Yes, he’s still famous, but Elton John hasn’t had a major hit since 1997’s Princess Diana tragedy turned ”Candle in the Wind” into a global hymn of mourning. Could Almost Famous change that? Cameron Crowe’s riff-orama flick builds to a crescendo with one of the most gabbed-about scenes of the fall: Crowe’s fictional band, Stillwater, and its entourage hear Elton’s rousing 1971 rhapsody ”Tiny Dancer” on the tour-bus tape player and sing along. With the movie’s $17,000-plus per-screen average last weekend, the music biz is eager to join the chorus.
Even though ”Dancer” is a decade older than Almost star Patrick Fugit, DreamWorks Records is ramping up a major marketing campaign for it: VH1 has begun airing an unusual video that’s actually the ”Tiny” tour-bus scene lifted straight from the film, complete with scripted dialogue and the lung-busting pipes of stars Billy Crudup, Noah Taylor, and Kate Hudson. ”Cameron made an amazing movie that is just sweet and tender and fun,” says Wayne Isaak, VH1’s executive VP of talent and music programming. ”When ‘Tiny Dancer’ comes on in the movie it’s pretty touching, and Elton is still a relevant artist to us, so we broke it out and we’re playing it a lot.”
Radio might be next. DreamWorks has supplied FM stations with the original tune and the cast sing-along version, hoping for a hit along the lines of the deejay-concocted version of Bruce Springsteen’s ”Secret Garden,” a 1997 smash that was peppered with dialogue from Crowe’s previous feat, Jerry Maguire. ”Cameron is a rarity,” says DreamWorks marketing exec Steven Baker. ”These songs aren’t just convenient; he doesn’t put them in the film just because they might be a hit. The lyrics may be as important to Cameron as the words he’s writing for the actors. When you combine the two, that song makes you feel good.” He could feel even better if ”Dancer” pirouettes to No. 1.