Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eddie and the Cruisers


Rating: 5 Stars

No worries, I am not suddenly reviewing movies - especially at the expense of the backlog of books I have yet to review. (But if I WERE going to review movies, Eddie and the Cruisers would definitely be one of them and I would just say one thing: It is one of the greatest movies of all time.)

I am super emotional about this book right now, even though I finished it three days ago already. The movie came out the year I was born and some of my earliest memories, from about age four/five, are of watching the movie and dancing around to the album that Mom would put on whenever I asked - which was daily. I of course did not understand the plot completely at the time, but I was sure of two things, even at that young age: I loved the music and I loved Eddie Wilson.

That's kind of weird, right? But I did, or at least what constituted love in the brain of a 5, 6, 7 year old. I was mesmerized by the album cover, the black and white grainy photo of Michael Paré, with the band in the bottom left-hand corner. Of course he was Eddie to me, I had no concept at that age of actors playing characters, he WAS Eddie.

So, given my ridiculously unhealthy attachment to a fictional character at the age of five, this review is probably going to be all over the place. I had to write down some words right after I finished it; good Lord I wanted to cry - because it was over, because it wasn't the ending I wanted, because Eddie really was gone, dead in the car wreck when the gas tank exploded. Frank had been in a car behind him and recalled Eddie's death with some detail remembering Eddie's body going halfway through the windshield, seeing him pulled from the burning wreck. Then there was the funeral, the mentions of Eddie's parents, and even his wife. Yes, his wife, who was NOT named Joann. But those words were written near midnight and I was not totally coherent. Then this evening I suddenly had an idea that I just had to get down, so I started the blog post with the intention of writing that sentence and coming back to it later. That sentence turned into a few paragraphs about everything - the book, the movies, my thoughts on the books and the movies and what they all mean to me. So, this final draft is a mishmash of different thoughts captured at different times, hence it kind of being "all over the place". Sorry in advance.

A couple weeks ago, Mom was visiting and scrolling through the channels (I have one of those HD antennas and only a few channels, which makes what happened even more amazing), only to come across Eddie and the Cruisers, Michael Paré appearing to belt out "On the Dark Side". Eleanor was immediately interested, my girl loves good music. I was also immediately interested because, as you can probably surmise at this point, Eddie and the Cruisers is one of my all-time favorite movies. I own very few movies anymore, I just don't watch much television at all unless it is a documentary, so I did not own the film on DVD. I corrected that problem immediately by ordering it and the sequel in one of those double feature sets and waited anxiously for it to arrive. It came last Tuesday and Eleanor and I watched it; I remembered every word to every song. Eleanor is hooked now too, professing her own allegiance to Eddie and the movie and the music (She is not a fan of Sal, which is funny because I never was either. But she totally came to that conclusion on her own - right at the time where they're at Satin Records and Sal is grabbing Eddie by his shirt and telling him he's wrong about the new album.) Now, I have seen the credit roll a million times on this movie. Seriously, more times than I can even count. And because I was always so busy watching Eddie walk away down the sidewalk in his leather jacket, flipping his keys around his index finger, I never noticed until now that the movie was based on a book. Had I kept my eyes on Eddie like all the times before, I never would have seen that credit, never would have found it on Amazon, never would have read it and discovered how Eddie's story ended the first time around. New paperbacks are going for almost $200, no joke. New hardcovers for a little less, which is weird. Reasonably-priced used copies, but I would not be having any used copies of this one, not when the movie meant so much to me. So, I compromised with myself and bought the $10.99 Kindle version - the only time I ever have or will spent/spend on a Kindle edition of a book. I figured the book would be terrible, that I would read it, hate it, and get a refund. After all, I loved the movie. It is nearly a statistical impossibility for both the book AND the movie to be great. (Only one exception, I'm looking at you, Jurassic Park.)

How wrong I was.

It's not a perfect novel, but it's good. Really, really good.

