Friday, August 17

AMERICAN GRAFFITI [1973]



HERC likes a few of the movies George Lucas has been involved with such as The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom, Willow, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, More American Graffiti, Howard The Duck, Star Wars and the 1973 movie featured on today's post.  It was turned down by half a dozen studios before being greenlit by Universal, which demanded final cut and suggested more than 100 alternate titles.  The film's producers even suggested changing the title to "Another Slow Night In Modesto" or "Rock Around The Block" but Lucas clung to his original title:
American Graffiti (Soundtrack): Five-Star Flashback

American Graffiti's tagline was "Where were you in '62?"  HERC wasn't born yet and his parents hadn't yet met but that doesn't keep him from enjoying this film.  HERC's father in particular is a fan of the movie and its soundtrack so HERC kind of liked it by osmosis.  The movie is a loose semiautobiographical look back at Lucas's own teenage years and it struck a chord with his fellow WWII Baby Boomers as well as many others.  Filmed in only 29 days all on location with a budget of less than $1 million dollars and a cast of mostly unknown actors working for scale, the film has gone on to gross more than $200 million dollars at the box office and through home video sales making it one of the most profitable movies of all-time.  (HERC has owned it on VHS, then DVD and now Blu-Ray so that's like $60 bucks right there.)



One of the first major motion pictures to feature "wall-to-wall" music, with songs heard in nearly every scene rather than a film score, American Graffiti was also part of a 1950s/1960s nostalgia craze that swept through American popular culture.  To his credit, Lucas realized that the songs would provide an instant intimate emotional connection with the viewer as well as set the mood of each scene. He also knew that there might be clearance and rights issues, so he drew up a list of more than 80 songs, including alternates for many scenes, that he'd like to feature in the movie.  In the end, he ended up spending 10% of the movie's budget securing music rights to an incredible 42 tracks but couldn't afford any of the Elvis Presley songs he desired.  On the simultaneously released double album soundtrack, there are only 41 tracks: the missing track was "Gee" by The Crows.
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Twenty years after the original soundtrack's release in 1973, it was remastered and issued as a two compact disc set.  In 1998, a single disc version featuring only half of the songs was released as Highlights from American Graffiti.  Also in 1998, the disc pictured above was issued with copies of the 25th Anniversary Edition VHS.  It featured four tracks from the soundtrack: "Rock Around The Clock", "Maybe Baby", "Come Go WIth Me" and "Johnny B. Goode".


Another brilliant decision of Lucas's was to include popular Sixties disc jockey Wolfman Jack as the DJ in the movie, linking many tracks and scenes throughout the film and on the soundtrack album through editing wizardry.  George Lucas had listened to him on the radio as a teen and gave the Wolfman a fraction of a "point" (the division of profits from a film) for his role in American Graffiti providing him with income for the rest of his life but he never stopped working.  Jack (real name: Robert Smith) became even more popular as the host of television's "The Midnight Special" and his own "Wolfman Jack Show", in addition to continuing his work on radio, before passing away in 1995.




Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids are the band performing in the sock hop scene in the film.  
They performed a couple of covers and the original song heard in this video.

The soundtrack sold so well, eventually earning triple platinum certification and reaching the Top 10 on the album charts, that the record company (MCA) issued two additional "inspired by American Graffiti" double album collections: More American Graffiti (1975) and American Graffiti Vol. III (1977).  The former included that missing track - The Crows "Gee" - from the movie's soundtrack.  


Wolfman Jack does appear on the original album above but not on the one below. [However, The Wolfman does not appear on either of the two playlists which are reconstructions not album rips.]

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The movie American Graffiti ends with a "whatever happened to" prologue for the (male) characters and the movie itself was re-released in 1978, with three previously cut scenes restored and a full stereo soundtrack, serving as a full-length 109 minute trailer for a sequel; not the last for a Lucas film.  Adjusted for inflation, the total box office for Graffiti puts it in the Top 50 All-Time.  

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More American Graffiti, the movie, came out almost six years to the day after American Graffiti but was nowhere as successful.  George Lucas was nowhere near as hands-on as he had been with the initial film and it shows.  It is a difficult film to watch because of the unusual filming and editing techniques but HERC likes it.  (Like the first film, he has owned it on VHS and now DVD.  No Blu-Ray has been announced.)  


The film takes place from 1964-1967 and features 33 songs from that period along with Wolfman Jack's dialogue - unlike the first film, only his voice appears in More American Graffiti.  The double soundtrack album featured two dozen of those tracks (and the Wolfman) but has yet to be released digitally.  Using several independent listings, HERC has assembled 42 songs associated with the movie (sorry, no Wolfman) to make the playlist below.

"MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Movie Soundtrack




HERC recommends



Today's post is dedicated to HERC's Dad: 
"Thanks for the music"

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