“One day, you’ll be cool. Look under your bed. It will set you free.”
~ Anita Miller.
When I woke this morning and made my way into the lounge room, I soon learnt the news that Joe Cocker had passed away. My first and only initial thought apart from feeling sorry for his wife, was that the music industry had lost a phenomenal singer. Thanks to modern day technology and a site known as Youtube, I was able to watch Joe sing at Woodstock. The way he moved his head to the music and his fingers moved as if he were playing an instrument that only he could see, I was enraptured. It was only then that I realised that if I was captivated then I could only imagine what the drug induced haze people were in, thought of Joe.
After watching Joe perform, Lois, Dad and I soon began to watch the ever talented Janis Joplin. While I was sitting there watching a playlist filled with various pictures of Janis, Lois and I were either calling out ‘that is so Jan’, ‘that’s Jan’s smile’, ‘oh my gosh! That’s Jan’. The Jan that I am talking about it is one of my beloved cousins who happens to be named after Janis. Even if Jan hadn’t been born in the era of Woodstock, she was in the smile, body structure and alignment of Janis and it was amazing to see.
Seeing these photos and listening to Janis sing brought on the home sickness I had been experiencing for the past few months and knew that I had to fix it. Mentioning to Lois that I needed to take a trip back ‘home’, she looked at me as if she were seeing me for the first time and simply nodded her head. Like most times when I come to The Little White House for some respite and relaxation, there is a moment from when I first walk in through the door to when I bring up the longing I have before becoming desperate of wanting to return home. However before I begin my story of returning home and the beneficial beliefs it has for me in the long run and how my soul is once again completed, I will tell you the story of how I discovered my place called ‘home’.
A long time ago before I became the adult I am today, I was once a child who had a million and one ideas as to what I should be. Not who I wanted to be when life decided to throw in the curve ball of adulthood, I was already plotting in my head as to what I wanted to become in life. The idea of being a teacher and helping children sounded interesting because I liked my teacher that I had for the year as she was old school but kind. However the idea of locking up bad people and yelling ‘object’ because I had watched a law show once sounded far more interesting than being a teacher. Or did I want to essentially sit behind a desk all day, pushing papers around when I could be saving someone’s life with a simple act of duty. Therefore the idea of wanting to become a nurse had been successfully bred inside of my heart especially after reading a novel on how a girl had become a nurse.
Not in one of those moments did I sit there and think that University was going to be hard. And at that moment in time, being a lawyer who helped nice people and a nurse who saved lives sounded pretty exciting and thrilling for a nine year old.
Having been born at the beginning of the 90’s were punk and plaid were considered ‘on trend’ and Clueless was what every girl wanted to aspire to in life, 1999 saw variety of different things happen. 1999 saw the introduction of the euro, Mars Polar being launched by NASA, the trial of Clinton would be soon underway and The Sopranos debuted on HBO. It also saw the hit series of Sex And The City pass its first season and was soon on its way of paving that glorified pathway for women across the United States and soon worldwide.
The year of me being nine would soon be brought to a close along with the discussions of what happened in Charmed the night before. However, it was also the ending for 1999 and using of Prince’s catch phrase of ‘we’re gonna party like its 1999’ as it would now be deemed as uncool. 1999 was soon replaced with the thoughts of what the Millennium would bring to us, the concern of our computers crashing worldwide due to some super bug and the thought of terrorism hadn’t entered our minds yet. Essentially we were still living in a safe bubble consisting of flowers, love, peace and us wearing rose tinted glasses towards what was happening around us.
Now I watched my ending of 1999 when the kid friendly time fireworks went off and I sat there in amazement at the pretty colours lighting the sky. Saying goodnight to the rest of my family, I said my prayers while my head rested against my clenched fists, stopping every now and then to wipe the drool that was dangling from my cat, Rosie’s furry chin. Before being tucked into bed by my parents who whispered ‘Happy New Year” as I made sure that I had Lucy and Big Ted in bed with me and Rosie was now situated somewhere at the end of the bed or between my legs. Because I essentially didn’t have to think about what the next year would be like and how I would now be sporting double digits for my age when my birthday arrived.
Later on that same night, I was awoken by Lois who had crept into my room and gently shook my shoulder before whispering, “come and watch the new world be created”.
