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No Excuses

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Methuen, London, 1983
(price: 1.50; 232 pages)

dedication: For Sam and Thomas

The blurb on the back:

Drawn from his own original screenplay for the Central Independent Television serial, Barrie Keeffe's novel, No Excuses, is the story of Shelley Maze, an ageing female rock star, coming to terms with the legacy of her youth in the sixties, with her family, with her fellow musicians and with herself.

Those who commissioned new drama for British TV in the 1970s and early-80s always liked to get a bit of grit for their money, so when Central TV wanted a series about the rock world, they went straight to one of the country's top gritmeisters, Barrie Keeffe. A celebrated dramatist (i.e. author of heavily subsidised plays) and the writer of The Long Good Friday, Keeffe gave us No Excuses, a seven-part series that impressed almost no one at all.

The story concerns rock star Shelley Maze, and - unusually for this kind of thing - starts out with her already famous: jumping straight into Stardust as it were, and skipping That'll Be The Day. She's a gutsy, rootsy, bluesy singer (my guess is Keeffe was thinking of Bonnie Raitt) and we join her as she buys a ruinously expensive country mansion intending to settle in for a life of decadent revelry and partying. But - guess what? - the life of a superstar can be a desperately lonely one, and Shelley soon finds herself confronting her demons, largely in the shape of her family. And the house turns out not to be a random purchase, but a return to where her career started back in the '60s.

This is standard melodramatic stuff, of course, and the script is about as convincing as its near-contemporary Boys From The Black Stuff, chiefly remarkable for a deeply unpleasant sequence in which a servant is humiliated and tortured at a band party. The occasional good line (Shelley remarking that 'Even children remark how childish I am') finds its way through, but Keeffe's novelization of his own script doesn't really work.

The saving grace of the TV series was the performance in the lead role of Charlotte Cornwell, veteran of Rock Follies. In her absence there's little left.

As a footnote, this was the series that Nina Miskow reviewed so unfavourably that Cornwell sued her. You remember the 'big arse' trial?


rock & roll
t.v. spin-offs