In their quest to write The Song That Saves The World, Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) will try anything they can — including the excellent idea of transporting to the future and stealing the song from their 2023 selves, when the struggling musicians have already written it. It’s this premise that takes viewers on the ride that is Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third installment in the film series — almost 30 years after their last adventure onscreen together.
Music supervisor Jonathan Leahy was tasked with overseeing the process of creating the song at the center of the film, which is currently available on video on demand. Leahy, who’s been worked on films like Trainwreck and Fruitvale Station, and TV shows like Girls and New Girl, was brought in by the film’s director and producers to strike a fine link between music that accompanies a brand new standalone film and one that still follows on from the cult 1989 hit 1989, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and its 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
“There was definitely a bit of pressure,” Leahy tells American Songwriter. “Especially when I read the script and one of the pages has this all-star band of historical figures that starts to play the song that heals the universe. But what what the director and producers made clear from the beginning was that they were not interested in making something that was just that was purely a nostalgia trip or purely referencing the previous movies and looking backward. They wanted to make a movie that was satisfying to fans who are just joining us for this new chapter, and at the same time, be respectful of the legacy of the franchise of the two films that came before.”
The song, which plays out over 8 minutes in the film and brings together the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong, along with our heroes Bill and Ted as the Wyld Stallyns, plus their daughters, has no lyrics.
“We made a decision early on about that,” says Leahy. “I was kind of insistent that we had to have vocals in the song in some way because there’s just nothing more emotional and more impactful than the sound of the human voice. So we’re like, ‘okay, there’s got to be vocals integrated somehow in the final song. At the same time, we’re talking about uniting people throughout space and time.’ ” Leahy thought it wouldn’t be appropriate to have modern English lyrics as part of the foundation of the song, so the ‘chorus’ is just voices singing together.
The bulk of the song came from writers at Heavy Duty Projects, run by Ariel Rechtshaid ((Haim/ Vampire Weekend producer). The heart of it is Bill and Ted playing their guitar solo together. Gibson came on as the official guitar of the film, with over 30 of guitars from Gibson, Epiphone and Kramer featured throughout Bill & Ted Face the Music, including the Wyld Stallyns hero guitars, the classic Gibson SG Special and the Gibson Flying V that Bill and Ted play.
“The gear means quite a bit to me and I know that it means a lot to the fans,” says Leahy. Co-producer and executive in charge of music Ashley Waldron was instrumental in putting together the partnership with Gibson. “When we first saw the script and we saw the guitar solo and that they traveled to the future and there’s the giant case of guitars, we knew that the gear was going to be a really important thing to get right.”
Gibson has been a huge part of the Wyld Stallyns story from the very beginning. “When Rufus presents Bill & Ted with Steinbergers at the end of Excellent Adventure that’s just an iconic movie moment, especially for all the guitar players in the audience. The customized Gibson SG and Flying V that Alex and Keanu play at the end of Bogus Journey were a perfect match for the second film,” says Leahy.
“They’re responsible for every guitar you see in Face the Music, with the exception of Jimi Hendrix’ guitar,” says Leahy. Gibson is also responsible for the guitars in the Weezer music video, created to accompany the film’s closing song, Beginning of the End. In it, Rivers Cuomo plays the same guitar Ted plays at the end of the film.
Leahy, a huge Weezer fan himself, talked to the band about being involved in the film a year ago. “We started listening to unreleased tracks from them, which was a joy for me,” he says.
“When I heard the lyrics, ‘watch us brush off the dust, in heavy metal we trust,’ and then I heard the amazing, epic guitar solo complete with two-handed tapping, I was like, ‘this is the song!’” The music video shows, just as the film’s heroes learn, that it’s not so much about the song itself, but the fact that everyone is playing together that makes it all work.
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