Song of the Week – Wild Summer Nights, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band


Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor Pete McQuaid. Pete is a fellow Boston College alum and the former lead entertainment writer for a newspaper in the Boston area. Pete has recently sold his soul to work in commercial real estate. He also plays guitar and is a wicked pissah soul singer.

In late 2014, many entertainment outlets celebrated the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain, Prince’s smash film/album/vanity project that proved the public will always sit through any poorly-acted, unintelligible movie about musicians as long as the soundtrack is amazing.

Well, they almost always will. Eddie and the Cruisers came out just eight months before Purple Rain in September 1983 and didn’t even make its $5 million budget back (by comparison, Purple Rain took in $68 million at the box office — and that doesn’t include the 20 million-plus copies of the album that sold). It was pulled from theaters three weeks after its release, only to find a second life on VHS and HBO in 1984, after which the film’s main hit “On the Dark Side” climbed to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Much like Purple Rain, Eddie and the Cruisers is an unintentionally hilarious mess. It stars Tom Berenger (a week away from his leading turn in The Big Chill) as a teacher who gets questioned by a reporter about his time as a member of Eddie and the Cruisers, a flash-in-the-pan rock group who released one album in the ’60s before its titular lead singer and visionary (played by Michael Paré) vanished.

The film is told in a hackneyed Citizen Kane-style flashback with laughable dialogue and a limp plotline, and has an ending Roger Ebert described as “so frustrating, so dumb, so unsatisfactory, that it gives a bad reputation to the whole movie.”

But — that music, though.

Performed by Narragansett, Rhode Island rockers John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (and ably lip-synched by Paré), the music of the Cruisers is Wall of Sound meets Jersey bar group, in the style of acts like the E Street Band and the Asbury Jukes. Their sound is a little anachronistic for a movie set in the early ’60s, but hey, Eddie was ahead of his time. The snappy, John Mellencamp-y, not-very-wordy “Dark Side” is the only song from the soundtrack that still gets played on the radio (or referenced on Family Guy) but it may be the weakest tune on there, overshadowed by everything from sax-soaked ballads (“Tender Years”) to existential pre-prog rock (“Season in Hell”).

The best cut is “Wild Summer Nights,” a rollicking number that is so ridiculously “Springsteen-esque” a casual listener might mistake it for a fun outtake from The River. With its swirling saxophone riff, gruff vocals, twinkling piano and talk of “rebels lac[ing] midnight in black leather,” “Wild Summer Nights” is as close to The Boss as you’re going to get.

Here is the version from the soundtrack:

and here is Beaver Brown’s less-polished (but possibly harder-rocking?) version released a few years earlier:

Enjoy… until next week.

5 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Wild Summer Nights, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band

  1. I remember stumbling on this movie years ago and laughing my ass off at the unintentionally funny dialogue and scenes. Right, nobody sounded like that in 1964. Thank God for small favors.

  2. Still love the movie and soundtrack! Saw the band live in Virginia shortly after the movie came out – fabulous fun!

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