Liner Note #14

Cecilia here, but Daron’s coming by a little later.

The tour has taken us a lot of places and brought up a lot of history I figure I should fill you guys in on.

AOR. I use the term “AOR” (pronounced “ay-oh-arrr”) in a recent chapter. It stands for “Album Oriented Rock.” It’s kind of a dead format now, but in the 90s it was the dominant rock format, pulling in fewer listeners than Top 40 pop, but more than “classic rock” (which grew out of AOR in the first place). AOR typically mixed brand new rock hits with the classics, Beatles, Stones Led Zep.

What AOR did NOT play was the “alternative rock” stuff. Punk, new wave, goth, industrial, forget it, no matter how many records they sold. You had a few stations in the country (like WFNX in Boston, WLIR in NYC, and 91X in San Diego) doing an alternative format, and otherwise bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers were simply NOT HEARD ON ROCK RADIO. Even bands like Jane’s Addiction had trouble. For goodness sake, even REM were shunned until they started hitting the Top 40 and could no longer be ignored by AOR programmers. Even U2 were suspect to some rock programmers.

Rock was a kind of narrow and sacrosant territory that was defended by a lot of white guys. In fact, most of the categories were, including Top 40, which was supposed to be based on sales/popularity, but the definition of “popularity” was very narrow, too. Both rap and country music far outsold many of the Top 40 hits, yet neither format could crack the Top 40 stations’ playlists.

The time period that our story is about to move into deals with all of that changing– with the arrival of grunge, rebirth of punk (Green Day), and the eventual reversal in which “alternative” becomes mainstream. But that’s in Daron’s future.

Lost to time is where the barbecue joint in Pittsburgh is that Daron and Ziggy go into. I had not been to Pittsburgh when I wrote the scene, and so it’s based on accounts from friends who lived there or visited there. Two of my close compadres from college ended up in grad school there and it’s likely one of them gave me the description. Likewise the converted warehouse that was the dance club. My notes do not have the names of either establishment recorded.

I am also sorry to say that my Google-fu did not pull up the trivia of which famous musician it was who choked to death on a toothpick while on tour. I think it was a country musician and I just can’t remember. Bart is making reference to a real story, though, when he and Daron are in the restaurant. Did you know Keith Relf of the Yardbirds was electrocuted playing an ungrounded electric guitar? Gruesome. Daron’s managed not to hear that story yet and I’m not going to bring it up. Anyone know who I’m thinking of?

Oh, here he is now. Take it away, Dar’.

Thanks. I have a couple of videos, but the main thing I want to ask everyone for is their rock and roll movie recommendations. Below, I’m going to list my faves, but I want more. This winter it’s going to be cold and sucky and I think we should all stay in and rent more movies.

And watch youtube, of course. Two of my recent favorites.

There are things that are guitars, and then there are things that are …

Okay, so the Best Rock and Roll Movies Ever:

THIS IS SPINAL TAP — This is one of those it’s so fictional that it comes out true, you know? And a cautionary tale. If I ever end up playing afternoon matinees at Great Adventure on a double bill with a puppet show, maybe it’ll be time to find another career.

DETROIT ROCK CITY — Okay, so there were parts of this coming of age movie that were uncomfortable reminders of myself. But that means all of you should love it. Four high school kids win tickets to a KISS concert but various obstacles get in their way. Hijinks ensue.

ROCK STAR — The funny part about this arena rock drama starring Mark Wahlberg is that it’s based on a true story. It’s based on the fact that when Rob Halford quit Judas Priest, they replaced him with the singer from a Priest cover band. Also, just about all the parts of musicians are played by actual working musicians who get to pretend to be actors pretending to be musicians.

URGH! A MUSIC WAR! — This is a quirky concert film I saw on video a million years ago, and honestly I can’t even remember why the hell The Police, and Devo, and XTC, and a bunch of other bands were all in one concert film. Oh, wait, I bet Wikipedia knows. Aha, yes, because it was all Miles Copeland’s idea. (Miles, who was Stewart’s older brother, and probably the most influential indie rock impresario ever).

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION: Part II — Actually you have to see Part I first, which is the punk years, and has a sequence in which Exene Cervenka of X is giving herself a jailhouse tattoo with india ink and a sewing needle while John Doe does most of the talking. But in Part II: The Metal Years you get to see things like the pre-cursor to the Reality TV Ozzy Osbourne, in which he tries to make himself scrambled eggs while on camera (and wearing a fuzzy bathrobe) and ends up with scrambled brains, basically.

Okay so those were the top five. Here are the five honorable mentions:

PURPLE RAIN — It’s a soap opera, but holy shit I didn’t know Prince could even play the guitar until this movie came along. I’ll admit I haven’t watched it in years, but when I was still in high school this movie ate my brain.

