Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frontier Archaeology, vol. 6: Easy Rider

[FP's weekly column on music before 1990 appears on Sundays]

As we settled into Mem Day weekend with backyard barbecues, we were saddened to learn of the death of Dennis Hopper. In an acting career than spanned six decades, Hopper appeared in more than 115 films, from Rebel Without a Cause to Apocalypse Now to Speed. But his gift to Hollywood (and the culture at large) came in 1969 with Easy Rider, which he directed and co-wrote with Terry Southern. The archetypal road trip movie follows Hopper, Peter Fonda, and a then little-known Jack Nicholson on a drug-fueled motorcycle ride across the country.  The Easy Rider soundtrack is a snapshot of late 60s rock, with cuts from Dylan, the Byrds, and Jimi Hendrix. Combined with a preponderance of long, wordless scenes, the soundtrack makes the film a veritable music video jukebox. Below, three of FP's favorites.

Steppenwolf, The Pusher

The Byrds, The Ballad of Easy Rider

Holy Modal Rounders, If You Want to Be a Bird

And no matter how many times you've heard "Born to Be Wild," it's hard to beat the song's urgency in the opening sequence of Easy Rider when pretty boy Fonda and Hopper, in moustache and cowboy regalia, rumble across the Colorado River.

More recently, Hopper collaborted with Gorillaz on "Fire Coming Out of A Monkey's Head," performed below at New York's Apollo Theater.


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