Many have told the story of Casablanca Records—in books, articles, and legends who lived during the salad days of rock and disco music in the mid-to-late 1970s. Its rise as a hot factory – home to KISS, Donna Summer, Village People and Parliament Funkadelic – was short, swift and fulfilling.
Casablanca was founded in 1974 by Neil Bogart, who had limited success with his record label Buddha Records, a subsidiary of MGM signed to Gladys Knight and Pips and the Ohio Express , Casablanca is famous. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were the mantras of the day, and certainly so for the record company that contributed the first smash extension single to clubs and radio stations around the world – Summer’s 17 Minutes of “Love You,” by Giorgio Produced by Moroder and first released in 1975.
As the legend goes: The record was played at one of Bogart’s crazy Hollywood parties, where it was inadvertently repeated over and over until the host realized that, at 17 minutes, the song It’s just long enough for the soundtrack to everyone’s pre-AIDS sex to have — and likely to coincide with the timing of their cocaine rush.
One of Neil’s sons, Tim Bogart, joins hit songwriter Evan Bogart (Rihanna’s “SOS,” Beyoncé’s “Halo”) as he ponders his father on Earth (Bogart Sr. died of cancer in 1982, by which point disco was obsolete), and worked hard to preserve the story in script form.
“spinning gold“Originally conceived in 1990, after multiple drafts, multiple castings, and decades of searching for the right director (which eventually led to Tim’s path), it finally became a finished feature film in Cannes Film Festival.
Playing Neil Bogart is Broadway star Jeremy Jordan, and the list includes performers from today’s music artists such as Ledisi (Gladys Knight), Tayla Parx (Donna Summer), Jason Derulo (Ron Isley) and Wiz Khalifa (George Clinton).And comedians Sebastian Maniscalco, playing Moroder, Jay Pharaoh and Chris Reid. (watch a “Spinning Gold” Exclusive Clip the following. )
Musically, the original song was not used for the soundtrack, which will be released on Atlantic Records. The Bogarts—whose brother Evan serves as executive music producer along with Recording Academy dean Harvey Mason jr.—selected the new version to showcase the origins of these songs, from the demo stage to the Billboard chart-topping chart.
Why did these six earthquake years take three years to get right?Tim Bogart and type about the evolution of cinema.
How did you become a director?
We choose to tell the film the way we want, which means indie is the only way. Not necessarily because we were trying to protect or whitewash the story – I actually found my dad’s flaws to be the most fascinating part of his character. I really don’t think they are flaws. In the most extreme sense, he would never have succeeded without a true gambler.
The film was mostly shot during the pandemic. How does that work?
When I decided to direct it, it was about three years ago, at a time when the independent film business itself was changing with the way streaming and international pre-sales work. Then when we closed financing, a global pandemic forced us to close everything like the rest of the world. Don’t know: is this a month? two months? forever? Eventually, we finally realized it could be forever, we packed everything up and waited until we found another opportunity to finish the painting.
“Hit Men: Powerbrokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business” really brings the Casablanca Records story to the fore as it’s very popular among those working or aspiring in the music industry. It came out in 1990, the year you first started writing screenplays. What are your thoughts on this book?
“Killer” is fun. There’s a scene in the book that essentially burns down the house where Neil Bogart lives. The way it is described, it’s like the hand of God came down and wiped it off the face of the earth. The author is correct that there was a fire – I was in the house when the fire happened – but only the garage.
So you say it’s decorative?
It’s embellished for me. Yes, there was sex — before it was deadly; there was rock music; and trying to find people who weren’t on drugs in the ’70s. I don’t pretend that my father didn’t use drugs. he made it. He loves them. Some people must have had excesses; my father was one of them, to be sure. But I don’t think that defines the story.
The movie is not about that. It’s just part of the fabric of these people’s lives. And I think what “Hit Men” did was try to make it all about sex and drugs and rock. What it doesn’t do is celebrate any of the extraordinary achievements of the characters in the books, who are indeed some of the boldest, bravest and most creative executives who have ever worked in our business.
