Saturday, April 30, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #7: "Long, Long Day" from ONE TRICK PONY

Robert M. Young is an unsung director who contributed many near perfect yet certainly idiosyncratic films to cinema in the late 70s/early 80s, including the odd prison picture Short Eyes, the Robert Altman-produced latchkey kid dramady Rich Kids, the culturally detailed Edward James Olmos vehicle The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, the Farrah Fawcett rape thriller Extremities, and the moving Dominick and Eugene, starring Ray Liotta and the brilliant Tom Hulce as troubled brothers. But, by the time the 90s arrived, his lack of box office success had relegated him to television, where he really didn't make much of a mark until he again hooked up with series lead Olmos as the director of a number of rebooted Battlestar Galactica episodes.

But, for me, Young really hit it out of the park with One Trick Pony, his indelible 1980 film adaptation of Paul Simon's ultra-personal script about a Paul Simon-like songwriter eking out a living (unlike bonafide, real-life arena star Simon) as a struggling 60s-era musician, now in the 80s, limping across country with his deftly talented band, while his son and ex-wife (an always lovely Blair Brown) wait impatiently back in NYC to see him once again. Young's mastery of the camera is always in evidence in One Trick Pony--for instance, here, with the more powerful Lou Reed dominating his more musically adroit charges:

One Trick Pony is one of the finest rock-and-roll movies ever produced. It gets just about all of even the tiniest nuances right (I love the scene where Simon cedes the stage to the B-52s, and then wonders whether he's in the right business anymore). It tells a unique story truthfully every step of the way; you can deeply feel its honesty as you're watching it. Never more is this more apparent than in the scene seen below, before the melancholy "Long Long Day" reaches the screen. Perhaps the best scene in this film FILLED with great scenes has the band--Simon, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Tony Levin and Richard Tee--in their van, traveling to the next gig, playing a time-wasting game called "Dead Rock Stars." The final line in the scene is absolutely brilliant (Simon should have seriously been considered for an Oscar for his one and only movie script). And then the scene segues into a suitably heartrending tune about the need for comfort after expending so much energy, without much appreciation. It's a song that longs for touch and, unlike the hit "Late in the Evening," also from this still neglected movie, it says so very much about the story wrapped around it.

One Trick Pony boasts an incredible cast that includes Allen Garfield, Lou Reed (as an asshole record producer), Joan Hackett, Rip Torn, Mare Winningham (resplendent in her one major scene), and a trio of 60s-pop touchstones, cleverly used: The Lovin' Spoonful, Sam and Dave, and Tiny Tim. I have to say, here, that Paul Simon is a sharp actor in the film; he's perhaps the smartest rock-and-roll star who's ever dared to take on the challenges of the big screen (even if the public didn't respond). One Trick Pony also, I might add, has some of the most satisfying final moments of any movie I've ever seen.

After you experience the unforgettable game of "Rock n' Roll Deaths" (with an irritating graphic bit in its center, unfortunately), you'll hear the song. It's called "Long Long Day," and its music and lyrics are performed by writer Paul Simon.

It's been a long, long day
I got some run-down shoes
Ain't got no place to stay
But any old place will be okay
It's been a long, long day

Good night
Good night, my love

I sure been on this road
Done nearly fourteen years
Can't say my name's well known
You don't see my face in Rolling Stone
But I sure been on this road

Good night
Good night, my love

Slow motion
Half a dollar bill
Jukebox in the corner
Shooting to kill
And it's been a...

It's been a long, long day
I sure could use a friend
Don't have much else to say
I hate to abuse an old cliche
But it's been a long, long day
It's been a long, long day

1 comment:

Robert Cass said...

It's always nice to see appreciation for this movie. "One-Trick Pony" is certainly my favorite rock movie, and though I'm no longer as crazy about Simon's performance as I was when I first saw the movie at age 11 — he's out of his depth in the domestic scenes with Blair Brown — I do wonder if Steve Gadd was approached to be in other movies after "Pony." He's a natural.