With Across the Universe, Julie Taymor put together a film based on dozens of unrelated Beatles songs, stitching them together to tell a story. (‘I Want You’ as a military recruiting anthem? Genius.) But what about all those other bands with deep back catalogs full of plot possibilities? Here are our (admittedly jokey) picks for ten groups and artists whose music (entire catalogs, not just single albums) is ripe for adapting into a feature film… and how we think that movie would go down. (Hey, we’re not saying all of these movies would turn out good.)
(Ineligible: Bands who’ve already turned in their own rock operas (The Who, Pink Floyd, The Spice Girls) or stage productions (Abba, Billy Joel) based on their music. You’ve had your glory, kids!)
10. Bob Dylan – Drifter (‘Like a Rolling Stone’) goes from town to town (‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’), doing odd jobs (‘Maggie’s Farm’) and playing music on street corners for change (‘Mr. Tambourine Man’). He decides to travel back home (‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’) but never seems to get very far (‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’). The movie ends before anything actually happens. A Gus Van Sant production.
9. Aerosmith – This ultra-violent flick kicks off with our young heroine (‘Janie’s Got a Gun’) going on a multistate killing rampage (‘Cryin”) while sexing up any guy that stands in her way (‘Love in an Elevator’). She overcomes obstacles and outsmarts the law (‘Back in the Saddle’), but she can’t stay ahead of the game forever (‘Jaded’). Finally captured, the twist ending comes out of nowhere (‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’). Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
8. Radiohead – Join us for a trip to the future (‘Paranoid Android’), when a robot decides to throw off the shackles of forced labor (‘All I Need’) and try to escape his Brazil-like imprisonment. The cop on the case (‘Creep’) tracks down our robot hero (‘Karma Police’), but ultimately decides to let him go (‘How to Disappear Completely’), when he realizes he’s as much a victim of society as the mechanical man he’s been tracking. Ends, appropriately, with ‘Exit Music (For a Film).’ Steven Spielberg directs.
7. Elvis Presley – The obvious choice. Let’s keep this one real: Southern rocker (‘Blue Suede Shoes’) ends up fighting for his country (‘G.I. Blues’), gets married (‘Hard Headed Woman’), and spends time in the tropics (‘Blue Hawaii’) and a little bit in prison (‘Jailhouse Rock’). His lady leaves him (‘T-R-O-U-B-L-E’), comes back (‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’), leaves him again (‘Hurt’), and comes back again (‘He Touched Me’). In the final act he overdoses on pills and his daughter marries Michael Jackson (‘Fools Rush In’).
6. Elvis Costello – Romance meets espionage in this story of ‘Alison,’ a Manhattan gal (‘(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea’) who’s a bit of a ‘Party Girl,’ but who gets caught up when she discovers men in black hanging around the office after hours (‘Watching the Detectives’). As her amateur investigation (‘Sulky Girl’) heats up, so does a love affair (‘Indoor Fireworks’). Only it turns out that her new beau might just be one of the men she’s investigating! Turns out it’s all just a big misunderstanding (‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding’). Happy ending.
5. The B-52s – It’s like Hairspray, but with even bigger hair. Down at the ‘Love Shack,’ all the kids while away the time (‘Dance This Mess Around’) while enjoying the nearby beach and its bounty of seafood (‘Rock Lobster’). One harried waitress at the seafood place (‘Work That Skirt’) falls for a geeky yet lovable surfer (‘Summer of Love’). Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back (‘Give Me Back My Man’). Starring Mandy Moore. Maybe animated.
4. The Ramones – Hey, ho, let’s go! (‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ over opening credits.) Everything’s just fine at ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll High School’ (and yeah, we know that’s already a movie), but ‘Judy Is a Punk’ and ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’ and society doesn’t want anything to do with either of them. Bang, in a sudden shift of tone, it’s off to the asylum (‘Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,’ ‘Teenage Lobotomy,’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’) for some institutional therapy, a la Girl, Interrupted. Looks like it’s all going to end well (‘Too Tough to Die’), but absolutely no one will suspect the shocking suprise ending (‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’). Free sunglasses with ticket purchase.
3. Britney Spears – Hear us out on this one. You’d have to reimagine the music (think Universe‘s ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), but this could work. It’s a dark, dark story of a female drug addict (‘Toxic’, ‘I’m a Slave 4 U’) who keeps trying to quit the habit (‘…Baby One More Time’), but just can’t (‘Oops! … I Did It Again’). Things spiral downward (‘Gimme More’) until she faces down her demons (‘Showdown’) in a tearful finale. Featuring Kevin Federline as a helpful drug counseler.
2. Nirvana – Not many songs to work with, but imagine a movie ‘About a Girl’ named ‘Polly’ who ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and who spends the days locked in her bedroom, poring over her ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ while heavily medicated (‘Lithium’). In a shocking and tragic turn she is assaulted (‘Rape Me’) and later commits suicide (‘All Apologies’). ‘Come As You Are’ plays over the funeral. Cameo by Courtney Love as the girl’s mom.
1. Rush – It’s hard not to cheat since some of the Canadian supergroup’s classic albums from the ’70s tell entire stories on their own. But we’ll bypass 2112 mysticism to cobble together a post-modern story of an oppressed society (‘Red Sector A’) ruled by evil corporations (‘The Big Money’) which inspires an impressionable, young kid (‘Tom Sawyer’) to break free of his shackles (‘New World Man’) through the power of music (‘Spirit of Radio,’ ‘Limelight’)… and a fast car (‘Red Barchetta’). OK, fine, and then he goes into space (‘Cygnus X-1’). Think The Matrix with singing.Read More