In some ways, the film Not Fade Away is an extension of the friendship between the film's writer and director, David Chase, and its executive producer and musical supervisor, Steven Van Zandt.
Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, first encountered Van Zandt on TV, when Van Zandt introduced the Rascals to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Chase soon cast Van Zandt as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, and the two became close, bonding in particular over their love of pop music from the 1960s.
"[We'd] go out to dinner with our wives, and that's all we'd talk about," Chase tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And in some way this movie is an extension — is a logical outgrowth — of those conversations. We continued these conversations into when I was considering writing the script. We kept talking about the music, and it went from that kind of a conversation to a more structured, serious conversation about what the movie [should] be about."
Not Fade Away follows several New Jersey boys who start a band and dream of riding the wave of the British invasion to stardom. The idea sprang from Chase's own memories of what it was like to be in a band in high school during that time, even though the only time they ever played in public was at the Newport Folk Festival — on their picnic blanket.
While Not Fade Away is a coming-of-age story, it is also an ode to the era and the music that exploded onto the airwaves during that time: the Beatles, The Who, the Rascals, Bo Diddley, Nancy Sinatra, the Moody Blues, Van Morrison, James Brown, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
"People get so tired of the '60s," says Chase, poking fun at the decade's popularity in the cultural memory. " 'The '60s, all right, you boomers with your crap.' "
Van Zandt disagrees.
"I, on other hand, feel the '60s are underappreciated," he says. "There's at least five great TV series waiting to happen from the '60s, and countless movies, still."
David Chase on the Rolling Stones song "Tell Me"
" 'Tell Me' is maybe my favorite song of all time. ... Certainly one of my favorite ballads, yeah. Ever since I first heard it, it really strikes a chord with me. ... I bought that first England's Newest Hit Makers record — the first [Rolling Stones] album — and I had a tape recorder and I did an air patch between the microphone of the tape recorder and the speaker of this turntable, and I would press play on the tape recorder and drop the needle on Keith Richards' guitar solo from 'Tell Me,' and we'd get to the end and I'd push 'stop' and then I'd drop the needle back, and so I had an endless loop of that guitar solo, just over and over and over and over again."
Steven Van Zandt on "Tell Me"
"There are sounds in 'Tell Me' that I don't know how it was done to this day. ... There's odd things that Bill Wyman's doing and Brian Jones is doing that ... because they're so mono — which is how God intended, of course — ... you don't quite have the clarity to know who's exactly doing what. And I love that mystery. Mystery is extraordinarily important. ... You lose the magic when things become too clear, too obvious."
Chase on co-writing a jingle for the movie with Van Zandt about a surgical supply store
"I just thought a song about a surgical supply store would be about as dismal as you could get. [I] used to go back and forth between New Jersey and New York and Boston ... all the time, and there was a company somewhere in Boston ... called Anderson Little, and the jingle was (singing) 'Anderson Little, dadadadada, Anderson Little, Anderson Little for you and for me', and I thought, 'What the f- - -? What are these people talking about, iron lungs and stuff?' And I just thought, 'Remember that,' when it was time to do this jingle."
Chase on why he didn't write a big-ticket movie as his follow-up to The Sopranos
"I was trying to write the ticket, and it wasn't happening. I didn't want to make a big splashy action movie ... [but] one of my goals was this movie, and another of my goals was to do a psychological thriller or some kind of taut crime drama. And that's what Steven said I should do; that's what my friend Terry Winter said I should do. I believe my wife said that's what I should do. And all that pressure made it such that the idea just wasn't coming, but this one was there.
"And then something I've realized in the last couple weeks — one of the impulse for this — [it] was right around that time was when Keith Richards fell out of that palm tree, and he was very seriously injured and I thought to myself, 'Wow, and how old are they now? How old am I now?' So this music that was like — I don't know what you'd call it — the apotheosis of youth, that the people who made it were fading away, that [Richards] might not recover from that, and that some of them were gone already. ... I wanted to sort of document what those moments had been like when it was happening, when we were all kids."
Van Zandt on aging in rock 'n' roll
"The Stones continue to write that book, you know. They're the ones sort of setting the pace for all future generations, and good luck with keeping up with them. I can't imagine a world without them, and I'm very thankful they're still around, because as long as they're still around we're still the new kids on the block. ...
