Page 1 of 4

Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 6:01 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Amy is bookended by two striking performances. The first, in which a 14 year old Amy sings ‘Happy Birthday’ at a party with friends, the second, a studio duet with Tony Bennett. The first, while just teenage fooling around, reveals someone with a special voice who loves to use it, the second, someone using that voice in tandem with one of the great song stylists, with risk, range and artistry. A voice which four months later would be no more.

But what happens in the intervening two hours or so of Asif Kapadia’s documentary is an engaging visual kaleidoscope in which her voice is not always to the fore. It’s a painstakingly researched and meticulously edited collage of moments, highspots, lowspots, mobile phone footage, tv footage, helicopter shots, back of car shots, voicemail messages, voiceover interviews which works, by telling a story without imposing a viewpoint. It’s all more or less interesting stuff. But when that voice sings or those eyes reveal or betray or hint at something it sparkles. Watch the eyes disdain as they diss an interviewer comparing her to Dido.

The voice – and the eyes – are at the core of this. The rest is just more or less interesting packaging, the sharp but ordinary girl from Southgate or the paparazzi-hounded celeb from Camden, caught up, willingly or inescapably in the claws of the twin bitch goddesses of success and excess. She charms and frustrates and teases and repels like any clever adolescent or addict will. Nothing new.

And the eyes have it, wide eyed at high times, at low times dead, a half look, a shamed look, a detached look. She was clearly stressed and confused by her family situation, hopelessly co-dependent on a similarly confused loser, uncomfortably unable to please the returned dad, wild child both tormented by and, by turns, triumphing in and wasting her talent.

Perhaps not much of it was her fault, perhaps none at all. Any would-be or nonentity with a fraction of her ability can make it nowadays if making it implies signing up unprotected to the sad circus or mad parade. I don’t think she even thought about making some accommodation with it, or finding some space outside it. It all just happened.

You get a glimpse of what might have been in that final session with Bennett. In awe of her idol, she’s nervous, unsure, feels she can’t get it right. Bennett’s stories of Dinah Washington are the trigger she needs, she takes off and does the job, an adventurous descant to his very straight take on ‘Body and Soul’. And then she says to Bennett something about it was sad Washington died really young.

Watch it. I can’t be objective really, having known her briefly when she was a teenager, being familiar with her haunts and hangouts. She was the out of time jazz singer. This is the modern world. And sometimes modern life is rubbish.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 6:24 pm
by Adam Blake
Thanks, Hugh. I intend to watch it this evening.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 9:11 pm
by MartinOwen
Thanks Hugh - should arrive in the styx for Christmas (2017)...looking forward.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:30 pm
by AndyM
Excellent review, Hugh.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:32 pm
by Adam Blake
I am shellshocked. Your review is like something I can clutch on to, Hugh.

I am probably overfond of saying that the stakes were higher in the fifties and sixties; that a talented artist from those days - Presley, Hendrix, Dylan etc - was simply on a higher level than today, partly because in those days popular music was the mouthpiece of western culture, and partly because it was all new. It struck me, over and over, watching this film, that Amy was in that league. She was that big a talent. The modern world has no way of dealing with a phenomenon like that other than to smother it. And then subject it to taxidermy. Because this film, excellent though it is, is surely part of that process.

I remember when Joe Boyd's "Jimi Hendrix" documentary came out in 1973, three years after Jimi died, being pissed off that it was an 'X' certificate and I couldn't see it. That's still the best film on Hendrix. Similarly, I suspect this will be the best film on Amy.

But, oh God what a heartbreaker. What a heartbreaker. I don't think I have ever sat in a full cinema, in trendy Notting Hill, on a hot Saturday night and been surrounded by gently weeping people. For myself, I cried virtually all the way through (and laughed out loud more than once. She was funny!) And every time she finished a number, it was a physical effort not to burst into applause.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:38 pm
by Rob Hall
Thanks for that Hugh.

'Modern life is rubbish' is something I've found myself saying more and more lately, but I hadn't previously made the connection that 'this is the modern world".

