Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forgotten Movie Songs #15: "Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?" from FAME

It's a tiny little scene in a sort of great big movie. It stars only one character--not the scads of kids we remember pouring out of the front of New York's High School for the Performing Arts during the performance of its #1 Oscar-winning title song. And, yet, Paul McCrane's single solo musical performance seen in 1980's Fame remains a fan favorite in a picture filled with great music. The score's main writer, Michael Gore, picked up two Academy Awards for his work on Fame (and was nominated for a third, for writing the moving "Out Here On My Own" for Irene Cara to sing at the piano midway through the movie). But, even though McCrane wrote the precise music and lyrics to this lonely ballad, he hardly got any recognition for it (he did get a Grammy nomination out of the deal, though, as a contributor to the soundtrack; he also sang the vocals to another track called "Dogs In The Yard").

In the film, McCrane plays Montgomery Macneil, a soft-spoken acting student whom we think has a crush on one of our female leads (the cute Maureen Teefy as Doris Finsecker). Seeing them together, a mutual friend--comic actor Ralph Garci (the always reliable Barry Miller)--decides to sharpen his wits on the boy, especially after Montgomery reveals his homosexuality to the class in a soul-baring monologue (where would the TV show Glee be without this movie?). While Doris and Ralph are out one night, getting stoned and taking in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Montgomery is left alone in his Times Square flat to ponder his seclusion, with only a guitar in which to take comfort. I love this relaxed, urban taste to this scene--how it begins with a beautiful late 70s Times Square vista (complete with ads for the Broadway productions of Grease and Annie), and then centers in on this little red dot way up in the sky, where Montgomery sits, lit by a flashing red neon sign. This IS the definition of isolation on film. By the way, there is nothing in Fame that hints at McCrane's future in portraying two notable villains--the doomed Emil in Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop, and the sharp-tongued Dr. Robert Romano on the long-running TV drama ER.

Interestingly, the song would not have been included in the film had director Alan Parker not heard McCrane singing it on-set; McCrane had written the song in high school and, sensing its teenagery perfection, Parker instantly crafted a scene around it. The song is called "Is It Okay If I Call You Mine," and its words and music are by singer Paul McCrane. Judging from all the gushy videos up on YouTube for this song--like this one I've included (because MGM has blocked all other clips, damn them)--there are more than a few people who agree with my loving this song:

Is it okay if I call you mine?
Just for a time
And I will be just fine
If I know that you know that I'm
Wanting, needing your love

If I ask of you is it all right
If I ask you to hold me tight
Through a cold, dark night
'Cause there may be a cloudy day in sight
And I need to let you know that I might
Be a-needing your love

And what I'm trying to say isn't really new
It's just the things that happen to me
When I'm reminded of you

Like when I hear your name,
Or see a place that you've been
Or see a picture of your grin,
Or pass a house that you've been in
One time or another.

It sets off somethin' in me I can't explain.
And I can't wait to see you again.
Oh, babe, I love your love

And what I'm trying to say isn't really new
It's just the things that happen to me
When I'm reminded of you

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