"But the idea of longevity was ... introduced at the same time as [rock 'n' roll] became an art form, you know, and so the audience was able to grow up with the artists and maintain a relationship with the artist for decades, which would have been unthinkable in the '50s and early '60s, and it's really a wonderful, wonderful addition to our culture. So growing old now in rock 'n' roll is going to be a normal way of looking at it, thanks to the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Ringo [Starr], who are still out there ... the guys who literally wrote the book on the art form."
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Before my guest David Chase created the already classic HBO series "The Sopranos," before he got into the TV industry, he was in a band in New Jersey, like so many young people who love music and are maybe hoping for a little fame. Now he's written and directed a new movie called "Not Fade Away" that draws on his experiences in a band that never got very far.
My other guest, the music supervisor for the movie, is a Jersey musician who did go far, guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who's a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. He also worked with Chase on "The Sopranos," on which he played Silvio Dante.
"Not Fade Away" spans the years 1962 to '68. John Magaro plays Douglas, the drummer in a high school garage band who becomes the lead singer and takes his inspiration from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. He grows his hair long, which infuriates his father, played by James Gandolfini. In this scene, he tells one of his bandmates - played by Jack Huston, one of the stars of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" - that if they want to make it, they have to stop being strictly a cover band and start writing their own songs.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "NOT FADE AWAY")
JACK HUSTON: (As Eugene) I keep telling you guys: Andrew Oldham, The Stones, he locked them in a room...
JOHN MAGARO: (As Douglas) I know, and got Jagger and Richards to write their own songs. Doing covers is a thing of the past, except they had two huge hits: "Not Fade Away," Buddy Holly. Two hits? I need this to be my career.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Shame on you, man. Need is like peasants starving in Southeast Asia. Nobody needs a career.
MAGARO: I think we should all move to the East Village, get an apartment there.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You want to live there?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: They burned a flag there last Sunday. The Holy Modal Rounders played a live show.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Corky Cano(ph) went to the East Village the other night, sees a guy beating his dog to death with a baseball bat. Corky goes over to intervene, the dog was a rat.
MAGARO: There's a music scene there, not here.
GROSS: That's a scene from "Not Fade Away." David Chase, Steven Van Zandt, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's a pleasure to have you both back.
STEVEN VAN ZANDT: Nice to be back.
DAVID CHASE: Thank you, nice to be here.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: So the movie starts with the sister of the main character, the sister of the guy in the band. And she says basically, you know, my brother's band formed soon after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met, and like most bands, you've never heard of them. David Chase, did you intend this to be a shout-out to everyone who, like you, had a band that no one's heard of?
CHASE: Yes, I did. I felt we had never gotten the recognition we deserved.
GROSS: How serious were you about your band? And what did you play, and did you sing?
CHASE: We were very serious about the band. Certainly, we talked seriously about it. And we were serious about listening to music over and over again. We played in the basement for about four years, and we never even played one live gig for anybody. We did an impromptu thing at the Newport Folk Festival. We did an impromptu version of "Play with Fire," and it was the only - for some people on a blanket. And that was the only time that we ever performed.
CHASE: We enjoyed playing, but we were too lazy to really make it professional.
GROSS: And what did you play, and did you sing?
CHASE: I started off playing drums in that outfit and singing. Most of the time, I sang lead.
GROSS: So we have two people here, we've got David Chase, who made this movie "Not Fade Away," who was in a band, but nothing ever happened with it. They didn't even ever play for somebody. But also with us is Steven Van Zandt, who, as everybody knows, went pretty far with music. Steven, when you were first in a band in high school, did you know this was the real thing for you?
VAN ZANDT: Well, it was the only thing for me, which made it kind of easy. I literally had nothing else I was interested in. And kind of, you know, you're starting to get the pressure of what college you want to go to or, you know, what are you career goals, you know, and I didn't have any. You know, and I was like, I don't want to go to college. I hate high school, you know. Why would I go to college, you know?
