Brian Ferguson: How long before a Scottish act gets the Bohemian Rhapsody treatment?

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It is Saturday night at the multiplex cinema on Edinburgh’s waterfront and there is not a seat to be had at the screening of Elton John biopic Rocketman. A full house for a film about a musician and the music he made before many of the audience would have been born said a lot about the state of popular culture in 2019. The success of Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, which charted the rise of Queen, have revolutionised the cinematic world in the space of a year, as well as triggering huge revivals of interest in the back catalogue of both artists.

There is plenty more to come in the next few months, with the release of Yesterday, which will see Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis join forces on their first film, a comedy about a musician who wakes up in a world which has not heard of The Beatles and decides to take the credit for their songs, and another British comedy, Blinded By The Light, about a writer with a Bruce Springsteen obsession.

Recent years have also seen the release of films like England Is Mine, which explored the teenage years of The Smiths frontman Morrissey and Good Vibrations, a celebration of the punk era in Belfast which The Undertones emerged from. Although Jim Morrison, Tina Turner, Sid Vicious and Richie Valens were the subject of acclaimed biopics in the 1980s and 1990s the recent trend can probably be traced back to the success of Walk The Line, which saw Joaquain Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon win huge acclaim for their portrayals of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

However watching Rocketman - which features one of Scotland’s leading actors, Richard Madden playing John’s long-time manager, Paisley-born John Reid - I was struck by the realisation that Scottish musicians and their back catalogue had been somewhat neglected by the cinematic world.

The Proclaimers are the obvious exception, thanks to the big screen adaptation of the hit stage musical Sunshine on Leith, which playwright Stephen Greenhorn wrote for Dundee Rep, although his story had nothing to do with the story of the twins’ rise to fame in the 1980s.

Given that it was directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was called in to replace Bryan Singer at the helm of Bohemian Rhapsody and also helmed Rocketman, The Proclaimers can perhaps can take some credit for the current boom.

The Scottish indie music scenes which gave birth to bands like Mogwai, Arab Strap, Franz Ferdinand, Orange Juice and Teenage Fanclub have inspired documentaries like Lost in France, Big Gold Dream and Teenage Superstars in the last few years.

But how long will it be before the story of a Scottish musician or band gets the big-screen treatment like Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman?

The Scottish roots of Rod Stewart and AC\DC may be hotly debated, but their stories seem ripe for telling on film at some point.

It is perhaps more surprising that no-one has got a Bay City Rollers movie off the ground by now, given that the Edinburgh outfit became the world’s first boy band.

However could poignant portraits of iconic and groundbreaking artists who have passed away perhaps be possibilities in future years.

The stories of Alex Harvey, who died at the age of 46, Stuart Adamson, who formed The Skids and Big Country, who was just 43 when he passed away, and Associates frontman Billy Mackenzie, who was just 39 when he died, seem well worthy of bigger audiences, due to their influence on generations of musicians and fans.