Top 11 Sweetest Rock & Roll Moments From 'Freaks & Geeks'


If you haven't gotten the Judd Apatow-edited issue of Vanity Fair yet, totally get it as soon as you can. It's so wonderful and my favorite is the oral history of Freaks & Geeks -- after work on Friday afternoon I went Christmas shopping and then bought myself the magazine and read the Freaks & Geeks feature while eating a homemade Pop Tart; it was perfect. I've heard the story of what happened to Freaks & Geeks a zillion times (through other magazine/Internet articles, and DVD commentaries, and the old Freaks & Geeks website which was weirdly exhaustive), but somehow it was still heartbreaking to see how the unraveling of the show sort of devastated nearly everyone involved. 

I think about Freaks & Geeks a lot; its funny-melancholy vibe and its unabashed yet elegant huge-heartedness are something I forever aspire to in my own writing. I also romanticize the hell out of the rock-and-roll era it's set in, and ended up stealing that setting for my own book, which was a smart move. There are so many songs I intensely love because of hearing them on Freaks & Geeks, but here's just a little top 11 of my favorite rock & roll moments from the show. Oh and I just made this Spotify playlist of every song ever played on Freaks & Geeks - so merry Christmas to all, and to all a sweetly painful yet subtly restorative night.

i. The fakeout opening scene with the Van Halen and the hotness. When I hear "Runnin' with the Devil," the first thing I think of is my first date with my Van Halen boyfriend, which I wrote about in our "10 Beatles Songs We'd Rather Die Than Live Without" post. But the second and sweeter thing I think of is the opening scene of the Freaks & Geeks pilot, and how genius and beautiful and hot it is when the camera pans away from the jock and the cheerleader and heads down under the bleachers, with the freaks shooting the shit about Molly Hatchet. They will never stop seeming so cool to me, those kids under the bleachers, especially Daniel Desario. And I know James Franco's kind of a pill but I've resigned myself to loving him forever, 97 percent of Daniel and 3 percent because of Pineapple Express. I will forever be 100 percent Franco-positive. 

ii. When the freaks all sing "Gonna Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick in Daniel's car on Halloween. I feel bad for Lindsey, that she's so anxious about skipping out on handing out candy with her mom, but mostly I'm just overwhelmed with love for Jason Segel and James Franco and Seth Rogen. They all look so tough! Even though they're little babies! When the chorus starts up and they all sing together I'm like, "Oh, you guys are all gonna be so famous someday soon! I'm just so proud of all of you!"

iii. That Dazed & Confused-y scene with "Free-For-All" by Ted Nugent. Also from the Halloween episode. Dazed & Confused-y because of the smashing-mailboxes-with-baseball-bats, I mean. And Ted Nugent's the worst person in the world but I love his rock & roll, and "Free-For-All" is in my Ted Nugent top five. A couple years ago it was about 100 degrees out a week before Christmas and I put on a t-shirt that was ripped-up in a semi-trampish way, and some jeans and "warrior princess" headband, and got an ice cream cone at the drugstore and walked all around my neighborhood listening to "Free-For-All," feeling so tough. That was back when I was in my "aspiring to be the world's most sweethearted sleazebag phase," which I've totally outgrown, but it was fun while it lasted. P.S. Is it true that Ted Nugent never even smoked pot? Kind of a drag, that the dude who sang a line as great as "Stakes are high and so am I" never did any drugs.

iv. Kim Kelly almost running James Franco over after Ann Perkins sucks on his thumb in the park. "Kim Kelly's My Friend" is my favorite episode, cuz of riot grrrl, sort of. That part with the thumb-sucking (3:10 of the video below) is way intense and I totally get the chills when Kim bugs out and starts screaming and being psychotic -- "Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen is such a rad song to nearly commit vehicular homicide to. One time I was in Starbucks and Busy Philips sat down next to me with her little daughter, and Busy Phillips was telling the daughter about how she'd messed up the start date of the daughter's dance class, and the class didn't actually start till September. It was like May or June at the time and the daughter asked, "DOES SEPTEMBER MEAN TOMORROW?" and it was so sweet. I was like, "Holy shit, Kim Kelly, could your kid be any goddamn cuter?" All in all, a cool day at Starbucks.

