Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tell 'Em, Wordman

Image from Eddie and the Cruisers, one of the few good rock 'n' roll movies around -- The Commitments, about an Irish band, is also a good one. 

There's a big character conflict at the heart of the Cruisers.  The band's leader, Eddie Wilson (Michael Paré) is a street kid from New Jersey and he's got ambition, but he needs a lyrics writer. Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger) shows up to fill that role, and play keyboards, but because Frank is a college kid, Eddie doesn't like or trust him. That Frank has the hots for Eddie's girl JoAnn (Helen Schneider) doesn't help.

The band comes up with a hit album, and moves into new musical territory -- more than a nod in Jim Morrison's direction here -- but splits up after Eddie drives his car off a pier and (supposedly) dies, for reasons having to do with ... art.

Years later, a documentary filmmaker, Maggie (Ellen Barkin) finds Frank and interviews him, and the fates of the band members, how it was, and what ever happened to the master  recording of the second album all come to light. Is the ghost of Eddie Wilson haunting them? Or is it something more mundane ... ?

Eddie called Frank "Wordman," and there's a great line when somebody asks what "susurrus" means. Eddie grins, as if the question is something only an ignorant fool would ask, nods at Frank, and says, "Tell 'em, Wordman."

The movie didn't make any money on the original release, it was told mostly in flashback, but it had some great music (John Cafferty's) and it captured the essence of a rock group on the way up, at the top, and then falling apart. Became a cult classic, and you see it from time to time on VH1. Berenger and Barker went on to fair careers; Paré, not so much.

All of which is a long-winded way to say that when I write songs -- such that they are -- I usually come at it from the lyrics side. Being a wordman, that's where I'm comfortable. But this week, I decided I wanted to approach writing a song from the other side, so I've noodled a tune and some chords, and I'm going to try to see if I can manage it that way.

Live and learn, maybe. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Jay said...

When Eddie and the Cruisers is on a TV I have a chance to watch, my channel surfing stops. I still dig the story. Same with The Commitments, great flick, good *stories.*

Good luck reversing the order on your project and I am sure you will surprise yourself!