Characters We Love From Rock And Roll

by Kevin Burton

   Which people from the words of popular music would you like to spend a little more time with? 

   Which characters can you think of who if they showed up in a movie or a TV series you would be eager to watch?

   There are plenty of songs that are all about revenge or rebellion, rain or regret.  Many songs are catchy, but add nothing to the great book of literature of mankind.  “Shake Your Booty” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band comes to mind.

   I appreciate various kinds of songs even some of the shallow ones. When they are done well though, I have a special appreciation for the songs that introduce me to characters.

   I’m thinking of two teachers here. Mark Thackeray is the actual name of the Sir from “To Sir With Love.” Never knew his name until looking it up on Wikipedia. Also there is Gabe Kotter from “Welcome Back Kotter.”

   The theme songs from those two are among my favorites. They serve as a model for my concept here.

   So what other song characters would you like to hang out with for a while?

   How about the main character from “King of the Road,” by Roger Miller?  I think that one would make a good movie or TV series.  The king’s resilience and wanderlust leave me wanting to know more.  

   What about the kid from “Little Willy” by Sweet?  Why is it that Willy won’t go home?  What precisely is he up to while out on the streets?

   That one feels more like a movie to me.  Not sure I’d want to tune in every week for that.  I don’t make a habit of digging too deeply into songs by Sweet. But this one makes me curious.

   How about Lido from “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs?  That one makes for a movie for sure, not a TV series.  That film wouldn’t be in my favorite movie genre, but I’d probably watch it because after all these years, Lido is one of my home boys.

   Then there is Al Stewart’s “The Year of the Cat.” That one fits my category. It would make for a great movie I think. But that shimmering word picture Stewart painted is probably better left alone.  I don’t see how a movie could improve upon it. 

   I would tune in a series based on the people from “Penny Lane” if it were done by British actors. 

   How about a movie based on “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” by Paul Simon? What about the main character from “The Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell?

   Wouldn’t you dial up a movie based on the song “Jolene” to see what kind of woman could possibly steal a man from Dolly Parton? 

  How about “Brandy” by The Looking Glass.  The song tells a complete story. Is there anything to be added in a movie? Same question for “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” by Billy Joel, with main characters Brenda and Eddie.

   Hey, I must be good at picking songs that could be movies because I picked “Ode to Billy Joe,” by Bobbie Gentry, and proofreader Jeannette tells me there actually is a movie about it.

   I asked her for a song to replace that one and she suggested “Meet Me In Montana” the duet by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond.  Not bad. Adjusted priorities, happy ending.

    Thinking of these tunes I am racking up some no thanks songs as well, from the sublime “Eleanor Rigby” by Paul McCartney to the ridiculous “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners.

   I love Rubberband Man but think of it as a guilty pleasure. I might be interested in a brief explanation of what in the world the song is talking about. I would not want that explanation extended to a TV series or movie.

   As for “Eleanor Rigby” it’s a brilliant, haunting picture of emptiness and loneliness. I’m just not interested in seeing the picture extended.

   No thanks also to “Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy, Major Tom from “A Space Oddity” by David Bowie and “Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin.

   As for small or large screen products based on Steely Dan songs, be very, very careful what you’re asking for. The mind of the late Walter Becker produced some famously odd word pictures.

   Come to think of it though, those might be the most fun of all.

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