VAN ZANDT: I wish I had a different attitude. You know, I spent a lot of years learning what I didn't learn in high school afterwards, but - I wish I had paid attention. But, you know, I had a complete tunnel vision about rock and roll, which is why I totally relate to the character in the film. You know, I think it's that similar tunnel vision, which blocks out everything else. And in the '60s, there was a lot to block out.
GROSS: So, David Chase, when you decided to do this movie, what did you want Steven Van Zandt to do?
CHASE: I wanted him to be the musical heart and soul of the entire project. I'm only being half-facetious. I mean, he - it's hard to explain, but we became friendly during "The Sopranos," and it's all we ever talk about, is '60s music. And we go out to dinner with our wives, and that's all we talk about. And in some way, this movie is an extension, is a logical outgrowth of those conversations. We continued those conversations into when I was considering writing the script.
We kept - just kept talking about the music. And it went from that kind of a conversation to a more structured, serious conversation about what should the movie be about and what was going to happen. And then I wrote the script, and we started really - then we started talking about refining what the music would be that was going to be played.
And then when it came time to actually hire the musicians who were going to either act or play, he's the one that taught them everything they know about rock and roll.
GROSS: So, Steven, you had to teach the actors how to look convincing on their instruments, even though they weren't actually playing them, right. We're not hearing them play. I think we're hearing you play, actually.
VAN ZANDT: It was a mixture of the two. In other words, by the time - we literally had them in the studio five, six hours a day, seven days a week for months. OK, I mean - and they learned how to play. So by the time the cameras rolled, they were a band that was totally functioning.
So we didn't have to - and that was important, mind you, a little bit miraculous that they managed to learn how to play in three months, that which took me three years. I don't know how they did it, but they did it. They had a great work ethic. And it was important that they actually were a functioning band before the cameras rolled, I felt, rather than have to worry about, okay, the camera has to, you know, now cover the hand and we'll fake it later. And, you know, you can't have the - a master shot of the guy playing because it's going to be looking like he's faking it. And in addition to that, they were able to sing, which was a really big bonus because I've always had problems with actors pretending they're singing. It just never looks real.
And it's very important for this film that the band was totally authentic, you know, in terms of playing and singing and take that for granted. OK, it's a real band, and now, you know, David can worry about the relationship stuff and all the rest, you know.
GROSS: So the movie starts with a tribute to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and how they meet on a train and start talking about American rhythm-and-blues and blues that they really love. And of all the Stones records that you could have chosen from their really early work, how did "Tell Me" become a central track?
CHASE: "Tell Me" is maybe my favorite song of all time.
CHASE: Certainly one of my favorite ballads, yeah, ever since I first heard it. It really strikes a chord with me. And I told Steven when we first met that I bought that the first - "England's Newest Hit Makers" record, the first album. And I had a tape recorder, and I did an air patch between the microphone of the tape recorder and the speaker of this turntable.
And I would push play on the tape recorder and drop the needle on the Keith Richards guitar solo from "Tell Me." And then we'd get to the end, I'd push stop, and then I'd drop the needle back, and I'd - and so I had an endless loop of that guitar solo just over and over and over and over again, play and record, play and record, I mean stop and record, stop and record.
And I used to listen to that in my room, that just endless loop of that guitar solo. It just, it knocked me out.
GROSS: Did you try to learn it? I mean, you weren't even a guitarist.
CHASE: I wasn't a guitarist, no. I just liked listening to it.
GROSS: I would have thought you'd be obsessed with the vocals, but interesting. OK...
CHASE: No, I mean the vocals are great, the whole song is great, but that guitar, that guitar - I had never heard a guitar sound like that, and it just seemed so deep and spacey and haunted, and I don't know what. Just - it still sends shivers up my spine.
VAN ZANDT: There's sounds in "Tell Me" that are done musically that I don't know how it was done to this day.
GROSS: Like where? What are you thinking of?
VAN ZANDT: There's just this odd, these odd things that Bill Wyman's doing and Brian Jones are doing that, you know, because they're so mono - which is how God intended, of course - you know, it's hard to, you know, you don't quite have the clarity to know what - who's exactly doing what. And I love that mystery. Mystery is extraordinarily important when it comes to art.
CHASE: There you go.
