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Absolute Beginners is a 1986 rock musical film adapted from the Colin MacInnes book of the same name about life in late 1950s Londonmarker. The film was directed by Julien Temple, featured David Bowie and Sade, and a breakout role by Patsy Kensit. The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.

When Absolute Beginners was released, it received immense coverage in the British media. At the time, the British film industry was perceived as being on the point of collapse (with the recent failure of the film Revolution). However, the movie was panned by critics and became a box office flop. Some of the criticisms included stylistic anachronisms, such as the mini-skirt and decidedly 1980s music from the likes of the Style Council and Sade, the bowdlerisation of Kensit's character (Crepe Suzette had been depicted as a promiscuous negrophile in the book), and the casting of Bowie, who made it a condition of his musical contribution.

Absolute Beginners has subsequently gained status as a cult movie, in part due to its soundtrack. Some people compare the movie as the British equivalent of Streets of Fire, a 1984 American movie that was a retro-stylized rock movie with a notable soundtrack, also a commercial failure.

The commercial failure of Absolute Beginners and another film released about the same time, The Mission, led to the collapse of Goldcrest, a major British film studio.


It's 1958 and pop culture is transforming from 1950s jazz and early rock to a new generation on the verge of the 1960s. London is post-World War II, but pre-Beatles and the Stones. The storyline incorporates elements of 1958 London racial riots.

Young hip photographer Colin falls in love with aspiring fashion designer Crepe Suzette, but she's only interested in her career. Colin tries to win her affections by taking a crack at the big time himself; meanwhile racial tensions heat up in Colin's neighbourhood of London.



Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was concurrently released to promote the film. Aside from the plethora of music from contributing artists, the musical score was composed by Gil Evans. David Bowie's title track, Ray Davies' Quiet Life and the Style Council's songs were released as singles. Tracks 11-18 were exclusive to the CD version.

Track listing
  1. "Absolute Beginners" — David Bowie - 8:03
  2. "Killer Blow" — Sade - 4:37
  3. "Have You Ever Had It Blue?" — The Style Council - 5:37
  4. "Quiet Life" — Ray Davies - 2:56
  5. "Va Va Voom" — Gil Evans - 3:26
  6. "That's Motivation" — David Bowie - 4:14
  7. "Having It All" — Eighth Wonder featuring Patsy Kensit - 3:08
  8. "Rodrigo Bay" — Working Week - 3:32
  9. "Selling Out" — Slim Gaillard - 3:36
  10. "Riot City" — Jerry Dammers - 8:29
  11. "Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough And The Smooth)" — Gil Evans - 3:00
  12. "Ted Ain't Ded" — Tenpole Tudor - 2:35
  13. "Volare " — David Bowie - 3:13
  14. "Napoli" — Clive Langer - 4:08
  15. "Little Cat (You've Never Had It So Good)" — Jonas - 2:19
  16. "Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot And The Cool)" — Gil Evans - 1:49
  17. "So What? (Lyric Version)" — Smiley Culture - 4:18
  18. "Absolute Beginners (Refrain)" — Gil Evans - 1:41

A double length cassette (Virgin TCVD 2514) was also released that featured 4 more tracks.

Track listing:

Side A:

  1. "Absolute Beginners", David Bowie (David Bowie)
  2. "Killer Blow", Sade (Stabbins, Adu, Booth)
  3. "Have You Ever Had It Blue?", The Style Council (Paul Weller, arranged by David Bedford)
  4. "Quiet Life", Ray Davies (Ray Davies)
  5. "Va Va Voom", Gil Evans (Gil Evans)
  6. "That's Motivation", David Bowie (David Bowie)
  7. "Having It All", Eighth Wonder featuring Patsy Kensit (Godson, Beauchamp, P. Kensit)
  8. "Rodrigo Bay", Working Week (Stabbins, Booth)
  9. "Selling Out", Slim Gaillard (Temple, Gaillard, Taylor)
  10. "Riot City", Jerry Dammers (Jerry Dammers)

Side B:

  1. "Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough And The Smooth)", Gil Evans (Mingus)
  2. "Ted Ain't Ded", Tenpole Tudor (Tudorpole, Temple)
  3. "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinito Di Blu)", David Bowie (Modugno, Migliacci)
  4. "Napoli", Clive Langer (Langer, Temple)
  5. "Little Cat (You've Never Had It So Good)", Jonas (24) (Nick Lowe)
  6. "Absolute Beginners (Slight Refrain)", Gil Evans (David Bowie)
  7. "Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot And The Cool)", Gil Evans (Mingus)
  8. "Landlords And Tenants", Laurel Aitken (Laurel Aitken)
  9. "Santa Lucia", Ekow Abban (Ekow Abban)
  10. "Cool Napoli", Gil Evans (Langer, Temple)
  11. "So What? (Lyric Version)", Smiley Culture (Miles Davis, Smiley Culture)
  12. "Absolute Beginners (Refrain)", Gil Evans (David Bowie)


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