Rock and Roll is Here to Stay

by Chiron O'Keefe

Last week, hubby and I finally watched the latest Rainn Wilson movie, The Rocker.

Why did we let the DVD languish in its red Netflix envelope so long? Blame the previews which typically focused on the film's many raucous moments without giving a hint of its tender heart. Surprisingly enough (or not, by now you'd think I'd learn to ignore critics), the movie is rather sweet and the crazy-ass drummer played by Rainn is quite the redeeming character.

The plot is simple. A band on the verge of fame boots out the drummer who goes off to live a humdrum bitter life working in customer service and cursing his former bandmates. Shades of Pete Best, don't you think?

Except this band is heavy metal and the drummer gets a second chance to find fame and in the process, discover what 'greatness' is all about.

We began watching reluctantly and were cheering by the end. Go dude go!! *grin*

This made me think of other rock movies (not documentaries which is a whole 'nother blog post) that I've seen over the years. After some consideration I came up with a short list.

First up, Eddie and the Cruisers.

Released in 1983, this long ago movie tells the tale in retrospect of a Jersey cover band who shot to fame after recording an album of original music. As can be expected, during production on the second album, the members grew in different directions, particularly the lead singer, Eddie, who resists the collective desire to remain static, instead reaching for a depth and seriousness at odds with the current image.

His dark, rebellious nature comes through the music and of course, the record company isn't pleased—the album is rejected and unreleased. A few hours later, Eddie's car crashes over a railing and though a body is never recovered, the magnetic lead singer of the Cruisers is thought to be dead. The movie is part flashbacks and part interviews in present time.

Wow. It's been years since I saw this movie yet I still remember being blown away. Part of me yearns to rewatch it but considering how dated some movies can seem down the line, another part refuses to let go of the wonder and awe I experienced way back when. Long live Eddie!!

Hmm. Perhaps my fear of shattering my fond memories of Eddie's flick stems from my recent viewing of Jailhouse Rock.

This was THE movie that inspired so many early rock groups, I was prepared to be blown away. Mind you, I'd watched many of the Elvis movies (once seen, who could ever forget the amazing dance scene with his 'soul twin' Ann Margaret in Viva Las Vegas?).

In Jailhouse Rock, Elvis plays a rebellious, sullen singer with petulant glee. In retrospect, his acting was laughably shallow and the movie was sadly a bit dated for me. However, I will say the actual Jailhouse Rock dance scene was freaking amazing. That alone made the movie worthwhile.

A bit of trivia from me: Most everyone knows Nic Cage is a HUGE Elvis fan (not a fan of huge Elvis, I mean…oh, you know what I mean!!). Anyways, about halfway through, there is a scene with him in the car and suddenly I could *see* Nicolas Cage. OMG! The dude totally absorbed his idol, The Elvis, and in a series of flashbacks, my mind flicked through various scenes where Nic channeled his favorite singer. Dude!

Now, The Rose was another story all together.

Bette Midler gives an astonishing performance. Loosely based on Janis Joplin's tragic life, the multitalented Bette offers a heartbreaking portrayal with songs that are practically guaranteed to give you shivers. If a tear doesn't well up, I owe you a glass of wine.

Another movie torn from real life is the more recent flick, Almost Famous.

A high school boy (who actually looks like some of the kids we went to school with) and aspiring reporter is given the opportunity of a lifetime—to interview and tour with his favorite band. WOW! Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, this is a semi-autobiographical story, as Cameron was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. He picked up an Oscar for his efforts.

There's a lot of big names in this flick, among them Jason Lee, Kate Hudson (who snagged a Golden Globe), Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frances McDormand, Anna Paquin, and much to my surprise, Rainn Wilson. I loved this film and was just thinking the other day that it's time to rent this sucker and relive the moments.

Of course, one cannot do an article on rock movies without including the quintessential mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap.

Director Rob Reiner blew the roof off with this one, helped in great part by the extraordinary talents of the cast and co-writers, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. Not only did this largely improvised film capture the nuttiness and extravagance of the heavy metal generation, it truly epitomised the essence of rock-n-roll when guitarist, Nigel Tufnel,

proudly displays his custom-made amp that is much louder than traditional amps because "the numbers all go to eleven."