THE DOORS — I have no idea how much of this movie is accurate, but just seeing it made me feel like I was on drugs and having stage high all at the same time. Plus ctan and I agree that we’d do Val Kilmer in a second.

VELVET GOLDMINE — Okay, you know, i actually didn’t like this one the first time I saw it. But maybe that’s my issues, you know?

FAME — Okay, maybe it isn’t strictly speaking a rock and roll movie, but you know, there just aren’t enough movies about musicians, as far as I’m concerned. And we need more movies with cafeteria jam sessions.

SCHOOL OF ROCK — This was just fun, you know? How can anyone not like this movie?

I never got around to seeing 8 Mile, Almost Famous, or The Kids Are All Right, or even a Hard Day’s Night. I loved Yellow Submarine but can’t really count it as a rock movie. I should probably take URGH off this list and make a separate list of just concert films, too. Damn, just remembered I forgot to include BRING ON THE NIGHT, duh, although maybe it could count as concert film too, although it’s just as much documentary. Anyway…

So, what are your favorites and what should I see next?


  • Tryslora says:

    I love Almost Famous and would recommend it, although since I was watching it in part for Kate Hudson, Daron you might not get as much out of it as me. But I know that it’s sort of stuck in my head now when I think about tour buses.

    I hope you’re talking about the original Fame and not the newer one. For some reason, I just didn’t like the newer one all that much. I need to re-see the original.

    • Rikibeth says:

      Heh. I made B watch the original not too long ago. I’m still not sure what she made of it!

    • ctan says:

      There was a newer one? (*lives in a cave*)

    • daron says:

      Is there hot Kate Hudson action in it? I can appreciate a pretty girl.

      • sanders says:

        Reading back through posts between OTW work, and had to stop to say that, yes, there is hot Kate Hudson action in Almost Famous. There are also some fantastic bits of dialogue about the relationship between fans and musicians/creators, and journalists in the music industry. I think Jonathan would really appreciate the latter, and you and ctan the former. I cannot recommend the movie strongly enough.

  • Rikibeth says:

    Mostly you got my favorites already. Here are a couple more:

    Rock’n’Roll High School is silly as a movie, but, you know, the Ramones.

    If we’re just talking concert movies, the Ziggy Stardust one. OF COURSE. I saw it when I was not-quite-14. It had an indelible effect on me.

    Can I get in line for Val Kilmer?

    Also, Boston may have been a little weird, because WBCN was without question an AOR station, but I distinctly remember hearing Siouxsie’s “Cities in Dust” on it in 1986, because I remember having an argument with my friend Chris in the carpool about whether the song was punk because Siouxsie was punk (my contention, and we hadn’t started saying “goth” yet) or disco (his contention, and not a bad assessment in retrospect, given how purely it’s a dance single). We ALWAYS listened to WBCN in the carpool.

    • SamIAm says:

      Second standing up for R&RHS, and your summary said it all.

      Several years ago I walked in at work and got waved over by a friend of mine who plays roller derby, and was standing in the middle of a bunch of our twentysomething co-workers. When I came up she squee’d (or as close to squee as a roller derby player can get) “I got to meet Riff Randall!” Turned out the P.J. Soles had showed up to watch a match. My friend was divided between squee and disgust at having to explain to a bunch of twentysomethings who Riff Randall was and whythehell they should care.

    • ctan says:

      86 was right around when goth started to creep in for us. Death rock, black punks, a bunch of other variations floated around before that…

      WBCN had one of the great advocates of alternative rock in the form of Oedipus, who didn’t remake their entire format, but who did sneak in stuff like Siouxsie and Talking Heads that many other AOR stations never even head of much less would have dared to play.

    • daron says:

      I’m pretty sure I saw a Bowie concert film in the early 80s and it sort of went in one eye and out the other. I don’t actually REMEMBER it, but it passed through. or maybe was completely absorbed. I don’t know. Bowie’s magic.

  • Nicholas Shectman says:

    So does Daron get to meet Rick Carroll before Carroll dies of AIDS in 1989? Or are we already too late for that?

    • ctan says:

      If I did my math right, and I might not have (as explained in an earlier liner note), it’s April 1989 in the story right now.

      Daron wouldn’t probably remember him later anyway. Or maybe he would; I can’t predict what sticks in his head.

      I never met Rick but I did meet many of his disciples when we converted WBRU FM from a flavor of AOR known as “Superstars II” to the Modern/Alternative Rock format.

  • SamIAm says:

    D, The Kids Are Alright is an omission you need to remedy, if you haven’t already. IMO there are few better rock biopics, if any, and it also let me see Moonie in action (alas, he was dead before I ever had a chance to see the Who live).

