Dazed, not confused

How Richard Linklater and the Bad Livers bucked the trend of soundtraxploitation

Linklater has been the rare champion of movie music: The soundtrack to his debut Slacker featured a host of unknown Austin bands--the Bad Livers performed at the film's Austin debut in 1991--and the two albums spawned by his high-times nostalgia trip Dazed and Confused used '70s AOR hits as though they were written just for the movie. Yet perhaps the last time a major label released a soundtrack like Newton was in 1981, when Randy Newman scored Ragtime (not coincidentally, it's the sole Newman album not available on CD). The Newton Boys plays like a Folkways record without the scratches; it's authentic without playing down to the crowd, an interpretation of history but not an imitation.

"It's a very creative project in that we're not trying to get all the latest artists to do tracks," says Denise Louiso, associate director of soundtracks at Sony. "It is different. People aren't competing to do these songs. The music is so important to the film, and keeping in line with it, we wanted to make the soundtrack as real as possible."

Still, Rubin won't be satisfied till the album's in stores--and with good reason. He says that early on, an executive at 20th Century Fox, which is releasing the film, suggested bringing in such bands as Blues Traveler and Squirrel Nut Zippers to record some of the tunes. Rubin balked, though he did finally concede to using Arista artist and Austin resident Abra Moore on one song ("Milenberg Joys," which turned out to become one of the record's highlights, despite Rubin's initial fears) and A&M artist Patty Griffin on another.

"This could all teeter any moment," Rubin says with the mistrust common among any band that jumps from the minors to the majors before the end of spring training. "There's still this fear of the music-inspired-by tag. They've been pretty cool of it, but we're so far on the loop, who knows? I mean, early on, it was, 'Have you heard of this band Blues Traveler?'

"This is like a kickin', pumpin' record of good-time hot jazz, the kind of stuff Squirrel Nut Zippers wish they could do. This is going to be a Bad Livers album. Both me and Dan are in every one of those jazz bands [on the album]. It also furthers our agenda to be the acoustic Dust Brothers. We've been fighting this for a long time, actually thinking we're a band. But that's not true. We're banjo-wielding Dust Brothers.

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