Rock & roll romance (Faust mix)

One of my first class lectures (for a contemporary narrative course at Guelph-Humber) was about rock & roll as a kind of popular story, with its own three-part form, proceeding from Roots, through Raves, to Rehab. In this narrative, which combines Romantic character development with tragic or morality-play plotting, a band forms and pays its dues (Roots), then works or rockets to success (Raves), only to suffer the vicissitudes of fame (Rehab). In that class, we were discussing The Commitments, but the form recurs throughout contemporary pop music narrative: the bio-pic (Ray, 24-Hour Party People), the rock opera (The Wall), the documentary (Gimme Shelter), the mockumentary (A Mighty Wind, Fear of a Black Hat) … and that Lost Classic, the Canadian cartoon.

For Hallowe’en, I’ve rediscovered Nelvana’s 1978 The Devil and Daniel Mouse, a Faustian take on the rock & roll tale. Adapted from an American short story (Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937 “The Devil and Daniel Webster”), the cartoon has been adapted in turn by British rock music: the arch-Goth band Bauhaus sampled it in “Party of the first part” (1989).

What today’s viewers may also notice, in the cartoon’s Satanic portrayal of a record-industry executive, is how well this characterization has withstood the test of time.

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