Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Artists Whose Stories Beg for a Biopic (Pt. 1)

1.  Fleetwood Mac - I'm surprised that a major Hollywood biopic hasn't been made about one of the world's biggest-ever selling acts, whose story behind Rumours is tailor-made for the soaps - the two couples breaking up at the same time, with the romantic tensiions fueling their best-ever set of songs that catapulted them to superstardom with the-then biggest-selling LP of all time.  And the drummer slept with both Stevie and Christine.  Lucky freakishly tall dude.  I suppose what's holding them back is that they're all still alive.  But hey - '70s rock superstars!  One word:  c-c-c-cocaine!  Scarface mountains of it.

2.  Lynyrd Skynyrd - These guys were gen-u-wine Huck Finn archetypes from Deliverance country, with Ronnie Van Zandt not so much a bandleader as a boxing referee constantly being called to service backstage to sort out fistfights between the members.  The story of how rednecks in the 1970s South came to embrace long-haired hippie rock'n'roll.  And the horrific plane crash punctuates a dramatic career arch.  The aftermath of the survivors would be an interesting story, too, but perhaps too dark and depressing (I'm looking at you, Artimus "Pedo" Pyle).

3.  Robert Johnson - Hellhound on my trail, sold my soul to the devil to play the blues, died from drinking poison whiskey from messing round with another man's woman.  Yes, they sort of made a movie about this called Crossroads, but come on - Ralph Macchio guitar dueling with Steve Vai?  They can do better than that.

4.  The Stranglers - Dark and sleazy does it every time.  This one's got it all:  punk, karate, hard drugs, wifebeating, prison sentences, flatmates getting raped, dangling journalists from the Eiffel Tower, taking on the Clash and Sex Pistols singlehandedly in a bar brawl, strippers onstage at a major rock festival (and the bass player joining in the naked fun), acid-damaged UFO conspiracy theories, the European Union, ice cream vans.  Poetic license would have to be taken by having Hugh immediately quit the band after being beaten up backstage by JJ Burnel, instead of hanging around for a few years to provide a shitty album as his finale.  And to be an honest portrait it's definitely got to be at least NC-17.  

5.  Badfinger - Depressing?  Um, yes, which is why this movie shall never be made.  Hollywood demands a happy ending and there's no way the two main frontmen committing suicide (several years apart) is going to give filmgoers that coda.  But a compelling story of how talented musicians get fucked over by the biz - that it is.  Plus there's the Beatles connection.

6.  Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - Speaking of drugs, how could a story involving David Crosby, Stephen "Steel Nose" Stills, Neil "Airbrushed Cokebooger" Young, and um, that other dude, not be interesting?  And personality clashes galore with those four massive egos in the room!  The story even has a perfect opening scene, with Neil and Stephen running into each other on a traffic-jammed LA freeway as one of them travels cross-country to find the other and form a band.  (I forget which)  Five decades in which we witness the hippie generation growing older, and four men drop or maintain friendships.

7.  The Byrds - Surprisingly, the biggest-selling American rock band that has not had a major film made about them (the Beach Boys and the Doors and the Temptations all have theirs; CCR's story simply isn't all that interesting).  Watch as Roger McGuinn struggles to maintain a band named The Byrds as every single original member quits in succession!  Feel Gene Clark's fear of flying!  Catch trust-fund hippie Gram Parsons invent country-rock!  Weep as the original lineup reconvenes in the mid-'70s only to sabotage their comeback by saving all of their best songs for their solo albums!

8.  The Velvet Undergound - Maybe this shouldn't count.  Nico has her own film about that vapid, uninteresting, and highly dislikable racist Aryan bitch (an objective description), and there are several films that deal tangentially with the Velvets scene; but there's not a film directly about the band itself.  The backdrop of Andy Warhol's Factory and his circus of freaks alone makes such a film a must-make.

9.  Jefferson Airplane - I view this as a rom-com in which our heroine, Grace Slick, proceeds to fuck every guy in the band in her quest for true love.

10.  Pink Floyd - Other than the fact that the former members of Pink Floyd are all as bitter and litigious as hell (and rich enough to back it up), I can't see why infamous history of constant feuding can't make for great entertainment.  With the sad, slow decline of a musical genius descending into drug-fueled insanity.  Shine on, you crazy, bitter old diamonds.  You can't be sued for defaming a dead person, so maybe then this flick shall be made.

P.S.  The Band don't count because of The Last Waltz.

This has more or less turned out to be the boomer edition of this list - tune in next week (or the next couple days, whenever) for the post-punk candidates.  And just to get things straight, I mean major Hollywood biopic:  all of these bands have videotape releases of grainy interviews and concert footage, but who cares except for fanboys?  Pink Floyd almost don't count because of The Wall, but then I decided that rock operas shouldn't count, either.  Appearing in Woodstock: The Movie doesn't count, either.  No, I want Anne Hathaway or some other foxily vampish brunette to play the role of Grace Slick - that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. 

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