Young Rebel Story

Nowhere Boy, dir. Sam Taylor-Wood, comp. Will Gregory, Alison Goldfrapp

  • Nowhere Boy, dir. Sam Taylor-Wood
    A story about John Lennon, the soul of eternally popular group The Beatles, sounds like there is necessity for use The Beatles' music, but Sam Taylor Wood’s film debut Nowhere Boy gives something else. The music is used to describe the musical surrounding which influenced Lennon's musical development in the first half of the fifties. On the other hand, music simultaneously serves as a way to – so to say – put down youngster’s dream world (little by little spectator discovers who is John Lennon's real mother– stiff aunt Mimi or emotionally unstable Julia).

    Accordingly, film gives two different types of music which are opposed to each other. On the one hand, the soundtrack is filled by songs and instrumentals which Lennon has listened to in his youth and which led him to learn to play banjo (with his mom's help) and to buy his first guitar and to start skiffle band The Quarrymen (skiffle where groups from the fifties which used home-made objects as musical instruments). On the other hand, there is background music, which is mostly based on the sound of strings, and which is composed by British duo Goldfrapp.
    Nowhere Boy, dir. Sam Taylor-Wood
    Lennon's role models are not hard to discover: at the beginning of the movie there is the song Wild One by Jerry Lee Lewis, which immediately establishes the idea of domination of rock and roll but – at the same time – speaks about Lennon himself: he is little rebel who cares only about the music. Among his foolishness is attempt to steal Elvis Presley's records from the music store. But, in a hurry, he steals record with songs by Billie Holiday, which he, disgusted in his ignorance, throws away. Other youngster warns him that the music is the music and it should be always respected, not thrown away. He offers him to trade stolen goods for blasting record Screaming by Jay Hawkings where he also sings I Put A Spell On You, the song which we simultaneously listen on the film's soundtrack.

    Meanwhile, it is clear that John's family status is somehow odd. While director leaves spectator wondering, soundtrack slowly puts background music in the foreground – the music which was composed by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp, known as duo Goldfrapp. As opposed to songs, their music is serious, sometimes heavy, and always warning that things are not as they look like. Musical instruments are, as I mentioned before, mostly strings. The color of strings is sometimes enriched by female voice (by Alison Goldfrapp), harp and synthetic instruments (which are obvious only once, during one of scenes where Lennon leaves his mother's house; but, it is not excluded that composers did the most of their work by using samples).
    Nowhere Boy, dir. Sam Taylor-Wood
    As the relationship between two women and, accordingly, as Lennon's relationship to them becomes more complicated, the domination of background music becomes more obvious. But, the music itself doesn't become musically complicated – it stays serious, sometimes even depressive, and is in one scene refreshed by new rhythm (when Lennon walks home and decides that he will start a rock band – the decision is firstly heard in music, since duo Goldfrapp decided to add, in their string based music – beat similar to rock beat of electric guitar).

    Although songs and background music as two musical types in the movie about John Lennon’s early life bring nothing essentially new, together they offer interesting and little bit unusual way of telling the story. In their separation they slowly become connected and in their connection the soundtrack becomes an expression of two different paths of one life.

    © Irena Paulus,, 29 September 2010