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Billy I was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, My full name is William Lee Currie. At a very early age I sang a lot, becoming aware that I had a keen ear for music. My cousin bought me a guitar when I was ten and it "blew my mind" to see that the melodies, I was singing, could be played by changing the length of a string with my fingers! I also sang in the choir performing with the "Huddersfield Choral Society". Before my voice broke!
The following year I was in the school orchestra, and as I did so well, I was informed that there was a chance for me to get a place at the Huddersfield School of Music. This was a chance I would die for, so it only seemed a minor setback to be told that I would have to change over to the Viola.
I had extra lessons at the weekend and had to forfeit my position of captain for the school football team! Changing over was quite confusing, because of the different Clefs, but I made the grade and secured a place at the Music College in The course was to prepare me to become an orchestral player I had started too late to do it on the Violin with the piano as my second instrument.
Composition and Harmony was also taught. I loved the unique sound.
Billy Wilder - IMDb
In the second year the Music College moved to a new and fantastically well equipped building. This place had a large record collection and listening rooms which I used so much that I was eventually banned from! It was incredibly exciting to discover composers like Bartok, Schoenburg, Honegger, Varese both Honegger and Varese used electronic sounds. I thought it was very radical, back then, when I heard the last movement of the Bartok fifth quartet. Bartok starts up a southern American style, down home, hillbilly type country vibe which deliberately goes way out of tune just before the end of the piece.
He also belts out a blues riff like a rock band. This was a very full and stimulating time of my life! The orchestra played a lot of concerts, I was studying art and even had singing lessons which had to be abandoned because of acute Tonsillitis.
Herbert Whone, my Viola teacher was also a painter. Playing the piano started me off composing though. It was an interesting and elevating position to view things from. At this time I was becoming more and more interested in rock music.
What grabbed me was the fact that some musicians, playing together in bands, were composing and creating something unique and original together! I found bands like "Spirit" an American band really interesting in the way that classical strings were used with a fantastically emotional guitar solo. Beautifully soft, shiny strings with a very intensely improvised metallic electric guitar.
The idea of improvisation amazed me. Orchestral players have to put the sole of the composer into the music at the time of performance. Miles Davis the jazz trumpeter , on the other hand, was the Composer and performer, giving himself the freedom to explore inspirational moments, and change the form immediately if he felt the need.
I noticed that some Rock bands where getting, for themselves, the best of both of these two worlds! It really was the start of fusing different styles of music together and I was totally captivated by the movement! Moving up to things became a little intense! I achieved what I was at college to achieve by getting a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but I decided not to go. The amount of training that a musician goes through to get into a top orchestra is phenomenal!
If I had gone on to the Royal Academy it would have been an extra five years of training making a total of nine years. I have all the admiration in the world for these amazing musicians but I felt that I just had to break into these other arias of music that were happening at the time. The crossover music of Terry Riley intrigued me at this point. A drummer friend of mine, from Huddersfield, called Wayne Goddard had been working with "The Graham Bond Organisation" in London and was leaving and setting up a new band!
I impulsively joined this band and found myself "getting it together in the country" at a beautiful house in Norfolk. This was a Rock Band with strong Jazz and Blues influences! I felt that the Viola and the soprano Sax worked well together especially when improvising. We moved to London, living on Portobello road, and invited into the band an American female singer.
This band had a lot of names but eventually settled on "Company Roadshow". Notable achievements, I remember, were doing music for a T. V programme about Yoga and being able to improvise it all, and jamming with Peter Green Fleetwood Mac at an open air festival on Eelpie Island, London. The very high point was at Sussex University where we went down a storm! After I had done a lot of improvising that year I found that I wanted to move on.
In I moved back to Huddersfield and found myself getting involved in a Fringe Theatre Group put together by a drama teacher from the college called Barry Edwards. This was an experiment made up of four musicians and four dancers.
Known as "The Ritual Theatre" all the musicians where classically trained but, like me, could improvise. The music began very atonal and eventually came to rest on a chanting and celebratory feel. The whole cycle of the ritual was one of reaching out for inspiration and becoming very powerful! Lynsey Cooper from the band "Henry Cow" played bassoon. We were friends with "Henry Cow" and did some gigs together. This was an occasional project so I went to live in Bristol where I joined a band called "Flash Gordon" The guitarist was the guy who later had some success with "The Only Ones" This was my first disaster!
At a gig in Birmingham I got blown of stage. My cheap and lousy Violin I had moved to Violin pickup could not compete with this band who thought they were " The Who" and played as loud! This was a big lesson, which stood me in good stead later when I could afford decent equipment!
I moved from Bristol to Bath and started working with a singer who also played guitar. This was in the Tim Buckley and Van Morrison vain. We wrote songs together with me now playing acoustic Piano as well as Viola. We had no group name. This was the first time that I played the piano at gigs. My classical style piano playing worked in a very interesting way with his soulful voice!
This guy was called Jeff Starrs, he later recorded an album on Virgin Records with a band called "Interview". Notable achievements were supporting "The Strawbs" when they were number one in the British charts with "Lay Down". I met him in East Grinstead when I had a brief flirtation with the Scientologists. We were called "Wild Oats" what a name! In Ritual Theatre got back together and performed in Holland.
I was playing music in a very theatrical environment. The expression of the music through my body became a very important part of performing for me. I incorporated this experience, later, into Ultravox.
I remember being in London later that year and we were all waiting nervously to hear whether we had got a grant from the Arts Council.
All the money for the study of Ritual went to Peter Brook. This man had been studying Ritual for years and "there it is! I quit the group, deciding to concentrate on music. This was and I had, again, moved back to Huddersfield and started working as a paste-up artist. A phone call from Ed made me get my skates on and I moved back down to London. Ed introduced me to John Foxx the singer of this new band called "Tiger Lily".
John and I played together acoustically first John on guitar and vocals and me on violin and got on well! The music of the band sounded very refreshing and new! It was tough and stripped down to the bare essentials. There was no improvisation at all, but that was the stance! Pied Bull, London One track had a very sensitive feel of classical music. This was a project I could really get to grips with and take part in its development. We worked hard rehearsing four nights a week and all day Sunday.
I worked in a warehouse at this time, which was a lousy job, but I new we were going to get somewhere with this new kind of music! At first I just played the Violin. At the rehearsals I stood there doing nothing most of the time. Even though it sounded pretty awful I was able to get right into the heart of the writing process which now did include some improvisation.
We met Steve Lillywhite who worked in Phonogram studios, London. When no one was using the studio he invited us in to lay down our new songs.
Billy Liar - Wikipedia
After a year we had good demos for about twelve songs. This was and Island Records signed us. As part of the deal Steve came along as house producer.
Having had quite a bit of time to develop our sound we had, as well as the tough stripped down tracks, created a more expanding experimental style with European, filmic and anthemic melodies.
We changed our name to "Ultravox".