Sunday, April 19, 2009

The French Connection And The Three Degrees

A great scene of world's colliding and radiopeter provides a good explanation why
My DVR has been quietly sucking as many movies as possible from my cable connection. I suspect at some point it’s going to burst with the gigs of data that I’m insisting it hold.
One of these, a movie from 1971 called The French Connection, happens to be one of my favorites. It’s a gritty movie about NY cops trying to bust the infamous heroin connection between the states and France.
Early in the movie, Gene Hackman (who won the Oscar for his role) enters a nightclub and on stage performing are the Three Degrees, singing this insanely good song called Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon. You most likely know one of their other big hits called When Will I See You Again.
I can’t remember how old I was when I saw the movie on VHS. It was summertime and I was trying to go through as many of the films as I could find that received the Oscar for best picture. Call it a little bit of film education if you will. This was way before the internet, so I had to hit the library and dig into volumes of reference material to figure out who won. Must have taken me hours to put the list together. Today you can do it in about 30 seconds with an internet connection.
So I’m sitting in the living room watching this movie and when Gene Hackman enters the club, the music starts. These bright horns were blasting, a happy rhodes keyboard was playing, the bass line was thumping, the hi-hats were in full force, and there were these three beautiful voices singing some of the best lyrics I remember hearing as a kid.
The song was about going into space. I was a complete NASA nerd at the time. I also loved R&B girl groups a bit too much, making time to choreograph as many songs as possible in my basement.
It was like two worlds were colliding. Absolutely mesmerized, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Their dresses, their hair, the music, their eyelashes, it was almost too much late 60’s goodness to be believed. I watched the nightclub scene over and over until I knew all the words and most of the choreography. The energy is infectious. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d own the whole song.
The movie is amazing. But that scene forever changed me. I recommend renting the film just for those three minutes. And look for the song on iTunes because it’s beyond worth the 99 cents. This is THE best song Jimmy Webb has ever written, and the best the Three Degrees ever recorded.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Well said about this magical cinematic-musical moment -- I totally agree! This scene was a great memory for me as well and was recently revived while watching a Series 2 episode of the BBC's excellent "Life on Mars". In what I can only be an homage to "The French Connection" the two DCI's enter a private gambling club to poke around for bad guys. "Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon," is playing in the background but somehow demands your attention. You never see the singers of course but the "live" cut blends perfectly with the scene so you feel their energy just like the original clip. In my opinion that whole series (set in 1973) has great music throughout, but this sequence was one of the best.