Monday, January 18, 2016

Who Interested You at Sixteen?

I was thinking about this the other day. Comparing the writers, actors, singers who I followed with keen interest as a teenager with later in life. They would include John Lennon, Steve McQueen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tuesday Weld, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Mead, Sara and Gerald Murphy, Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, Paul Newman, Peggy Fleming, The Alcotts, The Bloomsbury Circle, Anne Frank.

Who are some of the figures who held your early interest?


21 comments:

Deb said...

Joni Mitchell was the Queen! Every new album meant days listening to every song multiple times and poring over the lyric sheet. I also loved Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (together and apart) and would listen to all their albums too.

I read voraciously but all over the map. Some classics, some totally seventies stuff (FEAR OF FLYING stands out), lots of poetry, etc. I remember reading a lot of D.H. Lawrence and a lot of bodice rippers (which were an emerging genre at the time). Let's face it: I've always been all over the place when it comes to reading!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I definitely wasn't interested in Fitzgerald or the Murphys at that age. They came through my interest in Hemingway, and that started later too. Some on your list, though, probably so. Well, by 16 JFK was dead, though I was obsessing over books about him and his death so he probably would have made the list, along with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen and probably Sidney Poitier. Definitely The Beatles. Ian Fleming. Fletcher Knebel. Allen Drury. MacKinlay Kantor. Leon Uris. Alistair MacLean. Charles Dickens. Hemingway. Robert Ruark.

Richard R. said...

For me that would have been 1961, I was a sophomore in high school. I was mostly focused on swimming (swim team, long distance events), school, reading SFF and listening to rock 'n' roll. I was just in limbo, maybe hoping to get a date, listening to Top 40 and the like. Nothing Les comes to mind. Guess I was pretty shallow.

Deb said...

Patti--have you read Liza Klaussmann's excellent fictional account of Gerald & Sara Murphy, VILLA AMERICANA? (Please forgive if you wrote about it and I missed your post.) After WEST OF SUNSET, I didn't think I was ready for more Fitzgerald-related fiction, but F. Scott & Zelda play a smaller role in VILLA--and their marriage is presented as the alcoholic folie-a-deux it undoubtedly was.

TracyK said...

I don't remember what I read during that period in my life that well, but definitely I was reading Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner. Maybe Leon Uris. Can't remember if I read him in my teens or twenties. Music: The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson.

pattinase (abbott) said...

NO, I will look for VILLA AMERICANA. I did read a bio of them years ago but not this. Thanks.
Read everything Uris wrote. Also Ira Levin. Motown, yes. Although I can't say the personalities interested me as much as say John Lennon's.

George said...

At 16 I was a huge Bob Dylan fan. I bought all his albums and learned the words to all of his songs. And at 16 I binged on Agatha Christie. I must have read about 30 of her mysteries in just a few months.

Dana King said...

I was in every band my high school had when i was 16. Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and their sidemen were who interested me, down to comparing personnel lists on records as they came out to see who was coming and going. I can still recite many of the personnel lists, over 40 years later.

Elgin Bleecker said...

At 16, I was reading Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Michael Crichton, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Jimmy Breslin. Columnists, like the last two, and newspapers in general were a big influence on me at that time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes. I should add THE NEW REPUBLIC had a big influence on me.

Anders E said...

Let's see... That would be 1979.

Literature: I had discovered Ian Fleming when I was 11, and had moved onto Desmond Bagley, Ed McBain, Sjöwall & Wahlöö and Raymond Chandler by time I was 13. Also Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. I recall a teacher of mine recommending a book to me when I was 14 - "The Catcher in the Rye". I read about 10 pages of it and hated it so much I never bothered to finish it. Still haven't.

Movies: I saw AMERICAN GRAFFITI with a bunch of friends in a theatre in the fall of 1974 and it was the first time I was allowed to go into the city without my parents. It's still such a a great movie. I thought STAR WARS was childish nonsense in 1977 when I was 14. ALIEN almost made me crap my pants in 1979. But above all, I learned about classic cinema from TV. This was the golden age of movies on Swedish TV. I saw anything from NOSFERATU to NORTH BY NORTWEST, LES DIABOLIQUES to BRINGING UP BABY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY to THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS to SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, etc, etc. In a sense I have a college degree in classic cinema without actually having one. Oh, and from THE FORCE OF EVIL to SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. And from THE 400 BLOWS to TOP HAT. And btw, by the time I was 10 I knew not only about all those classic silent era comedians (Harold Lloyd was a firm favourite), but also lesser lights such as Harry Langdon and Ben Turpin. Good times.

Music: Let's put it this way - I became a teenager around the same time the Sex Pistols became famous. Before that, I had liked, say, Creedence Clearwater Revival and T. Rex. When Dr. Feelgood came along in early 1975 it was like a revelation. And then the Pistols. And then everything that came afterwards. Elvis Costello, The Rezillos, Blondie, Ian Dury, The Undertones, 2-Tone, Joy Division, Buzzcocks, Gang Of Four, Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers, Linton Kwesi Johnson, XTC... Another week, another new exciting noise. Oh, and an old fart like David Bowie released a gem like "Boys Keep Swinging"... The late 70s was such a good time to be a teen, musically.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, the seventies were great for most things!

Cap'n Bob said...

I turned 16 three days before Kennedy was shot. In '64 I was a rabid Beatlemaniac. That was also the year I spent my summer days at a 4H horse ranch, working in exchange for horseback riding. I didn't read anything, I'm sure.

Anders E said...

At least from a European standpopint, the era 1977-1981 is just as much an era of pop musical development as 1963-1967 was. I really REALLY do not want sound arrogant, but America in general only caught up when MTV finally happened ca 1982.

