Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Just Found Something (rather trivial) Out… February 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — yourbirdcansing88 @ 8:30 AM
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Remember that awful early-Beatles biopic Backbeat that I gave that scathing review of during the early days of this blog?  I just found out that Astrid Kirchherr was played by none other than Sheryl “Laura Palmer” Lee.  This now means two of my least favorite rock biopics (the other one being The Doors, which is slowly growing on me in spite of itself) feature supporting roles from cast members of my favorite short-lived cult TV show from the early 1990s, Twin Peaks.

Sheryl Lee in "Backbeat"

Kyle "Agent Dale Cooper" MacLachlan as Doors Keyboardist Ray Manzarek. One of only two reasons (the other being the Andy Warhol party scene) I find myself watching "The Doors" over and over again. Also the sole reason I managed to sit through "Showgirls" a second time.

 

 It’s all a conspiracy, I tells ya.  Someone out there wants to convince me to watch terrible movies about awesome bands.

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I have a bone to pick with “Q”… April 12, 2009

Filed under: Rants and Raves — yourbirdcansing88 @ 5:06 AM
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A couple weeks ago, I bought the latest issue of “Q” magazine (April 2009; the one with Lily Allen on the cover with black leopards), mostly for its listing of “The 25 Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Movies of All Time”.  Since I love “Top [increment of 5]” lists almost as much as I love rock and roll related movies, I knew I had to get this issue and check it out.  While I’m glad that the list includes under-appreciated masterpieces such as “HEAD” and “The Rutles”, as well as well-deserving popular films like “Almost Famous”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and the immortal “This is Spinal Tap”, some of the inclusions in the list are inexplicable and/or inexcusable.  Now, I can handle the inclusion of “The Doors” at #21.  I myself abhor “The Doors”, finding it pretentious and, at times, baffling (for one thing, I can’t tell if Oliver Stone is trying to make Jim Morrison look like a hero or a jackass), and furthermore think the title is very misleading.  It’s the title’s fault that I erroneously expected the film to be about the whole band and not just the lead singer (perhaps if Stone gave the film an honest title like “The Jim Morrison Story”, “Jim Morrison”, “The Lizard King”, “Mr. Mojo Risin'”, or even simply “Jim”, I may have been able to enjoy the film more and wouldn’t have been left feeling cheated by the lack of importance that Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, or John Densmore have in the film).  For all the personal issues that I have with “The Doors”, I can still recognize the film’s merit and understand why other people might love the film so much (I don’t think anyone else could have played Jim Morrison as well as Val Kilmer did.  And his singing voice was perfect).  What I can’t even begin to comprehend, however, is the list’s #22 entry, “Backbeat”, a film that I griped about in detail several weeks ago (if you missed my rant on “Backbeat”, you can read it here). As with “The Doors”, I honestly did try to look at “Backbeat” as objectively as I could, hoping to find something in it that might warrant its inclusion in this list.  But no matter how objectively I try to view it, it still seems mediocre at best.  The important characters are uninteresting, the interesting characters are unimportant, and the overpowering romance kills what could have been a powerful story about the tumultuous pre-fame years of a larger-than-life band.  The film also suffers from gratuitous love scenes, lame jokes, and unforgivable historical inaccuracies.  If there’s anyone reading this who disagrees with me and thinks “Backbeat” has any reason at all to be in the list, please, enlighten me (I’m serious.  Feel free to comment.  I’d appreciate the input).

 

Another thing I just don’t get is the inclusion of “Easy Rider” in the list.  Yes, “Easy Rider” is an amazing and iconic movie.  However, what I don’t get is why it’s included in a list of rock movies, when it is not, in fact, a rock movie.  There are no musical artists in the movie, either as characters or as actors (well, Toni Basil’s in it, but this was over a decade before her one hit song, “Mickey”, came out.  Back in 1969 when “Easy Rider” came out, she was known primarily as a choreographer.  Not that there was anything for her to choreograph in “Easy Rider”).  The film isn’t about music in any way, shape, or form.  Yes, “Easy Rider” has a killer soundtrack that drives the action in the film.  This I am well aware of.  But if that’s all it needs to be included on the list, then why is “American Graffiti” not on the list as well?  That movie has, arguably, just as good a storyline and soundtrack, and the film’s action is driven at least as much by its soundtrack as is “Easy Rider”.  Plus, it has a subplot involving one of the characters meeting the elusive DJ Wolfman Jack and trying to win over the woman of his dreams through the power of radio, which makes it slightly more music-related than “Easy Rider” as far as plot goes.  But did “American Graffiti” make the list?  No.  So what makes “Easy Rider” qualify as any more of a rock film, I’d like to know?

