Tag Archives: Cameron Crowe

Rolling Stone, 43 Years Later

What a long strange trip it’s been.

The once indispensible music magazine – a hip, underground periodical brimming with the coolest in pop culture – has long since lost its relevance. Like a middle-aged man trying to elicit the wink of a teenage eye, Rolling Stone 2010 is just all kinds of wrong. And like its namesake, the no-longer Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World, it just keeps chugging along, scooping up whatever cash people are willing to give it and outliving the annual predictions of its demise.

But back in its Wonder Years, it was a formidable production. Its masthead boasted names like Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Christgau, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus and Cameron Crowe just to name a few. Its cover was usually a prescient bulls-eye, a perfectly timed cultural statement. The news was newsworthy. The reviews had meat to them. There was a sense of validation for this rag-tag new movement a generation was absorbing. It was a time when young people truly thought they could change the world, and this was the diary that would document it.

But time is a bitch.

In fairness, most magazines don’t survive their first year. Rolling Stone just turned forty-three. To do that, some would say they have not so much reinvented themself as they have sold out. Over the years, controversial articles have been replaced by controversy – manipulation of review ratings, gossip and handshake marketing in place of news. Fashion coverage. Perfume cards. Star worship instead of beating the bushes to get a jump on the next big thing. A distinct lack of rock’n’roll – hell, a distinct lack of understanding of what rock’n’roll is. And those inane, insipid “100 Greatest” lists that will send even the calmest reader off the rooftop.

Jann Wenner, like the magazine, is just a rich guy playing favorites and exercising power. You don’t get into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame without his approval, although that seems to mean less every year. And the annual awards bestowed upon artists for the “hot this” and the “best that” are mere resume fodder that don’t carry the career-changing clout they once did.

That's not rock'n'roll, Jann.

I say all this with a caveat – were I on staff at Rolling Stone for the past several years I’d probably be neck-deep in the same myopic viewpoint and filled with a delusional sense of self-importance. I might occasionally admit to myself that the best years are in the rear-view but I’d probably believe that I could help turn it around with my opinions and my votes and my influence. There but for the grace of Jann go I.

But instead I’m just a guy who subscribed long after the magazine’s atomic half-life passed ingloriously, hoping that one day the spark would re-ignite and this longtime survivor would become relevant again. Every year or two I’d pony up that check even though I was more often stacking them in a pile unread…a far cry from the day when getting an issue in the mail meant stopping everything and reading it cover to cover. It kept getting cheaper and cheaper, almost a giveaway, and I kept renewing out of loyalty more than need.

And then one day I came to the harsh conclusion that even two years for $9.99 wasn’t worth it, and I cut the cord. Strangely, even after four decades, I didn’t feel a thing.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The paper magazine might be thinner than Nicole Ritchie’s wrists, but the magic of Al Gore’s Internet has given Rolling Stone a new way to survive, and there are no stinky perfume cards. Feel free to wallow in it at the official website.

Nope - still not rock'n'roll.

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Filed under Editorials, Music, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

After writing about The Boat That Rocked the other day, I thought about other music-related movies that I really enjoyed and found that I had several favorites that I could watch over and over again and enjoy almost as much as the first time. These aren’t concert films – those are obvious repeat performers – but movies about pop music. I’m also focusing on the more modern era (forgive me, Sal Mineo). Plus the movie has to be good (sorry, Tommy) . A few are obvious commercial favorites (is there anyone who doesn’t quote Spinal Tap?) but a couple of these must be off the path; I find most people have never heard of them, let alone seen them.

But hey, that’s a large part of why I do this, to share information about what knocks me out and hopefully expose people to a great band, film or book they might have missed. I highly recommend every single one of these, and hopefully there’s at least one you haven’t seen that you will take a chance on. Enjoy some great movies with great music, whether it’s a library rental, a used copy on Amazon or circling the listing in TV Guide when you see it. Without further ado (you’ve had just the right amount of ado so far, right?) and with apologies to The Committments and The Rutles, here they are in alphabetical order…

Almost Famous : Cameron Crowe drew upon his own story to craft this brilliant peek behind rock’s curtain, from the groupies (sorry…Band-Aids) to the roadies and the madness that is rock’n’roll. Great music and wonderful performances from the leads and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great turn as Lester Bangs.

A Hard Day’s Night : The Beatles. Need I say more? “I’m a Mocker”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch : Absolutely the best rock opera ever. John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant performance and Stephen Trask’s music are a perfect match, and both the musical and the movie soundtracks could stand on their own as great music. But the film is phenomenal.

The Idolmaker : Ray Sharkey should have won the Academy Award for his performance as a teen idol Svengali. Great performances from Paul Land, Joe Pantoliano and Peter Gallagher.

A Mighty Wind : The Spinal Tap of folk music and another perfect movie from Christopher Guest. Tremendous performances from everyone, but Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as “Mitch and Mickey” were brilliant. How did this song not win the Academy Award?

Rock and Roll High School : The Ramones. Need I say more? “Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of high school”.

Spinal Tap : Absolutely hilarious, with pitch perfect performances from the three leads and an amazing array of bit parts and cameo roles, like Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin and Bruno Kirby as the Sinatra-loving limo driver (the extended deleted scenes are priceless). Here’s a song so good I like it even though it’s parody.

Still Crazy : I think the common thread in all these movies is perfect casting. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the fragile lead singer and you can’t go wrong with comic geniuses Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall. But the story is as heartwarming as it is funny and the music is phenomenal.

That Thing You Do : Tom Hanks nailed the screenplay about a one-hit-wonder band and even wrote many of the songs that the other acts in the “galaxy of stars” performed. The main songs benefitted from pop wizards like Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Mike Viola, but the perfect casting was only exceeded by the movie’s heart. One of my favorite films of all time in any genre.

Velvet Goldmine : Glam fans will lap this up – an Eddie and The Cruisers type plot in the world of glitter and decadence, with Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as thinly disguised Iggy Pop and David Bowie plus great performances from Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard.

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Filed under Editorials, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music, Reviews