12 Soulful Facts About Eddie and the Cruisers

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A classic example of a movie finding its audience despite a weak theatrical run, 1983’s Eddie and the Cruisers gained a cult following for its original soundtrack and the convincing lip-syncing talents of star Michael Paré. Read on to find out why the story of a fictional '60s musician struck a chord with viewers, how Rick Springfield nearly starred, and whether we’ll ever see Eddie Wilson one more time.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A MURDER MYSTERY.

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Eddie and the Cruisers was not originally conceived as a nostalgia trip for Jersey rock. Author P. F. Kluge wrote the 1980 novel it was based on as more of a thriller, with Eddie’s former bandmates reflecting on their heyday with the presumed-dead Wilson as a killer tries to find some “missing” recordings the singer made before his apparent death. While the movie stuck to the same basic structure, the killer angle was dropped.

2. RICK SPRINGFIELD WANTED TO PLAY EDDIE.

Itching to grow out of his scrubs on General Hospital, soap opera actor-slash-singer Rick Springfield lobbied for the title role in Eddie and the Cruisers. Unfortunately, director Martin Davidson—who bought the novel rights—didn’t think he could be convincing as anyone other than Rick Springfield. While he “might have been great” in the part, Davidson said, “he wouldn’t have spanned the history” of the missing musician.

3. THE BAND GOT ADVICE FROM THE BOSS.

When producers went looking for a group to supply original music that would be lip-synched by the cast, they found John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band (named after a paint color) toiling in and around New Jersey. Their Bruce Springsteen-esque sound actually had some endorsement from Springsteen himself: Cafferty told People that the Boss was around for their early gigs and helped guide him through some songwriting challenges. “It was like getting batting tips from Mickey Mantle,” Cafferty said.  

4. ELLEN BARKIN HATED MAKING IT.

Ellen Barkin, who played the latter-day investigative reporter looking into Eddie Wilson’s death, was not enthused about making the film. “That’s what we liked to call a 'pay the rent' job,” she told The A.V. Club in 2010. “It wasn’t a script I liked.” Barkin said her agent more or less talked her into it on the premise she’d only have to work on it for a couple of weeks.

5. THE DIRECTOR WAS PRETTY MEAN TO MICHAEL PARÉ.  

Paré’s most notable acting gig up to that point was as a supporting cast member of NBC’s The Greatest American Hero. Davidson didn't have much confidence the young actor could pull off some of the more emotionally demanding scenes required: He essentially put him on acting probation. “If you f*ck up tomorrow, you’re fired,” he allegedly told Paré. The animosity was strong enough that Paré’s co-stars held a meeting and told Davidson that if he fired the actor, they’d walk off the shoot. 

6. SYLVESTER STALLONE MADE AN IMPORTANT INTRODUCTION.

When Davidson had Cafferty’s master recording set, he needed a record label to distribute it. Having directed Sylvester Stallone in 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, he approached the actor to put him in touch with Scotti Bros. Records, the label that had helped facilitate a meeting between Stallone and the group Survivor that eventually paved the way for “Eye of the Tiger.” Scotti Bros. agreed to distribute the soundtrack, giving Cafferty’s band its first real break after toiling in local clubs for over a decade.

7. HBO AND MTV GAVE THE MOVIE A SECOND WIND.

Dumped unceremoniously by its distributor in September 1983 after a chunk of its potential audience was back in school, Eddie and the Cruisers was a theatrical flop. But in 1984, when the film hit HBO in heavy rotation and one of Cafferty’s songs was featured in a music video, audiences who had missed it the first time around caught on. Buoyed by the television exposure, the soundtrack cracked Billboard’s top 10 before topping one million in sales to go platinum. (Through 1989, it sold an astounding three million copies.)

