When I used to be a full-time music writer, people would always ask me if my job was anything like young William Miller’s in Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s paean to his days as a teenage reporter for Rolling Stone. The answer is simple: No, that’s the job I wanted to have. Rarely, if ever, did I hang out backstage with the bands I covered, and never did I travel from one tour stop to the next on the group’s bus, becoming part of the makeshift family that develops while out on the road. Crowe’s masterpiece, Almost Famous, plays like a rock-and-roll version of On the Road at times, as Miller (the fantastic Patrick Fugit) follows his own Dean Moriarty — Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond, played by Billy Crudup — from the Sunset Strip to Kansas (where they have a hilarious brush with some “real Topeka people”) to New York City, where the whole thing falls apart. You’ll have a bag packed and a mix CD featuring Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” ready to go by the closing credits, especially if you seek out the director’s-cut edition, renamed Untitled.
Long Way Round (2004)
You may have skimmed by this documentary series starring actors and best buddies Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman during its brief seven-episode run on Bravo. Do yourself a favor and check it out in its entirety now that it’s on DVD. The tagline is “two men, two bikes, 20,000 miles,” and while that’s somewhat of a reduction, it really is about that simple. Armed with onboard cameras, and with another cameraman tagging along, McGregor and Boorman set out from London with the idea of circumnavigating the globe on their two-wheelers. The journey ended up taking 115 days, plenty of time for the boys to speed through such far-flung locales as Siberia and Mongolia and to develop severe homesickness before finally pulling to a stop in New York. If you’ve ever thought of circling the planet on a motorcycle, this will either talk you out of it or give you a playbook. It’s worth a spin, either way. — Z.C.