  • stretta says:

    Anvil: The Story of Anvil

  • Matty says:

    I’m afraid my taste skews towards the bizarre, but: Brothers of the Head is the single most disturbing mockumentary I have ever witnessed, yet strangely compelling.

    Detroit Rock City reminded me of Detroit Metal City, a Japanese adaption of a manga of the same name, about a wannabe Sondre Lerche who ends up in a death metal band; the music is appalling but it’s amusingly camp.

    My all-time favorite is Hedwig and the Angry Inch: the rock movie for all of us freaks and misfits.

    (Do Flight of the Concords and The Mighty Boosh count? TV shows, and deliberately awful music, but good in their own right. Speaking of television, Never Mind the Buzzcocks is technically a quiz show, but also brilliantly meta-rock industry.)

  • Teka Lynn says:

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch (among many other things, a rock musical).

    Reynaldo and Clara (if you’re really, REALLY into Bob Dylan).

    What was that documentary about Neil Young, Crazy Horse?

    • daron says:

      Sometimes musicals make me itch. Well, when done as films anyway. On stage they make more sense, somehow. Like I hated Moulin Rouge…except actually it was okay and even good when watched on drugs. Maybe it’s a musician thing, though. i spent way more time analyzing how the music was being presented than the characters or story.

      Since leaving music school I’ve avoided opera, too.

  • BriAnne says:

    24 Hour Party People is about Joy Division, so it’s depressing, but it was good. I got dragged to see it when my friend was trying to avoid the guy who invited her to see it thinking it was a date. She tried to get a whole group… but instead I just got to to be the third wheel.

  • Vivian L. says:

    How about The Fabulous Stains with a young Diane Lane playing a punk singer?

  • Stace says:

    In high school, we had a sort of talent show – which sounds awful, except I went to a high school that produced a few really good musicians and well known actors. Anyhow, during one of these shows a guy was electrocuted by someone improperly handing off a guitar, or something. It was awful. He survived – but yeah. I’ve been leery ever since, and stuck to voice as an instrument!

    • daron says:

      Oh jeez. A guy I know here in Boston built his own guitar. It plays nice and looks cool but I’d be afraid of something like that happening. I’ll stick with Fender and the like…

      • Jonas says:

        Sorry to be a wiseass, especially on such an old topic, but if you get electricuted by an electric instrument, the fault, really, is in the amp, not the guitar.

  • says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Stop Making Sense. In a more classic rock vein, there’s Quadrophenia and The Wall. And although some may consider it a stretch, there’s Repo Man.

    • daron says:

      I haven’t seen Quadrophenia either — see above comment about how I always seem to overlook The Who. You know, I saw the Wall, but I don’t really remember it — mostly I listened to the album a billion times when I was in junior high school. Stop Making Sense we’ll have to add to the list of best concert movies…

      • ctan says:

        I still think the best concert movie ever is the Revolting Cocks “You Goddamned Sonofabitch.” I wonder if we can get it on DVD? I think the VHS tape I have of it is toast.

    • lee says:

      Oh good – I was going to have to mention Stop Making Sense if someone else didn’t. Also I really like Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave, but I like weirdness…

      • ctan says:

        Ooh, I forgot about Home of the Brave, which I quite enjoyed. We definitely have to make a separate list of concert films. The Cure “In Orange” I seem to recall liking, but that was when I was deeply into The Cure, too.

  • Debbie Boom says:

    What about Crossroads with Steve Vai. I loved the guitar play-off when he wins and the devil tears up the contract for the old guys soul.

    • daron says:

      Steve Vai is a god and still really under-appreciated by the masses. He’s got his own Youtube channel — just hearing it isn’t enough sometimes. I want to look at what he’s doing. Like so many of the best, it hardly looks like anything at first glance…

  • messiJessi says:

    My all time favorite is more of an autobiographic documentary…”Letters From a Porcupine” (not sure if that’s spelled right), by Blind Melon. Shannon Hoon R.I.P.

    • daron says:

      Yeah. Shannon was my age, too. We’re like six months apart.

      Couldn’t find a trailer for the movie online, but did find an excerpt:

  • s says:

    Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison…ah I died. Saw it in theater…none too sober, but hey.

    8 Mile was good.

    The Wall…been a long time since I saw that one. I think it’s a requirement to be high for it.

    Not too helpful. Sorry.

    • daron says:

      Yeah, I think The Wall probably makes perfect sense while high. Especially since weed makes me paranoid sometimes and there’s so much paranoia stuff in there…

      OK I just creeped myself out thinking about it, actually. I am glad I was not in that band.

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