This week marks 20 years since Todd Haynes’ shimmering tribute to all things glam rock, Velvet Goldmine, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard, the movie told the story (loosely based on David Bowie, Iggy Pop and their fellow ’70s-era glam rockers) of the rise and fall of a dazzling fictional rock star Brian Slade (stage persona Maxwell Demon).
Not only was Velvet Goldmine two hours of glitter, androgyny and an enthralling storyline peppered with enough Oscar Wilde quotes to make any Dorian Gray fan melt with excitement, but there were — as to be expected — some killer music moments. The soundtrack itself served as the ideal beginner’s guide for anyone looking to explore everything that era had to offer, featuring music from the likes of Brian Eno, T. Rex, New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Lou Reed and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.
Here is a look at some of the most memorable, outrageous and beautiful music moments from Velvet Goldmine.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers Shocks With Shudder to Think’s “The Ballad of Maxwell Demon”
This song, written specifically for the film by Shudder to Think and inspired by Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and “All the Young Dudes,” is worthy of a mention itself, but the accompanying scene is one of Velvet Goldmine’s cinematic highlights. Frankly, words can’t express how truly bizarre it is when Rhys Meyers transforms into a blueish-green alien-like creature who fornicates with a couple of blow-up dolls. Glam rock was all about the shock factor, and this scene delivered just that.
Ewan McGregor Channels Iggy Pop With “TV Eye” & “Gimme Danger”
It’s easy to forget that the character of Curt Wild — loosely modeled after Iggy Pop — is played by Ewan McGregor, since he encapsulates everything there is to love about the shirtless icon. When Wild makes his first appearance in the film, singing “TV Eye,” he shows up on stage in leather pants, making lewd gestures with a glitter shaker, getting very naked and crowd-surfing over a blaze of fire. He also sings a chilling rendition of “Gimme Danger,” writhing around on the stage floor with so much emotion that will leave just about anyone who watches covered in goosebumps wanting more.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers & Ewan McGregor Reenact an Iconic Moment
One of the most captivating aspects of the film’s storyline — the romance between Brian Slade and Curt Wild — hits its visual peak during this scene, with their joint onstage performance of Brian Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” as they re-create the memorable moment when Bowie simulated fellatio on Mick Ronson’s guitar in 1972.
Placebo Cover T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy”
Even though Placebo’s cameo was relatively small, it left an extremely lasting impact. While frontman Brian Molko is first introduced in the film’s opening scene, running among a crowd of fans excited to attend a Maxwell Demon Show — donning a massive top hat and feather boa — it’s his cover of the Marc Bolan classic that really amazes. If there were ever a modern-day embodiment of glam rock, it would be Placebo.
Maxwell Demon Says Goodbye With Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s “Tumbling Down”
Rhys Meyers’ vocals on this cover of Harley’s 1975 song add another layer of magic to an already exquisite song, but the performance itself is simply beautiful and bittersweet, as we bid adieu to Maxwell Demon.