In my adolescent mind, I made the mistake of thinking the movie must be as good as the music that went along with it. This was a big mistake. Reading Wikipedia, I learned the film was made by a man dubbed “the new Ed Wood” who produced a movie called “Bulletface” and later got into legal trouble in a failed movie deal with Guam.
Funny thing is, watching the video now, you can see why I made this mistake. The song is so good it makes an obviously kitschy B-movie look almost like “At Close Range” mixed with “The Breakfast Club.” A stretch maybe but remember I was 14 years old.
I mean, listen to that bassline! There’s something so dark, menacing, and noir-ish about it that would lend itself well to any movie.The lyrics were also mysterious. The incident he is describing is a bad situation but it’s unclear what exactly happened.
Another thing that helped was the un-glamorous look of the entire band. This was as far from LA hair bands as you were going to get. Just a couple of kids in leather jackets from New Jersey who let the music speak for itself. The drummer wore glasses for God’s sake. The guitarist looked like he was comfortable having a couple beers at the local bowling alley. The lead singer wasn’t exactly dashing. If I were in charge of who did what, I’d put him as the bassist in the background.
But it lent an authenticity to the lyrics they sang. When a not-so-great-looking lead singer sang:
“I used to travel in the shadows
And I never found the nerve to try and walk up to you”
“I’ll do anything I have to do
Just to win the love of a girl like you, a girl like you”
coming from him, it was a believable tale. And it resonated among people who felt the way he did. It certainly did with skinny, insecure high school me.
But there was something dark and edgy to the music they sang. The lyrics were plaintive and sincere but vaguely unsettling, like an Edward Hopper painting. In my mind it was music that would go well with drinking bourbon and smoking cigarettes in a dive bar.
The Smithereens will be playing in my hometown Londonderry on Friday the 13th. I’m looking forward to seeing them finally after all these years.