VAN ZANDT: And without that, you know, all of a sudden, you lose the magic, you know, when things become too clear, too obvious. And no one ever heard anybody sing that low. It was very, very low. It sounded, to our ears, at least our teenage ears, as a very low vocal. It was very - a different kind of attitude in the vocal. And the thing that most attracted me to The Rolling Stones was the fact that Mick Jagger would sing without smiling...
VAN ZANDT: ...which I had never seen anybody do. And, you know, it was a very new sort of idea, to, like, to do something that was not show business. You know, the Rolling Stones just were never quite show business, and it was very, very attractive to us sort of rebellious kind of kids, I guess.
GROSS: So, great record, let's hear it, and this is "Tell Me," Rolling Stones, and it's included in the soundtrack of the new film "Not Fade Away," about a band that starts in high school. It's written and directed by my guest David Chase, and Steven Van Zandt is the music director. Do I have the title right?
VAN ZANDT: Well, technically music supervisor, but...
GROSS: Music supervisor.
VAN ZANDT: Music producer is really what I was doing.
GROSS: OK, there we go. OK. So here's the Stones.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELL ME")
THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I want you back again. I want your love again. I know you find it hard to reason with me, but this time it's different, darling you'll see. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me.
(Singing) You said we're through before. You walked out on me before. I tried to tell you, but you didn't want to know. This time you're different and determined to go. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me. You gotta tell me you're coming back to me.
GROSS: So that's The Rolling Stones' "Tell Me." It's one of the great records featured on the soundtrack of the new movie "Not Fade Away," which is set from around '62 to '68, a band in New Jersey that, you know, is serious, but maybe not committed quite enough to actually get there.
GROSS: It's written and directed by my guest David Chase, who created "The Sopranos." And the music supervisor and producer for this is Steven Van Zandt from Springsteen's band and "The Sopranos," and they're both with us. Why don't we just take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: My guests are David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos," and guitarist Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen's band who played Silvio on "The Sopranos." Chase wrote and directed the new film "Not Fade Away," set in New Jersey in the '60s, about a high school rock band. Van Zandt is the film's music supervisor.
So there's a couple of originals, original songs in your movie. And there's a song called "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" that's actually - it's a good song. And I'm wondering what kind of conversation you both had about how good the song could be. Because if the song was too great, then you'd have to believe that they maybe would have had a hit and would have gone on and had careers.
So it had to be, like, really good, but not necessarily astoundingly good. So can you talk a little bit about what you wanted this original song to be and to show about the characters?
CHASE: Well, I had it in my head that they would write an original song, the band would write an original song. And I was writing the script, and I was having a lot of trouble with it. And I was tired of it and fed up with it. And Steven sent me a demo of "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" that he wrote. And to me, it is an excellent rock and roll song. It just transported me. I really, really, really liked it.
It did two things. Number one, it made me want to go back and say: don't give up on rock and roll. Go back and finish that movie. And the other thing was, strangely enough, the structure of that song loosely echoed the structure of the movie, which it happens on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day. Now Valentine's Day is not in the movie, but the other holidays are. There's a lot of holidays in this movie.
And I thought: How strange is that, that he should send me this song, which has all those holidays in it, just like the script does. And I thought this must be a sign from someone. And lyrically, I remember there's a lyric in it about after, I guess, the end of a relationship, and the lyric is: and now even your carrier pigeons have been picked off by the vultures. And I just thought what a great line that is, what a great rock and roll line that is, especially from somebody, you know, someone's first song. It's so naked and crazy. You know, it just really feels like the real deal to me.
GROSS: Were you worried the song was going to be too good to be convincing as a first song?
CHASE: I was.
VAN ZANDT: And you know what, Terry? We had that discussion about everything, constantly. It was one of our challenges, to try to and figure out exactly how good they should be at any given moment. And David mostly - with the exception of that song, perhaps - but mostly, you know, he was on the side of having them be a little bit worse than better.
And I argued against that, because there were a whole lot of really good bands in my neighborhood that never made it, you know - better than us, by the way. You know, there were guitar players that were better than me and Bruce. You know, there were singers that were better. There were bands that were better.
And plus, I thought it was really important that the audience really constantly rooted for them. And we still, you know, made them out of tune occasionally and, you know, did all that, you know, to make sure it wasn't too - to keep it totally authentic.
