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?