Soundtrack Review: NOWHERE BOY

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
October 22nd, 2010

Rating: 3.5/5

It is always interesting to see how the world of music impacts those who, in turn, become the artists that end up changing that very world. What artists did they listen to, get influenced by, reject? How did they learn to play music, write it, perform it? In a film like NOWHERE BOY, whose story details the early days of John Lennon, the film and the soundtrack work hand-in-hand to re-create these moments and find the answers to these questions.

The soundtrack is chockful of well-known songs from the late 1950s (“Wild One” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Mr. Sandman” by Dickie Valentine) along with lesser known artists such as Eddie Bond & The Stompers (“Rockin’ Daddy”) and Eddie Cochran (“Twenty Flight Rock”). It creates not only the sound of the era, but also what styles and artists in particular began to paint Lennon’s musical world.

We first see Lennon’s (Aaron Johnson) real interest in creating music introduced to him through his mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff). Julia is a free spirit whose love for life and the arts is easily intoxicating, and for a boy going nowhere, it is no surprise Lennon gravitates towards her pull. Julia teaches him how to play the banjo and one of the first songs she teaches him is an old Liverpool folk song, “Maggie May,” which comes full circle as it is also the first song performed by Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen.

Beyond just teaching him to play music, Julia is also shown to play a role in helping Lennon appreciate the many different styles of music. In a telling scene, Lennon gets a song by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (“I Put a Spell on You”) in a trade and does not think much of it, but Julia hears differently. It is one of the first times you see Lennon opening up to different styles of rock (in this case, shock rock) and realizing that music is neither good nor bad, it’s all just music.

Lennon was clearly most influenced by Elvis Presley, as seen in his clothes and stage presence at that time, but Presley’s rock and roll sound had come out of rockabilly and R&B. To that end, the soundtrack includes rockabilly songs by Wanda Jackson (“Hard Headed Woman”) and Gene Vincent (“Be-Bop-A-Lula”) and R&B from Big Mama Thornton’s original recording of “Hound Dog” (which was later re-recorded by Presley).

I was impressed to see that the film found actors who could not only play the part of their characters, but also play their instruments. This group is noted as The Nowhere Boys on the soundtrack for the songs they performed as The Quarrymen in the film. These songs are mainly covers of other artist’s songs (Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bill Justis) since at that time Lennon and his friends had not quite found or honed their own writing chops, they just wanted to get out there and perform. By the end of the film, the boys end up in the studio to record one of their first original songs, “In Spite Of All the Danger,” which is a nice contrast to non-original songs the group first performs.

One of my favorite scenes in the film takes place between Lennon and McCartney (Thomas Sangster), when McCartney asks Lennon if he has ever written any songs of his own. Lennon responds that he has only written poetry to which McCartney fortuitously says, “Add a tune and you’ve got a song.” The first song Lennon and McCarthy ever wrote together, “Hello Little Girl," is included here on a solo track by Aaron Johnson, which showcases the duo’s songwriting abilities along with Johnson’s talent as a singer.

Out of all the things I love about music, I am always most fascinated by those that can actually create it and their process in doing so. The soundtrack brings together not just artists of the time, but also those that influenced one another and eventually influenced Lennon’s own music. The album wraps up with a track from Lennon himself with the Plastic Ono Band titled “Mother” since, in the end, the film shows how Lennon’s relationships with his parental figures factored into him as a person and later drove him to become John Lennon, the musician.

This soundtrack is available on Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited.

1. “Wild One” – Jerry Lee Lewis
2. “Mr. Sandman” – Dickie Valentine
3. “Rocket 88” – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats
4. “Shake, Rattle and Roll” – Elvis Presley
5. “Hard Headed Woman” – Wanda Jackson
6. “I Put A Spell On You”- Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
7. “Maggie May” – The Nowhere Boys
8. “That’ll Be The Day” – The Nowhere Boys
9. “Rockin’ Daddy” – Eddie Bond & The Stompers
10. “Twenty Flight Rock” – Eddie Cochran
11. “That’s All Right” – The Nowhere Boys
12. “Movin’ N’ Groovin’” – The Nowhere Boys
13. “Raunchy” – The Nowhere Boys
14. “Hound Dog” – Big Mama Thornton
15. “Be-Bop-A-Lula” – Gene Vincent
16. “Hello Little Girl” – Aaron Johnson
17. “In Spite Of All The Anger” – The Nowhere Boys
18. “Mother” – John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band

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