Homer (1970)

Homer_OST_revI may have discovered why Led Zeppelin became so notoriously draconian about licensing their music to films.

Homer is a pretty text book film about a teen coming of age amidst the backdrop of the vietnam war, small town conservatism, and a rising anti-establishment zeitgeist.

It is also the first movie to ever license Led Zeppelin’s music.

We open the movie on a dark highway, where we find the titular character attempting to thumb his way out of his small Wisconsin farm town to San Francisco, only to be picked up by the sheriff and driven home to his disapproving folks. From there the movie breaks out every cliché trope in the book: War Veteran Dad vs. hippie son, repressed young love, garage rock, pot experimentation, and the local golden boy that gets drafted to Vietnam war and sent back in a casket.

The soundtrack is a good smattering of heavy hitters, including three Buffalo Springfield songs (all Stills tracks), The Byrds, Steve Miller Band, Cream, and The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times,” hits during the beginning of a “boy becomes a man” montage, when Homer’s Dad burns all his rock posters (Abbey Road!) and is trying to farmhand him into becoming a respectable adult. The opening shot of Homer milking a cow to the opening chord is not what Led Zeppelin’s people had in mind when they licensed their eight-minute jam to the film’s producers. Adding insult to injury Homer’s dad turn off Zep to listen to Crop Futures, then Homer tunes into The Byrds on his headset!  This is the type of gross misuse of Zeppelin that drove Peter Grant to dressing up like a 30’s gangster.”

Flash forward to 2013 when the mighty Zeppelin forced Ben Affleck to digitally alter Tate Donavon’s hand in Argo in order to clear “When The Levee Breaks.”

One of the deeper cuts on the soundtrack is “Rock & Roll Gypsies,” by Hearts and Flowers. A catchy number that has one foot firmly rooted in the east coast village folk, but whose chorus and harmonies seem to sway to the west coast stylings of the Byrds.

Hearts And Flowers – Rock N Roll Gypsies


Silkwood – OST (1983)

5320937267_7d2f156f24After poring through a few tributes to the late Mike Nichols this weekend, I was reminded that he directed Silkwood, the moving biopic on nuclear power plant worker turned activist Karen Silkwood.

I have not seen the movie in decades, but I did pick up the soundtrack earlier this year because I was curious to revisit Meryl Streep’s rendition of “Amazing Grace,” and not at all because of the smoldering looks that Meryl, Kurt, and Cher were throwing my way.

For the most part, musical scores are a little too highbrow for me, but I am most definitely glad I forked over a few dollars for this LP.  The selections below made me want to revisit the movie, think of it as an emotional sampler. Per usual Meryl delivers.

Down The Highway (Reprise) – Georges Delerue

Karen Is Contaminated – Georges Delerue

Amazing Grace – Meryl Streep



Kris Kristofferson – Help Me Make It Through The Night (Fat City 1970)

FatCity_kris-kristofferson1The opening sequence of John Huston’s Fat City is a perfect storm of music supervision, cinematography, editing, and casting.We open on the desolate outskirts of Stockton, California in 1970. Famed cinematographer Conrad Hall weaves images of razed buildings, migrant workers, bums and drunks into a skid row tapestry as compelling as any Hopper or Rockwell around.  As the camera pushes into a seedy transient hotel, we find Stacy Keach’s Billy Tully laying in bed, staring listlessly at the ceiling, and reaching past the half empty bottle of whiskey on his nightstand for his first cigarette of the day.


The inclusion of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” nails it here. The tune could not only be the mantra of Keach’s maudlin amateur boxer, as he stumbles through another week of sparring, drinking, and working as a day laborer picking fruit, but could also work for Susan Tyrell’s fantastic co-dependent wino, or fresh faced boxing newbie played by Jeff Bridges, or any of the sad sacks we see in the periphery of this film.This whiskey soaked and more down tempo version seems almost custom tailored to our protagonist, more fitting than any of the versions that seem to be included on Kristofferson’s studio albums and compilations.  I’m guessing this was recorded specifically for the movie, as it is also accompanied by a melancholic guitar and keyboard laden instrumental bed that precedes Kristofferson’s recording. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down indeed.
Help Me Make It Through The Night – Kris Kristofferson

Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? – OST (1971)


Dustin Hoffman plays Georgie Soloway an extremely successful songwriter (a rock n’ roll Burt Bacharach?) who is ready to end it all.  The opening scene of the film finds Georgie editing his suicide note on the balcony of his palatial Manhattan penthouse apartment, and from there we follow him through an hour and a half long fever dream of paranoid encounters, private plane rides, childhood hallucinations, and psychiatrist visits as he recalls his past and tries to figure out why the mysterious Harry Kellerman is sabotaging his reputation.  The film comes off almost like Wild Strawberries seen through a trippy Charlie Kaufman-like filter, and is pretty well executed, despite Hoffman’s protagonist being pretty unlikable. Additionally, there are some really nice showings by Dom DeLuise, Jack Warden, and Barbara Harris.

Kellerman is an important movie, however, for no other reason than it was instrumental in getting Dr. Hook & The Medicine show a record deal.  You also get to watch Dustin Hoffman and Shel Silverstein front the band in a performance that was filmed live at the Fillmore East, prior to an actual Grateful Dead show and before actual deadheads circa 1970. (On the day Jimi Hendrix died.)

Shel Silverstein, who was a longtime fan of the unsigned band and tasked with writing all of the songs and lyrics for the film, recruited the band to be the perform his “Last Mornin'” and “Bunky & Lucille” for the soundtrack, both tracks exist only on the OST.  A more refined version of “Last Morning” was later re-recorded for their album Sloppy Seconds  but lacked the immediacy, and rolling guitar lick that makes the movie version soar. After this relationship was consummated, Silverstein and Dr. Hook went on to make chart magic in the subsequent years.

Last Morning – Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show 



Went down a big time rabbit hole after the Kellerman viewing.  Simply amazed at what a renaissance man Silverstein was, they don’t make guys like him anymore. He was like Rod McKuen for the Village crowd. Below are some highlights from my recent Hook/Silverstein bender. Enjoy!

A Boy Named Shel
Dr. Hook guitarist Rik Elswit remembers Shel Silverstein for Salon.

Live from Shel’s Houseboat
Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show playing Sylvia’s Mother on Shel’s Housebout

Shel on the Johnny Cash Show

Cash and Silverstein duet on Shel’s song A Boy Named Sue on the Johnny Cash Show.

Will Sheff on Dr. Hook Live DVD from 1974
Long read from the Okkervil River singer/songwriter.