There are so many lines that I would pause after, thinking how fucking beautiful they were. I highlighted so many passages on my Kindle (95 Notes and Highlights, to be exact) that eventually my highlights were truncated and I can't even retrieve them completely from Goodreads, because they're cut off half way through a sentence, or sometimes a word even. If I could, I would copy practically the whole novel to show off how hauntingly beautiful it was, at so many points. But then, you wouldn't be able to discover those lines for yourself. it was also a comfort that so many scenes and lines were replicated verbatim in the movie. So many times I was watching the movie in my head as I was reading - something I especially enjoyed when the story of the show at Frank's old college was told. I was always so angry at Frank and Joann for kissing, and the look on Eddie's face when they walked up to the house was so perfectly captured in words that nothing seemed out of place. The movie also did well with little side notes. We get quite a bit of backstory on Kenny and learned that "I'm just goin' through a phase" kind of became his catchphrase. It amused me to find this backstory in the book, because then to watch the movie and see Eddie introduce Kenny that way at that show made me laugh. Lots of little things like that happened throughout, and now other things in the movie stand out to me based on me having read the book. Funny how that works, isn't it? If you love the movie as I do, you will enjoy the book. The characters are not strangers, you'll know and recognize them immediately. The movie did a great job in capturing each of them, even as they had to change up some things to be efficient in their limits of storytelling. Books can go on quite as long as they wish; movies do not have that luxury.

As the story went on, I found myself not wanting it to end. Eddie was always there, just out of reach even when he was in a particular flashback that Frank was recounting. It's like I could just barely make him out in the shadows of his own story, though it was never really about him; it was really about how everyone fell apart without him. I could almost reach out and grab him, try to make him stay, but it never worked. He kept slipping away. As I came to the final pages, I felt this kind of sad tightening in my stomach, knowing it was all going to be over soon. And I just knew that, unlike the movie, my Eddie would not be coming back from the dead.

Please bear with me, because even I am trying to figure out why this movie and soundtrack had me bawling my eyes out now as an adult and it kind of took viewing the movie multiple times in the last five days while reading the book (five viewings, to be exact. Eleanor has asked to watch it every single day) for me to even be able to come to any conclusions about this. Eddie Wilson was so real to me when I was little, the band was so real. I think at least part of it comes from the fact that now that I am older and recognize that Eddie was not a real person (a hard distinction for a five year old to make, and a while it was a given that I came to understand it as I got older, it was not something I gave a lot of thought to), so it is kind of like I 'lost' him again, as I also did when finishing the book. It was just so ingrained into my brain from an early age that this guy was named Eddie, he had a cool band called the Cruisers, a cool car, and played music I loved to dance to and belt out at the top of my lungs. As I got older I learned it was never Michael Paré singing, but even now when listening to the soundtrack (which arrived today because Eleanor insisted we have to listen to it in the car, and who am I to argue?), I have to remind myself that it is actually John Cafferty. But the thing about the perfect casting is that, given the timbre of Michael Paré's voice, it is not hard to fall back into the reality of the movie where it is Eddie Wilson singing. Like he's a real person.

That sounds totally crazy and I don't even care.

It's also kind of weird to be nostalgic for earlier times that I did not even live in. I've always liked 50s/early 60s music, but that's not really even the style of music Eddie and the Cruisers were playing at the time, so that's not the reason. Still, what a time it would have been to be alive, just looking at Eddie and the band playing at the bar, crammed together on that tiny stage playing to a packed house every night. I think I would have liked hanging out at the Jersey Shore at that time. Shows like that don't happen anymore, you don't find popular bands playing in hole-in-the-walls on a stage where they are practically shoulder to shoulder. As much as we romanticize the 50s/early 60s now, the image is not completely wrong.

This might go without saying, but I definitely recommend this book - whether you're a fan of the movie or not. Though, if you're not a fan, we probably can't be friends. Such a great and completely under-appreciated movie. We an debate the sequel because I see its flaws as an adult but again, I was so young when it came out (six in 1989. The original came out in '83 and it was '87 or '88 when I saw it the first time), that I never saw those flaws to begin with; it was simply another must-watch so Eddie's story could continue. The book though, read it. So much background information given, so much is really fleshed-out and it makes watching the movie that much more enjoyable because you know the characters even better.

This movie was my childhood. To have found with delight that the book is every bit as good as the movie, that I can love them both so much despite the one hugely glaring difference among other semi-important and completely unimportant differences, was truly a relief. When I started the book I was nervous. I didn't want Eddie to be so different that I would not recognize him. I didn't want him to be somehow completely different in the book, because that would mean he was the real Eddie - after all, the book came first. Sure, his story was simplified for the first movie (though the second movie drew from the book as well, regarding the Lakehurst sessions), but it wasn't huge differences. It was a relief that the person I adored so much as a child was still the same, that I recognized him there. He was still my Eddie.


