On March 2, 1964, four young men reported to a train station in England that was being used as a movie set. The four men were stars of a film that was eventually going to be called "A Hard Day's Night."
The four men were not chosen for their acting ability, and if they had been given a say in the matter, they probably wouldn't have made a film at all. They were making this film because they - the Beatles - were extremely popular musicians, and making a film was an easy way for pop stars to make extra pounds or dollars or whatever. (Elvis Presley made both, when you think about it.) In fact, the film itself may not have been the major product - United Artists had the rights to release the film soundtrack in the United States, gaining a number one album hit in the process.
The four men would act in several other films, both playing "The Beatles" and playing other roles, but only Ringo Starr made a significant number of non-Beatle non-vanity movies (although George Harrison became a film producer).
Which brings us to Folsom, California, on Saturday, August 8, 2015. I had spent the week in nearby Sacramento at the International Association for Identification conference, and was visiting relatives over the weekend. We all went to see a musical artist on Saturday night - not Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, but Modern West at the Harris Center at Folsom Lake College. The Harris Center has three stages, and Modern West played on the largest of the three stages. But before the band played, we in the audience saw a whole bunch of movie clips. The movie clips were from films such as "Dances with Wolves," "Field of Dreams," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Thirteen Days," "Waterworld," and "Wyatt Earp."
So why would this band show film clips from a whole bunch of unrelated films? And why would the audience sit through these film clips?
Whoops, I guess I forgot to mention something. The lead singer of Modern West is a guy named Kevin Costner. Perhaps you've heard of him through his film work.
Yeah, we were in the Uecker seats. "Field of Dreams," indeed.
In one respect, this is the reverse of the Beatles' situation. Rather than having musicians dabbling in film, you have an actor dabbling in music. But in another respect, it's very different. Costner chose to pursue this.
But it was always more than just an idea for me. It was a feeling that I had been unable to articulate. For a long time now I have felt the need to connect with people in a more meaningful way than just the autograph. I have found myself here and around the world in different situations where the only exchange has been just that…a quick signature on the run usually followed by a “gee, he’s taller than I thought.”
I always thought that music could build a stronger, more personal moment for me. It would create the opportunity for a genuine exchange much greater than the movie, TV interview or magazine. It would be real, full of mistakes and without apology. But most of all there would be the chance to have some fun. The question was, would it work? I thought it could but I wasn’t really sure.
Did it work? One of my relatives was not impressed at all, but I enjoyed myself. If I had to compare Kevin Costner and Modern West to someone else, the best comparison would be to a kinder and gentler Kris Kristofferson (who happens to be a musician who has dabbled in acting). The songs are delivered well and touch on some interesting subjects - "Famous for Killing Each Other" is a personal favorite - but I don't know that Janis Joplin is going to cover any of them (especially in her present state).
If you're in the Solana Beach area, you can hear the band tonight (August 11) at the Belly Up Tavern.
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