But I really wasn't that concerned about it being too good, because the truth of the matter is, what makes a band successful, one successful and one not, I think has everything to do with management rather than the actual - you know, I mean, you have to have some talent, obviously. But you look back in history at who made it and who didn't, and I guarantee you there's a manager there that's the critical factor.
GROSS: So tell us who we're hearing on this track, because I want to play the track from the soundtrack of this original song that Steven Van Zandt wrote, but that the band sings in the movie "Not Fade Away."
VAN ZANDT: It's always the actors singing. That's all totally real. When you see John, you know, in the movie singing it, that's him on the soundtrack, and Jack also. But most of the soundtrack is us: me, Max Weinberg on drums, Garry Tallent on bass and Bobby Bandiera on second guitar. And we kept it at that, just the two guitars, bass and the drums...
GROSS: So when you say they're playing in the film, do you mean it looks like they're playing, and you're dubbed in, or is the instrumentation different on the recording than it is on the actual movie?
VAN ZANDT: No, it's the same, but we would mix in sometimes, you know, if the setting was right, you know, we'd try to - there would be a kind - if they were warming up or something, we may and try and throw in a little bit of, you know, of the actual stage sound.
GROSS: Oh, OK. So we're hearing you in the movie, too.
VAN ZANDT: Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. It's us.
CHASE: And it was - you know, it was funny. It was because I was always saying make it sound worse, make it sound worse. Well, you hear who the lineup was of musicians, and I would say it sounds great. What are you talking about? And they would say it's putrid. It's horrible. It's already terrible.
VAN ZANDT: Because I insisted, Terry, on David being in the studio every single day because he's very, very specific, and so am I. So I knew, you know, there would be 100 different ways you can go. And a music producer, you make a decision literally every 10, 15 seconds. Is that in time enough or out of time enough, in this case? Is that in tune enough or out of tune enough, in this case?
And then the added complication of Jack Huston having to be a singer that was not as good as John Magaro's character, you know. We had to work on that. And that's another fine line. You know, how bad do you make him? And he turned out to be - both of these guys, their courage was amazing, because they just walked into my studio, went right up to the microphone and just started singing.
And Jack, it turned out, turned out to be quite a good singer. And he's supposed to be the bad one. So I had to capture his vocals very, very early, on the first take or two, because he started - he just kept getting better and better.
GROSS: Steven Van Zandt and David Chase will be back in the second half of the show. Here's the song that Van Zandt wrote for the band to perform in the new film "Not Fade Away." This is "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with David Chase and Steven Van Zandt. Chase is the creator of the HBO series "The Sopranos." He wrote and directed the new film "Not Fade Away." Set in the '60s, it's about a rock band that forms in high school in New Jersey, inspired by The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Guitarist Steven Van Zandt is the film's music supervisor. He's best known as a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and for his role as Silvio on "The Sopranos."
I want to play, like, a very amusing part of the music in the film. And this is in a recording studio, because, like, the band's going to get a crack at recording, and there's, like, is it a quartet or a quintet that's doing - a vocal group - that's doing harmonies on a jingle for a local surgical supply store. And this is really great. So I want to know, like, who wrote it, and if it was inspired by any jingles that you remember.
VAN ZANDT: Well, this is one of the most important parts of the movie, as far as I'm concerned. And...
CHASE: We're in agreement there.
VAN ZANDT: ...it's our first co-write - hopefully not last - but it is the first co-write between David and myself, and we're quite proud of it, obviously. We went through, I don't know, 30 or 40 different edits of the movie, and there was actually one or two where it was taken out, and I had to put my foot down on that one. OK, you know, you can...
GROSS: I'm glad you did.
VAN ZANDT: You can take out "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." You can take out whatever, you know, whatever you want to take out. You're not taking that one out. No. No. That one has to stay, you know. I'm joking, but it is a classic moment for me in the film, and it has Bobby Bandiera being the music director in that quartet there, who was actually one of the guitar players, you know, on the soundtrack, and very famous backup, background singers, including Ula Hedwig. You know, it's a wonderful moment.
GROSS: And the harmonies?
VAN ZANDT: Well, there just - I think they're very authentic.
They're just very much of the time.
