Breaking Glass (1980)
Starring Hazel O'Connor, Phil Daniels, Jonathan Pryce

Back in the day between real punk rock and the fluffy 80s sound of the New Romantics, there was new wave--punk socio-political anthems set to actual music played by real musicians. Breaking Glass is a British cult film made right at the best time for examining this kind of music. Set
in London at the end of the bleak '70s, this film is about a young singer/songwriter just getting by in the underground music scene, who gets discovered by a manager wannabe and is turned into a star.

Hazel O'Connor plays Kate, the leader of a new wave band called Breaking Glass (the name is taken from the David Bowie song). Kate has strong socialist ideals and she vents them with her energetic songs about racism in the UK and fears of an impending nuclear holocaust. She meets Danny, a streetwise kid who's trying to get into the music business by being a "chart fixer," that is he buys a large number of singles from certain record shops to make sure that certain crappy songs get into the Top 40, and thus, get more airplay and promotion. This explains the Spice Girls and Brittany Spears!

Danny discovers Kate playing with a horrible back-up band in nasty North London pubs, to violent audiences of neo-Nazis looking for a punch-up. He decides she's great enough to become a star, but Kate wants nothing to do with becoming "part of the machinery" of the record business. The problem is she needs a better band, better instruments, and better gigs so she can keep doing what she loves best, and Danny gets her all these things. Before she realises it, she is a huge star and her worst fears come true. She gets caught in a struggle with the "powers that be" in the music business for artistic recognition, and through a tireless performance schedule and a traumatic event her talent and sanity become jeopardized.

I saw this movie the first time years ago, when I was about 15. They used to play it all the time on the late night TV music show "NightFlight" on the USA network back in the early '80s. It's subtlety
was lost on me back then, but I loved it for the entertainment it was. I managed to find it on video recently and watched it again for the first time in years. It's a great film with a fantastic soundtrack, which I bought on vinyl way back then. It's a good look into how England was in its post-punk era, when new wave was becoming socially acceptable and the political message was getting lost in light of radio airplay and record sales. A heartbreaking moment in the film is when Kate changes a lyric for the radio version of a song about the government controlling our lives ("Big Brother"), and she doesn't even realise what she did wrong.

Today, Hazel O'Connor still has a huge fan base just because of this one film and soundtrack. You can find several websites devoted to her (, she's made several more albums and recently she released an album reworking some of the old Breaking Glass
songs with a celtic twist. You can even hear a recent interview where she tells you how the British ending of the movie differs greatly from the US edit. She's lived an amazing life and for anyone who has an interest in England or music that actually means something, you should check it out.

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