So I've been obsessed, in recent weeks, with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (and no, if you're curious, you have not lived until a preschooler comes into your living room and announces "I want Dewey Cox!" Just in case you were wondering.) I've even bought the soundtrack, and have been listening to it in the car. But this has led to all kinds of interesting conversations with my newly relicensed teen, who has been picking my brain over the various forms of parody involved in the film and the music. The film, of course, rests its humor not so much on the actual biography of any given artist, but primarily on an intimate knowledge of rock, blues, and country music biopics. Thus it is not necessary (or helpful, in this particular case) to know anything about the actual Johnny Cash: a working knowledge of Walk the Line will serve nicely (seasoned with The Doors, The Buddy Holly Story, Ray, Grace of My Heart, Coal Miner's Daughter, any of the various Elvis and/or Beatles TV movies--you get the idea).
But the music is another matter entirely, and as we listened to the Cox parody "Black Sheep," I found myself trying to describe to her the song "Good Vibrations" and what it meant at the time, to music, to the idea of the pop star as auteur, to the model of the 3 minute verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. It's harder to describe that sort of thing than one might imagine, even to a relatively receptive audience. (I earned this receptivity through repeated listenings to Metalocalypse, so she can listen to me lecture a bit). So we turn, as we often do, to the internets.
Of course, anything so groundbreaking is going to be parodied multiple times, and I still somewhat prefer The Dukes of the Stratosphear's "Pale and Precious" as a parody, but "Black Sheep" is pretty compelling.
I would also throw in, more for storyline than music, Matt Dillon's terrific turn as Jay Phillips, the Brian Wilson-esque insane genius from the underrated 1996 film Grace of My Heart. Redd Kross, of course, have a brief role as his band, the Riptides, and feature a line which must have occurred to the actual Beach Boys at some point: while listening to Phillips' foray into orchestral rock (can't locate song title in brain, waiting for call back from beloved older brother, who will know), one of them asks "Okay, but how do we play this live?"
Anyway, if you're in the mood for a real lesson in influence, tribute, and parody, try listening to these all in a row. Totally trippy!