Almost Famous (2000)
Before I was a mega movie freak, I was a mega music freak absorbing more rock music that was way older than me by the time I graduated high school. I was a classic rock nut, who had hundreds of “greatest hits” CDs of almost every notable band/artist from 1960–1980. I listened to classic rock radio more than the contemporary alternative shit. Earlier this summer I realized that I have more emotional coming-of-age ties to classic rock bands and songs than I do songs that were notable when I was coming-of-age. Not complaining since I still prefer classic rock over any other era anyway.
But I didn’t just listen but read about the histories of all these artists. Being a huge Led Zeppelin fan in high school, I actually knew that Cameron Crowe was a music journalist before he made smaltzy romantic comedies. So when I heard that he was making a semi-autobiographical account of his teen years when he was a wunderkind journalist covering early 70s rock musician’s I couldn’t wait to see it. I fell in love with it immediately and still love how it captures the feel and look of the era as well as the bang up job it does in representing (in a light-hearted way) the music and industry at the time. It’s well written, funny and well acted as well.
But the music was key to this film’s success and it hit a home run in that department. I was just having a conversation with some friends on the importance of a good soundtrack and again, Hollywood has been grossly lacking in that department for a long time now. I remember movies having soundtracks that acted like albums that you wanted to own with all new material. I’m sidetracking now but, for instance, Top Gun had an incredible soundtrack album with a lot of hits that were written for the movie. But even when the songs are not originally written for the movie, like Dazed and Confused, they are awesome by introducing a whole new generation to older era music. Same went for American Graffiti‘s soundtrack. Almost Famous also had an extensive soundtrack of 70s era music, but unlike Dazed and Confused, it had some more clout with the inclusion of some Led Zeppelin hits. Bear in mind that up to that time, Jimmy Page was very strict in allowing Zeppelin tunes be used commercially. But I assume, Crowe being a friend of Page, asked nicely and got like 4–5 Zeppelin tunes in the movie. To me, this was a big deal for some reason. The reason being that I was a music geek.
But seriously, when was the last great soundtrack with either new or old popular tunes? I’m having a hard time thinking of one. I’m not talking one hit but an album of a bunch of material that made people own the whole album. If you think of one, please leave a comment.
One of my favorite songs is Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” While some of the lyrics sound silly (“Tiny Dancer in my hand”) it’s a sweet song about hippy, laid-back, rock and roll culture of that early 70s time. According to writer Taupin in an issue of Rolling Stone:
“I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met, especially at the clothes stores and restaurants and bars all up and down the Sunset Strip. They were these free spirits, sexy, all hip-huggers and lacy blouses, very ethereal the way they moved.”
“They were just so different from what I’d been used to in England,” Taupin continues. “They had this thing about embroidering your clothes. They wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They mothered you and slept with you. It was the perfect Oedipal complex.”
It’s a great visual and one I would frankly would have loved to have witnessed myself. It’s a key scene in the film when the fictional band, Stillwater, have been exhausted touring and squabbling amongst the band members. As they quietly sit on the tourbus, “Tiny Dancer” comes on the radio and as one member of the band starts singing it, more and more of the weary passengers pep up and start singing along. It’s a nice scene with a great and appropriate song. In fact, I saw this scene on TV before the movie premiered on some sort of promotional special for it and as if I needed another reason to go and see this movie.
Hold me closer, Tony Danza!