I can still remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Everything I Own’ by Bread. I remember who with me at the time and what the sun felt like as it streamed in through the window in the backseat of my mum’s car. I remember the instant love I felt for it, the sadness in knowing that I might never find a song that made me feel the same way, and the gratitude for how lucky I was to have stumbled across a song I knew would be a special part of my life forevermore after that first listen.
I can still remember where I was the first time I heard ‘Everything I Own’ by Bread. I remember who was with me at the time and what the sun felt like as it streamed in through the window in the backseat of my mum’s car. I remember the instant love I felt for it, the sadness in knowing that I might never find a song that made me feel the same way, and the gratitude for how lucky I was to have stumbled across a song I knew would be a special part of my life forevermore after that first listen.
And then I waited for the next song to play. Yearning for what I hoped would be another life altering song from the soft 70’s playlist I decided to listen to on that warm Sunday afternoon. One after the other they started pouring in, and my emotions overflowed. I was struck by a sense of nostalgia for a time I didn’t live in, memories of a make-believe life I’d conjured in my wandering mind through the films I had watched.
‘That’s the Way’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘America’ by Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Vincent’ by Don McLean, ‘Fire and Rain’ by James Taylor and ‘Vienna’ by Billy Joel.
These are songs that all hold a dear place in my heart, and I cherish them for their ability to transport me to a time I wish had experienced first-hand. A time that, when I listen to these songs or watch my favourite movie, I feel I was destined for.
The '70s, at least in the way it is romantically captured in film and music, is nothing short of perfect to me.
The '70s was a time when things were sacred. Music, a religion. Each strum of Don McLean’s guitar was a quiet prayer, and Stevie Nicks’ powerful belts were roaring homilies. I want to be part of that religion, even though it often feels I am alone every time I profess my love for songs like Bread’s ‘Audrey’ or Cat Steven’s ‘The Wind’. As though no one understands the depth with which these pieces of music shatter my soul and piece it back together within just three minutes. Penny Lane in Almost Famous said it best: “if you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit your friends.”
Through the good times and the bad these precious pieces of music have comforted me in ways other people cannot. I was brought to tears of joy every time I listened to the cast recording of ‘Tiny Dancer’ from Almost Famous as I drove the green back roads to my best friend’s childhood home. Last week I was cried again when, for the first time, I found myself relating to the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Circle Game.’
When watching the film Almost Famous I feel at home. A visual love letter to '70s music, I am enveloped in a warm embrace by these “friends” I have come to cherish through the modern medium of my laptop screen. Quietly murmuring their lines and singing along to their band chants, I am able to insert myself into their magical world in my own small way, if only for 2 hours. Each time I finish the film it is a harsh return to a less enticing reality, devoid of the warm tones of the '70s in film and far away from these characters I’ve come to know so well.
I do my best to include elements of these figure of '70s magic in my day-to-day life. I think of William Miller’s vinyl collection each time I open Spotify. I spend time scouring the search results for ‘whimsigoth’ clothing on Depop in attempts to dress like Stevie Nicks, and sighing in defeat that I cannot afford to rework my entire wardrobe.
I admire the framed artwork of Freddie Mercury, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell above my bed and stare at my copy of Daisy Jones and the Six on my bedhead, fighting the urge to reread it and once again enter the magical world of their fictional 70’s band.
Whenever I decide my phone needs a makeover, I turn to Pinterest; poking and prodding at every corner of my brain to produce a more creative search cue than ‘70’s aesthetic’ or ‘Woodstock wallpaper.’ I look to my phone home screen now, comforted by the black and white screencaps of William Miller in Almost Famous taking photos of the band in their tour bus, Doris. Though I may never know this life, these photos inspire me. They let me dream. Dream that one day I may be the one on a tour bus with my favourite band, taking photos of the drummer as he falls asleep in the far back corner, or of the on again/off again lovers sharing a seat. I dream that one day it will be me partaking in late night swims at the hotel pool after the band’s small-town show earlier that same evening. That I’m listening in on band meetings, watching from side stage as the lead guitarist plays the solo from their new song for the first time to an ecstatic crowd. I dream that I will be the one singing ‘Tiny Dancer’ with the members of the band I’ve come to call my friends, even though a fictional Lester Bangs warned against rock journalists befriending their subjects.
Today, it feels like this magic is entirely foreign, out of reach and something I am unable to emulate no matter how much I may long to. For me to feel a fragment of that magic, I must turn to the past and attempt to make sense of a time I can only appreciate through film and music. I must shuffle through Spotify playlists to discover artists and songs that would have been commonplace in a distant time. Yet, when I do find these songs and am able to hold on tight to a new artist, it gives me these feelings of home I so crave, and that time doesn’t feel quite so far away. As though, for just a brief moment, I can close my eyes, or drive down that green back road, and feel a part of it.
Deep down I can admit I will never fully experience the magic of this time and all the wonder it had to offer. I know that today’s bands prefer jets over buses, and digital over vinyl. I know that the cost of records means my collection will likely never be as extensive as William Millers’. But every time I press shuffle on that soft 70’s playlist or rewatch Almost Famous, I am reminded of the most important thing when it comes to my deep adoration for this time. Much like Russell Hammond when asked what it is he loves about music, if asked what I love about the '70s and its incomparable musical world, my answer would be the same: “to begin with, everything.”