When I was thirteen I accidentally traveled back in time to the 60s. That’s sort of what it felt like, anyway. Up until then I considered myself a pretty “vanilla” teenaged girl. Shy, easily influenced, brainy, and desperate to blend in with the other girls in my class. I was in my room one night after school VERY busy listening to my new Jonas Brothers CD when my parents called me into the living room.
“We’re gonna watch a movie, come sit with us?” my dad asked. He phrased the sentence as if I was being given an option. By his tone, I knew I had no option. I reluctantly plopped down in my sofa crease and prepared myself for two hours of apathy. (Movies have never been my cup of tea. I think it’s an attention-span thing.) The movie was called “Across the Universe,” and I could tell from the graphic designs on the DVD Menu alone that this wasn’t like the usual genre of movie my parents gravitate towards. (Them being English Literature teachers, I’ve seen every movie adaptation of every Jane Austen book known to man.)
I was shocked, blown away. I can see how I may be coming off as dramatic when I say this, but no amount of mental training could have prepared me for this moment in my life. “Across the Universe” was turbulent, rebellious, artistically beautiful, exciting and romantic, but above all, what struck me most was the soundtrack. All Beatles songs. I can’t accurately explain how much that movie hit me in all the right places. And thus, my obsession with the 1960s began.
It started with The Beatles (appropriately) but then it evolved to the whole of “The British Invasion.” The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Hollies, The Who. Then I furthered my education to American bands: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Stooges etc. By the time I was a Sophomore in high school I was an extremely advanced rock n’ roll historian. If my friends knew the extent of my love for elderly rock stars sixty years older than me, they probably would have had me admitted to the most heavily guarded psych-ward in California. Very few of my high school buddies got the chance to visit my house. I never invited anybody over for fear that they would see my poster-covered walls and think I was a serial killer or stalker. You think I’m exaggerating.
I had the four walls of my room painted the exact same colors as the jackets The Beatles were wearing on the Sgt. Pepper album cover. Blue, pink, orange and lime green. (So chic.) Then, those walls were plastered with countless posters of mods and rockers all looking down at me while I slept. Joy Division, Patti Smith and The Velvet Underground chillin’ on my ceiling. My furniture ranged from all things psychedelic to all things grunge. In 11th grade I made a shrine to Andy Warhol in the corner of my room, complete with candles, incense and a painting of Edie Sedgwick my friend made for me. In 11th grade I painted brick walls just above my vanity, in honor of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, of course. And let’s not forget about the Amy Winehouse collage I’ve had behind my door since her Back to Black album came out in 2006. It was an acid-tripping, heavy metal, glitter-covered, flannel-ridden nightmare. And simultaneously, my paradise.
I was a little self-conscious about my hobby. Only because it was hard to find people who could relate. While I was discovering Frank Zappa, some of my closest friends were making the transition from The Black Eyed Peas to LMFAO. (NOT that I look down on people who enjoy LMFAO, I’m just saying we were definitely on different wavelengths.) But overall, I think I received more respect for marching to the beat of my own drum. I never once felt that I was outcasted for following my joy. I had managed to trick people into thinking I was cool just because of the music I listened to.
In a way, I am eternally grateful to the artists who have managed to captivate my imagination. Now that I’m a young adult it is so obvious to me how much Debbie Harry has affected my fashion sense, or how Bowie has inspired my love of all things eccentric and bizarre. I’ve realized that every passion and every experience (whether fabricated in my mind or a physical event) is just another Jenga block on the tower of my identity. If I were to remove one, the tower would crumble and I wouldn’t be me. I am composed of every work of art I love.
Now, Oscar Wilde wasn’t a rockstar but he has made some pretty punk rock comments in his time. One of my favourites being: “Art is the most intense mode of individualism the world has known.” There are very few statements that I agree with more. The art you love defines you just as much as the people that you love. The Beatles didn’t make me who I am, their work allowed my soul to express itself the way it had always been meant to be expressed. If I were alive in another era, I would have found the same outlet with Beethoven, William Blake or Robert Frost. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and had I not sat down to watch “Across the Universe” that night, who knows how I would have developed? Sometimes it’s best to do what your parents ask you to.
** Emma Tice is a Marist College student form Anaheim, California. Upon her graduation this May, she will have a major in Media Studies and Production and a Creative Writing minor.