The movie Swingers gave a hilarious glimpse into LA’s dating scene, but it also started a music craze. Jon Favreau, who wrote the film, is as passionate about swing music now as he was then. He chose a swing-only set starting with a core artist in the 1930’s up to what he considers the ultimate song for the dance floor. Jon tells Anne about the artists that inspired him to write the movie, which he also starred in. The DVD for his latest blockbuster, Iron Man, is available this week.
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1.) It Happened in Monterey by Frank Sinatra
2.) Royal Crown Revue by Spanky's in the Kitchen
3.) Honeysuckle Rose by Django Reinhardt
4.) Sweet Georgia Brown by Django Reinhardt
5.)When You're Smiling / The Sheik of Araby by Louis Prima
Anne Litt: Hi this is Anne Litt from KCRW and I 'm here with writer/director Jon Favreau as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Jon made his breakthrough as the writer and star of “Swingers” and directed the summer blockbuster “Iron Man.” We're going to talk with him today about the music that has inspired him in his film making process. Jon, good to have you here with us today. So, what music have you brought with you to share?
Jon Favreau: Well, since it's only five songs, I figured just concentrate on one area of music that's influenced me. I guess the first film that I really was a film-maker on was “Swingers.” It was about 15 years ago and the lounge scene was just starting to kick in. There was something very magical about LA in that moment. And I remember I was living on the Franklin corridor, you know, sort of right across the street from the Scientology castle there and there was a little book store across the street that sold -- and this was before you could download music, so it was a used CD store and a book store -- and I walked in and I heard Frank Sinatra’s "Songs For Swinging Lovers."
I had never been a Frank Sinatra fan, I had listened Frank, but it went from being a novelty to something I really liked. And one of the songs off that album -- which I bought it immediately by the way, I said ‘what is that, in the changer? Do you have another copy, no?’ -- I bought the one right out of the changer. And I listened to that and the Capitol Records Collection of Frank Sinatra. One of the songs that really had a great swing to it was "It Happened in Monterey." Because it starts off as a simple little song, and then by the end of it, it just builds momentum, it kicks in, and so then by the end, it just really crescendos.
Song: Frank Sinatra’s "It Happened in Monterey"
Anne Litt: Jon, how did the music for Swingers come together?
Jon Favreau: As I was hanging out in clubs at night and writing, I said ‘what a great backdrop.’ And I went to, well there was, of course, The Dresden with Marty and Elaine we put in the movie and there was The Derby. And Royal Crown Review was the house band at the time.
Anne Litt: I used to go see them every Wednesday night as well.
Jon Favreau: Oh, they were great.
Anne Litt: Did you want to put Royal Crown Review in Swingers?
Jon Favreau: They weren't really available as a band. But I thought for this, a more obscure thing was going to be The Royal Crown because that was the roots of where I came up with what that scene originally was. And a lot of the guys from the band were a part of the Jazz Jury, another band that scored the film. So, their sound is in there. But it's interesting, because I wrote it listening to Sinatra, and, of course, we couldn't afford any Sinatra music. But we used Dean Martin and other stuff, Bobby Darin and more eclectic music. But Royal Crown and Sinatra did inspire the writing of it, so I thought it would be fun to include for those of you who were around 15 years ago in LA and were a big part of the scene. And I learned to dance listening to these guys. This one is a song they used to play back at The Derby, I think it's called "Spanky's in the Kitchen." They never would announce it, I know the sound of it, but I don't know all the names. This is a studio recoding of it:
Song: Royal Crown Revue’s "Spanky's in the Kitchen
Anne Litt: I'm Anne Litt here with Jon Favreau as part of KCW's Guest DJ Project. You know, Jon, you have five picks of music to bring in, and I notice that two of those picks were the music of Django Reinhardt. What lead you to his music?
Jon Favreau: I don't know how I was introduced to Django but, to me, it crystallized everything I loved about all the music I've listed. And it's a little obscure, it was pre-war, he was a gypsy guitar player. He was missing a couple of fingers on his fret hand and the sound they are able to create, and how hard they swing -- remember this is pre-war, this is probably 30's, right -- so jazz is just coming into its own, it's in Paris. And it was a very simple -- again if you listen to this, if you're flipping your radio station and you're listening to music that's over produced and, you know, modern music now has a really full sound so it is hard to appreciate the nuance of this -- but if you just listen to the runs of this music -- and that's why its good to listen to them back to back -- you here the songs establish themselves, they begin improvising, they'll go back and forth, and then you can hear their voices in the studio cause they're all sitting around a microphone. It's not like now, where everybody is recording tracks. And you'll hear Django yelling at them, to keep going, and they just extend the song and keep going, and he just gives another solo, and then Django starts going and then the band starts going, and it builds, builds, builds …
And these two particular songs, "Honeysuckle Rose," which, when you hear them play it, it just swings, it really swings. And then "Sweet Georgia Brown" everybody knows from the Harlem Globetrotters, but they just rip it up. So to me, as I've matured, as I've learned about the music, I still appreciate Sinatra and all that stuff, but the music that I can just play over and over again, and can listen to in the car, while I'm writing, while I'm reading, or just on my ipPod, when I want to just dial in and focus, and just to listen to something that is truly inspiring and beautiful, I listen to the "Hot Club of France" recordings of Django.
Song: Django Reinhard’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Sweet Georgia Brown”
Anne Litt: Jon, you've selected a medley by Louie Prima. What attracted you to his music?
Jon Favreau: Well, as I go to know the music better, as I was selecting music for the movie and got to know the music by dancing to it. And when you dance, you get a certain…you listen to the music in a different way, whether it's hip-hop or ska, or whatever you like to dance to -- there are certain types of songs that just have a quality to them that make you want to dance. Or you see that the crowd reacts a certain way and that's not necessarily what you want to listen to at home. You know again, I was nostalgic for this music even though I, you know, I was nostalgic for a time that I wasn't alive during. And there was a sound to Louie Prima. The band was small, it wasn't a big band. He had a small horn section, and a bass, and you know it was lead by Butera on Sax and Louie on the trumpet and they would just rip through these songs and the tempo was crazy. It was almost like what The Ramones were to punk rock, you know? They would just rip through song after song with such energy and he would dance around. This particular song, it's actually a medley, it's "When You're Smiling" and "The Sheik of Araby," when that song kicks into the next song, it just, if you're dancing, you are full throttle. You can't follow a song like this with another fast song, you just can't top this.
Song: Louis Prima’s "When You're Smiling/The Sheik of Araby."
Anne Litt: Jon, thank you so much for joining us on kcrw.com today.
Jon Favreau: Oh, it was great. What a treat. I hope I've turned some people on to some stuff they haven't heard before and if they've heard it before, I hope it's been a nice drive.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]