Explain the thinking behind not using original songs.
When you’re making a movie about the ultimate gold standard — these classics like “Lean On Me,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Last Dance” — I think Nothing new to tell. My vision has always been a love letter to these artists. I would like to understand where the song came from and what was the creative process. This actually opens up an extraordinary palette for us, because we’re not saying, these are masters. We say these are the original moments of inspiration for these songs.
You have actors copying KISS’s stage rock pomp. Do you need to go to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley for their blessings?
Every artist I’ve approached – Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Fraley, Donna’s husband Bruce Sultano, George Clinton himself – has been very supportive this movie. In fact, the people who play P Funk are true descendants of the original Funkadelics. You’ll definitely be reaching out to these people for publication, but I’m not committing to telling this story in a particular way. Ultimately, I do think each of them will be excited.
Will we see the infamous party where the extended “Love Love You” was born?
It’s a 100% true story and it’s in our movie.
Which role is the hardest to play?
My father, without a doubt. I couldn’t find that guy, I talked to some really good actors who wanted to play him. I’ve actually committed to vote one and totally panicked because I made a bad decision that would ruin the whole thing. When I heard about Jeremy Jordan, I googled his performances and saw his extraordinary talent and charisma, and his fundamental resemblance to my father. I red-eyed to New York, read through it in secret, and threw him on the spot. It was the smartest and most creative decision I’ve ever made in my life.
you are working with Justin Timberlake at one point?
I did develop this project with Justin years ago. His music career has become too busy for us to figure out how to work around this schedule. Ultimately, I decided I was ready to go and I wanted to go a different way than we talked about.
Sebastian Maniscalco as Giorgio Moroder is a surprise.
From the beginning, capturing comedy was very important. With Sebastian, we kind of watch what Cameron Crowe and Jimmy Fallon do in “Almost Famous.”You really don’t know that’s Jimmy Fallon [Fallon played Stillwater manager Dennis Hope], but what you feel is this wonderful nature of being human. Only before you realize, that’s Jimmy Fallon. I think that’s what people say about Sebastian. I think they’re going to capture this funny character with this crazy accent — [Moroder is] A German who writes in English in Italy – and will love what he does. But it means very much something you can understand later.
What does “spin gold” mean?
It references a lot of things. My dad used to spin the plates as the leader of the three-ring circus – he would have 20 in the air, hoping they wouldn’t crash. Obviously, gold refers to success in the music industry, as in gold records and money – even if he’s been spending money or losing everything, he has the ability to create it. But “spinning gold” is really a one-man art, and it has enough faith to stick with it until it succeeds.
Is there an acknowledgement of sexism and misogyny at the time in the movie? .
We are really struggling with this issue because today is a different time. Earlier iterations of this story delved deeper into sexuality. Ultimately, this is not the story I choose to tell. It’s not that we’re portraying it rather than commenting on it; we believe we made a very honest story about time and people. But this particular component, while very important, is not what the film itself tells.
The “Spinning Gold” soundtrack includes:
“The Last Dance” – Donna Summer
“Love To Love Ya Baby” – Donna Summer
“Bad Girls” – Donna Summer
“Dim all the lights” – Donna Summer
“It’s your business” – Brother Asley
“Oh Happy Day” – Edwin Hawkins singer
“The Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight
“Abandon Funk” – Parliament
“Mothership Connection” – Parliament
“Oh Boy” – Five Ladders
“One Toke Over the Line” – Brewer and Shipley
“It’s Not Without Sunshine” – Bill Withers
“Lean on Me” – Bill Withers
“Who is he” – Bill Withers
“Rock N Roll All Nite” – Kiss
“Shout Out” – Kiss
“Beth” – Kiss
“Yummy, yummy, yummy” – Ohio State player
“Furry Bully” – Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs
“YMCA” – Villagers