8. THE PALACE OF DEPRESSION REALLY EXISTED.

Eddie’s existential crisis—to stay true to his music or placate record industry executives—comes during a scene shot at the “Palace of Depression,” a massive junkyard with parts and assorted junk artistically arranged. It wasn’t just set dressing: the Palace opened in 1932 in Vineland, New Jersey, after a man named George Daynor lost his savings in the stock market crash. Arriving in the state, he took to using trash to build out on a small patch of land. A restoration society is hoping to re-open the site in 2017.

9. THE SEQUEL WENT THROUGH 14 DRAFTS.

After the success of the album, Scotti Brothers purchased the sequel rights in 1985. That film wouldn’t see the light of day until 1989: It took 14 drafts for producers to be satisfied with a script for a follow-up that sees Eddie (Paré) living in anonymity in Canada as blue-collar worker “Joe West” before he gets the urge to start recording music again. Unfortunately, not everyone was interested in hearing it: Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! was an even bigger box office disappointment than the original, grossing just $536,508 in its opening weekend in roughly 400 theaters.

10. THE SEQUEL WAS SHOT AT A BON JOVI CONCERT.

To capture the atmosphere of a live arena crowd for Eddie’s climatic return to performing, the crew of Eddie II set up cameras at a Bon Jovi concert in April 1989 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. According to one concertgoer, the “fake” band lead by Paré was more well-received than the real warm-up band—Skid Row.

11. PARÉ RECORDED AN ALBUM OF HIS OWN.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 1989, Paré revealed he had recently finished an album featuring his own vocals and planned on touring overseas to avoid any Michael/Eddie overlap. While there’s no evidence the album was ever released, you can still hear Paré sing (a little) on a track from the film Road to Hell.

12. PARÉ HAS WRITTEN A SECOND SEQUEL.

In 2015, Paré told The Washington Post that he’s been pecking away at a script for a third movie with a friend. “I’ve got up to page 78,” he said. Director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), who is a fan of the original, said he would consider directing. In a time where Netflix and other venues are catering to some highly specific tastes, there might be more to Eddie Wilson’s story yet.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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7 People Killed by Musical Instruments

On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
On occasion, a piano has been a literal instrument of death.
Pixabay, Pexels // Public Domain

We’re used to taking it figuratively. One “slays” on guitar, is a “killer” pianist, or wants to “die” listening to a miraculous piece of music. History, though, is surprisingly rich with examples of people actually killed by musical instruments. Some were bludgeoned and some crushed; others were snuffed out by the sheer effort of performing or while an instrument was devilishly played to cover up the crime. Below are seven people who met their end thanks to a musical instrument.

1. Elizabeth Jackson // Struck with a Flute

A German flute.The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments (1889), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

David Mills was practicing his flute the night of March 25, 1751, when he got into a heated argument with fellow servant Elizabeth Jackson. A woman “given to passion,” she threw a candlestick at Mills after he said something rude. He retaliated by striking her left temple with his flute before the porter and the footman pulled them apart. Jackson lived for another four hours, able to walk but not make sensible speech. Her fellow servants decided to bleed her, a sadly ineffective treatment for skull fractures. “Her s[k]ull was remarkably thin,” the surgeon testified at Mills’s trial.

2. Louis Vierne // Exhausted by an Organ Recital

Louis Vierne plays the organ of St.-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris, France.Source: gallica.bnf.fr, Bibliothèque nationale de France // Public Domain

Reputed to be the king of instruments, the organ requires a performer with an athletic endurance—more than 67-year-old Louis Vierne had to give during a recital at Notre Dame cathedral on June 2, 1937. He collapsed (likely of a heart attack) after playing the last chord of a piece. With a Gallic appreciation for tragedy, one concertgoer noted the piece “bears a title which, given the circumstance, seems like fate and takes on an oddly disturbing meaning: ‘Tombstone for a dead child’!” As Vierne’s lifeless feet fell upon the pedalboard “a low whimper was heard from the admirable instrument, which seemed to weep for its master,” the concertgoer wrote.

