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Rock of Ages

Hollywood gets hold of the Broadway Musical about early 80s glam rock

Having tunes the audience recognise is Rock of Ages’ main selling point (aside from Diego Boneta in a tight vest and a heavily tattooed half naked Tom Cruise). At the climax of each trailer for Rock Of Ages, the bands whose music features prominently in the film appear in huge shiny letters. Which leads us to ask; is it better to have tunes or numbers?

From Bon Jovi to Twisted Sister, the creators of Rock Of Ages have worked the story around the music of the era ensuring that there is something for everyone. This is not a new phenomenon, Mamma Mia became one of the most successful adaptations from stage to screen in 2008 and took mountains of cash despite Pierce Brosnan’s dreadful singing. This was down to the use of songs from ABBA’s back catalogue and the very friendly face of Meryl Streep. Even the advertising for Moulin Rouge, a film with a plethora of great original songs to admire, focused on the songs that were popular before the film’s release. Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend and Roxanne are seen in the trailer and those huge shiny letters reappear telling us which bands feature.

While the financial success of musicals is not dependent on original songwriting, those that do create original numbers often become increasingly significant as time progresses. The cinematic version of West Side Story has been preserved in the National Film Registry for good reason. These original songs have become part of our collective consciousness and very little was known about what was going to be seen and heard prior to taking your seat. Nobody had heard I Feel Pretty before they saw West Side Story and likewise nobody was humming A Spoonful Of Sugar until they had seen Mary Poppins.

There is a lot to admire about a script that successfully gives the songs we know an extra relevance towards the characters we see on the screen, but surely there is more to admire in original songwriting. There’s an Academy Award for Best Original Song, there is no award for Best Use Of A Song We All Love.

Words: Joshua Hammond

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