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Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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hd_flagAppropriate or not many of the news outlets capture footage of corporate moguls emerging from private jets and images of lavish hotels, expensive gifts being showered on senior executives and clients at corporate events and then they turn right around as a “muckraker” and help fuel the fiery populist rage whipping across this country.  We’ve seen politicians do it as they prophesize evidence of corporate abuses to an outraged public all the while describing the discrepancies of “our” American dream.

Now Harley-Davidson marketing decided to throw their own tea-party and jump aboard the “outrage train” with a NY Times and online ad at Facebook.

Clearly an attempt to help the collapsing newspaper industry and draw in like-minded customers, who feel the muckrakers have predicted an early demise of American companies including H-D?  People are hurting. It seems self-serving, intellectually dishonest and a bit risky to try and capitalized on the anger and resentment of the masses to:

 “Wrench the life back into our economy.” 

More and more today’s motorcycle market reminds me of the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” In that classic, Alec Guinness commanded a group of British POWs in Southeast Asia during WWII tasked to build a bridge for a Japanese railway. But in his zeal to build the bridge, Guinness’ character, Colonel Nicholson, lost sight of its true purpose and only saw it as means to an end, whereas it was really an end in and of itself.  As a blogger I’m always interested in the transformative power of advertising.  In this case — H-D’s thread of hopeful narrative in the midst of America’s demise — there sparkles Harley-Davidson as a flashy gem of advertising hope.

Shine on you crazy diamond, Harley.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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steely-dan-albumIt will change my family’s life….that’s what several of the “contestants” stated after winning a ticket to Hollywood the last couple of nights on “American Idol.”  

I’m sure we’ve all had our share of musical aspirations or dreams.  Mine is to backed up Tim Reynolds and jam with Dave Mathews or Steely Dan and if all went well I’d make a lot of money!  However, in an era where Malcom Gladwell reports that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be any good I don’t see those artists showing up at my house this week.  Meanwhile musicians complain that today everybody plays.  You’re competing with amateurs employing GarageBand and posting material on MySpace, yet on the “idol” somebody’s going to win.  

How much money can a person truly make?  It’s an industry where most people have no idea what the number one album is?  “American Idol” is a television show.  First and foremost.  It’s bigger than any contestant.  I think it’s glorified karaoke.  Yet, I find it fascinating to watch because it perpetuates the myth that there’s a singular filter, a gate, which if you can pass through, solves all of your problems and you’re a star.

So thousands turn to the “Idol” and plead their case.  Typically it goes something like…I’m beautiful, I can sing like Beyonce, this is America, I get a chance for stardom, right?  I want my chance!  That’s what everybody is jockeying for on the “Idol.”  Please, use me, make me the next big whatever.  This is just the opposite of classic rock and the sound that still fills arenas.  Classic rock (Pink Floyd, The Ramones, Led Zeppelin) was about doing it your own way, giving the man the middle finger.  But now Simon Cowell gives us the middle finger and the businessman is the star.  You’ve got to hand it to Simon, at least he’s honest.

“Idol” is not reality.  It’s entertainment and fake like so many other things America TV specializes in.  Rather than show us the nitty-gritty of the music industry, they pull heartstrings, try to make you laugh, you had a good time, right?  The hoards of people who line up to play the producer’s game of a contestant on the “Idol” think they deliver the hope that people still care.  They don’t, because winners on the show become 4th tier celebrities that most people just don’t give a rip about.  These soon to be newly-minted “idols” enter a world where train-wrecks are posted all over the internet, almost instantly, and are then forgotten.

They should take a lesson from Harley-Davidson.  If you want to last, you’ve got to build slowly.  You’ve got to be selling something beyond your desire to be rich and famous.  You’ve got to get fans on your own merits.  And, you’ve got to be satisfied with who you are, because today, even if you’re on the cover of “Time”, you may still have to work 9-5.  Being famous is easy.  Making people care is much harder.

If you put being rich and famous first, you’ve got nothing that makes you attractive or makes you desirable.  And we need more.  A pretty face is not enough even if it’s in a bikini – Simon! 

I hope you didn’t ruin your laptop keyboard by spitting up your morning coffee.

Photo courtesy Steely Dan.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Most everyone has heard of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

The chorus got up the nose of England’s establishment as they viewed it a protest or anti-education song. It was a political knee-jerk reaction to a song that had little to do with the education system… it was about a much bigger topic of reminding people not to conform.

And speaking of non-conformance, if you’ve followed previous post/comments on this blog you’re already aware of the intimidation “rain clouds” creeping into the northwest.

But, did you know about the state-wide efforts this Saturday, October 25th as ‘Free the Colors’ Day? It’s a grassroots state-wide show of support for the Oregon Veteran’s Motorcycle Association’s (OVMA).  Riders from every corner of the state, regardless of affiliation are planning to support OVMA’s stand against intimidation.  You may recall that at the heart of Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick Wall’ story is how a group of school children from north London came to sing and express freedom on one of the music’s most iconic records… we’re not kids anymore so understand this freedom issue is bigger than just the OVMA.

Hopefully freedom to associate resonates with you and you’re planning to participate on October 25th.  For any non-OVMA biker friends, if you do ride on ‘Free the Colors Day’ on behalf of the OVMA, you can show your support by flying America flags and/or tying a twist of blue ribbon and gold ribbon on your bike or around your right arm (the colors of the OVMA) as a sign of support.  The support will help send a message.  For those riders who plan to join the OVMA West Valley Chapter sponsored ride:

  1. Join the ride at the beginning in McMinnville.  They will leave Sharis parking lot at 11:00AM SHARP!  Be there early.
  2. Or join the ride at the first scheduled stop.  They will be leaving the parking lot of K-Mart on Hwy 22 in South Salem at 12:10PM SHARP!  Be there early.
  3. Or join the ride at the only other scheduled stop.  I-5 Northbound Rest Area (near Wilsonville).  Time will be contingent upon the time it takes to ride from South Salem to the rest area.  Riders need to be there by 12:20PM SHARP!
  4. The ride route will be determined by the OVMA State Road Captain and approved by their State President.

OVMA member ‘Pappy’ has assigned the following statement to the run which represents what they would like to make known: ‘For Those Who Fought For It – Freedom Has a Flavor The Protected Will Never Know’

UPDATE: September 27, 2008 – The ride results are HERE.

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