Saturday, June 8, 2013

“Fandango,” by Pat Metheny, Alan Silvestri, and various artists

A first for this blog, and perhaps a first for any album review: I’m writing about an album that, technically, doesn’t exist. Also a first for this blog, Fandango is not a formal album by one particular artist, which is an underlying theme for this blog, but a compilation of many musicians. That said, it’s one of the best albums that never was from one of the most underrated films of the last few decades, so I’m including it, here. Fandango is a 1985 film, starring Kevin Costner in one of his first leading roles and directed by Kevin Reynolds, who would go on to work with Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and the ill-fated, Waterworld (1995). But in 1981, Reynolds was a budding, student filmmaker, whose graduate student film, Proof, about the antics of his fraternity at Baylor University, caught the attention of one, Stephen Spielberg, who was impressed enough to offer financial backing for a feature-length film. Reynold’s graduate student short film became Fandango, one in a line of hundreds of archetypal, road trip/coming-of-age films. This one is set in the U.S. Vietnam era, 1971, and it follows the “farewell fandango” of “The Groovers,” a group of college friends, two of whom had just received notice that their draft deferral had expired, requiring them to report for military duty in the Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia conflicts.

While the movie played all of two weeks in a limited number of theaters across the country, cable television and late-night syndication have given the film an extended shelf life, and it has garnered a dedicated cult following in the almost 30 years that have passed since its release. And deservedly so. It’s a cool movie. Regarding the rumored release of an official soundtrack, some “super fans” of the film report owning a uber-obscure cassette soundtrack of the film and claim the album had limited release in conjunction with the movie decades ago, but most seem to concur that the soundtrack for Fandango was never released as an actual album. And that’s a pity, since the music used in the film perfectly captures the sadness, angst, frustration, fear, and excitement of the five central characters, each facing vastly different, post-college fates.

The film includes classic rock tracks of the era by Cream, Elton John, Carole King, Classics IV, Blind Faith, and Steppenwolf, as well as perfectly fitting mood pieces by the legendary Los Lobos and the obscure, Milton Brown and the Brownies. These songs are interspersed with Alan Silvestri’s (Forrest Gump, Back To The Future, Cast Away, The Avengers, etc.) remarkably descriptive film score and three Pat Metheny contributions: the gentle piano ballad, “September Fifteenth,” an affectionate tribute to Bill Evans, who died during the song’s recording, “It’s For You,” which beautifully framed the wedding dance scene with Costner and Suzy Amis, which is the emotional centerpiece of the movie, and the heartbreaking, “Farmer’s Trust, (5:50 mark)” which sets the mood for the tender dénouement of the film. Pretty. Poignant. Perfect. Silvestri’s imaginative score is also, sadly, not widely available, save for a few Fandango songs being included on the end of the now-out-of-print soundtrack for the even more obscure, 1994 film, Blown Away.

That factoid and much of the other information about this exceptional, non-existent album was gleaned from an outstanding Fandango film fan site, which also suggests a soundtrack song list, but I’ve compiled my own, wonky iteration, here:

  1. Cream, “Badge”
  2. Elton John, “Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting”
  3. Los Lobos, “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio”
  4. Carole King, “It's Too Late”
  5. Classics IV, “Spooky”
  6. Alan Silvestri, “Smooth Talk”
  7. Alan Silvestri, “The Other Side Of Madness”
  8. Alan Silvestri, “Acknowledgement”
  9. Steppenwolf, “Born To Be Wild”
  10. Milton Brown And The Brownies, “Taking Off”
  11. Pat Metheny And Lyle Mays, “September Fifteenth”
  12. Pat Metheny And Lyle Mays, “It's For You”
  13. Pat Metheny, “Farmer's Trust”
  14. Blind Faith, “Can't Find My Way Home”
I think what strikes me most about the songs Reynolds used for Fandango is the way, when taken together, they perfectly recreate the zeitgeist of that particular point in time for many White people in the United States: the end of the 1960’s and the beginning of the 1970’s. The music, when listened to as a piece, feels like that tumultuous era and conjures the thoughts and feelings connected to that moment of significant, political unrest and social upheaval, that moment of heartbreaking war and fear, that moment of great expectations and personal freedom. And Reynold’s classic movie does the same; it’s worth seeking out. Afterwards, you’ll need the above song listing (and a little internet ingenuity) to complete your own groovy soundtrack. 

“Here’s to us and to what we were.” 

“And what we’ll be...” 

2 comments:

  1. An interesting read - its great to see this movie still getting some love so many years after the event, I had an old VHS copy of the film I must have played 50 times :)

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  2. Thanks for the note. I lost count of how many friends I screened this movie for during college (I have two VHS copies!). All of them loved it. Interesting side note: I just discovered the full Silvestri score was, indeed, released on CD in 2013. Watch this blog for an update, and thanks for reading.

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