Tag Archives: Cameron Crowe

Singles 25th Anniversary

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25 years ago today, Singles (finally) debuted at a theater near you. If you haven’t done so, explore the Singles section of The Uncool where you’ll find Deleted Scenes from the script, Locations Then & Now, a collection of foreign posters and so much more. We hope you like the (never before seen) alternate shot from Poster shoot above and the negatives from Citizen Dick at the Java Stop below!

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Sep 18, 2017

Steely Dan Thrills Early and Often

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Happy Friday. We dug this out of the archives today as one last tribute to Walter Becker and Steely Dan. This short piece is from the February, 1973 issue of Zoo World as the band reflects on their new found success with their first hit single, “Do It Again” of their new record, Can’t Buy A Thrill. 

Steely Dan

“Well, I imagine you’ve seen it,” Steely Dan manager Gary McPike sighed as he withdrew a well-fingered, almost crumbling, clipping from that morning’s Los Angeles Times.

It was a critical review of the band’s recent appearance at the Whiskey. A quick scan revealed it wasn’t as crippling a write-up as the concerned McPike’s attitude may have implied. The music was fantastic, contended the reviewer, but the band’s drab attire was inexcusable. This lack of showmanship, concluded the piece, revealed an inherent disregard for the audience.

“I like movement,” remarked Wait Becker, the group’s bassist and one half of their composing team, “and I’m all for the visual side of rock ’n roll, but the music is the most important thing. When the visual aspect gets in the way of the music. I’d rather forsake it.”

It’s not as if Steely Dan hides behind their sound equipment while performing their set, however. Lead singer, David Palmer, performs as spirited a set as anybody else, and the rest of the band does their share of bopping as well, but some people you just can’t please.

“As far as that one review is concerned,” added Donald Fagen, organist, sometime lead-vocalist, and the other half of the aforementioned writing duo, “I think the person who wrote it has an unusually high interest in men’s fashions.” Fagen pauses a moment to laugh, then continues, “I mean if a person is that disinterested in the music, I’d just as soon they go elsewhere.”

Steely Dan is a new band. Emerging out of the ruins of several other bands that barely missed making it or just plain never did, (their present line-up (Jeff Baxter on guitar, Jim Hodder on drums, Becker on bass, Fagen on keyboards and Palmer on vocals) was settled upon as recently as last August. Their first dose of recognition came with an irresistible single by the name of “Do It Again.” Steely Dan passed that first hurdle on their way to large scale success, which was a new experience for the former members of Jay And The Americans and Ultimate Spinach. So Steely Dan has reached a position in four months, most bands can’t reach in years.

Perhaps most responsible for the group’s following is the extremely accessible composing talents of Becker. Do It Again, according to the writers, was not intended to be a single. “In fact,” Faqen-one of your more obvious New Yorkers – continues, “we didn’t try to record or write any of our tunes catering to any particular market. But, as it turns out. I guess we’re just naturally commercial.”

Can’t Buy A Thrill, Steely Dan’s impressive debut album, looks like it’ll produce several more hit 45’s before the band’s follow-up Lp hits the stands in a couple months. But, the question appears to be, does the group intend to be a singles band or an albums band.

“Both…I hope,” Becker responds. “We try to make every cut as good as we can, not really thinking whether it’s adaptable to AM or not.”

Needless to say, things have not always been on the up-and-up for the Becker-Fagen team. Writing together long before their involvement in Steely Dan, the two kept themselves alive for two years by playing in Jay And The Americans’ back-up band.

“We worked about two weekends a month on that job,” remembers Becker. “That paid the rent. The rest of the time we just hung out, wrote songs and threw them out the window. Our publishing company was actually non-existent, and we ended up writing songs for other people who never did them. We wrote some songs for Barbra Streisand…she actually did one of them, “I Mean To Shine.” It’s on her Barbra Streisand album. “We wrote songs for Dusty Springfield. I don’t think she ever got to hear them. Then we wrote some non-pop songs that no one got to hear.”

“Denny Doherty recorded one of our songs,” Fagen mutters, “but the album it was on never got released. His contract had ended.”

From there the two migrated down to Los Angeles from New York, where they met the other future members of Steely Dan, formed the band and began work on Can’t Buy A Thrill.

With the fickleness of the record industry and it’s audience being what it is, how does it feel, you may be wondering, to be in the depths of frustration one day and be topping the charts and accepting superlative praise the next. How does it change an artist’s life? Donald Fagen and Walter Becker can only speak for themselves.

“Well,” begins Fagen, “I used to have a lot more leisure time…like all the time…”

“As for me,” Becker interrups in a bored monotone, “I gained twenty pounds.”

