Even if you never get around to seeing the movie, the soundtrack to Not Fade Away is a keeper, available at iTunes and all other digital download stores.
Ironically, the song the movie title is taken from is not on the record. The Stones do check in with “Tell Me” and “Parachute Woman,” but it seems ridiculous not to have their version of the Buddy Holly classic song present.
Director, writer and Sopranos creator David Chase said in an NPR interview that he did the project because he felt that his youthful garage band that he was the drummer and lead singer for had never gotten the recognition it deserved, even though all they did was play in the basement for four years and only had one live gig.
Steven Van Zandt, who Chase chose as his music producer for the film, said he had “complete tunnel vision when it comes to rock and roll,” which is why he relates to the ‘60s character in the film. From conversations they had while working together on the Sopranos, Chase said that since all they talked about on and off set was ‘60s music, Van Zandt’s involvement as “the musical heart and soul” of the project was a logical outgrowth of those conversations.
Scattered in with classic ‘60s cuts from artists as diverse as James Brown, Elmore James and the Sex Pistols are covers of tunes by the Stones, Dylan, Bo Diddley and ‘60s surf rockers the Chantays recorded by a band called The Twylight Zones. That band features the principal actors in the film, John Magaro and Jack Huston, backed by Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, and Bobby Bandiera. Van Zandt had the actors in a recording studio 5-6 hours day seven days a week for months. “They were a fully functioning band before the cameras rolled and they were able to sing, not actors pretending to sing,” Van Zandt said in an NPR interview. Zan Zandt penned “St Valentine’s Day Massacre,” the other six tunes on the soundtrack are covers.
Highlights are Johnny Burnette's hillbilly hiccup version of “Train Kept a Rollin',” Bo Diddley's snaky, shimmery, self-promoting “Bo Diddley,” the psychedelic glitter of the Stones “Parachute Woman,” and Elmore James screamin' blues tutorial, “Dust My Broom.” Other standouts include Van Morrison's stark, tubercular blues, “TB Sheets,” The Sex Pistols minimalistic mess of “Road Runner,” the jangle pop of Van Zandt's cover band original “St Valentine's Day Massacre.” and Tracey Nelson's magnificent vocal on Mother Earth's “Down So Low.”
The Twylight Zones' covers of Diddley and Burnett are technically perfect, but that's the problem, especially when placed back to back. If you ain't gonna improvise on a perfect original,what's the point?
But that's just a minor glitch. Overall, you won't find a better mismatched collection of classic rock, show tunes and blues that seems to work against all odds. That's a pretty good accomplishment for any compilation, an amazing feat for a movie, and a nice keepsake for those of us for whom this music is the soundtrack of our lives.
By Grant Britt