by Peter Keogh Boston Globe
Shawna Shea Memorial Film Festival (Sept. 21-25 2021) was established in 2012 to honor the young woman of the title, a talented, creative, and fiercely independent 16-year-old. She died in a 1999 automobile accident. The festival categorizes itself as “fringe independent international film,” with an eye for the underrepresented and overlooked. This year it has programmed two documentaries about outstanding rock ‘n’ roll musicians who were famed and popular in their heyday but who have since settled into obscurity.
Closer to home is the subject of Tim Jackson’s “When Things Go Wrong: The Robin Lane Story” (2013; screens Sept. 24 at 6 p.m., followed by a live performance by Lane). Lane’s song of the title is another which, when you hear the first few bars, is instantly familiar. And if you are of a certain age, it will propel you back to the Boston music scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when the Rathskeller was rocking with local talent like Lane and her band the Chartbusters as well as visiting bands, including the Police, Talking Heads, and the Ramones.
Jackson, who was the drummer for the Chartbusters, begins Lane’s story with her origins in LA, where her pianist father, Ken, had been Dean Martin’s accompanist. (There’s a hilarious clip from “The Dean Martin Show,” featuring her dad, in which Jonathan Winters plays his character Maude Frickert.) A rebellious teen with a proclivity for car theft and a bad habit of blundering boldly into dicey situations (an incident in a hotel room with Sal Mineo is eyebrow raising), she gravitated to Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s and hung out with nascent pop giants like Stephen Stills, Gram Parsons, Tim Hardin, and Neil Young (she sings back-up on his 1969 “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” album ).
There she discovered her talent for songwriting. In 1979 she and the band had achieved enough local success and national fame to sign with Warner Brothers Records, and their video of “When Things Go Wrong” was the 11th one played on MTV. Despite several national tours, two albums, and being voted one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 10 new bands of 1980 it was all over three years later.
Enlivened with intimate interviews with Lane and friends, family, and colleagues and access to a wealth of archival material, including live performances, Jackson’s film brings to life the best of times/worst of times era in rock when women like Lane had to contend with male chauvinism, abuse, addiction, and depression to create music that still uplifts us today.
All screenings take place at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center, 366 Main St., Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Go to www.shawnasheaff.org.