Personally, I have yet to meet a musician who at some point doesn't throw that line out when adjusting an amp. *laughs* You rock, Spinal Tap!

The last two movies are personal favorites of mine.

First, Tom Hanks gives a rocking tribute to the early sixties and all the kids who ever yearned to be in a band, with his movie, That Thing You Do!

Featuring Tom Everett Scott (looking very much like a young Tom Hanks) as the drummer, Shades, and the lovely Liv Tyler as the devoted girlfriend of the typical moody songwriter guitarist, the yummy Johnathon Schaech, this movie really delivers. Steve Zahn steals some of the best lines as Lenny the slightly sleazy (but always adorable) lead guitarist.

Okay, so it's predictable and sometimes even clichéd (the band, The Wonders, with their 'one hit'. Get it? D'oh!), I don't freaking care! Shut up, already! I love this flick from the many nods to the Beatles (the scene where the moody guitarist has a "Careful girls, he's engaged!" flashing on the screen during their first television appearance echoes the "Careful girls, he's married" message that centered on John Lennon) to the repeated performances of the hit song, "That Thing You Do!" Rock on! The boys in the film actually played their instruments and everytime I see it I feel good all over again.

Do check out this clip which seems based on both The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five's early appearances. And check out a very dapper Tom Hanks enjoying his own Brian Epstein moment.

"You guys look great in red. Have I told you that?"

To me, no piece on Rock and Roll movies could be complete without the grandmaster, and the one that really started it all: A Hard Day's Night.

This 1964 release by Richard Lester is a favorite among New York film students. The zany adventures of the little known moptops clinched their reign as The One And Only, The Beatles!

The beginning:

Just about everyone knows by now that the famous Patti Boyd, soon to be wife of George Harrison (and later the muse who not only inspired Layla and Wonderful Tonight, but became the future wife of Eric Clapton) first met Georgie-boy on the set of the movie. Here's a forty-second clip. She's the blonde with the page-boy 'do.

Few realize that much of the antics of the movie was inspired by The Beatles, The First U.S. Visit. A true documentary that proved that the boys were pretty darn irrepressible way before they had scripts to read from.

So, how about you? Any rock and roll movies that gave you a thrill? Let me know!

--Chiron O'Keefe
Also featured at The Write Soul:

Journeys of self-discovery in both women’s fiction and psychic suspense.As a toddler, Chiron O’Keefe knew exactly who she wanted to be—Casper the Friendly Ghost. Finding out such an option wasn't available to the living, she focused instead on creating a life filled with giggles and all things otherworldly. Her books reflect her passion for both the light and the dark. Whimsical stories with a touch of romance and shadowy tales that explore the hidden realms of the psyche. Her inspiration springs from a diverse background as a professional astrologer, singer-songwriter and comedy improvisational performer.

Avoiding the glare of the spotlight, she now dances on an inner stage, where dreams come to life. In addition to her novels, Chiron also pens motivational essays for writers, posted weekly on her blog, The Write Soul. When asked about her unusual name, she responded, “The name stems from Greek mythology, and very few people pronounce it correctly the first time. Phonetically, it’s Ky-ron. Don’t worry if you stumble, even my “Chiro-practor” gets it wrong!”


  1. Oh Chiron, I love love love all these movies! (With the exception of the Rocker, which I haven't yet seen). I seem to recall a movie Tommy, based on the Who's rock opera (though I've never seen it). School of Rock was fun. I also loved Once, which technically may not have been a rock movie but still followed a struggling musician. Ah, now I have to see Eddie and the Cruisers again. Michael Pare, where have you gone?

  2. Chiron what a fabulous article! Love all those movies! Weren't the Beatles adorable? OMG! Love those skinny pants and jackets. I echo Cate - School of Rock with Jack Black kind of has similar premise to Rainn Wilson's movie - (which I haven't seen but it sounds great from the way you described) But I'll see anything with Jack Black - he's wonderful! High Fidelity - is a great movie too - not a rock film per se but music certainly has a big deal to do with the film - more about music nerds. Also another Jack Black movie (love him!). Almost Famous is a terrific film and really captures an era so well - not to mention the excitement of being on the road with a rock band - seems so innocent now doesn't it? everything is about big business now.