GROSS: Very much of the time. Mm-hmm.
CHASE: I mean, I just, you know, I just thought a song about a surgical supply store would be about as dismal as you could get. And there had been - there - we used to go back and forth between New Jersey and New York and Boston, because I had friends who were going in Boston all the time. And there was a company somewhere in Boston - a surgical supply store, I guess - called Anderson Little. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: David Chase incorrectly refers to Anderson Little as a surgical supply company. It is a clothing company. We're not sure what the name of the surgical supply company was.]
And the jingle was...
(Singing) Anderson Little, da-da-da-da-da-da. Anderson Little, Anderson Little for you and for me.
And I thought, what are these people talking...
CHASE: ...about, iron lungs and stuff? And I just thought - remembered that, when it was time to do this jingle.
GROSS: Oh, that's great. OK. So it's time you heard the jingle. This is the surgical supply jingle from the soundtrack of "Not Fade Away."
(SOUNDBITE OF "SURGICAL SUPPLY JINGLE")
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Martin and Schermerhorn(ph) Surgical Supplies, when life catches you off guard in the ear, throat or eye. Free home delivery. Free home delivery. Orthopedics custom made. Orthopedics custom made. Martin and Schermerhorn, Martin and Schermerhorn, more than just first aid. Martin and Schermerhorn Surgical, Martin and Schermerhorn Surgical, we're M&S surgical supply.
GROSS: So that's a jingle that was written and performed for the new movie "Not Fade Away." The movie was written and directed by my guest David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos," and the musical supervisor is also with us. That's Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen's band and from "The Sopranos." And they co-wrote this fabulous jingle.
David Chase, you probably could've gotten money to make a really big, splashy epic or adventure or action film, and you've chosen to make a really kind of, you know, small film about, you know, guys in high school who form a band. And I'm wondering, like, as somebody who probably could've written their ticket, why you wanted to make this movie.
CHASE: Well, I was trying to write the ticket, and it wasn't happening. I wanted to make - I didn't want to make a big, splashy action movie, like you're saying. But I did want to make a - one of my goals, one of my goals was this movie, and another of my goals was to do a psychological thriller or something like - or some kind of taut crime drama. And that's what Steven said I should do. That's what my friend Terry Winter said I should do. I believe my wife said that's what I should do.
CHASE: And all that pressure made it such that the idea just wasn't coming. But this one was there.
And then something I've realized in the last couple of weeks - one of the impulses for this was - right around that time was when Keith Richards fell out of that palm tree, and, you know, he was very seriously injured. And I thought to myself, wow. And how old are they now? How old am I now? And so this music that was like the - I don't know what you'd call it - the apotheosis of youth, that the people who made it were fading away, that he might not recover from that, and that some of them are gone already, and that I wanted to sort of document what those moments had been like when it was happening. And the reason it's called "Not Fade Away" is because the music will endure long after any of the personalities are gone.
At one time I was going to call the movie "Don't Worry, We'll Be Leaving Soon," because I thought, you know, I thought well, you know, people will get so tired of the '60s, the '60s, all right - you boomers with your crap, you know.
VAN ZANDT: I, on the other hand, feel, you know, the '60s are underappreciated...
VAN ZANDT: ...so, you know, there's at least five great TV series waiting to happen from the '60s, and countless movies still.
GROSS: My guests are David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos," and guitarist, Steven Van Zandt, of Springsteen's band who played Silvio on "The Sopranos." Chase wrote and directed the new film "Not Fade Away." Van Zandt is the film's music supervisor.
More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos," who wrote and directed the new film "Not Fade Away," which begins in 1962 and goes through 1968. It's about a band that forms in high school. And there's great music on the soundtrack, original recordings from The Stones and The Beatles and Van Morrison and The Rascals, and some originals, too. And the music supervisor for the film - who also produced the music for it - is Steven Van Zandt, who was in "The Sopranos," and is also, of course, in Bruce Springsteen's band.
So, Steven, I wanted to ask you, you know, David Chase had mentioned that one of the reasons why he wanted to make this movie about a band is that - a band that's inspired by The Rolling Stones - is that when Keith Richards fell out of that tree, David realized these guys might not be around forever, or even for much longer, and it made him want to commit to making this movie. So as somebody who's spent your life and rock and roll and who's in a band that's getting older and a band that no longer has Clarence Clemons in it - because, you know, he passed not that long ago - I'm just interested in your thoughts about getting older in rock and roll, and having started at a time when the music was still relatively young.
