Rock And Roll
There was no character in the film--individually or as a group--for which veracity was more important than the band Stillwater. To that end, Crowe enrolled actors Billy Crudup and Jason Lee and musicians Mark Kozelek and John Fedevich in what affectionately became known as Rock and Roll School. The 'headmaster" of this unique tutorial was none other than Peter Frampton, who had more than a passing knowledge of the rock and roll milieu of the 1970s, having been one of its icons. His album Frampton Comes Alive! had been the best-selling live album of all time.. .and just happened to feature liner notes written by a young journalist named Cameron Crowe.
Frampton recalls, "When we recorded Frampton Comes Alive! in 1975, my management told me about this whiz kid who was 16 and already working at Rolling Stone. They suggested I play him the album, and if he liked it, he might do the liner notes. I remember sitting with Cameron in the studio--just like William with his notepad in the film--and we were fast friends from then on. And now I'm working for him," he adds laughing.
"I wanted Peter to be a part of this movie," Crowe says. 'I'd always loved the guy, and what he did on this picture was very selfless. His joy of music infected everyone on the set. Peter helped these guys become a real band, not just go through the motions. He gave them practical lessons on playing and singing, but more importantly, he taught them the heart of a musician."
While Kozelek and Fedevich were real musicians who played bass and drums respectively in their own bands, Crudup and Lee immersed themselves in a crash course in music basics, as well as rock and roll stage attitude.
Frampton offers, "Coming into the film, Billy knew how to hold a guitar, play a few chords and do some fingering.. .very basic stuff. We didn't have a lot of time before shooting, so I wasn't able to teach him the ABCDEs of guitar, all the way through to Z; we sort of went A-D-K. But he was such a willing pupil, it became almost an intuitive thing. He was jamming with the band incredibly fast. It was absolutely amazing. What thrills me the most is that Billy picked up the guitar for the role, but hasn't put it down, and has permanently joined the ranks of rock and roll guitarists."
After weeks of rehearsal, the new band took to the
stage of the San Diego Sports Arena for their first concert scene. The backstage area, stripped of its contemporary advertising and decoration, became a hallway of memories of the arena where Black Sabbath, The
Allman Brothers and, of course, Peter Frampton, were among those who played to sell-out crowds in the 1 970s. Colorful rock and roll lights hung on trusses above the stage, which was loaded with vintage Marshall amplifiers. Classic Gibson and Fender guitars waited in the wings. It all made for a thrilling, nerve-jangling setting for the actors-cum-musicians to make their debut as Stillwater.
Lee says, "The lights went down, Noah Taylor, who plays Dick, our road manager, announced the band, and 200 extras started screaming. It felt like an actual show and my adrenaline pumped with every take. I think I felt what Peter or any other musician must have felt--or feels now--on that stage."
Crudup was equally blown away by the experience. Though he had performed for live audiences in the theatre, he agrees that the experience of playing music for screaming fans evokes an entirely different feeling. 'The way people look at you when you play music is like nothing I've experienced in plays. When you're doing a play, it is the character who is out front and even if you get a standing ovation at the end, it's not the same immediate gratification. The first time we actually played in front of people and I saw the lo
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