I finally read Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
One of the benefits of reading a book of this ilk in this day and age is to have streaming media at your disposal to provide the appropriate soundtrack, and hunt down any digital artifacts referenced by our oral historians.
Below are just a small handful of links that I went searching for after being referenced in this book:
Nico and Iggy Pop Evening of Light – Ron Asheton: Nico got some filmmaker to come to Michigan and make some sixteen-millimeter movie with Iggy. We all went out to this farm, and Nico got John Adams to be in it, too, because he looked like a sphinx: big, long, tight, curly red hair. It was the dead of winter and we were sitting looking out this picture window, laughing, while they put these mannequin arms all over the field – John with no shirt on, and Iggy with no shirt on, doing nothing. Boy, it was real artsy.
One of the more harrowing Please Kill Me is when the Dead Boys are accosted by a gang on the Lower East Side, and drummer Johnny Blitz is stabbed upward of five times in the abdomen. CBGB’s put on a benefit of Blitz’s medical bills, and Belushi filled in for Blitz on the drums.
That being understood, learning that Orbison was cast as a sharp shooting ace in a 1967 MGM Western was a revelation.
The Fastest Guitar Alive tells the tale of Orbison’s Johnny, a Civil War era confederate spy/troubador, singing and shooting his way through a mission to steal some Union gold with his futuristic guitar-rifle.
I’ve read that MGM was so hot to recreate the success that they had with putting Elvis in the movies that they signed his Sun Records peer, Orbison, to a 5 picture deal.
The deal was quickly rescinded upon the lackluster critical and box-office response to The Fastest Guitar Alive.
Orbison’s lack of on-screen charisma must have been extremely apparent to the Studio, because you will notice that there is not one single line of dialogue from their top billed actor throughout the entire trailer. That has got to be a first.
The soundtrack was a scant 7 songs, but definitely had a few standouts. “Pistolero,” and the “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home,” which was brilliantly used in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”
Next to The B-52s and Lou Reed cameos in One Trick Pony, The Lovin’ Spoonful cameo seems pretty unremarkable. They were contemporaries of Simon & Garfunkel in late 60’s, so it’s not entirely surprising that they made an appearance in a Simon vehicle.
Their part in the movie is during the scene where Paul Simon’s Jonah was being celebrated at a 60’s tribute concert, The Lovin’ Spoonful was one of the other acts on the bill.
So we get to see Paul Simon and The Lovin’ Spoonful sharing a backstage drink in One Trick Pony. Whichbrings to mindPaul Simon sharing a drink with Woody Allen in Annie Hall. Which brings to mind The Lovin’ Spoonful and Woody Allen working on What’s Up Tiger Lily?
Oh hey, we just stepped into a rabbit hole!
A rabbit hole that highlights the considerable run that the Spoonful had as the go to band of the late 60’s. Everything below is basically work that was featured in film or television, so keep in mind that while all this was going on, they were charting like crazy with hits like Do You Believe In Magic?,Day Dream, and Summer In The City.
What’s Up Tiger Lily? Soundtrack (1966)
Woody Allen’s first feature film was more of a blueprint of Mystery Science Theater 3000 then a true Woody film, as Allen took a Japanese spy movie and rewrote it as a jokey comedy overdubbed by American actors.
Unfortunately the movie was co-opted by the studio in Post Production, and in an effort to entice American audiences the studio recruited The Lovin’ Spoonful to score and appear in the film without consulting Allen.
The song used in the above clip is called “Pow,” which is acts as the unofficial theme to the movie.
Per Wikipedia The Spoonful’s inclusion was one of many factors that made Allen demand full creative control over all of his future projects.
You’re A Big Boy Now Soundtrack (1966)
That same year, John Sebastian contributed a few original songs for the soundtrack of Frances Ford Coppola’s “You’re A Big Boy Now,” alongside other Spoonful tunes. Two singles were release from the soundtrack, “You’re A Big Boy Now,” and fantastic “Darling Be Home Soon,” which charted in the U.S.
The title sequence above features the Spoonful at their most rocking with “Girl, Beautiful Girl (Barbara’s Theme)”.
“Lonely,” the track below, is an instrumental that would make Sebastian’s father, a classical harmonica player, proud.
The Lovin’ Spoonful –Lonely
Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow-up (1966)
As if Woody Allen and Frances Ford Coppola wasn’t enough street cred for the band, their music was also featured in Antonioni’s Blow-up, by way of an instrumental version of the Spoonful’s “Butchie’s Tune”, performed by Herbie Hancock.
Herbie Hancock – Butchie’s Tune
Butchie’s Tune was also covered by Yo La Tengo on their 2015 release Stuff Like That There.
Yo La Tengo – Butchie’s Tune
Lovin’ Spoonful The original choice for The Monkees
While one could only speculate what the Lovin’ Spoonful would have become under the Raybert/BBS umbrella, it sounds like Sebastian put an end to the idea fairly quickly, by showing little interest in looking like copycats of the Beatles, and little interest in changing the band name. I am sure Rafelson and Schneider had little interest in sharing royalties or mind control over the band. Much easier to control a band when they are a bunch of unknowns.
However, after an audition process, the producers figured it was more trouble than they expected. For one thing, the Spoonful were writing their own music at this point, and the show was not interested in giving up the publishing rights to the songs written for the show, so it really did not make sense for either parties, and the producers instead turned to openauditions for the show. (via LegendsRevealed.com)
The Mystery Show: “Kotter”
Chief songwriter John Sebastian had one of his biggest post-Spoonful hits with his theme song to 70’s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter.
One Trick Pony is a 1980 Paul Simon movie with a soundtrack that doubled as Simon’s Warner Brothers debut. The vehicle is technically a fictional biopic about a successful 1960’s rocker named Jonah Levin (Simon), as he endures the 1980s, a dwindling fan base, tepid record executives, and a marriage on the rocks. It’s part road movie, part record industry commentary, part sweat study, and part Kramer vs Kramer-lite.
There is plenty of fodder here that lend itself to pointing out the similarities of Jonah’s journey to Simon’s own career arc, but rather than focus on that, let’s look at two scenes that exemplify how this is the most acutely self-aware movie about pop music, while simultaneously being an out-of-touch vanity project, that ultimately bombed at the box office.
The following two clips are a prime example of why these “rock movies,” are so fun to chase down. Here we have the B-52s in their prime, nailing Rock Lobster in small club, followed by a young Lou Reed playing a smarmy record producer riding at the console with Rip Torn and bass legend Tony Levin. Only in the movies.
THE B-52s SCENE
I’m sure this was nothing more than Warner Brothers trying to give a little mainstream love to Simon’s new labelmates, but to write them into a newspaper review as critical darlings while the decrying the Jonah Levin band as uninspired and over the hill is just so incredibly accurate! The idea that Simon (who wrote the film) would add such a scenario into a somewhat bloated vanity film is true irony.
THE RECORDING SESSION
Reed and Torn are so good. The irony here is that while Jonah is ultimately crestfallen with the results of this session, this is exactly the type of song that the real Paul Simon would record, in fact there is a soundtrack full of these types of songs. It’s called One Trick Pony.