Legendary Scots rock ‘n’ roll outfit The Majestics find themselves in trouble on the eve of their 25th anniversary tour when their singer, Big Jazza, is killed in a car crash. But with the appearance of his younger brother, Danny, their problems appear to be over. If only it was that easy…
Rock and roll mythologises itself as a rejuvenating rebel music, an image embodied by the Rolling Stones, who claim the music keeps them fired up and excited despite their advancing years. However, entry into the ranks of rock and roll originals has failed to bestow the same energising favours on The Majestics, Scotland’s very own (fictional) survivors of the 1960s beat boom.
Tutti Frutti (BBC, 1987) tells the story of the band’s final preparations for an ill-fated jubilee tour. Unfortunately, The Majestics’ lead singer, Big Jazza, has just died and his replacement, his younger look-alike brother Danny McGlone (Robbie Coltrane), is unenthusiastic about fronting a band that is at best a footnote to the history of the 1960s music scene. His disdain for the project is played out in a series of rancorous squabbles with The Majestics’ original members, especially guitarist Vincent Diver (Maurice Roeves), whose pregnant young girlfriend comes on the tour.
John Byrne’s six scripts are finely-tuned pieces of comedy writing that expose his male characters’ inflated egos to toe-curling effect. Their final dispiriting tour of Scotland’s less salubrious clubs and pubs is punctuated by childish backstage squabbling and a series of personal disasters, including the suicide of Diver’s girlfriend and the revelation that she wasn’t pregnant after all. There is also the fractious on-off relationship between McGlone and waitress Suzi Kettles (Emma Thompson) who inadvertently ends up joining the band for their final shows.
The series has numerous strengths, including an excellent cast, a darkly witty script and a near-perfect pastiche of The Majestics on Ready, Steady Go (ITV, 1963-66). There are also several standout comedy moments, such as Big Jazza’s police record inadvertently saving his brother from arrest when Kettles’s violent husband identifies McGlone as his attacker, only to be told that the person whose photograph he’s picked from their volumes of mug shots is dead. However, nothing can save the band from its path of slow self-destruction, which drives their manager Eddie Clockerty (Richard Wilson) to ever-higher levels of frantic despair, much to the frustration of his acerbic secretary/girlfriend.
At its simplest, Tutti Frutti is the story of a disintegrating rock and roll band’s final tour, but what makes the programme such a joy is its deeper focus on a group of failed and delusional men and the women who love and support them despite their obvious failures.
Extras included are an excellent interview with the wonderful John Byrne and a short interview with Emma Thompson