'Scrapple'

Buck Simmonds, left, and Geoff Hanson from “Scrapple,” which plays Wednesday at 8:45 p.m. in Telluride Town Park during Mountainfilm. (Courtesy photo)

 

My favorite thing about “Scrapple,” which screens at the Telluride Town Park Base Camp at 8:45 p.m. as part of the 40th annual Mountainfilm, is the music. The movie’s original soundtrack featured 16 songs from. (In case you didn’t know, “Scrapple” was filmed in Telluride in 1996. I wrote, produced and acted in it.)

The soundtrack has been out of print for years, but there is a bonus for readers of this column. At the end of this article, there is a link to download every song that appeared in the movie, not just the songs from the original  soundtrack.

The music in “Scrapple” serves as a narrative device in the film. It is almost always referring to what is happening in the plot. Think of the songs as a musical Greek chorus in a play. 

“Scrapple” opens with Sam Bush’s cover of Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes.” It is a fun song that is a play on words; referring to skis as sailin’ shoes — sailing on snow. And secondly, I wanted to pay homage to Bush and New Grass Revival, who have played such an important part in the history of Telluride.

“Really Love the Rain” by Toots Hibbert is a cover of the Ann Peebles song “Can’t Stand the Rain.” It’s a great cover of a fantastic song. The music takes a positive spin on what is originally a negative view on the idea of rain. The song suggests that the main character, Al Dean, has a similarly sunny view of life.

Taj Mahal’s “Further on Down the Road” was the song in my head when I sat down and wrote the script. In my mind, I saw a guy riding a motorcycle with a pig in a sidecar. While that specific image doesn’t appear until later in the movie, the song works well here as it introduces one of the main characters in the movie, Tom Sullivan, as he rides his motorcycle on the open road. The scene itself is a nod to “Easy Rider,” which also used music to drive the narrative. The influence of “Easy Rider” is all over “Scrapple.” (Fun fact: The opening scene of “Easy Rider” was filmed in another beautiful ski town — Taos, New Mexico.) 

Jonathan Edward’s song  “Shanty” is an obvious narrative device as the lyrics, “Well pass it to me baby, pass it to me slow, we’ll take some time to smile a little before we let it go, ‘casue we gonna lay around the shanty, mama and put a good buzz on” is precisely what is happening inside of the boys’ house as they party. The shanty in the film is located in Ophir, and is known as Cabin 3. 

JJ Cale’s “One Step Ahead Of The Blues” is perhaps the biggest “tell” in the movie. Cale sings, “I ain’t high on cocaine, I don’t need the pain, it’s bad for your brain and that’s true.” That song is a harbinger of what is to come for Al Dean, as he is forced to exit the relatively benign world of selling pot for the treacherous world of cocaine. This is the song I named my radio show on KOTO after (not to mention this column). 

Professor Longhair’s song “Junco Partner” is played as Tom enters the bar after an afternoon of heavy drinking, while thinking about his old girlfriend, Woody. The first line of the song is, “Oh, down the road, come poor little Junco, boy, he was loaded, loaded as could be…” I love all things New Orleans when it comes to food, music and having a good time, and Professor Longhair is a kind of patron saint of Louisiana music. 

When Beth takes Tom home and puts him to bed, there is a beautiful piece of banjo score music we call “Tom and Beth’s lick.” It was composed and performed by a Mississippi musician named Alvin Youngblood Hart. Standing at least 6 foot, 4 inches with dreadlocks, Alvin is an imposing figure. He is an incredible musician and an even nicer guy. When he plays the electric blues, he reminds me of Jimi Hendrix. Alvin also wrote the music that plays while Al Dean cruises around on his Stingray bicycle through Ajax once the deal has gone south. This funky piece is curiously called “Porch monkey’s theme.”

