Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Why Cameron Crowe Is Often Incorrect

I dig a lot of Cameron Crowe's work, such as Almost Famous, because it's hard not to appreciate the obvious love and energy he puts into any critical discussion regarding the vaunted beasts of classic rock. He's obviously sentimental about a certain (very limited) type of music, but he manages to sidestep Guitar World/Rolling Stone-type gratingness due to the sincerity of his beliefs and his ability to really meditate upon why particular components of something like, say, Tommy can remain so resonant. On the other hand, this guy has virtually nothing to say outside of classic rock, and like his fellow gatekeeper of boomerism Nick Hornby, he makes some particularly specious claims about the music he loves that reinforce every white classic rocker stereotype.

How untrue can a Cameron Crowe be, at times? He is perhaps at his worst when putting his obvious opinions into the mouths of characters that really should know better. Here's a famous moment from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, in a scene where Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) explains his five-point plan for getting chicks:
First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. "Oh, Debbie. Hi." Two, you always call the shots. "Kiss me. You won't regret it." Now three, act like wherever you are, that's the place to be. "Isn't this great?" Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It's a classy move. "Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice." And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.
Conservatively, I can think of approximately 1,000,000 albums (making that 2,000,000 sides) that would be more conducive to making out than Led Zeppelin IV. Every other Led Zeppelin album, for instance. I know that Mike Damone isn't supposed to be an expert on the matter, and Fast Times is generally about naive, often idiotic high school students with no conception of what sex is actually like, but let's be real. You think the sputtering stop/start riffery of "Black Dog" works as a conceivable entry point (so to speak)? To be followed by the ear-shattering tumult of "Rock & Roll," as unsexy a rhythm as has ever been in blues? To say nothing of the Tolkien blather of "The Battle of Evermore" ("The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath"--not a sentiment you want to put out there) and "Stairway To Heaven," renowned for 30 years as the ultimate slow dance libido killer (the book Kill Your Idols has an entry on Led Zeppelin IV that revolves around a "Stairway To Heaven"-caused premature ejaculation episode at a high school prom). The only conceivably worse choice Mike Damone could have made was side two of Led Zeppelin IV, at which point I'm pretty sure the one-two punch of "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Four Sticks" will have your special friend feeling nauseous.

There's another time and place for a great list of make out albums, but right now I want to focus on another Led Zeppelin album that Cameron Crowe would have been smart to pay more attention to. In Through The Out Door gets a lot of crap from Rolling Stone for its forays into disco and synth-pop (before the term existed, I think), but as a collection of songs it betters Led Zeppelin IV as a smartly-programmed make out album. "In The Evening" is a great rock monster of an opener with a groove that flows continuously (unlike "Black Dog") and some heavenly John Paul Jones keyboards. Particularly, the interval between 4:24 and 5:00 is textbook smoothness-before-the-storm. "South Bound Saurez" may sound a bit more jarring in this context at first, but Bonham's propulsive rhythms match the lovemaking impulse far better than the sustained shitfrenzy of "Rock & Roll." "Fool In The Rain" (aka the "is this seriously Led Zeppelin?" song) is basically a tarted-up old soul number at heart, fitting in perfectly if you want things to go further.

The following track "Hot Dog" doesn't really fit my thesis (embarrassingly so--check out that wacky rockabilly number here if you haven't heard it), so you might want to delete that from your playlist. But, once again talking in terms of sides, I believe In Through The Door's second side has everything Mike Damone claimed side one of Led Zeppelin IV had. First we have the mighty and proggy "Carouselambra," a raucous and danceable track that slows its tempo considerably at 4:23, morphing into a melody as slinky and sexy as any in rock music. And, at over ten minutes long, it allows you to get a lot done. "All My Love" has Jimmy Page's mournful guitar patterns and John Paul Jones' swooning-with-sentiment symphony of keyboards, making it a logical next step as long as you forget that it's about Robert Plant's dead son. The last song, "I'm Gonna Crawl," is possibly the most romantic thing Led Zeppelin ever did, belonging in the fine tradition of slow-burning blues and soul numbers. If things haven't progressed at this point, there's something wrong with you.

If you happen to be one of those people who continues to follow Mike Damone's advice, I really suggest trying out side two of In Through The Out Door instead. If your love life doesn't substantially improve, I will never write about music again.

1 comment:

  1. also, they are playing kasmir while in the car not zep4