I know. I don’t typically do this kind of blog. Usually I am trying to tackle issues of theology and the arts, or sharing some insightful life lesson that I’ve happened upon, or summarizing a recent gig or artistic adventure. If you’re looking for that today, this ain’t it.
But I stumbled upon a an internet video of one of my favorite scenes, and it got me thinking about the movies us musicians quote, especially before, between, or after a gig. We’re a bit of a weird breed of cat, and the things that make us laugh are often left of center. So here’s a really short list, in no particular order, of movies that rock, blues, and jazz musicians I play with refer to in their speech. And if you want to add to it, please let me hear from you. Click the Link to go to the video…
This simple one-off scene by Saturday Night Live—a parody of MTV’s Behind the Music—has allowed a whole generation the opportunity to experience Blue Oyster Cult in a brand new and completely unintended way. It has spawned T-shirts, websites, and—I suspect—clandestine societies of frustrated drummers who are secretly plotting to take over the world. This quote is often used when the band doesn’t quite have the groove down…which is often.
Probably the most quoted scene in the rockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, which is one of the most quotable movies in rock history. Amidst the spontaneously combusting drummers, the internal feuding, and the scale model of Stonehenge, Nigel Tufnel shares his guitar collection with director Marti DiBergi. (Note: I don’t actually recommend that you watch this movie as it has some very inappropriate scenes, but that is, in part, why it is so popular with musicians—because it parodies real life.) By the way, if you’re ever at Universal City in southern California, check out the large neon guitar signage in front of the Hard Rock Cafe—it goes to 11.
Not so much a quote as a scene from gig hell. Jake and Elwood Blues, The Blues Brothers, are stuck in a country western bar, complete with sawdust on the floor and chicken wire surrounding the stage. After several failed attempts at connecting with their audience, they resort to an exaggerated version of “Rawhide.” The Blues Brothers has tons of quotable quotes including, “We’re on a mission from God.” I used to play at a bar in Coloma, California, that was not unsimilar to this one. I never got in a fight, but it did get awfully wild sometimes. I remember the bartender had a super-soaker behind the bar and she would shoot at people that got out of hand. She shot at us too—when she didn’t like the song we were performing. When we felt like we weren’t connecting with our audience, we would pull out the lowest common denominator: something like “Louie Louie” or “Johnny B. Goode.” Speaking of which…
Marty McFly apparently makes history (in the literal sense) in the first movie of the trilogy, Back To The Future, when he befriends a rhythm and blues band playing for the prom, and announces in typical Michael J. Fox cockiness, “Blues in B. Watch me for the changes…and try to keep up.” More inspired by Van Halen than Chuck Barry, his guitar hero shredding is met with gape-mouthed silence. Any gig where you seem “too hip for the room” is appropriate for this quote. Trivial pursuit: Huey Lewis, who performs the theme song to the movie, plays the head of the commitee which picks the prom band.
Okay, I admit this one is a stretch. I think I’m the only guy I know that uses this quote from the movie, The School of Rock. But I think I can safely say that all musicians know the quote. Jack Black pulls off a semi-credible but completely entertaining performance as a somewhat pathetic rock & roll flunkie in this feel-good movie. I’ve actually used the clip of Black introducing the instruments in a rock band to his students for my church’s annual children’s Arts Camp.
By the way, that pudgy, classically-trained Asian kid playing the Keith Emerson licks on the keyboards—that was me when I was twelve.