The “dream your life, live your dreams” scene is set to Sam Bush’s song “Samantha Lynn.” It comes off of Bush’s record “Late as Usual.” It’s such a beautiful song, and in the context of the scene it is both celebratory and melancholy in the same breath. The idea of dreaming your life and living your dreams is what brings so many free spirits to mountain towns like Ajax.

Widespread Panic’s instrumental “The Take Out” backs what we call the “summer montage.” That scene was originally set to Stephen Stills’ song “How Far,” but we couldn’t reach an agreement on licensing and had to take the song out of the film.

“Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes” is a Taj Mahal song. It is a gorgeous tune that had just been released on Taj’s album “Phantom Blues.” He recorded a version for the movie, which was just long enough to fill the scene. The song is an obvious commentary on the relationship between Tom and Beth, as is the Jorma Kaukonen’s song “Genesis,” which plays later in the film, when Tom and Beth’s relationship is at a crossroads. The key lines in that song are the opening ones, “Time has come for us to pause, and think of livin’ as it was, into the future we must cross, must cross, I’d like to go with you.” Tom is trying to get to that place where he can think of the past and move into the future. But he is stuck and can’t get there as much as he wants to. 

Mixed in with these Tom and Beth love songs are two songs by the group Cymande, “Dove” and “Bra.” Cymande was a group of musicians from Guyana, Jamaica and the island of St. Vincent that got together in England in 1971 and played music that was deeply funky, with elements of jazz, calypso, reggae and soul. If you haven’t heard Cymande, take a dive into their music. It will be a deep one.

Beth (Ryan Massey) sings a song called “Sweet Tender Lovin’” in the bar (yes, that is Ryan both singing and playing guitar). The song was written by Liza Oxnard, who performed simply as Liza. She also wrote the song that Beth plays earlier in the movie. Liza is an amazing writer, singer, performer and, since the movie came out, mother.

The song “Over The Hill” by John Martyn is an all-time favorite of mine.  The lyrics of the song touch on all the different plot lines. The melody is beautiful and the mandolin plays a central role in the instrumentation. From “Sailin’ Shoes” in the very beginning of the film to “Samantha Lynne” to “Over The Hill,” the mandolin figures prominently in the score. There is also a fair amount of banjo throughout “Scrapple” as well. This is a nod to the importance of bluegrass in mountain towns, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in particular.

The “Over The Hill” montage is my favorite scene in “Scrapple.” From a narrative perspective, the scene essentially wraps up all of the storylines in the movie without a single line of dialogue. It is the scene of which I am most proud.

The last song in the movie is “Never Let Your Fire Go Out” by The Radiators. The opening lyrics point to Al Dean’s storyline, “When the cards are stacked against you, lord you got to be tough, you got to stand up tall, when the game gets rough.” The lyrics from the chorus point more to the Tom character, “you might live in pain and fear and doubt, never let your fire go out.” That’s a good message for all of us.

There were over 30 pieces of original score music that were recorded by Taj Mahal and his band at the time The Phantom Blues Band (a bad-to-the-bone outfit). The music was recorded at Ultratone Studios in the San Fernando Valley in 1997. Guitar player and producer Johnny Lee Schell engineered and composed much of the score music. He would come up with an idea and the tempo, and Taj would come in and work it out. Taj would literally watch the movie on a screen as he recorded the music. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

The playlist features Keller Williams’ song “Temple Balls.” In 2007, I was deejaying in Wilmington, North Carolina, at a commercial radio station called The Penguin when Keller came into the studio and I gave him a copy of the movie.

About three months later, I got a call from my station manager telling me that Keller was trying to get in touch with me. Keller’s manager sent me an mp3 of the song “Temple Balls,” and I could not believe it. He was literally singing the words verbatim from the temple ball scene in “Scrapple.” I was knocked out, to say the least.

Here’s the reward for finishing the column (https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/a3var0). There are 30 songs and an interview with Keller on the playlist. Enjoy. Come see “Scrapple” in the park, too. It will never sound so good.