Billboard senior correspondent Phill Gallo (left) interviewing Director David Chase following a screening of his new film "Not Fade Away" at the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Music Conference. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Most filmmakers who'd dare to set their movie during the rock n' roll revolution of the late '60s are likely to find themselves in trouble when it comes time to clear all of that Beatles and Stones music. But when you've got "Little" Steven Van Zandt signed on as an executive producer, pulling together (and making the right deals) for all the songs becomes simpler.
That was one of the revelations dished out by writer/director David Chase at a special screening and Q&A for his forthcoming film-directorial debut, "Not Fade Away," on Tuesday night, which kicked off this week's Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference. Answering questions from an intimate audience and Billboard's own Phil Gallo (who moderated) at the Paramount Theater on the historic Paramount Pictures lot, the mastermind behind "The Sopranos" said the involvement of the E Street Band guitarist and former Silvio Dante was crucial with clearing the tunes.
Among other duties, Van Zandt also lent some of his bandmates to create the sound of the movie's fictional band. "The guys that laid down the instrumental tracks were basically The E Street Band," Chase explained. "It was (E Street drummer) Max Weinberg, (E Street bassist) Garry Tallent and a guitar player, Bobby Bandiera, who plays with Bon Jovi."
"Not Fade Away" is the fictional tale of suburban New Jersey teen rockers trying to make it. There's an early scene featuring a young Mick and Keith talking about R&B records on a train, before the film dives headlong into the less glamorous story of Douglas (John Magaro) and his erstwhile bandmates. Chase said he drew many of the film's themes from his own life, including the main character's tense relationship with his father, played by "Sopranos" veteran James Gandolfini.
The movie is filled with eye candy for gear heads (hello, Gretsch! Hello, Rickenbacker!) and "Mad Men"-loving costume-philes alike. Wallich's Music City, which sold records on the corner of Sunset and Vine from 1940 to 1978, makes an appearance. The film touches on Kennedy, Vietnam, Civil Rights and other familiar themes of the era, but all through the lens of one young man's search for identity, meaning and security through his family, his band, his girl and ultimately, the tunes.
From left: music supervisor Gary Calmer, Guild of Music Supervisors president Maureen Crowe, Paramount Pictures music president Randy Spendlove and Phil Gallo (Photo: Arnold Turner)
The movie is for "everyone who wanted to be a rock star and tried for 15 minutes" -- or 15 years -- "and didn't make it," said the 67-year-old television veteran, who has also written and produced shows like "Northern Exposure" and "The Rockford Files."
The fictional group plays mostly covers in the movie, save for one original, which helped save the film in real life. "I was writing the script and I was going to quit because it wasn't really coming together for me," Chase admitted. "Then I got this demo from Steven with this song 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre.' And I thought it was a really, really great song. I thought, 'You know what? Rock n' roll is really terrific stuff. You've got to keep working at this. Don't let it go.'"
"Not Fade Away" is bursting with rock n' roll, blues and '60s pop culture. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" plays a pivotal role in one scene. "Satisfaction" opens the movie, kicking in right in time to the staccato beat of the Emergency Broadcast System.
From left: Phil Gallo, Billboard editorial director Bill Werde and director David Chase (Photo: Arnold Turner)
"That's a nuclear war test pattern. I was reading Pete Townshend's autobiography today and he said that his huge, monster guitar sound came from the fear of nuclear war," Chase said. "That's the way that I felt at that time. People said, 'Rock n' roll is such noise!' Well, it was a noisy world. That's what Townshend says, too. That's what I was trying to convey."
Billboard.biz will have much more from the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference, which continues through Thursday.