photo manipulation by nacrowe
MAYOR OF THE SUNSET STRIP (FIRST LOOK INTERNATIONAL, 2003) is a deeply affecting documentary about RODNEY BINGENHEIMER, the influential LOS ANGELES scenester, DJ and entrepreneur who is primarily famous for his early promotion of consequential bands ranging from THE RAMONES, NIRVANA, THE SEX PISTOLS, THE CURE, BLONDIE, VAN HALEN, GUNS N ROSES, NO DOUBT, BLUR, THE GERMS among seemingly countless others. his late night radio show "RODNEY ON THE ROQ" on LOS ANGELES' 106.7 KROQ was required listening for generations of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA rock fans and music industry veterans. for decades he had a unique sense of the pulse of AMERICAN CULTURE and a preternatural ability to champion various movements in their infancy as they were emerging out of the underground such as PUNK ROCK, INDIE ROCK and even BRITPOP. previous to his radio show he had been known for his nightclub RODNEY BINGENHEIMER's ENGLISH DISCO which in the 1970s played host to GLAM ROCK and POWER POP royalty like DAVID BOWIE and IGGY POP.
full disclosure: my earliest memories of listening to the radio are to that of KROQ in the early 1990s. especially when NIRVANA broke big. for me the playlist of that station during that period is the soundtrack of my youth and what i remember most fondly about living in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. that BINGENHEIMER was instrumental in the promotion of many of those bands made him immediately interesting to me.
which gets to the interesting core of the film: BINGENHEIMER's apparent loneliness. for someone who was universally celebrated as such a well-regarded tastemaker he comes across as a particularly damaged individual, on obsessive and empath who channeled his fandom into a career of sorts. he is not a leech, i want to get that straight. if anything he has had a benevolent effect on the careers of scores of influential artists, gaining little other than access. what is sad is the lack of connection he has with people, no close relationships. there is a scene where he is rejected on the phone by someone who didnt see him as more than a friend. the rejection is excruciating to watch. for all his connections and celebrity acquaintances, he comes across as a vacuous individual. someone who needs validation from celebrity culture.
again, i dont think he is a vulture. he has jumpstarted numerous the careers of numerous notable artists and it is apparent he is genuinely beloved and has lots of goodwill in the music industry. but there is that sense of the superficiality of it all.
and it feels tragic.
this is a documentary well worth checking out. its been film i think about constantly and makes me examine everything my intentions with everything i do with DEER GOD.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the mid-90s means i was very much aware of local legendary LOS ANGELES rock station KROQ 106.7FM. it is almost absurd to consider the amount of bands that have broke big internationally due to exposure at this single radio station. i still think its incredible that such a corporate entity still had room for the esoteric pursuits of legendary resident taste-makers like RODNEY BINGENHEIMER.
my problem was that in this pre-internet age (yep i am that old) i oftentimes didn't know who the bands were since the rotation of songs weren't often tagged by the DJs, which makes sense given how ubiquitous these songs must have been to their regular audience. as a child and later a preteen, i was definitely not that clued in unfortunately.
it wasn't until years later in middle school abroad in NIGERIA that i realized songs i was familiar with were by bands like ALICE IN CHAINS ("MAN IN THE BOX"), NIRVANA (obscure b-side "SAPPY"), SPACEHOG ("IN THE MEANTIME") and THE BREEDERS ("CANNONBALL").
one of these bands was ELASTICA and the song was "CONNECTION." i distinctly remember hearing that song while waiting in line for SPACE MOUNTAIN at DISNEYLAND in elementary school. sadly, i didn't rediscover this band until high school in the early 2000s after relocating to SACRAMENTO from KUWAIT during my senior year. to me their debut album ELASTICA (GEFFEN, 1992) is a perfect album, easily the best thing to come out of the whole 90s BRITPOP movement (check out this BOOK REVIEW i did if you are unfamiliar with that scene). what i loved about it aside from JUSTINE FRISCHMANN's snarky, seductive crooning was angular guitar work which after further investigation introduced met to POST-PUNK bands that influenced them like WIRE and GANG OF FOUR. the inter-textual nature of art where different scenes, eras and modes are referenced and re-appropriated is something i've always appreciated. ELASTICA to me is an example of a stellar band that encourages me to stay curious, dig further and expand my ears to different sounds. i don't tend to fixate, if anything each new great band i learn about only serves as a new nexus point for other new discoveries.
if you aren't familiar with ELASTICA, check out either of their two releases. along with THE SMITHS, they are on my bucket-list of bands i hope and pray to see play live on day. nobody is cooler than JUSTINE FRISCHMANN. no one.