Friday, July 25, 2008

Rock & Roll Hindsight, Pt. 2 - WAYNE'S WORLD

Perhaps creator Mike Myers didn't know the effects his goofy characters of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar would have on the young lives of American kids, but Wayne's World - the movie and its supplemental soundtrack album - was a powerfully educational tool in the field of rock-n-roll-literacy for myself and countless others in the early '90s.

The movie, Wayne's World - starring Myers and fellow "Saturday Night Live" cast member, Dana Carvey - hit theater screens in the winter of 1992 and changed the way we'd all look at cable access and the town of Aurora, IL forever.  I, myself, was 11 years and 5 months old - just finishing up grade school - when this movie came out, but I vaguely knew the characters from my limited viewings of SNL in those days.  (Plus, the movie was a huge hit.  So everyone in the country became aware of the characters fairly quickly after that, anyway.)

Besides being two buddies in the suburban landscape who had their own cable access TV show - also called "Wayne's World" - the characters of Wayne and Garth centered their entire existence around one thing: Good Rock & Roll Music.  It wasn't often mentioned or discussed - it was just their way of life.  

"I think we'll go with a little Bohemian Rhapsody, gentlemen?" Wayne suggests, as he pops a cassette tape of the by-then-all-but-forgotten epic Queen hit into the tape deck of the Merthmobile, ("Good call!" replies Garth,) commencing with what is arguably the most famous head-banging scene in film history.  This moment in the film's title sequence brought the Queen record back to the U.S. Billboard Music Charts, topping out at #2 for a total of five weeks, for the first time in 17 years.

When Garth first sees his "dream girl," (played by Mrs. Dan Akroyd, herself - the lovely Donna Dixon,) he fantasizes about seducing her to the sensual rhythm and electrifying riffs of Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady - which was, for some of us, a first impression of the Guitar God's work.

When we first meet Wayne's love interest, Cassandra (Tia Carrere), she's fronting a rock band - Crucial Taunt - at "The Gasworks" ("an excellent heavy metal bar - always a babe-fest!") where the bouncer, Tiny, is played by rock legend, Meatloaf.  The band is first seen finishing up a cover of Hendrix's Fire, and when Wayne first catches sight of the Cantonese rock vixen, he's overcome with hearts and stars as Gary Wright's Dream Weaver plays in his head - another big hit for the soundtrack.  Wayne later tells Cassandra that her band "wails".  "You're Double Live Gonzo!  Intensities in 10 Cities! Live at Buddakan!" - all references to famous live albums by Ted Nugent (1978, 1981) and Cheap Trick (1978), respectively.  (A little-known fact. . . but now you know.)  Crucial Taunt later performs a rockin' cover of Sweet's Ballroom Blitz.  I can never hear this song again without thinking of this film.

Garth rocks out on the drums at the local music store, while Wayne buys his beloved Fender Stratocaster.  When Wayne attempts to play a song, he's stopped by the salesman who then refers him to a sign on the wall: "NO Stairway To Heaven".  I had no idea what this meant when I was 11, but as I became infatuated with the instrument myself, I became well versed on the importance of this rule.  "No Stairway!?  Denied!"

The boys go to an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee, where they get to go backstage, meet The Dark One himself, and are educated about how the city got its name.  "Actually, it's pronounced, 'Mee-lee-wah-kay'," Cooper tells them.  "Which is Algonquin for 'The Good Land'."

"I was not aware of that!"

The fashion of the main characters was subtle but powerful, as well.  Both wore stylistically-ripped light-faded jeans.  Wayne was in his trademark tight, black tee and his one-of-a-kind 'Wayne's World' ball cap, while Garth is always in one of his seemingly-endless streams of Aerosmith, Van Halen or Motley Crue shirts, usually adorned with a flannel, plaid-print shirt.  And both are never without their Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars; a fashion statement that echoed through the screen and eventually onto my very own feet.  The Chucks just "go" with everything.  The Chucks are Rock & Roll.

Wayne's World was directed by punk rock filmmaker/documentarian Penelope Spheeris, whose expertise in rock music films made her an ideal visionary for this project.  She seamlessly incorporated a world of rock music - and the love for and enjoyment of it - into a great story with hilarious characters, making the background element of "Rock & Roll" an even more profound and solid presence.

The soundtrack enhanced the existence of a lot of music I hadn't noticed much initially in the film, like Cinderella's Hot And Bothered, the Bulletboys' cover of Montrose's Rock Candy, and Eric Clapton's Lovin' Your Lovin'.  Seemingly unknown rockers like Rhino Bucket's Ride With Yourself and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' b-side Sikamikanico, are brought to life with extra vindication by the fun-lovin', hard-rockin' duo.  Further education was driven home with the inclusion of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted Black Sabbath track Time Machine, and Cooper's Feed My Frankenstein.  And finally, we're given an excellent rockin' version of the Wayne's World Theme Song, written by Myers and legendary SNL Band leader, G.E. Smith.

I don't think the creative minds behind this film had any idea about the influence their little picture would have on me or kids my age, but it was a strong foothold and a huge launching pad for my own odyssey of musical exploration that would come with my teenage years.  Thanks to Mike, Dana and Penelope!

Party on, Wayne!  Party on, Garth!

1 comment:

Schwartzilla said...

EPIC movie!! Thanks for bringing back the memories.

Bohemian Rhapsody still lives on...