VAN ZANDT: Well, The Stones continue to write that book, you know. They're the ones sort of setting the pace for all future generations, and good luck keeping up with them. You know, we grew up not knowing whether this was going to be a real business or not, and it turned out to be a terrific business for a long time. We've kind of come full circle now. You know, we're kind of back to 1962 again, and the record business is kind of over.
But, you know, it was - the idea of longevity was a wonderful new way of being, you know, it was introduced at the same time as it became an art form, you know. And so the audience was able to grow up with the artists and maintain a relationship with the artists for decades, which would have been unthinkable in the '50s and early '60s. And it was really a wonderful, wonderful addition to our culture, you know. So growing old now in rock and roll is going to be a part of a normal way of looking at it, thanks to The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney and Ringo, who are still out there and, you know, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, who are still out there, you know. So...
CHASE: I mean, this is not the first generation, obviously, who says - who looks - you look at yourself in the mirror and go, my God. Where did the years go? Where did the time go? The reason there's a bigger microscope on this is because this was about youth.
CHASE: And let's face it, one of the songs, one of the major songs from that time in 1965 was: I hope I die before I get old.
VAN ZANDT: Yeah, "My Generation," by Pete Townshend of The Who. Yeah. It was a wonderful line at the time to say that, because it just captured the perfect rebellion of the generation gap. There was a legitimate generation gap in those days, and I don't think it's happened before the '60s, and I don't think its happening since the '60s. You know, and it may never happen again, the gap being - I mean, that was a Grand Canyon of a gap between the two generations, you know. And we...
GROSS: Did you have that in your family?
VAN ZANDT: Very much so. Very, very much. My father was an ex-Marine Goldwater Republican, so you can imagine.
VAN ZANDT: I was one of the two freaks in New Jersey, I mean, you know, literally, you know, who had long hair and got thrown out of my high school, got thrown out of the house because of the way I looked, you know? And it was just one of those things that, you know, hopefully will never happen again, but we were an embarrassment to our parents, and our parents were completely irrelevant to us. They were like people who just, you know, whose time had come and gone, and get out of the way, you know. Make room for the new revolution, here. We're coming, you know, and you're...
GROSS: Did it remain that way for you?
VAN ZANDT: No. No. By the mid-'70s, it was a reconciliation, and their - most of their problems came from a legitimate concern, that we wouldn't be able to make a living playing music. Once, you know, thank God, Bruce hit the cover of Time and Newsweek, it really saved the relationship, because it was like, well, maybe there is something to this after all and maybe there is...
GROSS: Gosh, is that what it takes?
VAN ZANDT: Yeah, exactly. That's what it took.
GROSS: What hope does everybody else have?
VAN ZANDT: Well, by the '80s, parents were buying their kids guitars, saying please be in a rock and roll band, you know.
GROSS: True. Very true. Right.
VAN ZANDT: You know, but in the '60s, it was not a legitimate way to make a living, you know.
GROSS: Yeah. Yeah. So, let's squeeze in one more great song from the soundtrack. And I'm going to choose The Rascals, doing "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" - one, because it's a great record, and two, because Steven, you just did The Rascals reunion.
VAN ZANDT: Yeah.
GROSS: Something you'd been really wanting to do for a while. So...
VAN ZANDT: Very proud of that, yeah.
GROSS: You inducted them into the Hall of Fame?
VAN ZANDT: They were - they're a very, very different kind of band, and a major motivating factor for me getting into the business and wanting to be in the business. And the influence of soul music and black music not more prominent in any group, even the British Invasion. Most white bands just stood there and performed and, you know, that was OK with us - Elvis Presley being an exception to the rule, Mick Jagger being an exception to the rule. The Rascals had that black gospel sort of aggressive performance style of a black band. And, you know, and here they were young white guys, and, boy, was that appealing, you know. Very.
GROSS: So I'd like you to each say a couple of words about why you love this recording and wanted to include it in the movie.
