A chat with Martin Scorsese about music, for a change | Inquirer Entertainment
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A chat with Martin Scorsese about music, for a change

By: - Columnist
/ 02:24 AM January 22, 2016

MARTIN Scorsese (left) and Mick Jagger  AFP

MARTIN Scorsese (left) and Mick Jagger AFP

LOS ANGELES—Martin Scorsese’s HBO project with Mick Jagger, “Vinyl,” got us talking about music with the master filmmaker. For a change, we chatted with Martin (via Skype) about the recently departed David Bowie, Woodstock (he was there, but he was working), Mick and the Rolling Stones, the Beatles—and more.

READ: Mick Jagger remembers ‘good times’ with David Bowie


Martin and Mick have been working together as executive producers of “Vinyl,” a drama series debuting on Feb. 14 which is a romp through the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll scene in 1970s New York, when punk, disco and hip-hop were breaking through. The two also wrote the story of the pilot episode with Rich Cohen and Terence Winter.


Martin, noted for his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, turned out to have as much detailed knowledge of music. He regaled us with his asides on rock legends in his answers to our questions.



Did you actually go to Woodstock or just worked on editing the documentary?

I was, of course, at Woodstock onstage for three days and nights, whatever it was. It all seemed like some surrealist magic dream. I was an assistant to the editor and the director. But I didn’t really see the concerts.


What was the first concert you saw?

I was thinking about that late last night—what was the first concert I saw? For example, I never saw the Rolling Stones in concert until 1970. I guess I started going to Fillmore East after I worked on Woodstock. Every weekend, we would go to see the groups there (at the Fillmore East).

But I did see rock ‘n’ roll onstage before that and that was in the mid-’50s. Those were the rock ‘n’ roll shows that Alan Freed, another proponent of rock music, put together. They were amazing shows, particularly at the Paramount (Theatre in Brooklyn). The last big show that we saw had to be before Buddy Holly died, because he was there. The Paramount closed with Jerry Lee Lewis. It was an extraordinary experience!


What were the first rock ‘n’ roll records you bought?

I go back to the early ’50s, when the first rock ‘n’ roll records I bought were on 78—Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Little Richard. Up to the ’60s—the Stones, the Beatles and all the others, The Kinks, The Band and, of course, Bob Dylan.


What are your top five 1970s songs? What memories come to mind?

There are many: There’s “Exile on Main St,” that album (by the Stones) is an incredible piece that keeps coming back. “Blood on the Tracks” (by Dylan) and the last albums of The Band. Also Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

In “Mean Streets” in 1973, the music I used was primarily from the late ’60s and early ’50s.

David Bowie, on the other hand, was, of course, a sound of the ’70s—like “Starman,” “Ziggy Stardust” and “Space Oddity.” I saw him in concert a number of times in the ’70s and ’80s. I actually called David, because I was planning a film with three, four stories—it never came to fruition, though.

It was (director) Michael Powell’s idea called “13 Ways to Kill a Poet.” Francis Ford Coppola was involved, and he was going to do one on (Pablo) Neruda. I was going to do one and a number of other people.

I had seen David Bowie’s rock videos, and I thought they were very interesting. I remember calling him and suggesting that he direct one. So, we met a few times and became friends to a certain extent.

The project never… [pushed through], but I did get to work with David on “The Last Temptation of Christ.” He played Pontius Pilate and we shot it in Morocco. We had a great time doing that!

I was involved in a project for a long time about George Gershwin. Irwin Winkler was producing. This was all through the ’80s to the early ’90s. John Guare wrote the script. Fred Astaire was a character in the script. The film never came to production.

But I remember that Astaire was still alive and he said the only person he would want to portray him in the film would be David Bowie. It’s very sad—David’s death (is) very upsetting!

You have been working with movie stars for over 40 years. What happens when you collaborate with a rock star like Mick Jagger? Do you also become a fan?

Certainly with Mick Jagger, whenever I met him prior to us getting together on this project, yes, it was as a fan! He will always be an idol because of the inspiration from the Stones’ music.

I must emphasize again that I never saw the Stones perform until 1970. But I was a fan and there’s no doubt about it. When I first worked with Mick, we had to get to know how to work together, or I must say, if we could work together.

Often, people suggest that I work with other people I love and respect. I just don’t necessarily want to get into situations where I wouldn’t be able to listen to their music again if we had a bad experience!

But here (in this project), Mick and I started to feel each other out, get a sense of what we wanted to do and how he was thinking about it. I liked his ideas a lot—and I still do. He’s always on the cutting edge and he’s always pushing ahead! I welcomed his take on the music business and what he had been through.

I have started many projects that did not come to fruition—this did. It’s been a long process of learning to work with each other. It’s about trusting each other and getting a sense of who he is and how he thinks.


You met John Lennon, Mick and David. Why do you think they made a global  impact?

It’s the art that they created. They are works of art! Look at the albums that Bowie came up with—look at the themes—and the different Rolling Stones tours that were always on the cutting edge. They represented the avant-garde of popular culture and taste, like great fashion icons who can create remarkable images!

That and their combination of sound, and what they did with music—the distillation of all kinds of music together, the idea of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, the blues-based music which those of us attracted to blues music didn’t know until we heard them, then we went back to the originals.

Of course, British blues is different and unique. I think it has to do with the way they opened the mind culturally, visually, sound-wise and, at times, the lifestyle itself.

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TAGS: “Vinyl”, Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Music, Rock ‘N’ Roll, rock music

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