Movie Soundtrack Week: American Graffiti Spells Out The ’50s

First off, I need to thank all of you for the suggestions and contributions… The list is huge and will take us way past one week… so we’ll just see how it goes.  I’ll get to the ones that had some consensus for sure.

The beginning of my post on The Shins yesterday had me talking about movie soundtracks and two in particular, High Fidelity and Garden State.  I said that the best movie soundtracks feature songs that help tell the story of the film.  In fact, sometimes you can know what happens in a movie just from the soundtrack.  The music and songs certainly set the tone and help define the period… which is a good and bad thing.  Sometimes a music can date a film and take it out the realm of timelessness.  But obviously specificity is key when creating a period piece.

I have decided, at least for the first few soundtracks, to go in chronological order… and this is one I went to almost immediately, but surprisingly no one else suggested… Welcome to the music of the 1950s!

41 Original Hits From The Soundtrack Of American Graffiti

This 1973 coming of age film was co-written and directed by George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz.  Even though it was set in Modesto, CA in 1962, the music was almost all ’50s!

The soundtrack and movie are a music lovers paradise… from early Rock to Doo Wop… just spin this platter and hear Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Fleetwoods, The Platters, The Del-Vikings, The Flamingos and The Silhouettes.

The early ’60s artists include Del Shannon, The Beach Boys, The Regents, The Cleftones and Booker T. And The M.G.s.

American Graffiti was the precursor to Happy Days (1974), which dealt with life from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s, and in fact the opening song here, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” , was used as the Happy Days theme song for the first two seasons.

(Interesting note:  Bill Haley & His Comets recorded a new version in 1973 just for Happy Days, but when they went to syndication they went back to the old 1954 version.)

American Graffiti had an amazing cast list that included Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, and Harrison Ford.  It “is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation.”  It is also one of the most successful films of all time and was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar… I just hope that Lucas kid can do something after this.

Roger Ebert said it is “not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie’s success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant.”

Ahhh, but the music… The music is remarkable.  In fact, there were three albums total, all double discs… this one, More American Graffiti and American Graffiti Vol. III.  Supposedly all three are out of print… Hmmm…

“Lucas wrote every scene with a musical backdrop in mind.  The cost of licensing the 75 songs Lucas wanted was a contributing factor in United Artists’ ultimate rejection of the script, which the studio also felt was too experimental – “a musical montage with no characters.”

When Universal  came on board they “proposed a flat deal that offered every music publisher the same amount of money.”
Everyone agreed except RCA “with the consequence that Elvis Presley is conspicuous by his absence from the soundtrack.”
Other than the no-Elvis glitch, this soundtrack is a lesson in Rock n’ Roll… and such an amazing listen.
So put on your poodle skirt and bust out your saddle shoes and let’s do the hand jive.

1 Comment

Filed under Life... Plain and Not So Simple, Marc's Mixed Bag - A Little Of Everything, Marc's Playlist - Music That Moves Me, One Thumb - My Movie Reviews

One response to “Movie Soundtrack Week: American Graffiti Spells Out The ’50s

  1. Hmmm. A potential multi-disc box set would be great. I wonder if the licensing issues might be prohibitive. But maybe not, with the contraction going on in the music biz.

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