Last week, Lips and Rob, of the underappreciated–yet highly influential–metal band, Anvil, got their day in the spotlight when the documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, received rave reviews from various media outlets (the movie may also help score them a record deal). The last time two jean-jacket-wearin’, hard-rock-lovin’ buddies received this much attention from the world of film and music was back in 1992, when Wayne and Garth (Mike Myers and Dana Carvey) captured the heart of heavy metal in Wayne’s World, which I still believe is one of the greatest movies about music ever made.
Ever since I started taking a look at current and past “music flicks,” I wanted to include this film, because like The Blues Brothers or This Is Spinal Tap, Wayne’s World became a measuring stick for all music movies that followed; which says a lot, considering the characters of Wayne and Garth aren’t even in a band.
We can argue for hours, but Wayne’s World’s car-sing-a-long to “Bohemian Rhapsody” is my all-time favorite scene in a music movie. It perfectly captures a Friday night in any-town America. Not to take anything away from Queen, but even kids who never saw Wayne’s World will bang their heads–ala Wayne and Garth style–during the song’s breakdown. That’s some pop cultural power!
Wayne’s World works so well as a music movie, because instead of taking us of into the lives of rock and roll stars, it gives us the perspective of a group of diehard rock and roll fans–and who can’t relate to that? The subtle rock music references throughout the movie are genius, everything from the conversation Wayne and a doorman (played by Meatloaf) have about a group called The Shitty Beatles, to the would-you-still-love-me? Ravi Shankar and Elvis scenarios, to the greedy businessmen, to the joy of flashing a backstage pass, to the roll-your-eyes service you usually receive at a music store (and we can’t forget about the “No Stairway To Heaven” sign either; a brilliant jab at the choice riff heard at guitar shops around the world).
Instead of just tackling music for an hour-and-a-half, Wayne’s World also takes us into the hang-out lives of Wayne, Garth, and their burnout buddies. I grew up in the same neighborhood as a bunch of metal-worshipping headbangers, and I can tell you that they did a lot more than sew Metallica patches on the back of their jean jackets. Like Wayne and Garth, they also enjoyed chasing girls, spewing into Dixie cups, hanging out at their favorite eatery, and playing street hockey–that’s right, not roller hockey, street hockey.
Besides forever altering the way we listen to Queen’s “Bohemain Rhapsody,” Wayne’s World also put its unique stamp on Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver.” I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear “Foxy Lady” I’m always tempted to throw the fox ears behind my head.
One of the funniest moments in the film–a moment that revealed heavy metal’s sense of humor–was the scene where Wayne and Garth are backstage at an Alice Cooper concert. Before Ozzy Osbourne sang with Miss Piggy or Metallica was blowing up houses in video game commercials, a deadpan Alice Cooper delivered the most eloquent lines a musician has ever spoken about the city of Milwaukee: It’s pronounced milly-wa-kay, which is Algonquin for the “good land.”
Wayne’s World was not the first or last time a blonde and brunette burnout duo etched themselves in our pop culture memory. Bill and Ted came before and Beavis and Butthead followed, but in many ways Wayne’s World was the swan song for the burnout culture–a group of kids that I don’t think even exist anymore in the hierarchy of high school social classes. In 1992, the big rock that Wayne and Garth loved was losing its stronghold to up-and-coming grunge and alternative bands. Jean jackets gave way to cardigan sweaters, and guitar solos were being replaced by blasts of feedback.
Besides being one the most quotable and hilarious movies from the 90’s (whether you have a clever or sophomoric sense of humor), Wayne’s World is also a perfect time capsule of the period in music right before things changed for good. But who knows? Maybe if Anvil’s Lips and Rob have their way, kids will be finger-tapping on their flying-V guitars and banging their mulletheads again–just like their parents did some 20 years ago. Party on Lips! Party on Rob!