v. When the geeks take Maureen out to all-you-can-eat night at the Iron Horse and "Don't Ask Me Why" by Billy Joel plays during the montage. One night several years ago I was out at a pizza parlor with this boy who's really cool and we played songs on the jukebox and he picked "The Stranger" by Billy Joel and I teased him about it but it was such a good choice. And recently I was interviewing an indie band who told me something about loving Billy Joel, and their manager butted in and scolded them, which was so lame to me. Billy Joel has written a lot of great songs and the older I get, the more I appreciate his pained sincerity. The point I'm trying to make here is: I love dudes who openly love Billy Joel; I think it's the mark of a good heart. Those geeks at the Iron Horse are all such goodhearted boys. 

vi. When "Hush" by Deep Purple plays at Lindsay's keg party. "Hush" is the best party song and it starts with a wolf howling. I have a wolf hat and I like to wear it and listen to "Hush" and make-believe I'm the wolf from the song. Here is a picture of me wearing my wolf hat, from Halloween 2011:

I don't really have anything Freaks & Geeks-related to say here, I just wanted everyone to know I'm deeply passionate about "Hush."

vii. The guidance-office performance of "I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper. I love Mr. Rosso because we go to the same bank branch and sometimes I get to stand behind him in line. I also love Jason Segel's "drum face":

viii. Lindsey's "Whipping Post" agony. When she's slow-motion-wandering the hall at school, spying on that weirdly advanced couple making out against the lockers, agonizing over whether to sleep with Nick, I mega-feel for her. My other favorite thing about "Whipping Post" is one time my friend Alissa and I were playing pool at this bizarro sports bar in an attic in Santa Cruz, and "Whipping Post" came on the jukebox, and we both sang the "Oh lord I feel like I'm dyin'" part so soulfully, in perfect unison. It was so dumb and cute of us.

ix. "Free Bird" at the Laser Dome. It just amazes me, how they were able to strip away every other association I ever had with "Free Bird" and make that song so completely about the newly broken-up Lindsey and Nick sitting next to each other in the dark, watching everybody else make out, awkward and heartache-y as hell. Speaking of Nick and Lindsey, isn't that picture up top so lovely? That's exactly the coat I was trying to describe in the "Hairspray Queen" part of my big Nirvana thing. I've since started referring to it as the "ideal first-love coat."

x. Sam's first makeout sesh. It's to "You'll Accomp'ny Me" by Bob Seger, the second verse of which is some of the most romantic rock & roll I've ever heard.  When his voice soars and soars some more at the part that begins "I'll take my chances, babe, I'll risk it all," it heals just as good as it hurts.

xi. The "Take The Long Way Home" ending of the car-crash episode. In some ways, this is the most melancholy moment in the entire series for me -- there's something about the way the shot of the cars driving away coincides with the coda that just kills me; it feels like the ending of every exciting and beautiful night when you're 17. Lately I'm really into songs that sound like beginnings and endings at the same time, and "Take The Long Way Home" by Supertramp is the most gorgeous example of that.


  1. Mike Andrews lived around the corner from me while he was scoring the original music for the show. I didn't watch it at the time, but I remember being impressed. I briefly dated a guy in his band, & I ended up at their house after a show one night, & he put on the Kinks & kept saying, "This is so sick!"

    Of course, I later watched the show & loved it.

  2. That was sweet. One crucial addition that I'd like to contribute:

    The scene where Bill Haverchuck is watching Gary Shandling while listening to I'm One by The Who.


    Ali (Laura's boyfriend on her computer)

    1. that's a totally solid addition. originally my list was like 35-songs-long but then i was all, 'whoa, barker, rein it in.'

      also at first i didn't see the last line of this comment and it was sort of mindblowing to think laura was stepping up for the who. LAURA HEARTS THE WHO!

  3. My #1 rock & roll moment of All of Freaks & Geeks is when Nick & Lindsey get stoned and it cuts in to Nick loungin & listening to "Fat Bottomed Girls." And he's like "Yeah, this is FUN." Once I tried to make a mix tape with "Fat Bottomed Girls" starting at that exact part where that scene starts, but I totally couldn't do it.