Shortly after the decay of Britpop in the early noughties, London was attacked by what musical critics decided to name “the no-name scene”. From the entrails of the dusty, vomit scented Camden venues, one band was particularly noticeable – with electrifying and provocative life performances, a punk rock sonority and loads of gratuitous nudity, The Parkinsons are now given screen time by first-time director Caroline Richards, in The Parkinsons: A Long Way to Nowhere, a documentary that took seven years to reach the light of day.
It all started in the sleepy, boring student city of Coimbra, where Afonso, Vítor and Pedro listened to the Sex Pistols and The Cramps, despairing with the lack of an alternative scene in their home town. They decide to pack their bags and move to London, share a tiny flat (£20 a week, how long ago was this???) , and start The Parkinsons, with Scottish drummer Chris Low. From the beginning, their crazy performative style and stage presence attracted the attention of both club managers and cult audiences – soon they were playing all over the Big Smog, shopping for record deals, getting banned from venues, and even streaking at Glastonbury. Alas, after their biggest high – the Japan Rock Festival – the cracks started to appear. The lack of proper income and disagreements regarding the band formation led Afonso to leave, and The Parkinsons slowly faded away from the spotlight… that is, until now.
What is great about The Parkinsons: A Long Way to Nowhere is that it portrays a great band that, for some reason or another, never “made” it, originating an interesting reflection on the meaning of success, and how long is too long to fight for your dreams. From the incredible succession of drummers, to the stage shyness of bassist Pedro, the irreverence and musical know-how of Vítor and the charisma of Afonso, they had everything to have not only the life but the profits of proper rock stars. And yet – despite the shiny lights and the smoke, the devoted fans and the thirsty press, they themselves don’t think they managed to achieve that much. It’s a “what if” story where it is very hard to spot which variant could have been different, or if, putting it simply, the mainstream world was not ready to this kind of force of nature.
Richards bases her documentary on a rich archive and present-day interviews with the band members and other orbital people, and she does a great job of capturing the energy and mood of the band’s live performances. Despite a slow start, and the obvious limitations of telling a past story with finite historical resources, The Parkinsons: A Long Way to Nowhere is a bitter sweet rock documentary, full of anecdotes and musical bliss.
The Parkinsons: A Long Road to Nowhere will be released on DVD 30th April 2018