Struggling to understand what she had just said as I wasn’t quite sure if she was serious or not, I stayed in bed until Lois mentioned with a hand for me to follow her. In that moment, I realised that Lois was indeed being serious. With that, I stumbled out of bed after shifting Rosie who had wormed her way up against my body and now making my way to where the lounge room glowed with colours. After been given a handful of lollies and told to ‘find a spot’, I watched the television in fascination ignoring the conversation happening around me as the camera spanned across the Sydney Harbour. Just like that, I jerked when the set of fireworks went off as I glanced at my parents with surprise visible on my face before turning back as I didn’t want to miss a single thing.
As I sat in our family lounge room surrounded by family and the Sydney sky lit up with hundreds of thousands of different colour fireworks, I turned to my parents and said ‘this is the year’. Even now when I think about it as an adult, I didn’t understand what I had meant by those words even as a child. Looking past Lois’ expression, I once again turned to look back at the television and this feeling that my destiny/home was coming in some form or shape. Knowing when I discovered it, it would be in the most unconventional way possible.
Later on the next morning, I crept back into bed after having seen the world ‘eternity’ displayed across the Harbour Bridge that when I rolled onto my back, I made a silent vow. I vowed that I would wait with anticipation for whatever was coming for me that I knew that from the bottom of my stomach, it would shape my life for eternity. And such with life, I carried on attending school like most children my age when the destiny I had been talking about those months earlier was soon delivered. And it wasn’t delivered on a platter like most of the things that would happen throughout my life but rather it was delivered by the opening scene on a big screen.
Now like most days in my household that I still hold to heart as an adult, schooling was pretty much a recommended thing that was stipulated as important. This was because both of my parents knew that if you wanted to get somewhere in life, you would need three things: a good education, a sense of flexibility for whatever life hands to you and a job that can support your lifestyle. Essentially this information had been bred into us because of Red having left high school at a young age for an apprenticeship as a Butcher. And in Lois’ case, Lois had decided that school was no longer fulfilling her life due to having already read the school’s library more than twice and nothing that her teachers were telling her wasn’t interesting in the least.
With this knowledge and because Frodo and I are the sensitive souls out of the children, we often become overwhelmed with school and occasionally would require a day off. In this case, it was my turn to have a day off from school to simply gather the meaning of life and actually shake off the norms of what society was piling on my shoulders. All because I dared to be different in some way they couldn’t/wouldn’t understand. Instead of returning home and spending the day on the couch watching Sesame Street and Playschool, I was driven to the local shopping mall and asked what I wanted to do.
Glancing at Lois like it was some trick question, I stated that I would like to go and see a movie as it had been a while. Not asking twice, Lois and I made our way into the movie theatre all the while thinking that I was a lucky girl indeed. Having brought the tickets along with a buttery popcorn, we made our way to the cinema holding the movie we were going to see and I knew when I sat down, that something was about to unfold in front of me. I started to become curious about the feeling I was experiencing but didn’t know how to tell Lois about it as there were no words to describe it. I glanced down at my ticket stub and quietly read the title of the movie.
As the movie theater grew dark around me and I got settled within my seat, I smiled a thankful smile at Lois before dragging my eyes back onto the screen. It was then after the ads had come and gone, the opening scene for the movie played. I was soon enhanced by the the image of a pencil in hand flying across a yellow legal pad that Cameron Crowe had weaved around me.
Almost Famous, for those who haven’t seen it, is set in the year of 1973. It is described as the coming of age for 15 year old William, who is a large music fan. And therefore is seen to be inspired by the bands of that era. Having previously toured with bands and written for Rolling Stone at 15, Cameron tells the story of how William’s love for music lands him an assignment for Rolling Stone magazine. Which entails the hope William experiences at the thought of interviewing the up-and-coming band Stillwater.
Stillwater is introduced as the band who is an hour and a half late to perform due to their choice of transport, Doris the bus. After having been kicked to the curb or rather to the top of the ramp with ‘the groupies’, William is left to make his way up the ramp again when Stillwater walks past him. Realising that this is his moment, William begins to tell the band that they were right for producing Fever Dog on their own and that Russell Hammond’s guitar work is incendiary. After telling William that the rest of the band were incendiary too, William is permitted a glance behind the metal door that had been closed in front of his face.
After having experienced a taste of freedom, William begins to negotiate with his overly protective mother, Eileen. William negotiates with Eileen about joining Stillwater on tour where lead guitarist Russell Hammond and lead singer, Jeff Bebe embark William on an eye-opening journey with the band. Despite having faced original objections from Eileen.
