new book release just grabbed our attention that in many ways has both
everything and nothing to do with cinema. The book is titled, The World’s Hardest Music Trivia: Rock n
Roll History, Fun Facts and Behind the Scenes Stories About the Groups and
Songs You Thought You Knew (Nautilus)but at 388 well-researched pages there is
nothing trivial about it. The book is a fun read that not only covers rock 'n roll but also delves a bit into the realm of films, as well as providing interesting facts about eras gone by. Perhaps somewhat ironically its author, John
Grantham, spent over 30 years in Hollywood in and around the movie industry as
an actor, stuntman and voice over artist. Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer caught up with him for a Q&A about his book which has a title longer than some nation's entire constitutions.
– It should be noted that this isn’t just a book listing questions &
answers about music. It’s an homage to the generations that lived and loved the
– Thanks for recognizing that. There are plenty of books that simply ask a
question and then provide you with the answer. I wanted to set a tone for the
music and provide a background for the songs and groups mentioned in the book.
– You started your sections that dealt with musical decades with an overview of
what was happening culturally, politically and financially during that period
–It was important to me that the reader experiences the questions in the
context that each generation provided. Music, perhaps more than cinema, has
always held a mirror up to society. The 1960s for example provided folk music,
anti-war music, tune in – drop out music amidst the background of a divisive
war in Vietnam that was fracturing America. There was “Black Power”, Women’s
Lib, the Eco movement and lest we forget, the introduction of terrorist
actions. For someone reading the book that wasn’t alive then or was too young
to remember, it’s helpful to set the scene if you will.
– You also included a lot of movie quotes instead of lyrics. Why is that?
– I feel like music provides the soundtrack of our lives. I tried to include
quotes from movies that highlighted the significance of music. Movies like High Fidelity and School of Rock are obvious choices. My favorite scene is from Barry
Levinson’s 1982 classic, Diner where
Daniel Sterns’ character Shrevie argues with his wife Beth, “The first time I met you? Modell’s sister’s high school graduation
party, right? 1955. And ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ was playing when I walked into the
door! It’s important”.
– You were a Hollywood actor and stuntman. Why then a book about music and not,
say, well the obvious, movies?
- (Laughs) Thank you for dignifying my career. I had more than my share of
stinkers. If my career had started a decade earlier much of my finer work would
have gone straight to the drive-in.
– Such as?
– Let’s see… Baja, Deadly Breed, Death
House… Of course therewas also Double Dragon and Master’s of the Universe… If Double
Dragon had done anything at the box office you could have an action figure of
my character, Torpedo, on your shelf!
– What would you say was your favorite role or movie?
– Hmmm. Harvey Keitel shoots me in the final scene of Get Shorty. I played Hari
Krishna #1. I doubled Peter Deluise in the TV show seaQuest DSV. There was a lot of fire and explosions on that, plus a
gnarly stunt where I had to crash through a plate glass window.
– Sounds like fun.
– Some days were better than others. The movie that was the most gratifying to
be associated with was an independent film I doubt many of your readers ever
saw called Miss Firecracker…
- …With Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins…
– That’s right. It also starred Scott Glenn, Alfrie Woodard, Mary Steenburgen
and the late Trey Wilson. I was the stunt coordinator for that. Scott Glenn came
up to me after the fight scene at the fairground and said it was the most
realistic fight he’d ever seen. It wasn’t of course, but it was kind of him to
– Your love of rock and pop is obvious from the book but what movies inspired
your career choice?
– All of them. I’d put moving pictures right next to the printing press in
terms of how it has shaped and moved society. You can’t understate its
influence. The optimistic messages of
Frank Capra’s films and the documentaries of Leni Riefenstahl, are from the same era. The 70s gave us gritty,
street level dramas like The French
Connection and Shaft . The latter
of which featured, perhaps, the best opening theme song in history.
John Grantham: Hollywood stuntman and author.
–Back to the music then…
– Oh right…My formative years were spent in Naples, Florida. My best friend’s
parents owned the only record store in town. That was our “Diner” if you will;
the place we would hang out and talk about girls and sports and movies to the
backdrop of great music. It never occurred to me that all that time spent
pouring over album covers and liner notes would someday form the foundation of
– With the success of “The World’s
Hardest Music Trivia…” can we expect to see The World’s Hardest Movie Trivia on the shelves soon?
– You’d have to ask my publisher. I’d love to do it. I am a student of
Hollywood. I couldn’t tell you who my Congressman is but I can tell you that Susan
Hart played the ghost in The Ghost in the
Invisible Bikini”, which I saw in 1966 at theYazoo Theater in Yazoo City, Mississippi. I was too young to know what
was causing that tingling sensation in my body as I watched the movie but I
knew I wanted to experience it again; and often.
– Maybe we should leave it at that.
– Probably for the best Lee. Thanks for the shout out. Rock on.