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ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM (AND A FEW OTHER GOOD THINGS)

Quentin Tarantino visited the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater on 10/2 to talk about music—notably in his recent smash Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but also in his other films and his early life.

Tarantino was joined by the Museum’s Scott Goldman and later by journalist/Grammys show writer and old pal David Wild, both of whom extracted memorable anecdotes from the filmmaker. Mark Lindsay, lead singer of ’60s-‘70s hitmakers Paul Revere & The Raiders (several of whose tunes appear in the new film) showed up to tell a few tall tales and sing a few songs.

Scenes From a Museum: Goldman, Lindsay, QT and Wild

QT, who grew up in L.A., noted that air checks of legendary AM radio station KHJ, obtained by dogged archivists, helped him shape Once Upon a Time, and he recalled the ubiquity of radio in that period. He also related how he chose several of the key songs and—in the case of the legendary Jose Feliciano—how the artist responded to hearing his music in the film. (Wild also related a message from Neil Diamond congratulating Tarantino on the film... and hoping to have even more of his songs used next time.)

Once Upon a Time, as fans know, is larded not with highbrow psychedelia and other cuts beloved by purists, but with the music that was on the airwaves as Angelenos worked and played and drove and drove and drove—AM pop.

The two-time Oscar winner related that when he has an idea for a film, he repairs to his “music room” and listens to likely soundtrack songs over and over to help him visualize scenes. He elicited roars from the crowd when he admitted his fantasies of blowing away all his favorite directors with his musical choices, poking fun at his own grandiosity. “Oh, there’s always Tarantino,” he imagined them moaning in despair, adding, "At least that’s how it goes in my head."

He also detailed some of the first records he obtained, such as Partridge Family LPs, the Batman theme, “Snoopy and the Red Baron,” George Carlin’s FM & AM and the Superfly soundtrack. But he admitted he didn’t really go to concerts as a kid, and that his first experiences with live music were a Freddy Fender show and Wolfman Jack’s Halloween event, both at Magic Mountain. For Tarantino’s fans, of course, every such detail feels like a clue to the pop-cultural puzzle of his work.

Asked about his Grammy memories, Tarantino recalled being a presenter the year Prince performed "Purple Rain," joined mid-song by Beyoncé. From his vantage point backstage, he recalled, he was the only person who could see Bey in the seconds before she hit the stage, a vision he likened to a prizefighter preparing for a championship bout.

He also hinted broadly that he’d love to win a Grammy for one of his soundtracks, proclaiming that he’s as proud of his discography as he is of his filmography.

For his part, Lindsay offered some lysergic reminiscences of the period limned in the film (including the time he stripped naked to record a vocal track) and recalled writing songs on the piano in the Cielo Drive house he lived in prior to its fateful occupancy by Sharon Tate. He was then joined by the Tesoro High School Choral Ensemble (beneficiaries of the Museum’s laudable work in music education) for a drive down memory lane with Paul Revere songs “Hungry,” “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” and “Good Thing.”

 
Photos courtesy of the Recording Academy™/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images © 2019.

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