The opening “Johnny B. Goode” riff will forever and for all time make me want to rock the hell out. It makes me happy of myself.
In the movie, to celebrate everything being awesome again, Marty plays one last song. And in doing so he gets two wham lines back to back!
MARTY: All right, this is, uh, oldie but — uh, well, it - it’s an oldie where I come from.
(turns to band)
MARTY: All right guys, listen. This is a blues riff in B: watch me for the changes, and try to keep up, okay?
That “oldie where I come from” line is one of the few “whooooops I’m in the past!” lines that Marty has in the movie, so it’s not as tired as it is in the book, and it works there!
Book Marty says this instead:
[Book] Marty decided that there was time.
“Well, all right,” he said. ”You guys will just have to follow me on this one…” Stepping to the microphone, he said: “We’re gonna do one more. Where I come from, they call this rock ‘n’ roll!” [and yes those are Gipe’s italics, including the one on Marty’s quotation mark for some reason]
It’s a worse line (I got Feels about him telling everyone that it’s called Rock N Roll but then this doesn’t affect the timeline in any way) but after this the book actually - improves on this scene? Incredibly?
The movie has Marty say “blues riff in B” and then WHAM, the entire band is playing Johnny B. Goode like they’ve done so for years. It’s amazing, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time trying to figure this out. How was it possible that everyone knew what notes to play and when to come in?? The backup guitar and drums both hit a beat at the beginning of the song without any communication whatsoever. Anyway rather than eighteen paragraphs of logic the bottom line is yeah it turns out it IS impossible, and the book actually addresses that!
Here, Marty doesn’t play Johnny B. Goode, he just plays Generic Rock ‘n’ Roll which makes this instantly a lot more plausible. And he coaches the musicians:
He hit a guitar riff, took a beat and then looked at Jordan. ”Gimmie a blues beat, like this,” he said, picking out the rhythm. Jordan, smiling, grabbed it immediately and sent the pulse moving.
“Good!” Marty said. Turning to the bass player, he hummed a two-bar line. ”Do this and then pick it up when I change,” he said.
The bass player nodded, getting it.
“Piano, take the bass line and play it up three octaves,” he continued. ”And sax - improvise on the three chord progression.”
It was ragged at first, but a moment later, the team started functioning - and the music sounded like vintage rock ‘n’ roll.
I get that this slows things down a bit, but I think that’s more than balanced by the coolness of seeing one kid giving the musicians just enough to get them going in a genre. It’s that same sort of “low-hanging fruit / let’s just skip to the results” idea that I had in my head with my Time Travel Cheat Sheet print: skip the work, get the results. I like it!
Anyway Marty’s singing and dancing and he’s “whipped off his sports jacked and threw it into the crowd. His movements became more and more like that of Mick Jagger… then Michael Jackson… then he drifted into pure Heavy Metal, putting his guitar next to the amp so as to generate feedback.”
And unlike the movie, where he loses the audience, here in Booktopia everyone love it!
…only one face remained cold and unaffected by the new sound - that of Gerald Strickland.
“Just when you think they can’t get any worse,” he muttered to himself, “they turn around and find a way to get worse”.
And I love that big-in-the-80s trope of kids showing a stuffy old dean / authority figure how to party, so THUMBS UP to this, my friends!!