If director Richard Linklater had gotten his way, the soundtrack to his 1993 movie Dazed and Confused would have included the Led Zeppelin classic “Rock and Roll.” He didn’t manage to get his way on that choice but he did when it came to the idea of featuring Jackyl’s cover of Grand Funk Railroad‘s “We’re an American Band” as the credits rolled.
Linklater was determined to make sure that every song the audience heard was by a band that was around in 1978, the year the movie’s story takes place. What he didn’t realize was that the soundtrack album deal, worth $300,000, meant that other people could overrule him.
“Kathy Nelson was the head of the soundtrack division at MCA, and she had been involved in the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack, which had a bunch of ’70s songs,” Linklater recalled in Melissa Maerz’s 2020 book Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
“She said it didn’t sell well, so she was convinced no one would buy our album unless we had a modern band on it. She was like, ‘If we get a new band to cover a ’70s song, then MTV will get behind the movie!’ Then this A&R guy comes in and wants to use the movie to promote one of his new bands. Not even a phone call to me. Just this unilateral move.”
Listen to Jackyl’s “We’re an American Band”
Frontman Jesse James Dupree recalled how the concept was explained to him: “My band, Jackyl, was on Geffen, and someone told us they might want to use one of our songs in the movie. So, we went into the studio and recorded a cover of ‘We’re an American Band.’” Linklater was against it from the moment he first heard Jackyl. Comparing Dupree’s group to Spinal Tap, he said, “There’s actually a song … called ‘She Loves My Cock’ without a hint of irony. Ohmigod, this isn’t happening. I’m sending daily faxes explaining in a nice way just how bad a thing this would be for the film.”
He wrote in a memo: “Jackyl doesn’t qualify, they’re not in the same ballpark or anywhere near. They can still be ‘launched’ by any number of the dumb movies Universal puts out. Not this one.”
He wasn’t impressed by the point that, even if Jackyl were included, their song would be the second song playing as the credits rolled, meaning it wouldn’t have a major effect on the audience’s opinion of Dazed and Confused. Increasingly convinced that he was going to lose the argument, Linklater took matters into his own hands. “I sent a personal letter to Jackyl just saying, ‘Nothing personal, but the studio was doing all this against my wishes; it’s a period film, all period music, etc.,'” he explained. “They dropped out immediately, and I’ll always respect them and be very thankful to them for that.”
Dupree said he understood Linklater’s position. “We didn’t want to force someone to use our music in the movie,” he noted. The director, who’d lost the $300,000 soundtrack deal by pushing Jackyl out, remained grateful for how easy it was. “That’s why I’ve never bad-mouthed them,” he said. “Well, I guess I have personally, but not professionally. Actually, their version of ‘American Band’ was pretty good. It was just the principle of it.”
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