WRITER’S NOTE: This article is about a screening which took place back in July of 2011.
It is very scary to realize “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is now at its 30-year anniversary. Although dated stylistically, what the students went through in this movie still feels very relevant to what today’s generation goes through on a regular basis. Based on the book by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote the screenplay, it follows a group of students during one year at a San Diego high school. Its director, Amy Heckerling, dropped by the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica to talk about the behind the scenes stories, and she was greeted by a sold-out audience.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont” is notable for its frank depiction of teenage sexuality and in dealing with highly sensitive topics like abortion. Heckerling said the movie was shot at a time when things were rapidly changing. The sexual revolution was ending and the era of Ronald Reagan was on the rise along with conservatism. Most teenage comedies deal with situations from the male point of view, but Heckerling was adamant about the audience seeing things from the woman’s perspective. The MPAA, however, forced her to cut scenes like when a girl talks to her mother about blow jobs in order to avoid an X-rating. After all these years, the hypocrisy of the MPAA never ceases to amaze me.
These days, the movie is known for having three future Oscar winners in its cast: Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker and Nicolas Cage, who is credited here as Nicolas Coppola. This is not to mention all the other cast members like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates, both of whom went on to other successful efforts after this movie’s release.
Heckerling recalled coming into this movie at what she called an “awesome” time. Casting young kids in a movie proved to be tricky, but she loved how there was so much great talent to choose from. When asked if she thought all great actors could do comedy, Heckerling replied some have it in their makeup while others do not. In working with Penn, she said he is wonderful in everything he does, and his smile always lights up whatever room he is in.
In talking about the soundtrack, Heckerling wanted to fill it with 1980’s music and songs by Oingo Boingo and the Go-Go’s. While she got to include the songs she wanted in the movie, she was also forced to add in a lot of 1970’s rock music from bands like The Eagles. This was in large part due to one of the movie’s producers, Irving Azroff, being the personal manager of The Eagles at the time.
One audience member asked Heckerling if the studio proposed any sequels or prequels to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” She said when the movie was screened in Westwood, one studio executive suggested, “How about ‘Spicoli Goes to College?'”
There was a television spinoff but, like many of its kind, it proved to be short lived. There was also something of a follow up to “Fast Times” called “The Wild Life,” which was also written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Art Linson, but Heckerling said it was not strictly a sequel.
As unbelievable as it is that we are now at the 30th anniversary of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” it only goes to show this particular movie’s staying power. It remains as raunchy and funny as when it first came out, and it is also one of the great time capsules of the 1980’s. This is the kind of movie which really does not need a sequel or a prequel at this point to justify its success or longevity.
I honestly thought it was a joke when I first read the article on LAist.com, “100.3 The Sound to Be Replaced with Christian Music Station.” LOL. I mean, come on. Replacing the best classic rock radio station in Los Angeles with one which has one singer praising God and then another saying how much they love God and even another one speaking of how God got them through tough times? You know, a radio station with real variety. Aren’t there a couple of radio stations on the AM/FM radio dial with Christian music already? Do we really need another featuring songs indistinguishable from the others played before them?
Well, it turns out this is not a joke and, as I write this article, April Fool’s Day is not around the corner. In completing its merger with CBS Radio, the American broadcasting company Entercom has agreed to sell three of its radio stations, among which is 100.3 The Sound. The classic rock station is to be replaced by the Christian Contemporary station, K-LOVE and, according to Program Director, Dave Beasing, The Sound now has 30 days until their operations are shuttered. Now radio stations may come and go, but to learn this one is heading towards the annals of radio history has left me utterly infuriated and deeply depressed. Like many out there, I found The Sound and am not prepared to lose it.
Like everyone else, I grew up on FM radio with KISS-FM in Southern California (Rick Dees in the Morning!) and KFOG up in Northern California, but as the years went by, I grew continually restless with every single station I tuned in to as commercials and advertisements became more prevalent than actual music. I eventually gave up on radio for a time and became much more open to inserting a cassette into my car’s tape deck where I could get my music fix more easily and be spared from another advertisement for car insurance.
100.3 The Sound, however, was different. They would play a bunch of songs in a row, and they were the kind of songs which, even after listening to them hundreds of times, I could never get sick of. When the commercials came on, I never found myself eager to change the station as I eagerly anticipated which classic song Uncle Joe Benson, Rita Wilde, Cynthia Fox, Mary Price, Tony Scott, Tina Mica, Steve Hoffman, Mimi Chen, Andy Chanley or Gina Grad would end up spinning next. Did it matter which song they played? No, because I could always count on it being one which raise my spirits whenever I am stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on any given Los Angeles freeway. Furthermore, listening to this station on a daily basis keeps making me forget 95.5 KLOS still exists, and this is quite a feat.