Amy's story is what it is. The only winners in this one are those who have yet to discover her wonderful talent for the first time.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:19 am
by NormanD
Thanks for the review, Hugh. You write from your heart, and it shows.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 12:57 am
by Rob Hall
Watched this a few hours ago. It's an excellent piece of work by the film maker, and a truly tragic tale that leaves us wondering how and why it could unfold in the way that it did. With the insight offered in this film, I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to listen again to some of Amy's songs without welling up.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 5:57 pm
by Garth Cartwright
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/j ... -winehouse

I've not seen the Amy movie yet - I will at some point but may wait until on DVD - but the hoopla surrounding it made me wonder why Whitney had not been turned into a biopic or documentary? A far greater rise and, now with the death of her only child, much more tragic fall. I guess her family are more guarded about letting such happen. But from such peaks - daughter of gospel royalty becomes biggest selling artist in the world and A-list movie star - to a strung out crackhead.... wow, you wouldn't make it up. I never really liked Whitney's music, too glossy for me, but I admired the voice and her beauty and followed her from naif (not smoking or drinking, too busy for boyfriends, she just looked so fresh and innocent!) to the tabloid carwreck: I was once in the US when Bobby Brown had been jailed for domestic violence and there she was bailing him out, dropping charges and singing "we're still together" as they got in the limo....

The article above is written by the guy who used to be Uncut's deputy editor so very much a rock bloke - when he says of Amy being more true to the R&B tradition than Whitney it proves he doesn't know shit about R&B. R&B divas have always prided themselves on looking great, singing as good as they can and rarely write their own songs. I can't think of any R&B singer who has behaved like Amy and kept her audience: Esther Phillips got fucked up once fame had passed her by. But the likes of D Ross, A FRanklin, I Thomas etc would never ever dare act like Amy - who modelled her behaviour on Pete Doherty and some fictional idea she had of Billie Holiday. Amy, to my mind, was a stage school indie kid with talent who was maneuvred into doing first wine bar soul (her debut is ersatz Sade) then into a retro soul sound. I'm not sure if the doc talks about this but that's my take - she had talent, sure, but she approached R&B in a manner akin to Dusty and Jagger and Rod and Duffy and Adele and even the dire Sam Smith: you try on its clothes, its mannerisms, but you will never be R&B. I like Back To Black more than Whitney's albums but this is probably because its such an odd combination of retro arrangements with London brat attitude. A bit like John Lydon backed by the Hi Rhythm Section!

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:25 pm
by Adam Blake
I'd wait till you see you the movie before making pronouncements, Garth. I thought I had a pretty solid take on Amy (talented but directionless fuck up), but it's actually more complicated than you think.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 9:13 pm
by AndyM
"akin to Dusty and Jagger and Rod" -- there can be almost no higher praise.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 12:44 am
by Garth Cartwright
I will see the movie. I posted the link cos i thought on a forum of R&B fans there might be a few thoughts on Whitney - and what she meant to black music - and Amy's ersatz, if occasionally compelling, take on it. Especially as the writer says Amy was closer to R&B than Whitney - which I disagree with (while not liking Whitney's music much). But I don't like a lot of Rihanna's music but I still see her as closer to the R&B tradition than Amy.

And much as I like Dusty and Mick and Rod they are not anywhere close to Aretha and Sam and Bobby as R&B vocalists. As pop stars - well, fabulous all, but that's another arena.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:44 am
by Adam Blake
Perhaps a thread on Amy Winehouse isn't the best place to discuss what is and what isn't R'n'B but, for what it's worth, I think R'n"B is black American pop music. It's a term that has its roots in racism and is perhaps overdue for retirement.

When I was a kid I thought Doctor Feelgood, The Count Bishops and the likes of The Inmates and Roogalator (ie Pub Rock) were R'n'B - taking their cue from The early Rolling Stones, The Animals, Spencer Davis Group etc. I vividly remember when I was 17, being asked by Sue Hall (who was Hoppy Hopkins's partner and an original mod turned hippie) what kind of music I liked. "R'n'B", I replied. When she realised what I was talking about, she pulled out a stack of albums - essentially all the Guy Stevens mid-60s blues and soul compilations that went under the heading "The Sue Story" - and suggested I check them out. The bomb duly dropped. I never recovered and I never will...

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 1:36 pm
by Hugh Weldon
I don't find the comparison of Amy/Whitney in the Guardian piece all that interesting. A sort of 'yes these parallels but not those' effort provoked by recent events. The two didn't have a great deal in common really. Nor does the attempt which follows to shoehorn Amy into some ill defined 'R&B tradition' make much sense to me. As I said in the original review it's just the voice I find so striking in retrospect, and stick with my idea of an 'out of time jazz singer'. True jazz singers are so rare that most pigeonholers don't spot them.

Re: Amy

PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:15 pm
by Adam Blake
Hugh Weldon wrote: stick with my idea of an 'out of time jazz singer'. True jazz singers are so rare that most pigeonholers don't spot them.


That is very true, Hugh. FWIW, my sister was a jazz singer "on the scene" when Amy would turn up at Open Mics and blow everybody away. She said Amy was never big-headed about it and seemed quite oblivious of the effect she had on lesser talents. It was always all about the music with her, and jazz was her first love.