Movies and Rock & Roll have always been partners in crime, soliciting promiscuity and danger while keeping every American slightly interested in this non-sense world. Both James Dean and Jim Morrison garner the same idolatry, the same cool, but in their own distinctive way given their respective mediums. So it makes sense to me to create a column celebrating the collaboration of these American standards, and I hope it does to all of you as well.
Arguably, it all began when Bill Haley and the Comet’s “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” played over the opening title sequence of the 1955 film, Blackboard Jungle. The film sensationalized teenage delinquency and causally linked it to Rock ‘n Roll music the same way Reefer Madness (1936) associated ganja and jazz music to the corruption of teenagers. Only with Blackboard Jungle, the Man decided that music no longer needed to be associated with drugs to ensure hysteria, the shaking of the hips was devilish enough. Curious how teenagers are always being protected from perceived vices like jazz and plants, but sugar pop is A-OK because it’s easily commodifiable and controllable. Maybe Miles Davis took the H-train one too many times, but I’d rather have my teenager wearing wayfarers and blowing on brass than barefoot and pregnant before college. Maybe I’m just choosing one fake culture over another, but these are the days of our lives.
Ever since Bill Haley scared people more than the bomb, we have had a consistent collaboration where the most creative minds in visual and musical composition produce the highest level of entertainment-art. Whether it’s Andrew Bird touring with the Chicago Short Film Brigade as his opening act or Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood scoring P.T. Anderson’s newest film, There Will Be Blood, the relationship has grown into its own branch of the tree that is art.
If there were a distinction between the two media, I would argue that film is a more constructed art where improvisation is emphasized more in music. This is not always the case, but this being a live music blog, we can all appreciate the unique moments at rock shows when the artist ventures off the beaten path into an untouched sonic landscape right before our eyes. So, every Tuesday or so I will bring you a fresh edition of the column with updates on concert DVD’s, interesting collaborations, live webcasts, or anything else you guys want to see on LMB, so hit me up with suggestions.
A quick nugget before I go: Criterion is releasing director Alex Cox’s Walker (1987), featuring a film score composed by The Clash’s Joe Strummer, who was recently featured in the documentary by director Julien Temple, The Future is Unwritten (2007). Temple is no stranger to the film-music continuum, recently directing the concert film, Glastonbury and various music videos for Blur, Whitney Houston and Culture Club among others. Interestingly, Temple got his start in film with two features on the Sex Pistols and Cox is probably best known for his film Sid and Nancy, the biopic of the Pistols’s bassist and his seemingly cancerous girlfriend.
Next week we’ll get into even more meat and discuss the issues with film soundtracks and wrap-up the musical portions of Sundance.