Cbr12bingo Music, BINGO ~ 4 corners and center square
Also an “adaptation” possibility
Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s first novel (published in 1987) is set in 1980’s Dublin and centers on a group of working class teens/20-somethings (and one geezer) who come together to form “the world’s hardest working band,” The Commitments. The Commitments is a short, humorous novel that tracks the group’s rocky development and ambitions. Its lively colloquial dialog makes the characters come alive and keeps the novel moving at a rapid clip.
Jimmy Rabbitte has a plan. His friends Outspan and Derek are budding musicians who need direction, and Jimmy — known for his expansive musical knowledge — is only too happy to provide it when they come to him for advice. Jimmy has his finger on the pulse of contemporary music and declares that to make a splash, their band needs to do something different from the rest. He recommends that they form a soul band, since soul is the music of sex and of the working class and they are all working class themselves. Jimmy puts out an ad looking for musicians and singers and gets a group of people who have varying degrees of talent and little knowledge of soul. They will learn though from Joey the Lips Fagan, a trumpet player in his 40s who has played with the American greats like James Brown and Marvin Gay. Yet almost from the beginning, cracks are evident. Lead singer Deco is an extraordinarily talented prick whom everyone hates, but no one more than drummer Billy. The three Commitmentettes — the girl back up singers — are good looking enough to turn heads and cause rivalries amongst their male band mates, with Joey emerging as an unexpected ladies man. James is in medical school and has to balance class work with band time, and Dean starts to demonstrate an alarming interest in jazz, the antithesis of soul according to Joey.
While Joey teaches the others the songs they’ll be playing at their gigs, Jimmy tries to manage disagreements, hustle for shows and arrange for press coverage. And he is actually rather successful at most of this, even finding The Commitments a standing weekly gig. The Commitments are a really good band, with some real talent and positive buzz. But the seeds of destruction are evident from within the band and Jimmy’s hard work, optimism and commitment will be put to the test.
This book is a fun, quick read. It is heavy on dialog, which is short and snappy, and while it is not always clear who the speakers are it also doesn’t matter. Doyle’s style gives the reader the feel of the dynamic within the band, of many people talking at and over one another, being snarky and rude. He also writes out the lyrics to the songs in such a way that one can imagine how Deco and the girls are singing them. It will make you want to go give a listen to the songs mentioned. I never saw the film version of The Commitments but I did have the soundtrack and reading this makes me want to hear it again.
Doyle’s strength is in showing the reader young, working class Dubliners full of dreams, ambition, silliness, stupidity, and resilience. Overall, it’s entertaining and has a great ending, too.