LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Creating a parody
soundtrack for film is no easy task.
Just ask writer-director Jake Kasdan, who spent eight
months with co-writer Judd Apatow and a gang of songwriters in
the studio recording songs for the "biopic" comedy "Walk Hard:
The Dewey Cox Story," which Columbia Pictures will release in
theaters on December 21.
"It was daunting at the onset," Kasdan says. "We knew part
of the appeal to this was the opportunity to go for it right
away and we enlisted the help of a bunch of really talented
To add pressure to the process, there's the Holy Grail of
parody soundtracks -- "This Is Spinal Tap" -- looming in the
background. It looms over any movie creating a canon of funny
songs for a fake rock star.
"'Spinal Tap' is perfect and the record is insanely great,"
Kasdan says. "That's the kind of gold standard you aspire to
when you're entering this world."
When Kasdan and Apatow sat down to write songs for
larger-than-life musician Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), they cast
a wide net to bring in songwriters and a few musical legends to
help pen music that spans seven decades.
"We wanted the music to be good music, even though it's a
parody, even though it's funny," says Lia Vollack, president of
worldwide music for Columbia Pictures. "Bad music unfortunately
in a movie isn't funny, it's just bad. It actually becomes its
By the first draft, Kasdan and Apatow, who unlike their
"Spinal Tap" counterparts are not musicians, had created titles
and lyric fragments suggesting the kinds of songs they wanted
for each sequence of the film. From there, they collaborated
with a core group of songwriters, including producer Michael
Andrews, Dan Bern, Mike Viola -- who lent his vocals for 1996's
"That Thing You Do!" -- and with Reilly. They also recruited
several indie artists (and friends), including Antonio Ortiz,
Gus Seyffert, Charlie Wadhams and Benji Hughes.
Veteran musician Marshall Crenshaw was brought in to tackle
the title track, the Johnny Cash-inspired "Walk Hard."
"It was an important one," Kasdan says of the song. "He
just nailed it and just found that basic thing, that riff."
To tap into Cox's political period, Bern, known for his Bob
Dylan folk influences, came up with "Royal Jelly," a song
Kasdan says is "marked by incomprehensible metaphors." Cox also
sings a pair of politically incorrect protest songs that take
up the causes of "midgets," "injuns" and others.
Composer and producer Van Dyke Parks, who collaborated with
Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson for the ill-fated "Smile" album,
was brought in to capture the essence of late 1960s
experimental sounds. Parks penned a three-minute, 45-second
acid trip titled "Black Sheep," which is highlighted in the
film by Cox's in-studio drug-influenced eccentricities.
By the end of the process, hundreds of songs were in the
can, and they were eventually boiled down to 15 for the
soundtrack. An additional 15 songs are on iTunes.
The finished product is certainly creating a buzz in the
film and music community. "Walk Hard" and "Let's Duet" made the
shortlist of 59 songs in contention for an Oscar nomination.
"I think the way this particular soundtrack is structured,
and based on who's writing for it, it takes the 'Spinal Tap'
experience up to 12," says Downtown Records president Josh
Deutsch, who worked on parody soundtracks for "Music & Lyrics"
But can "Walk Hard" go down the same legendary path as
From elaborate press kits complete with concert T-shirts
and "Walk Hard" lyrics "scribbled" on a cocktail napkin to the
monthlong "Cox Across America Tour," Dewey Cox seems to be
walking hard in that direction.