FEATURE: Radio On

November 30, 1979
  1. Feature Film

Soundbites

Sting on "Radio On"

"I just sing Three Steps To Heaven and sit in a caravan. It's not exactly Ben Hur".
Melody Maker, 9/79

"It was perfect. It came out at the same time as Quadrophenia. So it wasn't as though either was a flash in the pan. I enjoyed being in it. I'm going to make another film with Chris Petit. "Radio On" was a very cheap film - only about £50,000. And I got about 20 quid for it. They had a great lighting cameraman - the bloke who filmed Wim Wenders' The American Friend which is one of my favourite movies. I loved Chris's way of directing, where I could just really be myself."
NME, 1/81

On the suggestion that he, like Elvis, had an alternative film career...
"Elvis did, yeah. But he was stupid. He didn't have any brains, that bloke. That was the problem. Brilliant charisma. Great face. And then he makes GI Blues. Mind you, making musicals is totally anathema to me. I don't want anything to do with it. "Radio On" though, was a really great vehicle for the music of Ian Dury and Kraftwerk and Wreckless Eric - that’s all there was to it, really. It was like a three hour promo movie in black and white. It's done really well around the world, you know. It is a good movie. Beautifully filmed. It was nice to be in that, because it was very… obscure."
NME, 1/81

"You’d better put 'acting' in inverted commas. As far as I’m concerned, acting is something you do on stage where you create and sustain a role. In a film you don’t do that. You hang around, say one line, then hang around again. The camera is so close to your face you can’t register much expression or make any dramatic gestures! That’s why the best film actors are non-actors. Clint Eastwood has a totally wooden face and Steve McQueen only has about one expression. When I did "Quadrophenia" I used the same expression all the way through and in "Radio On" I was just being me and not really acting at all!"
Look Now, 81

Backgrounder

Sting makes his film debut in "Radio On" (1980) as the character 'Just Like Eddie', a petrol attendant and dolefully adoring fan of the late rock and roller Eddie Cochran. Written and directed by Christopher Petit, a protege of German director Wim Wenders (he was the film's associate producer), "Radio On" is a moody, black and white road movie which eschews traditional narrative conventions. The film follows despondent disc-jockey Robert (David Beames) on a seemingly aimless drive across England in search of clues to the recent mysterious death of his estranged brother. Estrangement is a general theme in "Radio On"; the one constancy in Robert's interactions with the varied characters he encounters on the road is his singular inability to find meaningful communication or emotional connection. The only real movement in the film is Robert's ongoing journey down the motorway, his only real companion is the radio when news bulletins continually update him on the latest human tragedy. He turns his "radio off" only to play tapes - the alienated synth drones of the '70's - vintage David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo and Lene Lovich. Encountered by Robert at an otherwise deserted gas station located close to the spot of Cochrane's fatal car accident, Sting's 'Just Like Eddie' proves to be a neglectful petrol attendant who atones for his apathy with a soulful rendition of Cochrane's Three Steps To Heaven. His role, which preceded the success of The Police, did not stray too far from reality, as he strums his guitar, he petulantly tells Robert that he plays in a band and has dreams of making it. This real life fore-shadowing provides a moment of levity and an unintentional break from the film's unrelenting bleakness, which is Petit's primary focus and for which neither success nor escape is possible. All This Time CD-ROM