My ‘go to man’ on the ‘lost’ 60s/70s films was always the lovely, and very much missed, Simon Wells. We actually met when Simon shoved a VHS bootleg copy of ‘Bronco Bullfrog’ into my hands in SE5 in the late 90s. There was no concern with monetary gain with Simon, he just wanted to spread the gospel on certain films, that he felt deserved to be more recognised. For as long as I can remember he kept telling me I had to track down a copy of the film ‘Melody’ which he was certain I would love. Sadly, for many years, I struggled to find a copy and then about ten years ago,  a local south London film club announced they were showing it at the Tate Modern cinema as there was a local connection, with much of it filmed in nearby Kennington.

So, a few weeks later I found myself in among a decent sized crowd waiting for it to begin and within seconds off it starting I was completely absorbed by the film. It was just lovely, with some outstanding performances on show and a great soundtrack by the pre-disco Bee Gees . Then halfway through, I felt some tears falling down my face. I won’t lie, I was a little embarrassed and somewhat surprised, but in truth, I had identified with so much of what I was watching. It was like seeing a home movie of my own junior school days, including my first ‘love’ and all that entailed. It was just ringing bells in my head all over the place.  

There was a Q&A with the director Waris Hussein at the end of the film and he confirmed that this was the first screenplay by Alan Parker (Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Fame, The Commitments and Mississippi Burning to name but a few) and the first production by (Baron) David Puttnam, (That’ll Be the Day, Stardust, Chariots of Fire, Local Hero) so Melody was obviously a sign of the good things to come from all of them. The idea for the project was Puttnam’s after he had secured the rights to five songs by the brothers Gibb and then constructed the film around them.

The acting line up in the film features many first-rate character actors, with the likes of Roy Kinnear, Sheila Steafel, Keith Barron and Kate Williams putting in fine turns, but of course, it’s the kids that steal the show. The main two boy roles are played by Jack Wild (then aged 17) and Mark Lester, a year or so after the roaring success they had, had together in the film ‘Oliver’ from 1968. Filming on Melody (also known as S.W.A.L.K. in the USA) began in the spring of 1970 in and around Hammersmith and Kennington, where one scene, features The Ship pub, where my wife’s dad drank for many years.  

Wild plays Tom Ornshaw, a working-class kid from a poor background, who teams up with Daniel Latimer played by Lester, the son of a middle-class couple. Then one day Daniel sees Melody Perkins, played by child model and acting newcomer Tracy Hyde, and Latimer falls in love, leaving poor old Ornshaw adrift and jealous of Melody

Meanwhile, Daniel and Melody declare they want to get married, and, what’s more, immediately . Their parents explain that the reality of them being only 12, means that isn’t going to happen. This is handled very sweetly by the filmmakers, who set it all among a backdrop of school discos and a sports day, with pupils from Archbishops Temple school acting as extras, and being paid a pound a day. 

As mentioned earlier, it is driven along by a tremendous soundtrack too, supplied in the main by The Bee Gees with songs like In the Morning, Melody Fair, Give Your Best, To Love Somebody and First of May. Teach your Children Well by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is also featured towards the end of the film.

I’m conscious of those reading this that haven’t seen the film, of spoiling the ending, but Daniel and Melody then go missing from school, thus making the teachers and parents alike realise the depth of feeling between the two. This leads to a final stand-off between the majority of the school kids, who are keen to help their friends get ‘married,’ and the grown-ups, trying  to put a stop to it.

Upon release, the  box office returns were poor in the UK and the USA, but it was literally ‘big in Japan’ being a massive hit out there along with parts of South America, Mexico Argentina & Chile in particular. Tracey Hyde was especially idolised in Japan due to the film, and has visited there as a result of public demand, sometimes reunited with Mark Lester, a few times in recent years.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Roma) has said Melody inspired him to want to make films, and cult director Wes Anderson has described it as one of his favourite films calling it ‘a forgotten and inspiring gem’ and I’m with Wes there. It’s definitely a constant in my ever shifting top ten films of all time.

So, yes, Melody is nostalgic, sentimental, romantic, sweet, and now in my case as I head to the age of 60, reflective. 

But I ask you,  what’s wrong with a bit of that every now and then, eh?


The Mumper of SE5



THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Rhoda Dakar

Available to ORDER here



Further styles added to the SALE



Sign up to our newsletter and receive an exclusive promo code, latest news & Art Gallery Clothing offers.

Newsletter Signup