3. James “Jimmy the Beard” Ferrozzo // Crushed by a Piano

The exterior of the Condor Club in 1973.Michael Holley, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Getting crushed by a piano is usually the stuff of cartoons, but what happened to James Ferrozzo is somehow even stranger than a cartoon. “A nude, screaming dancer found trapped under a man’s crushed body on a trick piano pinned against a nightclub ceiling was too drunk to remember how she got there,” the AP reported the day after the 1983 incident. The dancer was a new employee at San Francisco’s Condor Club (said to be one of the first, if not the first, topless bar). The man was her boyfriend, the club’s bouncer. And the trick piano was part of topless-dancing pioneer Carol Doda’s act—a white baby grand that lowered her from the second floor. During Ferrozzo’s assignation with the dancer, the piano’s switch was somehow activated, lifting him partway to heaven before deadly contact with the ceiling sent him the rest of the way.

4. Linos // Killed with a Lyre

A student and his music teacher, holding a lyre—potentially Herakles and Linos.Petit Palais, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

One of the greatest music teachers of mythic Ancient Greece, Linos took on Herakles as a pupil. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, the demi-god “was unable to appreciate what was taught him because of his sluggishness of soul,” and so after a harsh reprimand he flew into a rage and beat Linos to death with his lyre. Herakles dubiously used a sort of ancient stand-your-ground law as a defense during trial and was exonerated. Poor Linos: an honest man beaten by a lyre.

5. Sophia Rasch // Suffocated While a Piano Muffled her Screams

Pixabay, Pexels

No one better proves George Bernard Shaw’s quip that “hell is full of musical amateurs” than Susannah Koczula. “I have seen Susannah trying to play the piano several times—she could not play,” 10-year-old Carl Rasch testified at Koczula’s 1894 trial. Susannah, the Rasch’s caregiver, distracted little Carl, sister Clara, and their neighborhood friend Woolf with an impromptu performance while a gruesome scene unfolded upstairs: Koczula’s husband tied and suffocated Carl and Clara’s mother, Sophia Rasch, before making off with her jewelry. “She banged the piano,” explained Woolf. “I heard no halloaing.”

6. Marianne Kirchgessner // A Nervous Disorder Acquired Playing the Glass Armonica

According to one doctor, Ben Franklin's instrument caused "a great degree of nervous weakness."Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Benjamin Franklin invented the glass harmonica, or armonica, in 1761, unleashing a deadly scourge upon the musical world. “It was forbidden in several countries by the police,” wrote music historian Karl Pohl in 1862, while Karl Leopold Röllig warned in 1787 that “It’s not just the gentle waves of air that fill the ear, but the charming vibrations and constant strain of the bowls upon the already delicate nerves of the fingers that combine to produce diseases which are terrible, maybe even fatal.” In 1808, when Marianne Kirchgessner, Europe’s premiere glass armonica virtuoso, died at the age of 39, many suspected nervousness brought on by playing the instrument.

7. Charles Ratherbee // Lung Disease Possibly Caused by Playing the Trumpet

A valve trumpet made by Elbridge G. Wright, circa 1845.Purchase, Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest (2002), Metropolitan Museum of Art // Public Domain

One summer day in 1845, Charles Ratherbee, a trumpeter, got into a fight with Joseph Harvey, who rented space in a garden from Ratherbee and was sowing seeds where the trumpeter had planned to plant potatoes. When confronted, Harvey became upset and knocked Ratherbee to the ground with his elbow. Two weeks and five days later, Ratherbee was dead.

Harvey was arrested for Ratherbee’s death, but a doctor pinpointed another killer: An undiagnosed lung disease made worse by his musical career. “The blowing of a trumpet would decidedly increase [the disease],” the surgeon testified at Harvey’s manslaughter trial. When asked if he was “in a fit state to blow a trumpet” the surgeon replied bluntly, “No.” Harvey was acquitted and given a suspended sentence for assault. The trumpet was never charged.