Courtesy of Zoo World – Cameron Crowe – February 3, 1973

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Sep 15, 2017

Saying Farewell to Walter Becker of Steely Dan

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Sad day today as we’ve lost another great musician and human. Our best to Walter’s family, Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan community. They were, in their own particular and wickedly subversive way, the Coen Brothers of Rock. Here is Cameron’s ’77 story about Steely Dan.

Steely Dan Springs Back: The Second Coming

Their new album, held throughout product-glutted summer for just the right moment, accidentally came out the same afternoon as the new Rolling Stones LP. Their first tour in three years was canceled. They haven’t had a hit single since 1974’s “Rikki Don’t Lost That Number.” And still, their sixth and most esoteric effort yet, Aja, is one of the season’s hottest albums and by far Steely Dan’s fastest-selling ever. Suddenly, against all the odds, it’s Steely Dan fever.

They are the unlikeliest super-group – perhaps because there is no group. Two blurry character named Walter Becker and Donald Fagen write and construct the songs, then hire highly skilled studio musicians to execute the parts. They even play themselves, but less and less, it seems, each album. (“It wouldn’t bother me at all,” says Becker, “not to play on my own album.”) The infrequent product of their labors is labeled a Steely Dan album. Any further details are subject to Becker’s and Fagen’s notorious distaste for facts.

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Sep 3, 2017

Raspberries – Pop Art Live

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I got some pretty cool news to share today. More than 30 years after the original members of Raspberries last played together, Omnivore Recordings is releasing a 2-CD/Digital set entitled Pop Art Live on August 18, 2017. The show captures their November, 2004 reunion show at Cleveland’s House of Blues. Along with “Go All The Way” (featured in Almost Famous), 27 additional Raspberries classics will be included. Cameron provides his thoughts in the liner notes, along with longtime Raspberries experts Bernie Hogya and Ken Sharp. As always, it will be available at your favorite independent record store or through Amazon. We will share Cameron’s piece when the triple LP colored vinyl is released in November.

 

 

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Aug 17, 2017

Billy, How Did You Do it?

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Billy & Cameron. Photo By Neal Preston

We lost the great Billy Wilder 15 years ago today. I thought it would be great to remember him with this 2005 Sight & Sound piece that Cameron wrote. It’s new to The Uncool and we hope you seek out a Wilder film to watch tonight!

Billy, how did you do it?

‘Elizabethtown’ director Cameron Crowe pays tribute to Billy Wilder

 The first Billy Wilder movie to ever grace my family’s living room was Some Like It Hot. I was too small to catch all the subtext of those cross-dressing musicians, but this much was clear: something was going on inside that movie. A subversive sense of humour was at play, and those big laughs rocked our house. Later, someone pointed out that the same man made Sunset Blvd., another movie we all watched together as a family. Both were late-night ‘movies of the week’ on TV. The magic was palpable, even on that small screen.

I decided to become a film-maker to protect a script I’d written called Say Anything… A number of other directors had passed on it, and the script was about to fall into the hands of someone who cared a lot less about it than me. Wilder, a journalist who became a director for similar reasons, was one of the first masters I turned to in preparing to direct. Most writer-directors seeking inspiration eventually go to Wilder. I worked through his pictures one by one. His work was like a drug – character-rich stories filled with laughs and story turns so deft you could get a body rush sitting in the theatre. Eventually, I got to The Apartment, sadly after my father had passed away. Halfway through, it was already my favourite. When I heard the last line of the movie, “shut up and deal”, I realised where one of my dad’s favourite phrases had come from.

Part of the great fun of being a fan of Billy Wilder is that your favourite Wilder pictures change over the years. For me, sometimes it’s Love in the Afternoon; other times it’s A Foreign Affair; but usually I return to The Apartment. The characters, the score, the melancholy and the perfection of the script and performances… It’s hard to top. though the fizzy comic wallop of Some Like It Hot sure gives it a run for its money.

In my experience of interviewing him, Wilder usually chose Some Like It Hot or The Apartment as his personal favourite. His reasons he said, were mostly script-based. He just loved the structure and the successful collaborations with his writing partner Izzy Diamond. He often mentioned the ‘cracked mirror’ scene in The Apartment as one of his favourite moments in any of his films He explained that these pictures and Sunset Blvd. “just worked”. Of his audience favourites, the only one that seemed to displease him was Irma la Douce. As for his favourite actors, he always mentioned Lemmon and Matthau and, with an extra twinkle, Charles Laughton.

