Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/FilmMagicAs a former rock journalist, film director Cameron Crowe makes sure music is a key component to his movies. Never mind the fact that Almost Famous is about rock 'n' roll. Crowe's latest is We Bought A Zoo, with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and features the work of Jonsi, a member of the Icelandic group, Sigur Ros. Even if you don't wish to watch the movies, you should listen to them!
Let's recount ten musicians who have been prominently featured in the works of Cameron Crowe. (For the record, Crowe wrote Fast Times At Ridgemont High but did not direct it -- that was Amy Heckerling.)
10) Sigur Ros: Rather than settle for some anonymous ethereal mood music, Crowe signed up Iceland's finest to provide the romance to the best film ever made about Zoo-buying. My only fear? Icelandic robots take over the world and force us to worship St. Bjork.
9) Red House Painters: Mark Kozelek portrayed the bass player in Stillwater, infamously told Tom Cruise to fix his face, contributed a track to the Vanilla Sky soundtrack and released vinyl editions of his albums through Crowe's record label, Vinyl Films. Crowe calls his website 'the uncool,' but if that were true he'd be releasing Hootie and the Blowfish albums.
8) Radiohead: A lot of people have been confused by the music of Radiohead and even more people were confused by Vanilla Sky. Put the two together and you've got an enigma wrapped in a riddle, covered in guitar distortion and arthouse madness.
7) Nancy Wilson: It was a bummer to hear that Crowe and wife Nancy Wilson split up in 2010. They'd always seemed so permanent in a music/film world that isn't known for such things. But 24 years of marriage and then some is still something to wonder at. Question now is whether Ms. Wilson will be contributing to future Crowe projects the way she gave us "Fever Dog" (she wrote it for Stillwater), The Lovemongers and the "beautiful girl in Corvette."
6) Elton John: The "Tiny Dancer" segment in Almost Famous has become so legendary that it's positively legendary. Who would have expected a "Tiny Dancer" renaissance? Crowe also slipped The Seeds, Thunderclap Newman and Clarence Carter onto the soundtrack. And choosing Led Zeppelin's "That's The Way"? I imagine Crowe sitting back, savoring these moments and thinking "Next, I will turn the world over to Throbbing Gristle."
5) Bruce Springsteen: Jerry Maguire is the least musical of Crowe's films, focusing as it does on a sports agent, a football player and Renee Zellweger. But Bruce Springsteen tucked "Secret Garden" into the jacket lining, while the Eagles' Glenn Frey played Dennis Wilburn and Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell worked at the copy shop. Crowe also slipped in Rickie Lee Jones, The Replacements, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, The Who, Nirvana, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. It almost makes you wish he didn't write any dialogue. I wish all sports movies had music this good.
4) The Replacements (Paul Westerberg): The Replacements could be heard in Say Anything, but it was Singles where Crowe turned the spotlight onto Paul Westerberg. Pretty funny considering the movie primarily focused on young people-musicians from the great Pacific Northwest. But Minnesota's close enough for rock.
3) My Morning Jacket: Appearing in the film Elizabethtown as Ruckus, My Morning Jacket prove Crowe's ears still work after all these years. While the movie received mixed reviews, no one complained about the music. Nor should they.
2) Pearl Jam: Crowe's love for PJ was never a secret. But with Pearl Jam Twenty, he pays tribute to the band that has sustained his love and interest for two decades. Now if we could only interest Mr. Crowe into documenting the ups and downs of American Music Club, who opened for Pearl Jam back in the early 1990s. (You can see why I am not anyone's advisor.)
1) Peter Gabriel: Hoisting a boombox over your head was never more iconic than when it appeared in Say Anything with "In Your Eyes" blasting for all the neighborhood to hear. Had another director been in charge, we could've been stuck with Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is." Thank you, Cameron.