Hey kids, welcome to 2013. My New Year's resolution was to be more positive this year, but David Chase has made that early goal impossible. Here's where our rock & roll year begins.....
For the uninitiated, Not Fade Away is a new movie that ostensibly tells the story of a mid-1960's New Jersey rock & roll band, one of those countless one-hit or hitless wonder combos that sprouted in the wake of The British Invasion rock & roll era launched by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I really, genuinely looked forward to the release of Not Fade Away - a rock & roll movie written & directed by Sopranos creator David Chase and executive produced by Little Steven Van Zant of the E Street Band, who also served as musical director and is one of my true rock & roll heroes. Then I ruined all of my hopeful anticipation by actually paying my money and entering the theater. I'd say it didn't take much more than 20 minutes to realize I was in for a long, bumpy ride down the rock & roll slide.
There were things I suppose I could have excused; the painfully obvious "sixties haircut" wigs on the male protagonists, the Lifetime TV network-level dialogue (from the writer of The Sopranos, for chrissakes!), the anachronisms present from the very first scene (Jersey teens with Beatle haircuts in 1963, months before The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, no, no, no, didn't happen). To make matters worse, both Chase and Van Zant are New Jersey boys, born & bred. As such, given this criteria, that pedigree, one would think Chase and Van Zant could have done better than this clusterfuck of a film. THEY WERE THERE! THIS IS THEIR HISTORY! THEY'RE NOT SOME 20-SOMETHING AUTEUR WHO READ ABOUT AND RESEARCHED THE 1960'S ON THE FRICKING INTERNET, THEY WERE WITNESSES! JUST TELL THE STORY!
The biggest problem with the movie, really, is Chase could not decide which of 19 different movies he wanted to make: a simple story of how even local rock & roll renown can come between friends as one grows more popular than another; a searing indictment of how drugs ruined an innocent age of social exploration; a reflection on how the Vietnam War came between fathers of The Depression and World War II and their sons who were raised in relative post-war affluence; the changing mores & attitudes towards homosexuals and Negroes as they became gay and black; a portrayal of a callous, clueless music business in the face of rock & roll idealism and creativity, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., virtually ad infinitum.
I'm serious, there are at least ten different subplots introduced in this movie and not a single one of them is resolved. As my lovely wife Debbie observed, some SCENES weren't even developed, let alone finished. Conversations ended almost literally mid-sentence. There had to be a massive amount of film on the cutting room floor where Not Fade Away was edited. And that's probably the whole deal; Chase is a television guy. He's accustomed to the luxury of letting a story develop over weeks, months or even years, to have characters evolve over time. I find it difficult to believe no one had the temerity or the power to say to Chase, "Seriously, have you watched this movie from beginning to end? Do you think it makes sense to anybody but you?" I lived through all of the events portrayed in this film, I essentially lived the entire story in Columbus, Ohio, rather than New Jersey and I had trouble following the sequence (or, more accurately non-sequence) of events portrayed by Chase.
From some certain point in the film, which seemed to last FAR longer than its 1:42 run-time, I found myself wondering if Not Fade Away was worse than The Runaways, my former record-holder for WORST rock & roll movie ever made. Not Fade Away is certainly more ambitious than The Runaways, but at least The Runaways biopic told only one story badly, rather than 12 or 13. Far and away the best thing about Not Fade Away is the incidental music, chosen and deployed by Steve Van Zant, which is impeccable. Any movie that contains The Left Banke's sublime "Pretty Ballerina," Moby Grape's "Omaha," and The Sex Pistol's rendition of The Modern Lover's epic "Roadrunner" (again, anachronistic to a mid to late-1960's movie in either incarnation, but still pretty great) is gonna score a solid 90-plus on the Ricki C. rock & roll meter. But the soundtrack is hardly enough to save this celluloid mess.
Not Fade Away - see it at your own risk. I warned ya.
Odd Zen Ends
1) I was laid-up with a bad cold this first week of January, 2013 after stage-managing Joe Peppercorn's December 29th Beatles Marathon at Kobo here in Columbus (much more in the upcoming Mrs. Children, The Whiles & The Beatles Marathon blog entry). As such, I had a lot of time to delve into one of my Christmas presents from the in-laws, Rod Stewart's Rod - The Autobiography. It's - kinda totally unexpectedly to me - pretty great. Rod's writing style is totally engaging, really warm, funny, self-deprecating and completely draws you in as a reader. It is, in fact, almost everything the Pete Townshend bio should have been but wasn't. (see Shows I Saw In The 1960's part two blog entry, December 2012.) Inevitably you find yourself asking, "How can one English rock star end up as such a miserable, whiny, drunken, philandering, coked-up bastard and another as a comfortable-in-his-own-skin model train enthusiast and serial marry-er of tall blonde models & actresses?"
Longtime readers of this blog will remember me castigating Rod Stewart as one of the Top Five Wastes Of Talent of all time in rock & roll, and I stand by that statement; this is the man who led The Faces, one of the ten greatest rock & roll bands ever to walk on a stage. This is the man who wrote "Maggie May," "You Wear It Well," & "Stay With Me," and now records easy-listening albums for aging baby boomers like myself (not that I would ever buy any of that tripe or treacle). There's also some extremely problematic disco-rock crossovers I've chosen to forget from the late 1970's, but damn, this autobiography is one great rock & roll read. And really, who am I to judge an English boy growing up in bombed-out post World War II London being totally seduced and ruined by Los Angeles, California, in the early 1970's? Just how strong did I want Rod Stewart to be?
Rod - The Autobiography. Recommended.
2) Apropos of my earlier David Chase TV-writing comment above, my current guilty-pleasure TV show is Nashville, created by Callie Khoury of Thelma & Louise fame, with music by T Bone Burnette. It's a total unrepentant soap-opera, but with great original songs and an attention to detail you never get in network TV shows about music. It's a big sprawling mess of a show - taking in love, joy, major-label deals, cheatin' guitar players, stand-up guitar players, small-club politics, songwriting couple-trysts, death, doom, terror & destruction, mayoral campaigns, sleazy managers, put-upon managers, etc. - all with a great soundtrack of original songs that relate to, advance and/or comment on the action in the storylines. For a show about country music Nashville is more rock & roll than any 20 episodes of American Idol, X Factor or The Voice combined.
3) I want this blog to be entertaining. I want to know from you, the readers, what you would like to see in Growing Old With Rock & Roll in 2013. More Shows I Saw In The 1960's? More Watershed? Less Watershed? More Columbus, Ohio, rock & roll stories? Less? More Hamell On Trial road stories? More of my run-in's - good or bad - with the famous, near-famous or infamous of rock & roll? More or less reviews and recommendations? It's all up to you, readers. Comments, please.....
© 2013 Ricki C.