Rodney on the Roq I
Ah, the mid nineties.
Has there ever been a more vital period for American Cinema?
Oh, you can keep all those bullshit renegade movies of the late 60’s into the 70’s, when the supposedly young outlaws finally took over Hollywood.
Bonnie and Clyde? Easy Rider?
The Last Detail? meh.
How about some real classics from just 15 years ago, hmmm?
Oh gee, the hits make the mind reel!
But when I’m sittin there, mindlessly letting the DirecTV guide scroll down the LCD widescreen on an endless loop, I always stop whenever this little gem pops up on VH1’s Movies That Rock! series…..
Alright then, ya fuckin film students, so shoot me for enjoying a little mindless fluff, ok?
We’ll get back to watching Warhol’s Sleep at the Nuart next week, hipsters, but for now let’s venture back to the innocent days of pop music:
Where the musicians are badly acted men-children, the suits are sharp and crisp.
An as-of-yet unbloated Liv Tyler actually looks pretty good, and we weren’t dreading the day we’ll inevitably hear of a Mackenzie/John Phillips type scandal pop up concerning her game show host father!
Besides, this baby was filmed right there in the Orange Circle!
See? I always told ya downtown Orange was good for more than just Labor Day food fairs and late night Nazi rallies!
Anyway, I’ll sit through most of the dreadful dialogue and those goddamn Sarah McLachlan starving poodle commercials just for one scene:
It’s the one where our kids first hear their song played on the radio!
I’m tellin you, Hanks got it right with this scene.
I mean, the joy of hearing your own song on the radio…..well.
And though I don’t recall me or Kimm jumping around the appliance store or kissing any cardboard cutouts, it is a sweet memory, that first time one of our songs came out of that box!
And no, I’m not talking about yer XM/Sirius or even a College station, or for fucksake!, Pandora….. no.
We got to hear our song played on an actual radio station, like, you know…..radio!
When I talk about The old Rodney on the Roq show, and what it meant to us all back in the early 80’s, a lot of kids cock their heads, the dullard’s tell, and shrug:
Ya mean the radio station, the one that plays Enter Sandman and old Guns and Roses every goddam hour?
The one all the Bros listen to? That piece of shit?!
Ah, but it was different back then, see.
Kroq was actually a pretty great station back in the early 80’s, a place where Richard Blade would give ya your fix of Duran Duran and Culture Club, and they would actually play the odd Adolescents or Vandals song during the day as well!
But it was on Saturday and Sunday nights, brother, that’s when the airwaves were speaking just to us!
Rodney Bingenheimer: Man about town, bon vivant fixture of the LA scene for a million years, subject of a fairly recent and melancholy documentary.
The spiky little chap of Zelig-like appearnces at the elbow of whatever Rock God happened to be passing through LA.
He had his own club, probably banged groupies and runaways, (not to mention Runaways), by the dozen……
Goddamn, what would it’ve been like to rock the Sunset Strip back in those days, eh?
With his affinity for the pure pop that speaks only to the teenage heart, and not the corporate dreck of the day, you could imagine how Punk Rock appealed to Rodney.
Here was a new music, raw enough to harbor a tiny, fierce tribe—- yet explosive enough to inspire a generation.
And though he hardly had a voice that made you think–hey! this cat belongs on the radio!!–you really just can’t think of anyone else doing such a show.
Rodney would come on the air to the strains of MFQ’s Phil Spector-produced This Could be the Night, but that dreamy song would end, you were often given a crazy jolt:
Whoo!—and we’d be all, crack the Lucky Lager boys, ’cause the night just started!
And that’s when radio could truly come to life in a way that connected all of us drunken brats, from the Valley to the tip of Orange County.
You couldn’t believe you were hearing this on the radio, the vitality and truth, guitars out of tune and singers shouting, the joy crackling.
And then Rodney would come back in with a friendly alright or Amazing! and you could only smile and nod in agreement.
I always think of those interviews with rock pioneers that namecheck the Grand Ol Opry show back in the day.
They would huddle close to the speaker and listen to the stars of country music broadcast across a ridiculously expansive territory.
Again and again, these old hicks would wax poetic about being alone in their bedroom, often on a dusty acre of farmland, with only the icy stars and the sound of Hank Williams to see them through the night.
But there, in the darkness, they were connected to a world bigger than their own and granted the hope of someday seeing it.
Or hell—they could wish, couldn’t they?—-maybe even being on the other side of that speaker, and making the music themselves.