Monday, February 20, 2012

Tenacious Q

Media Moment: Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
Queen-related: Queen references throughout

I PVRed Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny the other day and had a chance to watch it last night for the first time. I have always been impressed with Jack Black’s musical skill and his ability to laugh at himself is genuine and endearing.

When I sat down to watch Pick of Destiny I wasn’t expecting an Oscar-calibre script nor Cameron-esque production values. What I did see was a comical mix of Rocky Horror and Harold & Kumar with generous helpings of The Devil Went Down to Georgia and Faust.

To my delight, our old friend Meatloaf (Marvin Lee Aday) makes an appearance as JB’s flashback evangelist father who lays into him about his Satanic interest in rock music.

After a raucous tiff at the dinner table, JB retreats to his room where ML follows with his belt in hand. After a quick belt caning, dad begins to tear the music posters off of junior’s wall to drive home his point. All of this action is set to music with ML conjuring up memories of his Eddy character from Rocky Horror, as seen here:

Hey, was that the Queen II album cover? By golly, it was. Does that mean we’ll be seeing  more of the boys later on in the film? The answer to this was, unfortunately, “no,” as an approaching plot twist would determine.

After a long jam session that produced meagre results, an observant Kyle Gass, Black’s partner in Tenacious D, stated that the reason the big stadium rockers were better than them is because they all used the same guitar pick. At closer inspection of the magazine covers that featured the virtuoso guitarists from these bands, they were indeed all using this same guitar pick passed down from one guitar prodigy to another through the years . . . a pick crafted from Satan’s tooth.

Obviously, Queen couldn’t have been lumped into that group of stadium rockers because Brian doesn’t use a run-of-the-mill guitar pick. Far from it. His pick of choice, as we all know, is an English sixpence. (What bites is that Brian had sold out of his freshly minted “Back to the Light” sixpence coins when I saw him on tour back in ’93.)

The absence of Brian in the list of guitarists makes sense at this point in the film, but it makes me wonder why suggest Queen as a source of inspiration to Black’s character at all. Although the explicit Queen reference in the film is gone within the first three minutes, there were more latent Queen references to come.

Perhaps the whole “rock opera” connotation that the movie suggested to most movie critics at the time warranted the nod to Queen’s back catalogue. Even more appropriate was the “Beelzeboss” Satan character (BoRhap, anyone?) played by Dave Grohl (who I didn’t recognize at all, although it was obvious it wasn’t Tim Curry). Dave and the Foo Fighters are no stranger to Queen fans as this eyebrow-raising video purports to show the extent of their homage to Queen.

Outside of the POD movie, there’s some overlap between Tenacious D and Queen that deserves some discussion. In addition to the odd Queen cover tune they’d play live (like Flash) the Queen II photography motif was used by Tenacious D on some of their t-shirt designs (seen here). Interestingly, the retailer even markets the shirt as TD and Queen, which crosses the copyright line, in my opinion.

And when Q+PR released The Cosmos Rocks in 2008, there was an immediate comparison between the guitar riff on C-lebrity and Tenacious D’s Metal.

It was close enough that a mashup of the two songs ended up on a remix CD of Queen tunes. Here’s a link to a YouTube version in case you want to check it out.

Was the movie any good? Depends on whether you get the White Castle munchies I suppose.


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