Back in April I posted the first in a new series of articles I titled "The Song Paints a Picture". These posts are meant to be all about certain songs that whenever I hear them, will instantly make me think of a movie scene that uses them in such a way that they are forever linked in my mind. I've been planning on doing these "every other month" so that means its time for part two! This time our subject is Cameron Crowe's semi-biograhic coming of age film "Almost Famous". While the film does have an amazing soundtrack full of 60's and 70's rock/pop, there is one track and scene that stand out in particular. I am of course talking about Elton John's timeless hit "Tiny Dancer" and the famous "bus" scene in which it is used. So now that you know what you're getting into, lets dive right in!
The first song on on Elton's fourth studio album, "Madman Across the Water", is one of the best he ever recorded. It's peaceful piano melody and instantly recognizable lyrics make it almost impossible to not sing along at the top of your lungs.
One of my absolute favorite films of all time and possibly the best movie Cameron Crowe has ever made, 2000's Almost Famous is a heartwarming, often funny, and utterly engrossing coming of age tale. It follows William, a young high school student in the 70's, who somehow finds himself going on tour with an up and coming rock band to write a piece on them for "Rolling Stone Magazine". Featuring one of the best film soundtracks of all time, great writing, and pitch perfect performances, this is a movie I've seen countless times and I can honestly say I love it more with each viewing. Trailer here.
Okay so to set this scene up. The band we have been following all movie has gotten into a fight with their lead guitarist Russell (Billy Crudup), who storms off with young William (Patrick Fugit) in search of a "real" experience. They end up going to a house party with a group of fans and Russell gets stoned out of his mind on acid, leaving William to care for him until the band can find them. Finally daylight arrives and with it the tour bus.
We start in the living room of the house with the band manager attempting to collect a still dazed Russell. After some smooth talking by the manager, and a final out burst at William, Russell is ushered out of the house. As he steps foot on the bus the opening piano notes of Tiny Dancer begin to play. Russell is greeted by looks of disgust and contempt as he slumps into a seat and the bus takes off down the road. The band rides in icy silence for a bit as Elton still sings on. Suddenly though something happens. The people's heads start to bob to the beat and soon the bassist starts to sing along to the song. A song that not only plays for us, but is playing on the bus as well. Soon another person joins in, and another, and another. Until the last hold out is Russell himself who looking around smiles and starts singing along just as the chorus kicks in. Here they are. A group divided mere minutes before who are brought right back together because of one thing: their love of music. This mutual passion is what got them here in the first place and it is the music that brings them back together.
The way in which we come to understand and love this band in this scene, through their shared passion for the music, is absolutely wonderful story telling. It is a scene written, acted, and shot to sheer perfection. That is why this song and movie were chosen for this edition of "The Song Paints a Picture". Thank you so much for reading and I hope you look forward to this article's return in August.