Last year I received the book Breaking Glass by Susan Hill as part of a random act of kindness package from a friend. I’d seen Breaking Glass the film as a teenager when it came out in 1980, and I had the Breaking Glass soundtrack album by Hazel O’Connor, but I’d never read the book.
Co-incidentally it was the 40 year anniversary of the Breaking Glass release in 2020!
Read on to find my thoughts on the book, the film, the soundtrack and a little about what the main players Hazel O’Connor and Phil Daniels are up to now.
Breaking Glass – The Film
I saw the film Breaking Glass at the cinema when it came out in 1980. I should imagine it was an AA rating back then, and we all sneaked in underage with bags full of sweets and a 10 pack of Players no 6 to chain smoke our way through the performance.
As I’m sure you all know Hazel O’Connor played the part of singer Kate with the affable Phil Daniels perfectly cast as band manager and boyfriend, Danny. Phil Daniels had taken this role straight after his stint in the cult movie Quadrophenia.
As much as I loved the punk and new wave era that Breaking Glass was set in, my only memories of the film were that I found it quite dark and depressing, although I didn’t remember my exact reasons why until I read the book.
Breaking Glass – The Soundtrack (vinyl LP or cassette tape)
The soundtrack to Breaking Glass probably featured in most people’s music collections if they grew up in the 70s and 80s. The haunting sounds of Will You?, the powerful Eighth Day and favourites: Writing on the Wall, Give me an Inch, Monsters in Disguise, If Only and Big Brother made for a superb collection.
I’m sure you thought you’d forgotten those songs, but right now your mind is piecing together the words as you read. Am I right? Scarily some of those lyrics are just as apt in today’s society as they were almost 40 years ago, probably more so.
It’s still a great album to listen to.
Breaking Glass by Susan Hill – The Book
As I mentioned earlier, this book was given to me as part of a care package from my friend Ali when I was struggling a bit with my health. There were lots of goodies in the box, but this book was an extra special gift because it meant a lot to my friend. It was her original copy from 1980, well-thumbed with yellowed pages, a frayed spine and her childhood name written inside the cover. Can you picture the history in that, along with all the joy that she’d received from it over the years? Like I say, extra special indeed.
I settled down with the book and even though I’d seen the film 40 years ago, I’d never read the Breaking Glass book.
It captures the whole ethos of the DIY punk/new wave scene with the beginning of the band which then crosses over into the cut throat world of the music business.
The book Breaking Glass, is a nostalgic trip down memory lane with mentions of placing adverts in Melody Maker and bands fly-posting actual gig posters everywhere to promote gigs – the way people did long before Facebook or even the internet.
Those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s often remember that era through rose tinted glasses. As I read the book, I remembered what I didn’t like about the film. The story recalls the violence, racism, fuel shortages, unemployment and power cuts. All of that was very disturbing to watch as the 13 year old me back in 1980! Reading it now made me think that in some aspects the human race has not evolved at all!
The book captures the band’s dynamics and the portrayal of the musicians’ rise into the media spotlight. It was actually pretty sad to see how far removed from their initial ideals a musician’s life can become, once fame rears its ugly head.
It’s quite thought-provoking really and nothing has changed since. We still hear about more and more stars ending up in rehab or with mental health problems. So many musicians have become broken and lost their way in life when all they really want to do is spread the joy of music.
That aside the book is brilliant and well worth buying if you manage to find an old copy on eBay or in a charity shop or second hand book stall. At only 150 pages long it’s an afternoon’s read.
There are also the lyrics to all the songs from the Breaking Glass soundtrack which are worth a read in their own right.
Breaking Glass – The Movie (DVD)
Of course, then I wanted to see the film again to see how it compared to the book.
Breaking Glass the movie is available remastered on DVD with both English and American versions. The English has the full ending whereas the American one is cut short. The original film version is also currently on YouTube.
So which did I prefer – the film or the book?
I much preferred the book although they are pretty much word for word. I think I liked it more because I can get lost in a book and know it’s not real. I can shut out the darkness of the storyline. Watching the film was pretty sad and it’s definitely not a happy ending.
That said, I’m glad I watched it again. It was worth it for the 80s imagery and glimpses of actors who then went on to become favourites on my TV screen in later years.
Further Information on Breaking Glass
The book followed on shortly from the film release both in 1980 and was adapted from the original screenplay by Brian Gibson.
I did try to contact the author for a little bit of background info about the writing of the book but was told that sadly Susan Hill, a journalist, died about a decade ago. Susan actually wrote for Melody Maker and Honey.
Please be aware the author Susan Hill that is credited on Amazon for this book is a different author entirely. The credited author has asked many times for Amazon to remove it.
Breaking Glass was produced by Dodi Fayed who later became more well known for more tragic reasons.
Phil Daniels went on to maintain both acting and a lesser known musical career. He performed in TV, film and theatre, the most well-known being Kevin Wicks in Eastenders. Although he released music in his own right he’s probably most loved for the voiceover on Park Life, the single by British Pop band, Blur.
Mark Wingett, who plays Tony the bass player, was also in Quadrophenia. Most people know him best as DC Jim Carver in The Bill, but co-incidentally like Daniels, he also starred in Eastenders.
Hazel O’Connor continued to act in tv, film and theatre roles as well as maintaining a singing career.
She was due to tour her new album Hallelujah Moments in 2020, then Breaking Glass 40 years on Hallelujah! followed by a joint headliner tour with punk/new wave legend Toyah Wilcox entitled Electric Ladies of the 80s. Oh course, then the 2020/21 lockdowns happened. Do check out her website for up to date tour news.
Punk’s Not Dead! It’s certainly not.