  3. Hi Divas! I'm so glad I found your blog! What fun!

    Hi Chiron--what a fab post! I'm scared to admit that I've never seen Edie and the Cruisers--must update my Blockbuster list! But I love all of your other mentions!

    Ah, Spinal Tap. Who could not love Nigel? When I was in college we had the soundtrack--I was particularly enamored of "Stonehenge" and "Big Bottom" LOL. I laugh just thinking about the Stonehenge set in the movie!

    Tom Everett Scott was freaking adorable in That Thing You Do! I loved the scene when he met his idol in the bar. Great movie.

    Now I've got to move The Rocker up in my movie list!

  4. Hello Cate!

    Of course, Tommy! What an astonishing film. Roger's acting surpassed some professionals, in my opinion. Fantastic stuff. Some of the best Who songs ever IMO.

    I forgot about School of Rock! Yes, wonderful flick. I'm also a Jack Black fan and the movie's both sweet and fun.

    Have heard good things about Once. It's hit cable now so I really have no excuse not to record it. So many movies, so little time!

    Thanks for jumping in!


  5. Hey Jo!

    Oh, the Beatles were so adorable. What's amazing sometimes is to look back and see how grown-up they appeared considering their age. Hard to remember that George celebrated his 21st birthday during Beatlemania!

    High Fidelity! Ah, John Cusack. Great flick. *sigh*

    Yes, Almost Famous hearkens back to a time long gone now. Fascinating to peek back and see how the music industry used to be, eh?

    Thanks, my dear!


  6. Hello Deb!

    Welcome to Pop Culture Divas... *grin*

    Hah, the songs of Spinal Tap rocked! *laughs* 'Big Bottom' is truly a favorite. And yeah, the Stonehenge scene cracks me up to this day.

    Tom Everett Scott was such a cutie in that movie! That scene with his idol Paxton was the best.

    "You are my biggest fan," Tom says with martini breath. *grin* Hilarious! Of course, Tom Hanks's wife plays the sexy cocktail waitress chatting up the drunken "Shades". *wink*

    The Rocker is hilarious and somewhat intense at times but in some ways it's like School of Rock. Only because part of the film is about Rainn's journey and the other part is about the kids in his new band. I was surprised to like it as much as I did.



  7. Oh, Hard Days Night...Love, love, love it! Channel surfing one Sunday I came across it and happily sang my way through it--luckily DH wasn't in the room as I sing horribly.

    Sorry but I'm one of those that diliked That Thing You Do...over and over...

    School of Rock--loved it! Also like Jesus Christ Superstar.


  8. Well, Chiron, sweetheart, you probably don't remember Bill Haley and the Comets, now, do you? He and his band were the real front runners.Elvis is still the King, not to take anything away from Michael, but Elvis really started it all. If you watch Elvis dance--the one with Ann Margaret--you'll see a little of Michael Jackson--but remember, Elvis did it first.this post was so much fun, all the YouTuve videos--it took me fifteen minutes to sit here and read everything and watch the videos. You worked relaly hard on this--more people should see it than those replying on this blog. Thanks for the memories--Celia

  9. Hi Chiron! I love School of Rock and hubby is die hard Who fan, so I've seen Tommy. My mom raised me on Elvis, so I've enjoyed all his flicks. And this is not really a rock band movie, but I always think of Footloose in the cool rock and roll department of music versus religion. It's one of my all time favorites, probably because when it was released, I was seventeen and finding way more meaning in rock and roll than my Bible.


  10. Chiron, Spinal Tap was hilarious, and I loved Almost Famous (fell in love with Billy Crudup), but one of my fave rock movies is The Committments. Irish band gets together to sing Wilson Pickett and Aretha and other soul artists - sh*t happens and they fall apart - but what fun and great music getting there.

