It always starts with the riff. It hits you like a bolt of lightning, slicing through all of your preconceived notions about what is possible in music. Suddenly, the line between rock star and neophyte disappears. It's all wide open: "If these jokers could do it, so could I!"
The Power of Garage Rock
That power is what writer-director David Chase -- best known as the creator of The Sopranos -- is attempting to convey with his feature film debut, Not Fade Away. It's a coming of age story about some kids from New Jersey getting swept up in the British Invasion of the mid-'60s and aspiring to start a band of their own. Chase, 67, fondly remembered that era when discussing the film with the New York Times: "Music was my first window into the creative world I wasn't a kid who could draw or write poetry. When I saw the Beatles and the Stones, it crossed my mind that maybe I could do that."
Following The Clues
During the era that Not Fade Away lovingly documents, finding out about one's favorite rockers was an exhausting investigative process. One could only hear these groups on record, or sometimes on the radio. Often there was little information to go on, other than the occasional small press interview or television appearance. Aspiring young guitar-slingers more or less had to just settle for staring at the cover of The Rolling Stones' first American album, England's Newest Hit Makers, and wonder just who these skinny devils were as people, or if there was any more of their music out there to digest.
Kids These Days
Today, any savvy youngster can simply download the entire Rolling Stones discography in one sitting, while also reading their extensive Wikipedia page and watching their legendarily abrasive appearance on Dean Martin's variety show The Hollywood Palace (a pivotal moment in the movie) on YouTube. As Steven Van Zandt -- the film's executive producer and music supervisor, not to mention one of the world's leading garage rock fans -- groused in the same New York Times piece, "New music cannot matter as much because there's more of it, and there's other things to help kids create their identity. What did we have? We had the radio. My whole generation, not just musicians like me, was educated by that music culture."
Don't Be So Sure, Little Steven
What Mr. Van Zandt fails to recognize -- or perhaps to acknowledge -- is that young music freaks today still create our identities based around music culture; it's just that the internet has taken the place of the radio. Without so much information available about the hard-rocking artists of the past, who knows if we would have such modern garage rock torchbearers as the Black Lips, King Tuff, Davila 666, or the Fungi Girls? There will always be kids stuck in nowhere towns all over the world who desperately need to have their minds blown by even just one simple riff. Who cares what the means are? As long as the kids can find it, the rock and roll dream will truly not fade away.