Singles – Worchester Telegram & Gazette

Cameron Crowe Pens a Pop Paean to Seattle Singles

Cameron Crowe thought he had found some drizzly heaven when he moved from Southern California to Seattle in 1983.

This place had great music, lots of fresh salmon, mountains everywhere and no one ever worried about drought. So what if the baseball team played indoors.

The young people didn’t bolt once they earned a few bucks. They got jobs and stayed in the Pacific Northwest. Crowe was impressed. He had never seen such a thing.

That’s why he wanted to cram as much of Seattle as he could into “Singles,” the film about love and the twenty-something set he wrote, directed and produced.

“In a lot of ways it’s a love letter to Seattle, and I mean it,” Crowe said over lunch last week at a Boston hotel. “Singles” was shown at the Boston Film Festival before opening nationally Friday.

People might think he’s hopping on the ain’t-Seattle-grand bandwagon. “He helped build the bandwagon,” said Danny Bramson, the music supervisor on “Singles” who put together a soundtrack featuring just about every top Seattle band except Nirvana.

Someone Special

“Singles” isn’t just about music, although that aspect of the film is getting a lot of publicity. Crowe’s young characters – played by Campbell Scott, Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley and Jim True – would go to clubs hoping to meet someone special. Listening to the tunes was a bonus. That the music, now referred to as the “Seattle sound,” would become such a big deal just before the movie was released was a double bonus. No one ever heard of some of these bands when shooting started.

“It’s a melodic hard rock that’s great for movies,” Crowe said.

He began writing “Singles” nine years ago, long before Californians started talking about Seattle as a hip place.

“It started out much more of a buddy movie,” he said. “It didn’t have the loneliness of being single. It was about the joy of being single.”

Finding love isn’t easy for his characters. Scott plays Steve, a city engineer who favors a logical approach to his relationship with Linda (Sedgwick). She doesn’t trust him even though he offers the ultimate symbol of commitment, his garage door opener.

Janet (Fonda) loves Cliff (Dillon), but all Cliff cares about is his music. And he’s not especially good at that.

Debbie (Kelley) is hoping a dynamite video (made by a character played by “Batman” director Tim Burton in a cameo appearance) will help her find the man of her dreams. Bailey (True), meanwhile, is collecting as many women’s phone numbers as he can on his new computer watch.

In the Middle

“What I’m proud about with “Singles’ is it’s not about beautiful people or rich people or geeky people. It’s about people in the middle,” Crowe said. “I wanted to make sure they all had jobs and wanted to stay. When we were making the movie, the word came back from the studio, “Matt Dillon looks like Manson. What are you doing to that handsome young man?’ Campbell is a leading man, but he’s not the kind of guy who, when he’s walking down the street, you would turn and say, “he must be a model.’ I think the cast feels kind of natural.”

Crowe came up with the garage door opener element – a device he uses throughout the film – because he thought an apartment key as a symbol of trust had become kind of trite.

“As the world gets scarier, things like your own parking space – especially if it’s underground – become more important,” Crowe said.

Some details, new Celtic Xavier McDaniel wearing a Seattle Supersonics uniform, for instance, seem dated. That’s inevitable when you make such a contemporary movie.

“You have to stay close to basic truths. Those won’t change,” Crowe said. “Some of the small things will change. If you are trying to do something of the moment, movies aren’t the best way to do it. It’s like that video game where you have to shoot way ahead and hope the target comes to it.”

Crowe, with the help of Bramson and Paul Westerberg, formerly of the Replacements, scored a direct hit with the music.

“Cameron, coming from Rolling Stone (he started writing for the magazine when he was 16) and being interested in the music, you didn’t have to educate the director,” Bramson said.

He and Crowe became friends of the members of Pearl Jam and other Seattle bands. The groups wrote songs specially for the movie and were used as extras.

“There are a lot of great bands in Seattle, but tomorrow it could just as well be Boston,” Bramson said.

Wanted Nirvana

He said he wanted to include Nirvana, but the band was busy recording in Los Angeles at the time.

Many of the bands included on the soundtrack played at a premiere party, which was shown on MTV last week. “It was great seeing Warner Bros. executives in the same room with guys slam dancing,” Bramson said.

Crowe, who wrote “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and made his directorial debut five years ago with “Say Anything,” said his next film will be about a 37-year-old man living in New York. It will be set in the Big Apple only because the plot is integral to that city. He plans to base every other film he can in Seattle. He moved to Washington because his wife if from there.

He will try to include interesting music in all of his work.

“One of the most fun things for me is to make a road tape,” he said. “I’ve done it once a month for years. “Singles’ was like a blown up version of that.”

Courtesy of Worcester Telegram & Gazette – Paul Jarvey – September 20, 1992