Like “Pink Floyd The Wall,” “All That Jazz” is one of those simultaneously brilliant and infuriatingly narcissistic autobiographies that many artists create to expose themselves to the world, warts and all. Except … is this really the darkest pit of their ugly soul these artists are exposing? Or is it a ruse to keep people off the scent of their true self … a self so horrible that they feel the need to throw out some “bad” stuff in order to win praise for “bravery”? Who knows?
The sequence linked here is the last 18+ minutes of the film … an extended sequence with a “Broadway” version of the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” that is simultaneously nauseating and dazzling. Nauseating because it’s a “Broadway” version of the Everly Brothers … dazzling because it’s one of the most brilliant artistic talents of the last century at his best. This is a sequence you’ll either love or hate. I want to hate this in the worst way, but … I totally love it. It’s tacky, tasteless, and over-the-top, but I think it was meant to be all of these things. Love it or hate it, you have to admire the balls-to-the-wall energy and chutzpah on display here. And the part near the end where the Fosse surrogate, Joe Gideon (brilliantly played by Roy Scheider), hugs his tearful daughter on his way to death’s door always makes me cry. It’s the one extremely real moment in an otherwise fanciful sequence and it hits like a motherf–ker!
“I Got Nothin’” was originally composed and performed during the end of the Stooges’ (early 1970s version) tenure in 1974 (it appears on their infamous live album “Metallic K.O.”) It was re-recorded by Iggy Pop and James Williamson in 1975 for a series of demos that was later released in 1977 as the “Kill City” album. The songs were originally supposed to function as a demo to get Iggy a new recording deal after the demise of the Stooges and a recent stay in a metal hospital. In fact, these demos were recorded during weekend passes from Iggy’s mental hospital. A record deal based on these songs didn’t happen at the time, but after Iggy found some success with his official late 1970s comeback with David Bowie, Bomp Records offered some money to remix and overdub the original tracks, releasing the final product as “Kill City.”
This is my favorite song off the album and it’s one of Iggy’s best. Despite it’s very raw sound, it sounds like it wouldn’t have been out of place on the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” A very nice mix of hard rock, punk, and blues and a very underrated song in Iggy’s oeuvre. Used to great effect during a disturbing scene in Penelope Spheeris’s 1985 serial killer melodrama “The Boys Next Door.”
One of the best scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” contains no action and no dialogue. It’s just a simple montage of Jamie Foxx’s and Christoph Waltz’s characters riding horses set to Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name.” A big part of my love for this scene is due to the Croce song, one of my favorites from listening to AM-radio in the 1970s.
Harry Nilsson’s hard rock showstopper from 1971’s “Nilsson Schmillson” album. “Fire’s” most famous appearance was as the main musical piece during the extended paranoid climax of Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster-film classic “Goodfellas.” Apparently Scorsese’s first choice for this scene was the Rolling Stones’ 1983 rocker “She Was Hot,” but since Scorsese has a strict policy of only using music that was recorded during the period he’s depicting or earlier (the scene in question took place in 1980), he went with Nilsson’s song instead. I have to say this is a much better choice as it is a lot more ominous sounding. And seriously, could you imagine that final climactic scene with any other music than “Fire”? A great song for being paranoid. And as they say, paranoia is just reality on a finer scale.
X covers Richard Thompson’s classic 1982 song about a lone assassin. From the mid-1990s Richard Thompson-tribute album “Beat the Retreat.” Some blistering electric guitar on this one, as well as some nice harmonizing by John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Seriously, if you’re a fan of X and/or Thompson, you really need to check this out.
Frank Zappa’s biggest “hit,” “Valley Girl” came about because his daughter Moon, wanted to spend time with her father, who was either always on the road or sequestered in his home studio. According to Barry Miles’s biography of Frank, Moon slipped a note under Frank’s home studio door “addressed to ‘Daddy” (not ‘Frank,’ as he liked to be called). She introduced herself: ‘I’m 13 years old. My name is Moon. Up until now I have been trying to stay out of your way while you record. However, I have come to the conclusion that I would love to sing on your album … She gave the house telephone number and asked him to contact her agent, Gail Zappa, and suggested that she might do her ‘Encino accent’ or her “Surfer Dood Talk.’ ‘It was me saying ‘Pay attention to me!'”
Eventually, Frank woke his daughter Moon up in the middle of the night to record the conversations she had with her friends, phrases she picked up by living in the San Fernando Valley and going to various “parties, bar mitzvahs, and the (Sherman Oaks) Galleria.” Per Frank, the song was NOT intended to be a celebration of the Valley, but an illustration of how vapid and depressing the area was.
The song first became a hit on KROQ-FM in Los Angeles when the station played the song during an interview with Moon. The response from the public was phenomenal and the song was added to heavy rotation, prompting other stations to do likewise. The song became a national hit, going as high as Number 32 on Billboard’s pop charts and Number 12 on the Mainstream Rock charts. The song’s popularity was a thorn in Zappa’s side, because of the way people adopted “Valley-speak” and philosophy as a positive thing.
The clip here is Moon appearing on a pop music show performing “Valley Girl” with some dancers dressed in some hideous but spot-on 1980s style clothes.
Moon has a lot of great stories to tell, some of which can be heard in this interview she did with Marc Maron back in 2013.
Another wonderful moment from the stellar TV show “Freaks and Geeks” involving rock music. This is from the final episode, where Lindsay Weir, a high school honor student disenchanted with the expectations put upon her, puts on the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” album and really connects with it, especially the opening track “Box of Rain.”
One band I am sad to discover much too late is Portland, Oregon’s The Goddamn Gentlemen. This is one of the best bands never recorded by Crypt Records, equal to the New Bomb Turks, the Oblivians and every other gunk-punk genius who kicked complete a– back in the 1990s and 2000s. Both of their brilliant albums (“Sex Caliber Horsepower” and “Chariots of Fire Spitting Cobras”) can still be sought out. If you love nasty, molar-rattling punk, it’s well worth your while seeking these out. Oh, and both albums are in heavy rotation over at Dave’s Strange Radio.