Grease is the word. I’ve just sat through a fabulous performance of Grease, my daughter finishes primary school next week and so her year, as is traditional at her school, put on a big final performance for all us parents. This year they very conveniently chose a musical that I own the soundtrack to; rumours that I tried and failed to get them to stage a play based on Black Flag’s Damaged, or Stiff Little Fingers Inflammable Material are entirely scurrilous and false and anyone propagating such nonsense will hear from my lawyers forthwith.
Now I have to say that I’ve loved Grease since I was 6 when ‘Summer Nights’ was #1 for about 9 months, or so. When I saw the film with my mum, we loved that too and I’ve strutted my stuff to the sound of the ‘Grease Megamix’ on enough sweaty nights out that I genuinely have a routine for it, okay so it’s not as innovative and sexy as my ones for ‘Love cats’ and ‘Groove is in the Heart’, but the point is I like it enough to have one. I know, I know that it’s a cheesy Hollywood version of an idealised 1950’s and it’s not a patch on American Graffiti, or either version of Hairspray, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s romantic and I love the tunes. If that means I’m risking arrest from the Cool Cops (Cheesy Mulch Squad: CMS) then so be it.
But anyway back to last night, my daughter landed the part of one of the Pink Ladies, Jan. She’s not a dramatic kid, but she is a frighteningly determined one – I know she has spent hours and hours practising her accent, her lines, her dance-steps, but what was really clear last night was that everyone had worked their socks off and it was a really enjoyable night. What was also really apparent was the sheer amounts of love and effort put in by the class teachers to get the whole thing off the ground, truly above and beyond any reasonable call of duty. Sure we had enough croaky voices, falling props and little wobbles to give it the ‘ahhh factor too, but it was a great performance – hell I’ve seen Slaughter live once, I have a baseline to compare it to.
As I sat there on those tiny chairs, my lower back starting to spasm, watching my daughter refusing to dance anywhere near her partner during the American Bandstand bit (boys being stupid and irrelevant – long may that continue!), it did strike me just how much I do like the tunes in Grease. Okay, so you’ve got the Sha-Na-Na versions of all the old rock and rollers, rather than the grittier, weirder originals, but I like Sha-Na-Na anyway, mostly because I think of the Bacofoil explosion of weapons-grade manic weirdness they brought to Woodstock.
Before that though you just have a selection of top quality tracks specially written for the musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, as well as the Barry Gibb-penned ‘Grease’. Damn fine they all are too, okay so it may get me drummed out of the Ministry fan club, but I like each and every one of them and have a particular soft spots for ‘Beauty School Dropout’ and, of course, ‘Greased Lightning’ which when I eventually get around to forming my punk rockabilly band, The Corn Dogs, I’ll do a filthy cover of. ‘Summer Nights’ is almost too big to even contemplate looking in anything approaching a logical fashion, it’s just there.
I would point out that in the school performance a certain amount of judicious Bowdlerization took place to keep things within the bounds of taste for a bunch of 11 year-olds, which of course involved cutting my favourite line out of ‘Greased Lightning’,
With the four speed on the floor they’ll be waiting at the door
You know that ain’t no shit we’ll be getting lots of tit In Greased Lightning
Other than that you’re left with the traditional 2LP soundtrack dodgy fourth side – there appears to have been a law passed at some point making it mandatory for all soundtracks to have a fourth side of reprises and instrumentals from the good tracks earlier on. True story.
Needless to say we’ve heard enough of Grease in this house over the last month to suffice for the rest of our lives, so I’ll skip the next few times it’s on TV without any qualms. Anyway, the film can’t compare with last night, it doesn’t have hardboard cars that threaten to fall over, missed cues, painted backdrops and, more importantly, Jan’s accent isn’t as convincing in the film.
Grease is the word (is the word that they heard)
It’s got groove, it’s got meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling