Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Summer Series: 3. Ever Hear of The Soul Hit? Probably Not.

This, the second post of MediaRunner's Summer Series (you can find the first one here), presents two short reviews of a book I found at a garage sale in Oriental, NC and of a movie I found on Netflix because of my flatmates. Incidentally, the essay asks, What does it mean to be old or forgotten? Does it hurt to be remembered?

Ever hear of The Soul Hit? A murder-mystery written by two college grads in the 70's? The psychedelic cover is intriguing, but the inside is what really grabs you.
No? Never heard of it?

Well, what about Almost Famous? Yeah, I know, it came out like ten years ago. But what’s wrong with revisiting old movies? It’s not like new things are necessarily always better.
I mean, look at the recent oily mess in the Gulf.
And as for the latest model iPhone -- it looks really great,
but when yours is the one that’s back-ordered,
it makes you wonder, “Is all this Questing for Novelty absolutely necessary?” Wouldn’t it just be fine if we enjoyed what we already have?

And so I’m here to suggest to you today
these two un-recent, yet still totally top-quality works of art.

The first one I mentioned shows us the underbelly of seventies rock.
Or at least it showed it to me.
Soul Hit’s an exciting mystery novel, and it’s written well – because the authors, Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter, know what they’re talking about. Detailed descriptions of disk jockey culture, of record store clerks, of the excitement of release parties, of drugs’ thrilling disorientation, and loud, heart-pounding rock concerts makes you feel like you’ve been there.
And maybe some readers have.
But for a young twenty-something like me, newly exposed to rock, it’s an extra-specially exciting adventure.

Barry Marsh, an ex-FBI agent, hears his disk jockey nephew’s been shot. So he leaves his pleasant peach orchard in Oregon, and goes down to San Luis Obispo, CA to investigate. It seems some people are willing to kill to get their company’s records sold. Barry’s own methods of investigation, as in CSI or James Bond, are a little unorthodox, but he does get it done. and he has fun doing it. so who can complain?

Almost Famous, though it’s been said to lack a “feeling of rawness or cutting loose,” is a fascinating film to watch.
It’s semi-autobiographical – Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age story in the era of Rock’n’Roll, or rather in the wake of it. Because there’s an underlying feeling throughout that somehow we’ve missed the boat, and we’ve got to catch up with everyone.
The young Will Miller (Patrick Fugit) lives with an over-bearing, professorial mother whose strange, tyrannical ways drive Will’s sister Anita out of the house, but not before she bequeaths her entire record collection to her young sibling, telling him, “This is gonna change your life.” And it does.

Having lived a sheltered childhood, he takes to writing music reviews for an underground high school newspaper (Ooo! dangerous!), meets a quirky, yet experienced music mentor named Lester (Philip Hoffman), who sends Will to a Black Sabbath concert, where he ends up interviewing an up-and-coming band called Stillwater and crosses paths with some serious fans who call themselves the Band-Aids, to distinguish themselves from your more regular groupies. One so-called Band-Aid named Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) stands out for her beauty and charm and her I-know-what-I-want-and-I-get-it personality. Will, attracted to the band and their Band-Aids, gets swept up in their rock-star tour-dom, and signs up to write an article for Rolling Stone about Stillwater’s own coming of age. Along the way, he’s exposed to the drugs and sex and all-around sloppy lifestyle that has gotten rock into so much trouble among some conservatives. For most of the film, he stands (or sits) as an innocent spectator, until in an intimate sort of scene, the Band-Aids finally “de-flower” him, and he becomes slightly more self-assertive. In the end, he makes friends, loses friends, finds love, tries standing up for what’s true and right, gets confused, and listens to a whole lot of really good rock music.
What more could you ask for?

Maybe it’s that these two stories made me feel like I was getting an insider’s look at a world with which I was until then very unfamiliar.
But the point is, the book and movie provide an escape; they entertain; and they teach about the not-so-distant, yet easily forgotten past in a way far more interesting than the lectures of a droning professor.

Anyway, now at least you know, and knowing is half the battle.

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