Rinaldi Sings — Features

The 'Avenues & Alleyways' Video Shoot » May 2004

Movie-maker Edward Ball talks through the experience of directing his first pop promo with Rinaldi Sings.

Ed Ball prepares the scene

For several of my Creation Records years I worked as a sort of ‘liaison’ between the talent and video directors. Bands were mostly reluctant to make promos and more often than not would complain: “Do we really have to do it?” It wasn’t quite like that with Rinaldi Sings.

When Steve Rinaldi and I initially kicked around ideas for this film we were adamant that it would be story-based, fast-moving and most important of all, enjoyable. In fact, such was Steve’s enthusiasm, that on occasion he would ring me on a Saturday afternoon asking “What’re you doing? Grab yer Bolex and lets go to Maryon Park and find some bodies in the bushes”.

But clearly, for this to be a success, some preparation was required. I scripted. I prepared. And just to be on the safe side, I called Rob Vasey of Little Song films, and his support and thoroughness were invaluable.

After several listens to ‘Avenues & Alleyways’, it struck me that the lyrical content was a little too earnest and what our story needed was a hero with the duplicitous morals of today. So I concocted a tale where Steve is having an affair with the wife of his boss, Stimpson. The fact that Rinaldi and Stimpson are ‘underworld’ – undercover cops or gangsters, or indeed, both! – allowed for the audiences to sympathise with Rinaldi when he kills Stimpson. After all, Stimpson is an unlikeable bastard, a bully who intimidates the local kids and puts the squeeze on the local porn proprietor. With Stimpson out of the way, at last Rinaldi and his love can be together. But the unexpected happens…

In my head, it was essential that the events of this underworld – and the ensuing madness – revolved around Steve, rather like Malcolm McDowell in ‘O Lucky Man’. Also, the structure of ‘Performance’ was a big influence. And of course, it was never meant to be naturalistic. Our reality is negotiable.

We also had to find the right people to co-star. Stimpson had to look like a double hard bastard. I could only see one person playing it, a gentleman called Phil Payne from the Creation Records/Poptones band, Arnold. As for the phonebox-chaining car thieves, I’d always envisaged my good friend Misty Woods as one, partnered by a Gene October look alike. I wondered if she had any ideas. Said she knew a Gene, but she was a she, not a he. “Maybe we should meet,” I said.

Steve on location

I called a meeting at a favourite cafe in Chalk Farm – the richest memories I recall being discussed here were a debate on the merits of ‘Face To Face’ and ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ with the knowledgeable Bobby Gillespie. I turned up first, then Misty arrives. She asks me would I like a coffee and goes to the counter. As she waits, ‘Payney’ walks in. Later on she told me, “I knew he was Stimpson the moment he walked in”. Gene arrived later, and after regaling us with stories of a family steeped in film history, I knew we were on to a winner.

For his part, on hearing the synopsis Steve came up with the lovely Sue as Stimpson’s wife, his father to play the greasy Mr Raoul, and his mates Graham and Neil as the ‘druggie’ kids. But the Victim was proving a little harder to come up with. Originally, I was looking for Rob Brydon to reprise his role as the typical traffic warden in ‘Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’, but he was busy recording ‘Director’s Commentary’ (and let’s face it, was he really gonna come and do a day’s work for no pay with a bunch of unhinged, deluded nutters down an alley?!). Thankfully assistant director Rob Vasey stepped into the breach.

We purposely cast non-actors for the parts. And perhaps, as these were all friends of both Steve and myself, it’s not surprising they are mostly musicians, composers and DJs.

The brief for each scene was often simple: keep the action uninflected. But most important of all, the cast instinctively opted for the physical expressiveness of silent movie acting. What more could a director hope for?

Steve on location

Steve’s ability to come up with location sites at the synopsis stage made it all very easy as well. This was all too good to be true! All we now needed was a car.
“What sort of sports car did you have in mind?” said Steve.
“I was thinking of something British, a Super 7 or…”
“A TVR maybe?”
“Yeah, a TVR would be cool!” I nodded enthusiastically.
He narrowed his eyes, sucked in his cheeks reflectively. Flicking open his mobile he hit a number. “James, my man! How’s tricks? Good, good. James, I need a favour. The Chimaera. Yeah, yeah, the black one… can I have it here in London for Saturday? About midday? Good enough!”
So we got the dream car. And we’re shooting around Harrow doing the exterior scenes. “Ok Steve, when we get to a clear stretch of road, just drive past slowly so I can get some good solid footage of you and Phil in the car”.
“Sure Ed, whatever you need.”

So we drive, and I’m hanging out of the tracking vehicle to get as much in shot of the oncoming Rinaldi/TVR Experience as is humanly possible. I’m leaning at a horizontal angle, Graham and Neil have got hold of my thighs and ankles respectively and it’s just like one of those trust exercises that drama schools bang on about, only we’re moving around 50 or 60 mph and I’ve never met these guys before! All of a sudden, like Lord Brett Sinclair in his bronze Jensen Interceptor, Rinaldi zooms past – and all that’s missing is his middle finger and a cloud of smoke spelling “Eat my dust!”

I call him on the mobile. “That was a teeny weeny bit fast, Steve. Could we do it again at less than 90 mph?”
“No worries, mate. You’re the man”.
Hmm.
And we’re off again. Only this time I couldn’t tell you who it was like. It’s just a blur. “Chase him, chase him” I implore James.
“I’ve got my foot flat on the floor,” he implores back as Steve “Buzz” Rinaldi reaches an altitude of 40,000 feet!

When we finally catch up with Steve he’s in trouble – in fact, he’s in the hands of the law. It had to happen, I suppose. They always say filming in London’s a nightmare – and since 9/11 it’s got worse. But we’re not terrorists – we’re a bunch of men and women who’ve watched ‘The Knack’, ‘Theatre of Blood’ and ‘Married With Children’ a few too many times. We’re trying to blitz the art house not Buck house – and we’re more Al Bundy than Al Qaeda. But you know, they saw the cast on the street corner, Steve trapped in an old red telephone box, the girls dressed like dominatrices, incarcerating people in BT property with great thick heavy chains!

“There’s been complaints,” says PC No.1.
“Yeah, complaints,” echoes PC No.2.
“There’s been complaints that you’ve been acting suspiciously,” says PC No.1.
“I’ve just been acting!” says Steve.
“Excuse me officer, may I cut in here? You see, what my learned friend is trying to say is that we’re making a film. It’s a video in fact. Steve’s a musician. He makes records”.
“What like?”
I look at this PC and weigh him up.
“Dexys. He sounds like early Dexys. His live shows are great. Big brass. Big front man.”

It’s job well done. We’re free men again and Steve’s signing his own promo pics – for the PC’s girlfriend, the other cop’s kids, and Rinaldi Sings are due to perform at the Secret Policeman’s Ball this Solstice! As we leave, PC No.1 is chanting “Stevie! Stevie!” like the intro to “Geno”.

Music certainly conquers all – and thanks to the music, we got to finish making the video for ‘Avenues & Alleyways’ without an extended stay in Wandsworth Prison! I hope the next video will be less complicated. Hang on lads, I’ve got an idea…

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