It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago.
We've got a full tank of gas,
half a pack of cigarettes,
It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
I am deeply shocked and appalled by the fact that there hadn't been a proper
writeup on The Blues Brothers yet - It is probably one of the funniest feel-good
movies ever made, with some of the greatest music and a few of the greatest
car chases in the history of film making.
But the Blues Brothers aren't just a film. They are a band. Actually, they
are the band that revitalized the musical genre of Blues - at first
as a mere coincidence, and later with more and more determination.
So here I sit (when I should really be writing essays for my course work) and I am watching the Blues Brothers
movies. I'm listening to the soundtracks. Watching the "making of"
footage on the DVDs. Doing a writeup and dreaming about how great it was
when my friends and I would sit hours on end, drinking beer and watching the
I have an idea that this will be my longest writeup ever (added later:
I was right) but bear with me - these guys are worth it!
If you haven't seen the movies or heard the music - do something about
The Blues brothers began in 1976 more or less as a joke by Dan Aykroyd
and John Belushi as a gag for Saturday Night Live. They dressed up in
suits and dark sunglasses and had the Saturday Night Live Band play up
some of them "good 'ole" Blues licks.
One night, when Aykroyd and Belushi were on the plane together, they amused
themselves by making up two completely fictional characters, Jake and Elwood
Blues. These characters started evolving, and The Blues Brothers were born.
The gag was massively popular, and at some point in 1979, Aykroyd and Belushi
were invited to start doing warm-up acts for other Jazz and Blues artists.
Dan Aykroyd recalls; "I was making more money than the prime minister
of Canada" while working at the 505 club, before he started doing the
Blues Brothers. However, he had always been a Blues and Soul fanatic,
and decided that he might be able to do something for his favorite music genre.
During this time (1978), they released an album, Briefcase full of Blues.
The LP sold 3,500,000 copies - not bad for something starting as a gag!
When Aykroyd decided he wanted to put a band together, he was afraid the
whole project would not be taken seriously. This was why he strove to get
the cream of the crop blues and jazz artists to join the group
Many hard-core blues fans hated the Blues Brothers for dragging their music
into the mainstream, and at the same time (inevitably, really) removing part
of its soul. Aykroyd, on the other hand, promises this was not his intention:
"I love Blues - and I believe the fact that we have gotten millions of
people to like blues again proves that the Blues Brothers have been a good
In 1982, John Belushi died from a drug overdose, seemingly killing off
the dream of a continued Blues Brothers. In 1988, however, several of the
original members reformed, reviving the group. They even released a new
album in 1992, featuring guest appearances of Dan Ayk..sorry.. Elwood Blues.
The Original Lineup:
The Blues Brothers have been described as Blues with a Memphis rhythm section
with a New York horn section - This mixture of rural electric blues and
urban brass was actually quite a phenomenon.
- 1978 - Briefcase full of Blues
- 1980 - The Blues Brothers (OST)
- 1980 - Made in America (Live)
- 1981 - The Best of Blues Brothers
- 1992 - Red, White and Blues
- 1993 - Blues Brothers (Highlights)
- 1995 - Montreux Live!
- 1997 - Live from the house of Blues Brothers and Friends.
"Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of
the blues brothers has been approved"
-from Blues Brothers (1980)
Blues Brothers - the first movie
The original Blues Brothers movie was released in 1980, and the production
cost a formidable amount of money. Directed by John Landis (Schlock,
Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, Spies Like Us and The Twilight
Zone: The Movie)
This movie was written by Dan Aykroyd, who never had even seen a film
script before. Aykroyd ended up writing a 324 page script (more than double
length of a "normal" film script) which John Landis later edited
down to a manageable size. The legend has it that Aykroyd gave the script
to Landis in the covers of the Valley yellow pages to take the edge off
the fact that he had overshot his writing limit by roughly a hundred pages.
Director John Landis' view of the movie sums things up quite nicely: "It's
always frustrated me that the movie is not seen as a musical. The movie has
more music than musicals". it is very notable that they have spent considerable
time choosing the music to go in the movie. As Aykroyd recalls on the "making
of.."; "We picked the songs because they seemed to fit, and songs
we liked... That's how easy it was"
The movie is filled with insane car chases, many of which go straight through
downtown Chicago - during several days of the shoot, they had to shut down
entire mile-long stretches of road - tens of city blocks - to be able to
shoot the movie safely. In one of the car chases, they find an abandoned mall
(how often do you "find" an abandoned mall?). The shopping mall they dove though was the Dixie Square Mall on the far south side of the city. It was about to be closed anyway, so the owners let them wreck it. (The building was never torn down and it still stands today, but it has been overrun by a pack of stray dogs). They filled the parking
lot with brand new(!) cars, they filled the mall with goods, and then they did
a full week of shooting stunt footage of police cars racing through the mall
- a completely immortal sequence.
Jake and Elwood's old church will be demolished unless they manage to
cough up $ 5000. They decide to put The Band back together,
to make the money. Now they are on a mission from god...
Needless to say, getting the band back together involves loads of funny episodes
and car chases, destroying a large part of Chicago in the process. Of course
they manage to raise the money - but how :)
"Walk away now, and you walk away
from your crafts, your skills, your vocations.
Leaving the next generation with nothing but
recycled digitally sampled techno grooves.
Quasi-synth rhythm, pseudo-songs of violence laden gangster rap.
Acid-popping simpering, suckering, soulless slush."
- from Blues Brothers (2000)
Blues Brothers 2000
After John Belushi died in 1982, the whole Blues Brothers project died.
What would the Blues Brothers be without (the one and only...) Jake Blues?
15 years after the original movie, however, Dan Aykroyd decided to give
it another shot. Scripts were written, people were cast, and in 1997, the
filming began. (The movie was launched in 1998, despite its name)
In many ways, BB2000 fumbled. Personally, I believe it got too goofy, too
silly. As a matter of fact, the first time I watched it on DVD, I turned
it off half way through and watched the original 1980 version instead. I really
shouldn't have done that....
Okay, so the plot isn't all that great (Elwood becomes the mentor of a 10-year-old
kid and decides to get the band together - in other words, the true motivation
lacks. No mission from God this time...), and although it is cool to see 50
police cars crash into each other, I must admit I lost interest after
about 29 police cars.
There is a brilliant reason to watch the movie, though..
The final challenge for the Blues Brothers in this movie, is a "Battle
of the Bands"... The Blues Brothers "battle" against a sorry-ass
little band from Louisiana. Except they are not so sorry-assed after all.
As a matter of fact, I think nobody needs to review Blues Brothers 2000 -
the theater trailer sums it all up:
It's not the hats...
It's not the suits...
It's not the glasses...
It's the music....
And what else could it possibly be, when Blues Brothers is starring all of
"Stay away from drugs, gangs,
cyberporn on the Internet,
and you could be president of the United States one day"
- from Blues Brothers (2000)
Special thanks to: Oolong and BrooksMarlin for help and additions