This morning I attended a test screening of Born to Boogie at the NFT on the Southbank. It’s a cold but bright day in London Town. Sitting in a 400-seat cinema with four other men of a certain age at 10am was unusual, it would have to be said. As the title sequence ran – one which I must have watched a couple of hundred times – I was transported back to the late 1970s, to a 15-year-old me, sitting in considerably less plush seats in undeniably less salubrious surroundings, to the Essential Cinema at 76 Wardour Street, Soho.
It cost 30p to be a member of the Essential, and you had to be over 18. I quite clearly was not of age when I joined, but the staff didn’t care and were familiar with a bunch of bereaved Bolan fans who rocked up once a month for the Saturday evening screening of Marc Bolan’s Ringo Starr-directed film. We’d often meet beforehand at the Intrepid Fox just across the street, or upstairs at the Ship, up towards Oxford Street. I bought copies of the original releases of ‘Debora’ and ‘One Inch Rock’ from some dodgy geezer in the foyer, for about £10 each. It was at these screenings that I go to know fellow fans, some of whom are friends to this day – and who will be attending the screening on May 20th, followed by a Q&A with producer Tony Visconti.
Born to Boogie is being re-issued on DVD by Demon Music Group on 13 June, and making its debut on Blu-Ray. Is this another re-issue, repackage, you ask? In some respects it is, but then again, there’s no point in painting a masterpiece and then keeping it in your attic, as the man once said. It will create a moment, it will reach people who were previously unaware of it, and will help to keep burning a flame that, without nurturing, could have flickered and faded many a year ago. There is a little bit of previously unseen footage which we found during the research for this issue, and the packaging reverts to the original 1972 style, rather than the more contemporary designs utilised for the release in 2005. It will also remind us what an extraordinary writer, performer and musician Marc Bolan was, and how well Ringo Starr and his crew captured that moment of T.Rextasy.
What is undeniable is that in 5.1 surround sound – mixed in 2004 by Tony Visconti, the film sounds incredible. Your ears prick up as they pick up on elements that were never apparent back in Wardour Street – the camera crew laughing as Marc & Ringo goofed their lines, the power of Bill Legend’s drumming, the little guitar noodles thrown in by Marc as he blew them away at the Empire Pool, Wembley. The film also looks stunning now, having been restored from the original 16mm negatives in 2003/04 – again, to a quality we would never have enjoyed in the 1970s. Previously yellow skin is now rosy pink, you can see the threads in Marc’s Alkasura finery, and that tiger in the Apple Studios sequence looks ready to eat you for lunch.
If you can’t be at the BFI screening, there’s another chance to recapture that moment on Born to Boogie Day, 14 June 2016, when the film will be screened at 20 Picturehouse cinemas nationwide. Go on, you know you want to. There’s nothing like hearing and seeing the film on a big screen, with big sound reverberating through you as your mind travels back to that golden, glamstastic, T.Rextatic age. You too can be 15, just for one day.