I did not know about the film “Not Fade Away” until one evening in December at Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear. Andy told me about his role as a consultant on finding all of the vintage gear that had to be accurate for the film. Steven van Zandt had gotten him the gig on the feature film project of Soprano’s creator, David Chase.
Just like any punk band today who has discovered religion through the Ramones, this story winds back to the previous decade, when the United States were introduced to four mop-tops and Cuban heel boots. In fact, the character, Douglas (played by John Magaro) catches the rock ‘n’ roll bug after seeing the Rolling Stones play their US televison debut on Dean Martin’s “Hollywood Palace” in 1964. After starting a band, the story continues to chronicle their ups and downs through the decade.
Now, back to Steven Van Zandt, who was the music supervisor and executive producer of the film, picked an excellent selection of songs to be showcased. He also worked the actors–not one a musician–to play from scratch and be able to play like a band. The movie takes place in one of the most pivotal moments in American history: Kennedy, Civil Rights, the Vietnam War…the references are there, but Chase stays clearly adhered to the music.
For the audience looking to see James Gandolfini doing anything but Tony Soprano, is a stretch. He’s old school, takes his anger out on his wife and son (tells him he looks like “he just got off the boat”), but is under the stress of small business ownership struggles.
For a coming-of-age tale, the film is shot using natural lighting and heavy shadow work to create a gloomy mood. It’s artsy-yet-fitting for a film encased with a range of emotions.
What is ironically refreshing at the end is the lack of seeing the band “make it.” There are too many happy endings or lessons learned where a band grows big and enter the turbulent world of drugs, sex, more drugs, death, spouses, children and every other “reality” of bands from the days of yore.