  1. Ooh you did a post on this. And I hope I didn't hijack your tweet BTW- I thought of that after since you had Michael Pare on there too. Sorry if I did! I also never realized the movie was based on a book! I loved this movie as a kid too and this is going to sound terrible, but I'm rusty- there's a lot I don't remember. It might be time for a rewatch! I remeber loving it though, the slightly dark tone, the mystery... it has such atmosphere.

    They don't make movies like anymore, which is a cliche, but it's true. This just has that indefinable quality- a movie from the 80's that is itself nostalgic about an earlier time. And looking at Wikipedia to refresh my memory on some plot elements, I see that it apparently wa not well received. Oh well- I still liked it. :) I saw it on HBO a zillion times lol.

    1. No worries, you did not hijack anything :)

      That's the word I have been missing - atmosphere. I loved the movie, it made me want to be one of those kids in the crowd, listening to the Cruisers play at the bar. It was such a fantastic movie, and I hate it never got the credit it deserved. The film company really screwed it up, releasing the movie in September, it makes no sense. But on the other hand, I am glad that it is kind of unknown, because then Eddie is still mine, lol.

      I'm currently watching the second one as I type this. I know it was not great, but there is something very powerful in the scene where Sal is on the beach and suddenly Eddie is there walking toward him from out of the fog. And then the guys from Satin Records recognize him later. I will always defend the sequel, because it gave a second chapter to Eddie's story.

      I definitely recommend reading the book. Maybe rewatch the movie first (I got the two-disc set with both movies for $10), then read the book. it is told from Frank's point of view, so being in his head is really interesting.

    2. I bet it is! Good to know- I will look for the book, after rewatching of course. :) And TBH I probably saw the sequel, but I'm not sure. I will say though that when they do that- show a guy still alive at the end, then fade out- I always want to know more, so the fact that they DID do a sequel is pretty cool. Plus just more Eddie and the cruisers can't be bad!

      Atmosphere- yes. When people talk atmosphere- say Stranger Things and the like- that's what some of these 80's movies had in ABUNDANCE. I mean the junkyard palace scenes oozed atmosphere.

      Probably time for me to go look up some John Cafferty music. :)

    3. Continuing his story was great and it picks up right where the first one left off, where the mania kind of gets out of hand. The Tender Years album gets certified, can't remember which level but Sal accepts the award. There are Eddie look-alike contests, etc. And Eddie starts really missing the music and performing. I just wish things could have been pulled together a little better - and his new band was kind of blah.

      I bought both soundtracks last week and Eleanor and I have been belting out the songs ever since.

  2. Well well Thanks for the sharing your review. It helps lots of people to save their money who thinking about to download the novel. Well I am also a novel reader and its my passion to read novels. Last I Download Bayside Heat PDF eBook an almost finished half of the novel and will completed in next month.

    1. The novel is great, I am glad I bought it. I rarely read novels but I am glad I sent time on this one.

  3. FABULOUS review. thanks for sharing the link so i could come by and check it out. i have not read the book but did add it to my shelf. i am so glad the movie followed it so well. haven't seen the second movie either. i will be correcting that. i have only bought one dvd ever, but i think this may be another i need to add to my 'collection'.i was going to check the library for it, but this may be one of those very few times that i need to have the book. i too would opt for the kindle version. i know i already said this, but EXCELLENT review. i love your passion and, yes, atmosphere is an excellent word greg
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. Thank you! I am not kidding when I said I was crying, I was so devastated and thrilled at the same time. I was so, SO worries that Eddie would be unrecognizable. Thankfully he was still Eddie. The Kindle version was only $10.99 I think, and definitely worth it if you are a fan of the movie. The second movie is not nearly as good, and it's not as much about the music (I have not yet let Eleanor watch it). I still view the movie the way my 7 year old self did, and I loved it because it was about Eddie. As an adult, I see its many flaws, so I hope you go into that movie with the open mind of how you feel about the first movie. That does make a difference.


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