Of course, it became an obligation to turn the volume down whenever that blasted Kars 4 Kids jingle was played. So simplistic and annoying in design and yet so catchy at the same time, it has long since proven to be equivalent of the Silver Shamrock jingle from “Halloween III.”
It didn’t matter if they were playing Led Zeppelin, Styx, The Eagles, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones because 100.3 The Sound made you realize why classic rock became classic rock; you never got sick of listening to it. Songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” never get old for me, ever. “Hotel California” still has relevance in this new millennium. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” still has us holding out hope even when times seem darker than ever. And while I may not have “Too Much Time on My Hands” like Tommy Shaw does, I always look forward to hearing it as much as another Styx song, “Mr. Roboto.”
That’s the thing about classic rock, it never ever gets old. It has heart and soul which today’s music seriously lacks. The artists of the here and now seem way too focused on generating the next big #1 hit to where they employ an obscene number of writers and producers on a single song in an effort to create something commercially viable, demographically friendly and inoffensive to the most sensitive of ears. Musicians from years past were never as concerned about making hit records as they were in creating music which spoke to them as much as it did to us. Even today’s generation has a great love for these bands to where their music’s power is undeniable. Taylor Swift may be the hit maker of today, but can you see “Shake it Off” or “…Ready for It?” having the lasting power of “Bohemian Rhapsody?” I think not.
Whenever I am driving people all around Southern California, they remark how the music playing on 100.3 The Sound makes them feel like they are in high school again. I feel the same way, and I went to high school back in the 1990’s! Sure, there are some passengers who instead want to hear the latest in hip hop which is fine, but more often than not, they dig listening to what this great radio station plays had on its playlist.
I love it when Andy Chanley breaks down a song to where you hear only the lead singer’s vocals or a particular guitar riff. I love Rita Wilde’s album side at 11, and she made me realize Journey’s “Frontiers” album was actually not a part of my record collection and needed to be. I love Uncle Joe Benson’s “10 at 10” as he was great at taking you back in time to a year which remains fresh in our minds, and his show “Off the Record” had him indulging in down to earth conversations with artists I always want to know more about. This station even managed to lure Mark Thompson back into the realm of morning radio, albeit for far too brief a time. Still, he had his “Cool Stories in Music” podcast which I always enjoyed listening to on a Sunday night.
100.3 The Sound also plays host to “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” the guitarist and “Sopranos” actor’s radio show which showcases what he sees as the “coolest songs in the world.” Now this is what Vincent Vega would call “a bold statement,” but in Little Steven’s case, he is absolutely justified in making it. While he plays songs by The Rolling Stones and The Monkees, bands we know and love, he also includes the grooviest of tunes from Butch Walker, The Weeklings, Jeremy & The Harlequins, Fleshtones, and the Kurt Baker Combo. I have to say I don’t know these ones but feel like I should, but with his show, Little Steven has introduced them to a new generation of listeners. It is also further proof of how my rock and roll education is far from over as his song selections provide me with a gloriously rockin’ good time.
Plus, how many other radio stations have a show like “Your Turn?” This is where Sound listeners like you and me can spend an hour as a DJ (pre-recorded of course) and play our favorite tunes for devoted listeners to hear. Now this is a radio station which respects its fans like few others do. While many of them may not sound ready for prime time, it is always great fun to hear what songs they selected. I was hoping to get a chance to do it, and I do have experience as a radio DJ, but thanks to corporate greed, it is unlikely I will get the opportunity.
Well, all I can do now is enjoy the remaining days 100.3 The Sound is on the air as I feel uncertain there will be another radio station like it in the near future. I have no real desire to tune into a Christian music station. Granted, there are some great Christian singers out there (Vanessa Jourdan, you rock!), but being without The Sound on my FM radio dial will make it painful to even try to tune in to this channel.
A big thank you to everyone at 100.3 The Sound for all the great times and songs they have given me. You will be deeply missed.
WRITER’S NOTE: I am including the following song as it started playing in my head loudly after it set in that 100.3 The Sound is going away. It was released back in 1992, and I believe this makes it “classic rock.” After all, this station also plays the music of Pearl Jam.