Friday, November 6, 2009

Rock 'n Roll Posters

Did you have any rock ‘n roll posters in your room as a teen-ager?  I did and so did all of my friends.  I remember as a child, the first singer I liked was Elton John.  My mother had been grooming me to listen to an assortment of classical music.  Mostly things I could connect to as a child such as the instrumentation to Peter and the Wolf, and the like.

But then my friend Dominick, grandson of Dalton Trumbo by the way, was always listening to Elton John.  He had all of Elton’s albums at whatever age we were at the time….eight??  So pretty quickly, my immersion into classical music was over and I was listening to “Bennie and the Jets,” “Honky Cat,” and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”  I think the thing that caught my ear at an early age was the bass and piano syncopation.  It was so strong in Elton’s music along with his pleasing, easy-going chord progressions.

So posters of Elton went up in my room quickly.  Most of them were regular sized posters.  But there was one that I saw in some novelty shop and bugged my dad for weeks on end to buy for me until he finally relented.  It was super-sized and had many different pictures of Elton in his flamboyant costumes.  I’m sure my dad must have questioned my interest in Elton for at least a moment or two, but he never let on.  His mind must have been eased due to the fact that he would continuously find me waist-high digging around his old Playboy Magazines in the garage.

Later when my family moved down to the lowlands, the San Fernando Valley, from the Hollywood Hills, my dad told me, “Hey, did you hear that Elton John is in a movie?”  I hadn’t heard this and needed to know more.  My dad said that he had a bit part in the movie, Tommy, by the rock band, The Who.  So as soon as the film was out, I was off to see it at the Studio City Mann Theater; now a bookstore (Book Star to be exact).  For some reason I had gotten the impression from my father that all I would see of Elton was his walking up to a bar and ordering a drink or some such lowly part, so you can imagine how delighted I was when he was featured as “The Pinball Wizard.”  His ended up being one of the most visually and musically dazzling numbers in the film.

But another thing came out of that experience which was that I had been exposed to The Who’s music at a time when they were getting their second great wind.  Their “Who’s Next” album had been out along with “Quadrophenia,” and “Who Are You” would be out in just a few more years.  So down went all of my Elton John posters except the iconic “Pinball Wizard,” and up went a good seven or eight Who posters.  They surrounded my room like lords overlooking their empire and protecting me.  Friends who came into my room would always hesitate at the grandiosity of my wall-decor, look around, and comment on them.  It was always a good ice-breaker for people I was just getting acquainted with.

In high school, you can tell a lot about a person’s room by their posters.  It’s like your adolescent resume.  My girlfriend and her best friend had “Journey” posters adorning their walls, and since Journey did a lot of rock ballads, I knew where their hearts were.

My good buddy had Beatles and Davie Bowie posters behind towering, black, really loud speakers in his room. Both of these were artistic geniuses, and so was my buddy.

Another high school cohort of mine had Tom Petty and Pretenders posters spread out across his room.  I remember how prolific they both were at the time.  They both had a straight-forward sound, and my friend was a very even-keeled person.

It’s not difficult to say that my friends’ taste in music was very important to me and was a large part of the bond that we had.  At that time, my friends didn’t have punk or crazy-ass speed metal posters in their rooms.  It’s wasn't a coincidence; I just wasn’t into those people.  Just solid, good old rock n roll types for me.
 I’ve come to appreciate a much wider range of music as I’ve gotten older; music that I either had no interest in or wouldn’t have tolerated when I was in high school.  I guess in high school, I had to pick and remain with one identity, and that was rock ‘n roll.