However ABBA was always a constant, albeit not always cool. "S.O.S.", "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Summer Night City" - totally awesome cool. "I Have a Dream" and "Chiquitita" - not cool at all.

Anders E said...

No wait, Bowie was also always a constant. This video is from 1979. When I was 16. Imagine that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMhFyWEMlD4

Todd Mason said...

Interesting the degree to which my experiences in the US gathered paralled Anders's in Sweden. But, Anders...no, my friend, there was no lack of musical ferment in the US before MTV, which was mostly a force for blanding the musical culture. We certainly had punk a bit before Britain did. And continue having a vibrant punk culture long after it started being Unfashionable elsewhere.

I saw this first on FaceBook, so answered thus, there: Pre-teen enthusiasms included Jodie Foster, Tatum O'Neal and PLAYBOY models, and certainly Bernadette Yao of the PBS series ZOOM (the one who did the Arm Thing); less libidinously, Jacques Cousteau, Robert Bloch, Mark Twain, Tchaikovsky. Quite an efflorescence of folk since the 13th bday, most of wnom I continue to admire, or at least their work. Are the ones you cite, Patti, the ones you continue to admire, mostly?

I am utterly unsurprised by the influence of the centrist THE NEW REPUBLIC on you, Patti...when did you start reading it? At 16, I had been reading DISSENT for a year or so, and just starting to branch leftward with such magazines as THE NATION and THE PROGRESSIVE...would take some years before I found the likes of OUR GENERATION and SOCIAL ANARCHISM or SOCIALIST REVIEW and OFF OUR BACKS.

Todd Mason said...

At 16 (1980-81), to be more specific, I was happy with the Citizen's Party, though more with VP choice LaDonna Harris than with presidential candidate Barry Commoner (in a poll of Punahou Academy students by the campus paper, I was one of three who plumped for the Citizens slate, while six voted Libertarian for Ed Clark and David Koch, no less...one voted for Gus Hall and Angela Davis of the Communist Party USA--campus support for John Anderson was a bit higher than that in Hawaii or the nation generally)...THE ATLANTIC was in its last good period (so far) and I subscribed, as I did to F&SF and AHMM, and picked up my first issues of THE TWILIGHT ZONE magazine, a fantasy/horror fiction/media/Serling-fandom magazine from skin mag GALLERY's Montcalm Publishing, who took a shot similarly to what Kathy Keeton was doing at Penthouse Publishing with OMNI, and among those who would place first or early stories with TZ were Elizabeth Hand and Joe Lansdale. I was buying as many $4 albums as possible with lunch money at Tower Records and secondhand ones at Hungry Ear in Kailua, both on the bus route home (though I would go to the listening booth of the same record store in Ala Moana Center Barry Obama would a year or so earlier, to listen to the new jazz releases, before going next door to the Honolulu Book Shop, or down the street to Froggie's secondhand books, magazines and records). 95c single films at the Aikahi Theater, 99c double-features at the Holiday Cinema in Kailua (most memorably, BODY HEAT and BLADE RUNNER).

Anders E said...

Hi Todd. Not that I want to start an argument, but the one thing that differs between Europe and the U.S concerning punk and its aftermath is that in Europe there was some real commercial success. Imagine if The Dils or Richard Hell had cracked the Billboard top 40. There really were some corresponding cases in Europe. European and American musical taste had come to differ a lot around 1977, and it took MTV to end that - for bad or (mostly) worse. I'd say that split started around the time of glam in the early 70s. And pardon the stereotype, but the general idea of the early days of MTV over here is of some Classic Rock fan in Kansas who freaks out over the fact that Boy George is a bloke.

And as for the origins of punk - these guys invented the Ramones' sound way, way back in 1965. Note the hideous misspelling on the front cover - it's all in the details...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vmYkqP2YDM

Todd Mason said...

Oh, protopunk tended to do intermittently well in the US, and while it took a while for bands such as the Ramones to find some commercial footing in the US, they did eventually, even if punk mostly remained a coterie music till 1991, The Year Punk Broke Big in the US, as the documentary was almost titled, when such bubbling under, successful bands as Husker Du, the Bad Brains, Bad Religion, Black Flag had laid groundwork that Sonic Youth, Nirvana, L7, Hole, the Pixies and the Breeders, Babes in Toyland, Dinosaur Jr., Bikini Kill and Fugazi could spring into even greater commercial success and mainstream acceptance.

The early days of MTV were a whole lot more Kansas and Styx and such than it was anything to do with adventurous music from Europe. Oh, yes, they'd play the Who and Dire Straits.

The big stumbling block in the US was the regimentation of most radio. College stations did considerably more than MTV did to ever help shake that up, and even before MTV rolled in, the more danceable new wave and synth-pop had already made inroads. I certainly have noted the European notion that the US is somehow more imbued with retrograde notions, culturally and politically, but, sadly, Europeans have had to face every greater evidence of such things Right There at Home over the last several decades.

That surf-rock track by the Madmen wasn't too bad, but it's a stretch to claim it's Ramones ten years before the Ramones...after all, this, perhaps the best of the Sonic's records, is what photo-punk tended to sound like in the US in 1965, every VU meter in the place pegging...something the Velvet Underground and not a few other direct antecedents to punk also took to heart shortly thereafter. Hell, the first single I bought for myself was the Brownsville Station's "Smoking' in the Boys Room," an intentionally goofy protopunk song and hit in 1973. By which time the New York Dolls and Lou Reed's and Iggy Pop's solo careers had already helped inspire the likes of Television and other folks getting things going around the US, and not solely at CBGB's.

The Sonics: "Have Love, Will Travel"

Todd Mason said...

The big labels got behind the Clash and a few other UK bands, much to the mockery of them by some of their peers, and that helped put them on the charts in the US in the early '80s.

Todd Mason said...

Man. I must kill my spell-checker forever.