NOT FADE AWAY
A Rock and Roll Story
NOT FADE AWAY is a kind of widescreen cinematic concept album in which writer and director David Chase vividly and grittily captures an extraordinary time in the mid-Sixties when music appeared to be changing our world on a daily basis. As Chase's film lovingly and artfully documents, this was a singular era when The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Animals, among others, were taking musical leaps and bounds and redefining popular culture song by song.
Among other subjects, NOT FADE AWAY beautifully examines the way one generation hung on every great rock song, and tried its best to keep up with and cop all the best moves. As Chase puts it, "Those people invented something important -- a new art form, a new business model, a new record industry, a new view of gender and a new perception of what stardom was. They really invented a new way of looking at art and at life."
The Sixties were a time that shaped David Chase's thinking and artistic mission -- a fact now clearly reflected by the remarkable way he has now brought that time to life again in his first feature film. "I don't think there's been much better rock & roll produced since then," says Chase, who like NOT FADE AWAY's central character Douglas served time as a drummer in an obscure New Jersey band with bigger dreams than accomplishments. "Steven Van Zandt describes that time in music as 'The Renaissance.' I always loved that period. It's been very influential in my life -- and probably in how I think. I first learned my ideas about popular art then -- like, oh that could be an art? You don't have to paint the Sistine Chapel -- you could play the guitar, or the drums, and that would be an art too. Because that's what happened during this period -- music went from pop music to what some people call 'an art'."
Steven Van Zandt -- who famously played Silvio Dante on THE SOPRANOS, and who served as an Executive Producer and the Music Supervisor for NOT FADE AWAY -- explains, "This is something that David had been talking about for a lot of years. David's a very musical guy, first of all -- anyone who's seen THE SOPRANOS knows that. He was a drummer in a band -- which people may not know. I think one of David's first loves -- if not his first love -- was to be involved in rock & roll. He went sideways into TV and movies, but my impression was that music was a bit more important to him than usual to a director or to a writer."
Yet as NOT FADE AWAY reminds us again, David Chase is definitely not just the usual director or writer. NOT FADE AWAY -- which shares the title of a classic Buddy Holly rocker that later became an early hit for The Rolling Stones -- artfully tells the tale of one young man's struggles to find himself as he seeks satisfaction while exiled on Main Street somewhere in suburban New Jersey. Douglas (John Magaro) is an intense, introspective fellow searching a bit aimlessly for his artistic identity on the records and album covers of the mid-Sixties. Opportunity knocks when he is asked to sit in on drums with a local rock combo that features Eugene (Jack Huston) and Wells (Will Brill). Like so many great rock & roll stories, this one really starts with the classics -- The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. As David Chase explains, "The movie really begins in 1964 which was when what was called then, 'the British Invasion' hit the United States. That was The Beatles, The Stones, and The Kinks, the Animals, and then everybody else who came after. It's about a bunch of male friends in New Jersey, started out in high school, and they're just about going to go to college who are exposed to that music and like a gazillion other people decide it would be great to start that kind of band. And that's what they try to do."
A bit of a brooding outsider by nature, Douglas finds his way in when he joins the band. As the band struggles to define itself, Douglas makes his way closer to the spotlight as he begins to explore his own voice by trying on the looks and sounds of his heroes. Before very long -- in a grand rock & roll tradition -- tensions ensue within the band, both creative and otherwise. The question becomes - as for countless bands everywhere, both before and since - will this group "make it big" before those tensions tear them apart?
Either way, being part of the band - at first called the Twylight Zones and later TBD -- dramatically transforms Douglas' life and offers him the cooler and more bohemian identity that he so desperately desires. Among other things, Douglas' raw talent and slightly Dylanesque onstage persona gives him the chance to finally win the attention of the beautiful girl of his dreams from high school, Grace Deitz (Bella Heathcote). This is, after all, the main reason that generations of male musicians have given for playing music in the first place. In Grace, Douglas finds his first true believer, and in his relationship with her, he begins to imagine a whole new world of possibilities -- as well as the chance to experience the burgeoning new sexual revolution hands on.
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