BBC2: Are The Kids Alright? Punk Gang 1979

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Historical references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 release, ‘The Filth and the Fury‘.

Style & Genre

Shot largely on the streets of Sunderland without official permission or pre-approved script. It’s an example of the kind of cinéma vérité, first made possible in the 1950s by the invention of 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
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 programme 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!

One thought on “Are The Kids Alright? Brass Tacks, BBC2 (1979)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s