Double Indemnity survives because of its masterful victory of tone and performance and direction. For a still young director, it was a work of sly bravura. And Wilder’s favourite element – the inner ‘love story’ between Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson – gives the movie its freshness and a dark kick. Many try for this tone; few get there.Wilder used to say that a masterful comic actor like Cary Grant would forever be beaten at the Oscars by a less talented, furrow-browed serious actor with a “physical ailment of some kind”. It was his way, I think, of waving the flag for what he felt to be a far more difficult exercise – comedy. He was a great fan of modem pictures that had a certain graceful comic perfection, like the Japanese film Shall We Dance?. He also loved the deep-tissue satire of American Beauty. As for his own legacy, Wilder sometimes scoffed, “Why would anyone care about me?” But, in fact, he’d noticed the parade of younger film-makers who cited him and made a point of telling me it genuinely surprised and touched him. “A lot’?” “A little,” he’d answer with a trademark flick of his eyebrow that indicated the opposite might also be true.

As Wilder once said of Audrey Hepburn, “there is only one”. But his lessons to other modern directors are clear: protect your script and your characters; observe the values of script structure… Take a look at the work of Wilder’s own heroes, from Ernst Lubitsch to William Wyler, and then go out there with a camera and tell your stories with glee and a ferocious lack of false sentimentality. But most of all, “don’t bore them”.

Courtesy of Sight & Sound – Cameron Crowe – October, 2005

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Mar 27, 2017

Happy Birthday to Mr. James Taylor!

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Photo by Timothy White

Photo by Timothy White

James celebrated his birthday yesterday and he is still going strong. He’s been on the road touring for the past few years with his latest album, Before This World. He’s wrapping that tour up in South America, but will back on the road this Summer with Bonnie Raitt in the US. Let’s jump back in our time machine to Cameron’s 1976 story from the L.A. Times.

James Taylor: Just a Homebody Who Finds No Warmth in the Spotlight

The young man edged closer and stared for a moment to make sure the lanky figure in the corner of the restaurant was indeed James Taylor. The man then tore a soiled bandage from his own forehead and began shrieking that Taylor had just miraculously healed him.Within seconds, the other customers in the restaurant were gawking at the shy singer-songwriter. Taylor sighed quietly and buried his head in his hands. All he had wanted was a burger.

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Mar 13, 2017

Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man

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troubleman40th

Four years ago, Cameron wrote the liner notes for the 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack. Enjoy!

A quick snapshot of Marvin Gaye, May 1971: Sylmar, California. It’s a rarely documented time in the artist’s life. He’d just finished What’s Going On, and hopped a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles to begin a co-starring role in an earnest film about a young Green Beret. He’s 32, newly shorn of the iconic beard that would characterize his creative gestation. In the summer of ’71, Marvin Gaye is an actor.

The film was not going swimmingly, the director uncommunicative with him, and Marvin was adrift in a world he’d known only as a fan, unaccustomed to set-politics, but ready to learn. It’s no surprise where Gaye found a homeon the camera truck, helping with the film operators, being close to the artistic creation of the film’s feel and look. Most of the camera crew was unaware of Gaye’s recorded work.

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Nov 21, 2016

Why Jack Ford Lives at Home

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rs218

Since election season is in full swing, we thought you might enjoy Cameron’s 1976 Rolling Stone cover story with Jack Ford. Gerald Ford’s son was a hot commodity back at the time. Young, handsome and campaigning for his dad, Gerald Ford. We hope you like it!

Why Jack Ford Lives at Home

A White House Portrait

“I’m Jack Ford and I’m here to reelect my father. I’m not just saying that because I want to stay in the White House. Quite frankly, I would gladly change places with you.’

Five days before the Michigan primary, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May, the sprawling Fairlane shopping center, an indoor mall in Dearborn, is so thick with campaign workers of both parties that it’s hard to take a step without being accosted by zealous volunteers brandishing buttons and bumperstickers.

Today, the shopping center is being visited by a major campaign figure — once removed. A young Republican worker rushes up to a knot of people, breaking the news with breathless reverence: “Did you hear? The president’s son Jack is here! Just around the corner!” There’s a commotion around the corner, all right, and a strange, nervous chuckle is rising above the hubbub; sort of an emphatic ah-ha, followed by three slightly forced heh-heh-hehs.

Then around the corner comes the owner of The Laugh, surrounded by swooning teenage girls. Jack Ford’s three-piece suit — its color an exact match for his tousled sandy blond hair—hangs perfectly on his sleek, athletic, 24-year-old body. He loosens his tie and proceeds to sign the crinkled slips of paper thrust in front of him. He poses for dozens of Instamatic flash pictures and pumps every hand in sight.

“I’m Jack Ford and I’m here working to reelect my father. Can we count on your support?” That’s the stock line he recites to almost everybody. Everybody, that is, except the prettiest girls, who get a slightly bolder variation. The steely blue-green eyes linger a little longer on theirs and, at the beginning of the handshake, Jack will simply say, “Your hand feels a little cold.” On occasion he’ll turn to one of his Secret Service agents and remark wistfully, “I wish there was something we could do about that.” The effect is devastating, and instantaneous. One melted girl.

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Sep 23, 2016

Mike Finger’s The Blue and the Black