 

 One other thing that really irks me about “Q” magazine’s “25 Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Movies Ever” list is its sexism, however unintentional that sexism might have been.  Looking through the list, I noticed that not a single one of these films has a female as a main character (to my knowledge, the one that comes closest to having a female main character is “Almost Famous”, and, although Penny Lane has a more important presence in the film than any other supporting character with the possible exception of Russell Hammond, the film isn’t really so much about her as it is driven by her).  Which is a real shame, when you consider that the list neglected “The Rose”, a heartbreaking film starring Bette Midler as the troubled Janis Joplin-based protagonist, but included the aforementioned barely-qualified films “Backbeat” and “Easy Rider”.  I’m not saying “Q” intentionally excluded films with female main characters from their list; I’m just saying that there’s at least one film with a female main character that deserves more recognition than some of the films that wound up on the list.

 

I’m not saying the list is terrible; in fact, I quite enjoyed most of it.  What I am saying is that it could have been much better.  Which can only mean one thing, of course:  eventually, I’m going to have to post my own list of top rock ‘n’ roll films to make up for the “Q” list’s shortcomings.  I don’t know when I’ll get around to posting it.  It may not be for a couple of weeks; it may not be for another month or so.  But I’ve already gotten it into my swelled little head that it’s my duty to present my readers with the “definitive” list of rock-related films, and so it shall be done.

 

Worst. Biopic. Ever. March 21, 2009

On Sunday night, I unfortunately had nothing better to do than watch the 1994 Beatles biopic “Backbeat” on VH1 Classic.  And now I’ll never get those two hours of my life back.  The movie takes place during The Beatles’ pre-fame years, back when they were touring in Hamburg, Germany.  At the time, they had five members:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, drummer Pete Best (who would later be replaced by Ringo Starr), and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe.  The film is mostly Sutcliffe’s side of the story, focusing on his friendship with John Lennon (who was really the only reason he was in the band in the first place), his romance with German photographer Astrid Kirchherr, and finally his 1962 death of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 21.  “Backbeat” plays out like a movie adaptation of a mediocre fanfiction, complete with gratuitous love scenes and gay subtext.  And those were some of the less horrific aspects of the film.

 

As characters, all the Beatles besides John and Stu are pushed far into the background, having barely any part in the film whatsoever.  For no apparent reason, “Backbeat” decides to impose some “silent drummer” stereotype on Pete Best (which is expanded upon in the form of a weak joke much later in the film, long after the viewer has forgotten that Pete even exists as a character, much less as the “silent drummer”).  Ringo Starr is introduced halfway through the film and is never mentioned again.

 

Oh, and the music!  The music was the worst part of the film.  During the performance scenes, rather than having the actors merely lip-sync The Beatles’ own recordings or at least decent soundalikes of The Beatles, the film instead chose to have the actors lip-sync (and lip-sync poorly, I might add) re-recorded versions that sounded nothing like The Beatles.  After doing some research on this aspect of the movie, which I assumed to be the result of mere carelessness, I found it to be much worse:  it was fully intended.  According to the film’s trivia section on the Internet Movie Database, the film used 1990s punk artists to re-record the songs performed in the film, since, according to whatever pretentious twit was behind this decision, the savage rock that The Beatles performed in Hamburg was “the punk of its day”, so using punk-rock versions of “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” was somehow an attempt “to better convey the way the music felt to the early Beatles audiences.”  Give me a break.

 

As for the plot itself, I would have much preferred a film that documented The Beatles’ Hamburg days from a more omniscient point of view.  Stu’s relationship with Astrid was a poor subject to focus on, since so little is known about it.  If you ask me, the attempts to flesh out their romance sabotage the only thing that made it marginally interesting, which was its mystique.  The lovemaking scenes, though thankfully brief and not at all graphic (though I did see a TV version, so some stuff may have been cut out), are overabundant, and worse still is the nausea-inducing scene in which Stu first romances Astrid, peering at her over his sunglasses as he croons “Love Me Tender”.  In addition, there were so many more interesting (or at least more amusing) things that happened to the other Beatles while in Hamburg, which the film either neglects to mention or makes only passing reference to.  The Beatles were all relatively sheltered boys from Liverpool; when they got to Hamburg, their eyes were opened to an alien world full of strippers, hookers, transvestites, and amphetamines.  A seventeen-year-old George Harrison, who had to lie about his age so the band could play in the seedy Hamburg nightclubs, lost his virginity to a practical stranger.  Paul McCartney and Pete Best had to spend the night in jail after a childish prank involving a condom, a concrete wall, and slightly pyromaniacal tendencies.  This period of The Beatles’ career could have made a great film about the loss of innocence that comes with breaking into the music business, but instead it chose to focus on a romance that no one really cared too much about and the largely unprovoked (and possibly homosexual) jealousy it may have sparked in one John Lennon.  The result was a movie so painful to watch that I would gladly exchange the two hours I spent watching it for two hours re-watching “The Doors”, which, until Sunday night, was by far my least favorite music-related movie.