  11. Not being a big music fan, I've only seen a few of these movies. Of course, I've seen all the Elvis movies, I think. We are right up the road from Fort Hood where Elvis was stationed in the 50s. He spent many hours here with one particular family who befriended him and gave him a place to stay and have fun without being hasseled by the public. The man's wife fixed all his favorite foods. The couple's daughter still lives here and is my cousin's neighbor. She has loads of wonderful memories.

    Fun post!


  12. Hey Ree!

    What Beatles fan can resist singing along with A Hard Day's Night? Great movie and I love it more every time I see it. The phrase "A Hard Day's Night" actually came from Ringo who mumbled the comment after a long gig. *grin*

    Jesus Christ Superstar really had some wonderful songs, didn't it? Not exactly a rock movie but right up there with the best musicals ever.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!!


  13. Hi Celia!

    Thanks so much! What a lovely thing to hear. *smile*

    Ah yes, Bill Haley really did kick things off. Elvis was the first true King, of course. Though some of his greatest hits were remakes of popular tunes already recorded by black artists. Mama Thornton did Hound Dog. The Beatles covered Motown artists. Always interesting when genres get crossed, really makes for some smashing music!

    I love watching Jackie Wilson dance too. Michael was a big fan of Jackie and wanted to be just like him! So many of his dance moves came from both Jackie and Elvis. Very cool!

    I'm so glad you stopped by, Celia!


  14. Hi there, Misty!

    Oh yeah, Footloose! Funny, when I think of the movie, I now always see Romy and Michelle singing to the song. Right before their car conks out. Hah! *snort*

    Funny about the bible comment. I still remember when there was such a flap about Lennon saying the same type of thing. Ironic because for me spirituality is so linked to the joy we feel with music. Maybe that's why I love gospel so much!

    Thanks for visiting, Misty!


  15. Hello Carol!!

    Oh, YEAH, The Commitments! Wow, it's been a long time. I'd forgotten about that one. What a great flick that was. Especially with my penchant for soul music. That definitely belongs on the list.

    And wasn't Billy to die for in Almost Famous? *fans self*

    Of course, Spinal Tap is number one for laughs. OMG the scene where Harry Shearer sets off the scanner at the airport kills me every time!

    Thanks for jumping in!


  16. Wow, Linda, that's Too Cool! Talk about a brush with fame. I bet Elvis enjoyed the hospitality without the fuss, especially during those times. How lovely to have all those memories too as the years go by.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!


  17. Linda LaRoque - Hey, I was born at Fort Hood! Coolio.

    Chiron - I've seen Jailhouse Rock (love it,) This is Spinal Tap ('Talk about mud flaps, my girl's got 'em',) That Thing You Do (can't resist it,) and A Hard Day's Night (Beatles Forever!)

    I really enjoy Rainn Wilson's The Office character, so I'm sure I'd love The Rocker. Thanks for the head's up.

  18. Chiron,

    After seeing the old Jailhouse Rock with Elvis dancing I can see where Michael got some of his dance moves.

    I liked Blue Hawaii for one of the old Elvis movies. After all it was a romance. Smile.

  19. Lots of these are my favs...just love School of Rock also, even though it's more for kids.

    Great blog, Chiron!

    A Fan,

  20. Chiron, I'm a day late but I simply cannot miss one of your posts. Glad I didn't.

    I'd forgotten Eddie and the Cruisers! I see That Thing You Do every time it comes on. Though sorry to say never cared for the Beatles and not a big Elvis fan but do like a couple of his songs.

    Thanks for the memory.

  21. Hey Julia!

    Nice to see we share so many of the same tastes. If you like Rainn as Dwight, you'll be in stitches with him as The Rocker. Just remember this phrase--The Naked Drummer. When you do a spit take, think of me. *grin*


  22. Hi Sandy,

    Yes, I do think that MJ studied Elvis, and of course, Jackie Wilson who was one of his early idols.

    When I was a kid I loved all the Elvis movies. He was amazing.

    Thanks for visiting!


  23. Hi J!

    It's been ages since I've seen Eddie! I'm so into That Thing You Do I can quote some of the lines (to my hubby's chagrin).

    I'm so glad you joined in!!


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