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The year was 1986: in the film with the same name as the song “Absolute Beginners” by the late “White Duke” David Bowie (1947-2016), an appearance was made by the Vespa GS 150. The 30-year-old movie (a critical and box-office flop) would subsequently become a cult film thanks to the sound track sung by Bowie (who also acted in it), while the song would become one of his most famous hits and go down in music history.

David Bowie - Absolute Beginners

“Absolute Beginners” is a British rock musical film based on the book by Colin MacInnes, which takes a look at life in London at the end of the 1950s. Directed by Julien Temple, it featured top names from the music business, such as David Bowie and Sade. The movie was presented at the 1986 Cannes Festival and released on 18 April of the same year. Despite extensive media coverage, it was slammed by the critics and ignored by the public. Over the years, however, thanks to the sound track, it developed a cult following, and was distributed in many countries and dubbed in several languages.

The movie is set at the end of the 1950s, a time of important social change. The music industry was changing too, with the move from jazz to rock, followed shortly after by the explosive arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the early 1960s. “Absolute Beginners” is about a photographer, Colin, who falls in love with Crêpe Suzette (a very young Patsy Kensit; at the time, the British actress and singer was just 18), who is more interested in a career as a fashion designer than in love.

As racial tensions mount in Notting Hill, Colin tries to win Crêpe Suzette's heart, riding around the London streets on a smart silver Vespa GS 150. There is an amusing scene when he loses his concentration and crashes into an advertisement for the Vespa (bearing the slogan: Betta Getta Vespa). Here are some stills from the film and, below, the Vespa ads for the UK market from 1961.