CHASE: This song was like a ripple hit for them. It was before their really big hit, which was "Good Lovin'." And I didn't hear this song until after I'd heard "Good Lovin'" at a party. Some people were dancing to it. And, on some level, it just - just the vocal is so cool. It's just so - it really rips. It just is so soulful. And I don't mean that in some kind of like a profound way. It's just really, really good. I don't know how else to explain it. And I think it just sounds so young and adolescent and yearning and blustery, you know, a...
CHASE: It's like this veiled threat and everything, like, it's just is like - it just expresses to me young manhood.
VAN ZANDT: Well, yeah, I made the basis of my entire induction ceremony in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame talking about how I was trying to have sex with my girlfriend when it came on the radio, and I realized that the song was sexier than the sex I was having.
VAN ZANDT: And it was. It was just something so unbelievably sexy about it. The - Eddie Brigati, one of the two amazing lead singers of The Rascals - Felix Cavaliere would be the other, who would have the second single, "Good Lovin'," and it would be much bigger. But Eddie was - they were both equally good at the times for us. And Eddie even maybe even more relatable because he had a little bit of the doo-wop thing hanging around.
But then this song, the verses were spoken, which was very, very odd and made it more intimate and more adolescent in some kind of way. And more kind of snot-nosed kind of, you know...
VAN ZANDT: ...wiseguy. You know. He had a wonderful attitude. And then the guitar solo by Gene Cornish, one of the most underrated guitar players in the business, he does a completely unique riff. He's bending one string while holding another, which would influence - every single guitar player would end up using that riff.
CHASE: I mean, that first "yeah," that's it. Just right there. It's all there.
VAN ZANDT: Yeah.
CHASE: I'd never heard yeah. Even, you know, the Beatles, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I've never heard such a declaration of I guess snot-nosed exuberance.
GROSS: Thank you both so much.
CHASE: Before we go...
CHASE: Before we stop I just want to say as a footnote to this...
CHASE: ...is the reason I know Steven Van Zandt is because I saw the induction ceremony when they inducted the Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My wife and I saw it on TV and I said that guy's got to be in "The Sopranos."
GROSS: Oh. Really?
GROSS: What did you see in him in terms of acting in "The Sopranos"?
CHASE: Just everything you're seeing. Just he's charismatic. He's funny. He's smart. He's Italian.
CHASE: He's, you know, just I saw...
GROSS: He was doing the whole Jersey thing big-time.
CHASE: Well, he - what he did say was he said something about Jersey soul. And he talked and he dissected the song, or he dissected it, like, professionally and broke it down in words. And it was just so interesting and yet done with such panache and style. And I said - I turned to my wife and I said this guy's got to be in the show somehow. So the Rascals started that too.
VAN ZANDT: Yeah. So I owe the Rascals twice, you know, for their musical inspiration and for getting me a job.
CHASE: And it is a whole Jersey thing, I think, you know? Sort of something in there.
VAN ZANDT: We try harder.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much. David Chase wrote and directed the new film "Not Fade Away." Steven Van Zandt is the music supervisor and produced the music for the movie. Thank you both so much. A real pleasure.
CHASE: Thank you, Terry.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Terry. Good talking to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AIN'T GONNA EAT MY HEART OUT ANYMORE")
THE RASCALS: (Singing) Yeah. I admit it. You got the biggest brown eyes. And you know how to part your lips to tantalize. Sure. Yeah. You can get any man you want goin' and you do it.And don't say you don't know you do.Well, baby, I ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore. I ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore. So quit it. Ooh. I love you. I love you, I do, little girl. But you ain't gonna cheat on me. I need you, I need you, I really do, girl. Choose. Is it him or me? Is it him or me?
(Singing) Yeah. Just 'cause I ain't been sayin' it, girl, you should be ashamed of what I've been seein'. Bad. Yeah. You better watch your step or, girl, you can et you're going to lose the best thing you ever had. Well, baby, I ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore. I ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore.
GROSS: That track is on the soundtrack of the new film "Not Fade Away." David Chase wrote and directed the film. Steven Van Zandt is the film's music supervisor. Our thanks to Renegade Nation Studio where Chase and Van Zandt spoke to us from. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.