to take part in the Brass Tacks debate, either phone a participating BBC radio station immediately after the programme (details on air and on Local Radio pages of RADIO TIMES) or write to Return Call, Brass Tacks, BBCtv, Oxford Road, Manchester M60 1SJ.

Historical references

Clips from this film have been used in several recent BBC documentaries on Punk and the 70s and in Julian Temple’s cinema film, The Filth and the Fury‘.

Are The Kids Alright? - Michael's Punk Gang

Style & Genre

Shot largely on the streets of Sunderland without official permission or pre-approved script, this is an example of the kind of cinéma vérité made possible in the 1950s by lightweight 16mm film technology that is no longer possible today.

The new digital technology is more lightweight than its predecessors, but shooting TV documentaries without an officially approved script was progressively ruled-out of television during the Thatcherite and Birtist pogroms of the 80s and 90s; and filming on the streets without permission has been progressively outlawed over the past decade under Anti Terrorism, Privacy and Copyright legislation.

Are The Kids Alright? - Singing in the Rain

Musical References

The opening sequence was cut to Title Music from A Clockwork Orange, an electronic transcription of Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Purcell, performed by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos on an early Moog Synthesiser.

This is how the director, Stanley Kubrick, described his movie version of A Clockwork Orange on the production Call Sheet:

It is a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is at the same time a running lecture on free-will.

The story is set in a limp and listless socialist society at some future time when hardly anyone reads, although streets are named ‘Amis Avenue’ and ‘Priestly Place’. Everybody, ‘not a child, nor with child, nor ill’, must work. Criminals have to be rehabilitated because all the prison space is needed for politicals.

Deprived of his capacity for moral choice by science, the central figure of the story, Alex, appears only a ‘Clockwork Orange’, something mechanical that appears organic. Free to will, even if he wills to sin.

Music Copyright

The rights to use the Title Music from A Clockwork Orange as part of the film were cleared by the BBC when the film was transmitted. The rights to post it on YouTube weren’t cleared at the time because the internet didn’t exist! But, because this clip is so obviously being used for the purposes of commentary, criticism, news-reporting, research, teaching, historical archiving and scholarship, if there was ever a case for Fair Use under copyright legislation then surely this has to be it.

So when it was first uploaded to YouTube in 2009 we were shocked to discover that the sound had been muted because of a music copyright claim from WMG (Warner Music Group). The sound was eventually restored many months later, with not one word of explanation from either WMG or YouTube!

Press & Related:

  • ‘Kids’ YouTube clip hit by another music copyright warning! October 21, 2013

    What is it about the music used in this clip, Title Music from A Clockwork Orange by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos, that makes so many companies  want to ... more

  • Picture of Wearside – in the right focus August 30, 1979
    Evening Chronicle

    JOBLESS teenagers hope to give ailing Wearside a television tonic. They believe there is plenty in Sunderland to smile about and to prove it they are ... more

  • Selected..the Rejected! August 23, 1979
    Daily Mirror
    Story: Ken Tossel
    Picture: Tom Buist

    These four 16-year-old punk rockers might look dejected. But soon they may find it difficult to live down to the ... more

  • Tory councillor lashes BBC August 21, 1979
    Evening Chronicle

    A TELEVISION documentary which painted an abysmal picture of Sunderland may discourage industrialists from moving to the town. It probably frightened off Argentinian soccer star Alex ... more

  • Are The Kids Alright? Brass Tacks, BBC2 (1979) August 14, 1979
    Brass Tacks
    Are The Kids Alright

    With unemployment running at twice the national average the age of leisure has come early for many of Sunderland’s youngsters. ... more

  • Plight of the youngsters August 14, 1979
    Bradford Telegraph & Argus

    In Sunderland the problems of youth unemployment are writ large. There are 40 percent fewer small businesses than the national average. The shipyards and ... more

  • We’re riveted by Brass Tacks August 14, 1979
    Birmingham Evening Mail
    by Stafford Hildred

    “BRASS TACKS” (BBC 2, 8.5), the current affairs show that has pioneered viewer participation, would like to announce a modest success. The ... more

  • NO JOB, JUST A £300 GUITAR August 14, 1979
    The Liverpool Echo

    A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD who’s on the dole and whose dream of making something of his life centres on a £300 guitar is ... more

  • Kids on the scrap heap August 12, 1979
    The Sunday Sun

    The youth of Sunderland is being thrown on the scrap heap. Unemployment has sapped their energy, they are shattered and just hanging about miserable. That ... more

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