Singles – Creem Magazine

Swingin’ Singles

Underground purists who saw Nirvana’s success as the beginning of the end for the Seattle rock scene have even more to cry about now with the release of Cameron Crowe’s Singles. The rock-writer-turned-director is following up Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything with a film set in the heart of an alternative Seattle where Matt Dillon is lead vocalist for Pearl Jam and an ensemble cast works out relationship problems to the ever-present strains of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

Crowe, who went to great lengths to feature Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone in Say Anything, wanted to delve even further into things Seattle this time out. “I don’t want to give the impression that it’s the Pearl Jam story or anything, but I did want music to play a more substantial role in this movie,” says the director, who’s been dividing his time between Seattle and L.A. since the mid-Eighties. “So I started writing with that in mind, hanging out with Stone and Jeff from Mother Love Bone, because I liked those guys and I liked the fact that they had all these jobs, you know? Being in a band was like a privilege that they didn’t take for granted the way bands do in so many other places. These guys are like, ‘Okay, well, I gotta pull espresso till about 4 and then I’m gonna see my girlfriend for an hour and then I gotta do some messenger stuff on my bike and then we get to play:’ I love that whole spirit, so the beginning of Singles really was back in ’88 when I just started interviewing Stone and Jeff about their lives and how they juggle job versus love versus sex versus music and everything.”

Crowe is comfortable on either end of an interview, having gotten his first professional break at age 15¬†when fellow San Diego native Lester Bangs published Crowe’s first story (an interview with Humble Pie’s Steve Marriot) in Creem. This time around, Crowe employed his interviewing skills to help imbue Singles with the authenticity of everyday life in Seattle. “I didn’t ask pie in the sky questions so much as, ‘How big is your bed? Where do you sleep? How much money do you make? How much does it cost to put on your show? And at what point does the quick infusion of cash start to sell your true desire?’ This stuff is endlessly fascinating to me, and it’s probably better for the movie that not a lot of it ended up in it. But there is a certain realistic atmosphere that comes directly from Stone and Jeff and guys like that.”

Crowe was able to talk the bands into playing live in order to make the club scenes more realistic than most movie depictions. “I always thought the Plimsouls in Valley Girl were one of the better bands in a club in a movie where you kind of believe it,” recalls the director. “But then you go back and look at Valley Girl, and they’re lipsynching too. So we had them do it live in a club where they would really play. I think it’s pretty realistic. It doesn’t feel like all of a sudden we stepped into ‘In Concert ’91.'”

But Crowe’s biggest coup may have been getting Paul Westerberg to score the film. “I think there is like a soul connection between Westerberg and a lot of the music that was coming out of Seattle,” says Crowe of everyone’s favorite Replacement turned film scorer, who, like most of the Seattle bands, was weaned on Seventies rock and pop. Westerberg contributed instrumental cues as well as original numbers. “It’s not as reckless as some of the stuff you’re used to hearing from him, but it’s totally unpretentious, clear-eyed and soulful and it’s what you want him to be doing. He’s not replaying his past hits. His stuff runs deep.”

Crowe is particularly excited about a song called “Dyslexic Heart,” which ended up saving the film’s ending. “It’s about the rituals of going out and it’s like pure Westerberg,” says Crowe. “The end of the movie used to be this shot over the city, which was all these people, basically hundreds of people, all obsessing about love and different aspects of it. I wanted all their voices to just be a din. And as of those things that came off so much better on the page than it did when we actually started trying to do it, you know? Because we got all these people who were just a little too good at their voice-overs and it just sounded like a bad radio ad. And then Westerberg played us this song called ‘Dyslexic Heart’ and it said everything that I wanted to say.”

Westerberg’s involvement was a particular thrill for the film’s star, Matt Dillon. “Matt Dillon is huge replacements fan,” says Crowe, “and Westerberg is so shy, he would never meet Matt. I think Matt kept showing up at Replacements shows trying to meet him, and he never would. So it was Matt’s greatest day on earth when we called him up and said, ‘Hey, we got this guy who’s gonna help us out scoring the movie…'”

Dillon also wound hitting it off with Westerberg’s Seattle soulmates, but only after he underwent certain attitude adjustments. “Pearl Jam, who play Matt Dillon’s band Citizen Dick, ended up kind of schooling Matt in the whole Seattle thang. Because when Matt first came on the project, he said, ‘Oh man, I’m into jaaaaazz,” laughs Crowe. “I like jazz, and I like Westerberg, you know, but mostly I like jaaaaazzzz.’ And so then he makes friends with these guys in Pearl Jam and he just got it, you know? I think a lot of those musicians accepted him because he showed an interest and really kind of dressed correctly and cared about the music. Now, I mean, there’s no turning back for Matt. I think his jazz days are over. We heard from him the other day, he’s like, “Dinosaur Jr! They should be in the movie, don’t you think? It’s like, ‘No, Matt, I think we raided Sire enough for this movie.'”

“Although, come to think of it, Dinosaur Jr would be really good in this movie…”

Courtesy of the Creem – Bill Forman – June-July, 1992