During the movie, we are introduced to Anita who is William’s older sister and very much reminds me of my cousin at the time. Anita and The Golden Haired Child were rebelling due to the rules and regulations that any parent set when having become parents and are now dealing with teenagers.
With the help of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’ we soon learn the reason as to why Anita is leaving (running) with the hopes of becoming a stewardess. We watch the visible discomfort being portrayed by Frances, as the music flows across the vinyl due to Eileen, unlike Lois, was against the sound of rock and roll being played in her house. As much as a child I was then and an adult now, I still get the feeling that when Anita bends down to given William, I feel as if that vital advice that is about to be spoken of is directly for me.
“One Day…..You’ll be cool”.
It is in that moment I knew because I wasn’t seen as toeing the line like everyone else and I would always be classified as ‘the freak’, I felt Anita was paving the road. Paving the road for future success and thus bringing a sense of importance to my life at that time of wanting to be accepted. This advice has allowed me to make the right decision when it came to standing at the fork in the middle of my pathway to life. If I turned left, I would be following everyone else and would no doubt be described as a sheep and having no originality about myself. Or I always had the choice of turning right and thus forging my own pathway, knowing that I would march happily and sometimes not so happily to my own beat that I had created. And in return would be known for having been original, not a sheep and all the while, following Anita’s advice.
When I saw Fairuza otherwise known as Sapphire kicking upon the stage door, sticking her hands up in the air and screaming, “Does anyone remember laughter?”, I turned to Lois. It was in that moment, I had discovered my inner hippy and what she would look like if she had a body. I whispered to Lois after tugging on her shirt, “That’s me Mum. That’s me”. Lois looked down at me and than at the screen and nodded her head in agreement.
Because Sapphire was exactly what I had wanted to be when I was a hippy. And still do to a certain degree now as an adult.
The one quote out of the movie that is spoken by Sapphire that I love is when her and Russell are sitting down at the table. And after being asked how Penny was, she tells Russell that everyone even Penny knows what he did to William. This moment is ruined by the new groupies come and talking to the band members lingering.
This is when she admits to Russell, that she believes the new groupies don’t know anything to do with music or with the bands. She is quoted as saying, ‘They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts’. And I know exactly what she means because when I hear the first six bars of Stairway To Heaven and Whole Lotta Love, my heart clenches at the sound before relaxing at the crooning of Robert.
As much as this is going to hurt having to type this, there is no amount of Led Zeppelin playing that can fill the void of not having Stillwater and Eileen setting Russell on his own pathway of life.
And in return, has made me sit there and tell Lois as if she were Penny Lane, ‘I have to go home’. After having lived with me for 24 years and many more to come, Lois knows when to not ask twice what I mean when I say certain things. But rather lets me over take the television, set up the speakers so when Stillwater start playing ‘Fever Dog’ its loud and we don’t say anything during the time Almost Famous is gracing my life with its presence.
During this time, I think about the time William and Cameron Crowe actually managed to make my 10 year old mind sit there and say, “I don’t want to be a teacher anymore. I want to be a journalist who writes for music magazines and I want to make a name for myself.” While picking up a vinyl cover of Elton John’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’ album and tracing my finger back and forth over the cardboard cover. Before saying, “In fact, I want to write for Rolling Stone”. Even now as an adult when I pick up Rolling Stone magazine and skim through the articles, I often wonder what it would be like to have a Rolling Stone from the 70’s.
I think about what the feel of the paper under my fingers would feel like and the smudging of ink coat my fingertips and who the main feature article would be written on. My brain tends to then think about David Bowie as Ziggy, The Eagles, The Who, Black Sabbath and many more names that probably would have been mentioned.
Packing away Almost Famous for another day of when I need to return home, my Dearest Readers, I was told by Lois:
After enjoying my night off last night from writing, On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas, Santa Gave To Me Almost Famous.
Santa also gave me: Sapphire, Penny Lane, William, Lester Bangs, quotes that have ruled my life and the sense of freedom to be me. And by being me, it was okay for me to be known as unique and an individual even if other small minded people couldn’t accept that. It also gave me the knowledge of listening/singing to and playing great albums of bands having past my era. All the while appreciating the scratching sound of the needle skimming across a vinyl and the giddiness of listening to Zeppelin crackle before Robert sings.
With that, I shall leave you the image of me sitting amongst fallen paper confetti, with a rose in hand while imaging the sounds of great bands having graced my presence and many more to come.
Until next time,