This Band Is So Gorgeous!

  • Director: Dunstan Bruce.
  • Country: England.
  • Duration: 72 min.
  • Year: 2012.
  • original language: Chinese, English. O.V.S.S.
  • Editor(s): Jim Scott.
  • Camera: Alex Wykes.
  • Exec Producer: Daisy Asquith.
  • Film company: Dandy Films.

the kids are united they will never be divided! Even in China? In May 2009 I found myself, at very short notice, on 70s punk veterans Sham 69′s tour of China; the first British punk band to ever tour there.

The next 14 days were a gruelling [in rock & roll terms] slog across the length and breadth of the country. We visited cities I had never even heard of before this trip [Wuhan, Chengdu, Changsha] as well as the more familiar [Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong].

We were accompanied by a Chinese punk band “No Name” fronted by their singer/tour manager Ray. Ray was enthusiastic but inexperienced in tour managing and with no fixers or officials in tow confusion reigned. Ray did however introduce us to a developing punk scene where we met passionate youths excited by the changes going on around them, all eager to experience western punk.

This was a mindblowing, intriguing, dumbfounding experience. Here was a country in the process of rebuilding and reinventing itself. Everywhere we went buildings were been torn down and replaced; new infrastructures were appearing, western chain stores were everywhere and of course Starbucks and MacDonalds were omnipresent.

“Such an alien place, an alien race rushing headlong into a chaotic future. Here is a mix of old and new, a police state fuelled by a free market economy.” So says Ian Whitewood, drummer of Sham 69, in his tour diary which acts as a narrative as well as an insight into a westerner’s view of China.

I encountered a fabulous mixture of wide-eyed optimism and pragmatic realism about the future; a generation outwardly rejecting its’ parents beliefs, values and dedication to the state who are looking outward for inspiration, influence and ideas. Their world is changing rapidly, and the punk movement in particular is bursting to break out of its’ previously strict confines.

Ray says on his myspace page: “I’m sick and tired of this ruling society, I find my kind of freedom in the music by starting my own revolution against all these blinded and brainless people in the communist dictatorship of China.” Ray becomes an engaging character throughout the film as we slowly get to discover what is going on there; initially believing that Chinese punk was merely a fashion – a way of rebelling against one’s parents, it became apparent that punk and more widely a belief in “Rock & Roll” was a symptom of a greater awakening in the youth of China.

And Sham 69? Their tour of China touched and inspired many we met along the way; but how did these middle aged men battling with their own and each other’s demons cope? Can they re-establish themselves? Can they survive? And what effect do they have on the Chinese punk scene? Are we witnessing the corruption of Chinese youth, politically, philosophically and/or materially? And, can their brand of rebellious rhetoric really help change the world for better or worse?