Friday, May 02, 2003

Symbiosis, or fractals on movies and music

The other night on one of those "Behind the Music" shows, to which I'm unapologetically addicted and will only turn away from when my wife mumbles a sour wish that I preferred sports (I'm missing the sports gene entirely - I can see why cats and dogs chase balls, but I have no idea why people do, or care to watch other people chase them), I discovered that Aerosmith wrote the lyrics to "Walk This Way" after they saw that Marty Feldman gag in Young Frankenstein. How cool is that?!

I get extreme jollies from that kind of stuff. As a kid, when other kids were sorting baseball cards or reading stats on some football team, I was devouring the The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, which included Pete Frame's marvelous rock family trees (the third page on this Amazon "Look Inside" sample shows one). The Rock Family Trees traced which members were in which bands for specific albums and tours, and were festooned with little rock trivia gems among the branches. Through these things some interesting details come out, such as the Eagles, Poco, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, and Linda Ronstadt were more or less one big band behind the scenes, as were Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.

I am the Cliff Claven of rock trivia.

So, the other day I was grooving along to the Flaming Lip's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (like someone said in the comments of another blog recently, it's like audio crack), and I wondered why "pink" robots? Well, in two great sci-fi movies, The Matrix and Bladerunner, the robots were pink, mostly. (And in The Matrix they weren't technically robots, but software bots, so let's not quibble.) (And I think they're always pink because robots equate to slaves, and having someone black in those roles would probably too close to the bone for many.) Thus, I concluded, those movies are probably the influence or source inspiration for Yoshimi. I listened closely to the lyrics after that revelation, and I'm pretty sure I'm right. (If you follow the link above, you can preview the entire album and the lyrics on their site. What do you think? Is Yoshimi the red-headed step-child of Bladerunner or what?)

That got all up in my process, so I wondered about other albums that were probably inspired by movies, other than the obvious Heartlight ("Turn on your heartlight!" -- {full body shudder}) by Neil Diamond, his ode to E.T The Extraterrestrial. Went pouring through my copious CD racks and nothing stood out at me. The only other one I thought of was White Zombie's "More Human than Human", which was probably also inspired by the plight of the androids in Bladerunner.

TLD: "More Human than Human" is a great song, but I don't own that White Zombie album, because after I had a look at my brother-in-law's copy, I decided I didn't want to give my money to someone who would include a picture of a nun about to have sex with the devil in the cover art. Some folks claim it's just cartoon satanism, done for the shock value, don't get your undies in a bunch already. No. It just shows how utterly some people misunderstand the religious experience. Could anyone find humor or satire in that same graphic if the nun were replaced by a picture of their mother? I doubt it. MHTH is still a great song though. Steal it off the web somewhere. I recently noticed that you can hear either pudenda slapping together or the bed creaking during the sounds of ecstasy in the intro before that great guitar riff explodes, making it yet another song I can't play around the house anymore for fear of having to explain it to my young daughter who misses nothing. ;)

So, I went the other direction and tried to think of movies that had come from songs. That was easier. R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" inspired Independence Day, and appears front and center in the movie.

David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona and songs inspired The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. It has a scene where the aliens make love, and it looks like someone slipped some acid into the coffee one morning at the dairy processing plant and everyone became ballerinas in the holding tanks for a short, wasted while. That visual makes you glad they didn't provide one for the mating ritual Kevin Spacy character's Prot describes in K-PAX where the mating participants feel like they've been kicked in the balls and have fallen into a cesspool rotten with floating dead skunks, or something like that. Sounds like fun, eh?

Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone came from the song of the same name by the Police. What a great near miss of a sci-fi flick. It would have been great except for the fact that Stallone was in his "I get a cool car out of the deal" phase. I think for something like four of his movies in a row there was THE SCENE where Stallone meets, drives in on, or blows up a totally kewl car, dude. In Demolition Man, Stallone finds a cherried-out, freshly waxed rod in the underground habitrail of the good guys who are so poor they can't afford to bathe or buy Top Ramen. But the rest of the movie is a hoot. One of the best scenes has Stallone carrying an eight-year-old girl away from the smoking wreckage of a building, and a stupid reporter trails along beside him, asking this question: "How can you justify destroying a seven-million-dollar mini-mall to rescue a girl whose ransom was only $25,000?" To which the little girl responds, "Fuck you, lady!" I fall off the couch howling every time. (Oddly, it's not as funny when Diane Sawyer asks a question of the same caliber while interviewing the Dixie Chicks, for some reason.)

Finally, it hit me.

Superman. The all-time winner for cross-pollination. Comics. Movies. Novels. Songs. Frequent Seinfeld in-joke. Poems. Meme. Archetype. Center of many atheist philosophies. One of the five cornerstones of American culture that have become universal along with Star Trek, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz (the movie, not the books), and Gone with the Wind. You make a reference to any of these anywhere in the world and everyone will get it. I made a CD recently of rock/pop songs called / that are about / that mention Superman, and I was able to fill the entire 70 minutes. My fave is the recent "Superman" by Five for Fighting. Men weren't meant to ride with clouds between their knees, indeed.

Thank you for joining me in this little Cliff Claven geek-out fanboy moment.

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