MVD Visual // 1985 // 30 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // July 16th, 2011
"Everyone went in to have a good time." -- Bill Wyman
In 1985, then-Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman put together Willie and the Poor Boys as a tribute to his beloved '50s rock 'n' roll. It was also intended as a benefit for A.R.M.S. (Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis), the MS charity headed by former Faces bassist Ronnie Lane, one of Wyman's closest friends who suffered from the disease. The project initially began as an album that Wyman recorded with an all-star band that included Wyman's fellow Stones Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers, and Who/Faces drummer Kenney Jones, amongst others. The album Willie and the Poor Boys consisted of '50s rock & roll covers and original songs done in the same style. It was a mildly amusing album that broke no new ground or stood up to repeated listenings, although it did have a few good moments here and there.
To accompany the album's release, Wyman commissioned a Willie and the Poor Boys home video, here reissued on DVD. Here is the track listing:
* "Poor Boy Boogie"
* "You Never Can Tell"
* "Chicken Shack Boogie"
* "Let's Talk It Over"
* "All Night Long"
* "Saturday Night"
* "Baby Please Don't Go"
* "These Arms of Mine"
Don't be misled by the packaging: this is not a concert DVD. It's a longform music video in which the core of the Poor Boys band, mainly Wyman, Watts, Jones, and Wood, accompanied by singer Chris Rea and session musicians such as guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, pretend to perform for a '50s audience in a small dance club as they lip-sync to songs from the album. There's a very loose storyline in which the club's owner holds a dance contest and ends up patronizing the club's janitor, played in a very brief cameo by Ringo Starr (thus making hash of the DVD's claim that this marks "a collaboration between members of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones"). There's elaborately choreographed dancing and bad acting, but no actual live performances.
Clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, this is as slight and forgettable visually as you might expect. By the standards of music videos of the era (this was released only four years after the launch of MTV), Willie and the Poor Boys is a nice supplement but it adds nothing to the album. At least a documentary about the recording of the album would have interesting, partly to hear these major artists talk about the music they grew up with and also to hear more about Lane and his battles with MS (he eventually died of the disease in 1997). Even a tribute concert might have been worth seeing, if only for a song or two. This, on the other hand, is just pointless. Maybe back in 1985, this would have been a decent extra but given that the album ultimately had a negligible commercial and artistic impact means that this is hardly worth an entire DVD release to itself.
The DVD is at least well-produced. The full-screen transfer looks pretty solid, although like most video transfers from the era it does suffer from some softness and fading. The surround mixes are loud but do sometimes sound echo-laden and tinny. The sole extra is a featurette that lasts 30 minutes and consists of behind-the-scenes footage narrated by Wyman. It tells way more about this project than anyone really needs to know, although there are a few interesting bits scattered throughout.
Ultimately, Willie and the Poor Boys isn't worth caring about, even for hardcore Stones completists. While it's commendable that Wyman put together such an elaborate project to benefit a worthy cause, it's not an especially noteworthy one. Even if you really liked the album (which is hardly more than a novelty one-off), this is not much of a companion piece. Both this video and its accompanying featurette could have been appended to a CD reissue of the album, but as a standalone release (especially bearing the list price of $19.95), it's not something anyone is going to want to watch more than once. Save your money.
Guilty of being too trivial to matter much to anyone.
Review content copyright © 2011 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* Full Frame
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated