x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Guest stars

From Elvis Presley to Janis Joplin here are the top 10 appearances of rock stars in literature and film.

In Stephen Frears's film version of Nick Hornby's bestseller, Bruce Springsteen appears to John Cusack in a dream and advises him to contact his top five ex-girlfriends to find out what went wrong.
In Stephen Frears's film version of Nick Hornby's bestseller, Bruce Springsteen appears to John Cusack in a dream and advises him to contact his top five ex-girlfriends to find out what went wrong.

This evening, Nevermind, a play that features the ghost of Kurt Cobain appearing to a depressed music journalist, opens at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington, North London. "Cobain is a success who couldn't deal with it, as opposed to John, a failure who can't deal with it," said the author Martin Sadofski last week. Sadofski is hardly the first author to feature fictionalised versions of rock stars in his work. From Kurt Cobain to Elvis Presley, they crop up again and again. For writers, playwrights and filmmakers looking for cultural shorthand, famous musicians pack a powerful symbolic punch. No wonder they can't resist using them, as our list clearly demonstrates.

Blurb: Quentin Tarantino evokes the ghost of Elvis Presley. Plot: The comic book salesman and massive Elvis fan Clarence (Christian Slater) is visited by Presley's ghost (played by Val Kilmer). The ghost proceeds to dispense some - it must be said - not entirely helpful advice, which propels Clarence and his new wife, Alabama (Patricia Arquette), into an ultra-violent crime spree involving a who's who of Hollywood tough guys, including Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman. Thanks, Elvis. They said: "The best crime rush since Goodfellas." - USA Today

Blurb: In Bradley Denton's 1991 science fiction novel, Buddy Holly is brought back to life by non-corporeal beings from Atlantis. Plot: Buddy Holly has been reanimated by aliens so he can play a non-stop concert that has taken over every TV on earth. In between songs, Holly reads out the name of Oliver Vale, a man conceived as Buddy Holly died. Vale sets out on a motorcycle odyssey to visit Holly's hometown of Lubbock, Texas, pursued by his psychiatrist, a fundamentalist preacher and thousands of couch potatoes who hold him personally responsible for missing all their favourite TV shows. They said: The book won the John W Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1992.

Blurb: In Francis Ford Coppola's movie, the mob-friendly singer is called Johnny Fontane - but we all know who it really is. Plot: "No Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day," says the mob boss Don Corleone. So when Corleone's godson Johnny Fontane asks the Godfather for help landing a part in a movie that will revitalise his flagging career, the Don cannot refuse. When, after being asked nicely, the movie producer still won't cast Fontane, Corleone famously "makes him an offer he can't refuse". The next day, the producer finds the head of his favourite $600,000 (Dh2.2m) horse in bed; Fontane (read Sinatra) gets the role. In real life, rumours of Sinatra's mob connections were legendary and persisted throughout his career. But even though the FBI amassed a larger file on Sinatra than any other entertainer in US history, he was never indicted. They said: The American Film Institute call it the second greatest American film ever made, which is supposed to be a compliment. Citizen Kane got the number one slot.

Blurb: A policeman goes back in time, meets his hero, Marc Bolan, then doesn't know what to say to him. Awkward. Plot: A podgy-looking Marc Bolan appears with girls hanging on his arm in a trendy northern club as David Bowie's Gene Genie blasts in the background. A star-struck Sam Taylor (played by John Simm) may have come from the future, but resists the urge to tell Bolan, who died in a car crash, that maybe he should take advanced driving lessons. They said: "The show is exceptionally well-made from top to bottom and pulls you in and pulls you along, owing not least to a host of terrific performances." - Los Angeles Times

Blurb: In this short story by Stephen King, a young couple accidentally wander into a small town inhabited by Marvin Gaye and Janis Joplin. Plot: "Rock and Roll Heaven" is a small town in Oregon, where Janis Joplin works as a waitress and Ricky Nelson is the chef. But wait, they're dead - aren't they? A young couple realise something is amiss when they sit down for lunch at a Fifties-themed diner, but by then it's too late - Roy Orbison, Duane Allman and Ronnie Van Zandt are after them. Once captured, they are forced to watch an outdoor concert featuring a stellar lineup of rock'n' roll greats that includes Freddie Mercury, Elvis and Marvin Gaye. The downside? It lasts for eternity. They said: "What makes Mr King's visions so fascinating is not their uniqueness or their artistry, but exactly how much they're like ordinary nightmares." - The New York Times

Blurb: The Boss dispenses advice for the lovelorn in this blink and you miss it appearance. Plot: In Stephen Frears's film version of Nick Hornby's bestseller, Bruce Springsteen appears to John Cusack in a dream and advises him to contact his top five ex-girlfriends to find out what went wrong. Why? Because only then will Cusack be free to "just move on down the road". Seems like basic psychology, but even Springsteen seems a little unsure whether this is good advice or not. They said: "Witty, exquisitely fine-tuned screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's 1995 novel." - The New York Times

Blurb: A musical informed by the music of the Beatles and the experiences of the Sixties. Plot: Dana Fuchs plays Sadie, a landlady with more than a passing resemblance to Janis Joplin (FYI: Fuchs played Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway show Love, Janis.) A flame-haired earth mother who heads the Dana Fuchs Band in real life, she sings The Beatles's Why Don't We Do it in the Road? as well as Helter Skelter Women during a Columbia University riot in this curious, counterculture musical. They said: "Across the Universe captured my heart." The New York Times

Blurb: Glamrock is given the Hollywood glam treatment. Glamrock likes it. Plot: The complex lives and loves of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed provided inspiration for this paean to the absurdities of glamrock fame. Eddie Izzard revels in his role as Bowie's visionary manager (and ex-London solicitor) Tony De Fries, who encouraged Bowie to act famous before he was, in order to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. It worked. They said:"A ravishing rock dream." - Entertainment Weekly

Blurb: The country rock legend is dead throughout most of the film. Plot: When the 26-year-old country rock star and friend of the Rolling Stones (he claimed he co-wrote The Stones' Honky Tonk Women) died from an overdose, his wealthy father arranged to have his body flown back to New Orleans. But his road manager Phil Kaufman (played by Johnny Knoxville) had other ideas. Kaufman steals the corpse and drives it out to the Joshua Tree desert and sets fire to it in accordance with Parson's demented last wishes. The film is apparently "inspired by a true story" and contains the exchange: "What the hell is that?" "That would be Gram Parsons on fire." What they said: "A surreal anecdote." - The New York Times

Blurb: The last days of Kurt Cobain weren't very eventful. Plot: Gus Van Sant's 97-minute meditation on the final days of Kurt Cobain's life features the pretty-boy actor Michael Pitt wandering around a cold Seattle mansion playing with shotguns and mumbling to himself a lot. Friends come and go, including a cameo by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordan, but Cobain is on an unstoppable course to self-destruction. "Are you going to apologise to your daughter for what a cliché you are?" asks Gordan. Apparently not. Sad, really. They said: "A hauntingly beautiful tone poem." - Newsweek