Fifteen years ago, the reason I am a music journalist was released. I was ten. I wasn’t allowed to watch it because there was nudity and my mom thought it was stupid (my mom actually stopped me from watching all three of my favorite films because of her opinion on them). When I turned fifteen, I watched it for the first time with a friend. I didn’t immediately want to become a journalist after seeing it. No, I wanted to be Sapphire and Penny. I wanted to be loved by a rock star and get all access to shows and be envied by girls everywhere. They made it look so damn glamorous, even when Penny is getting her stomach pumped because Russell let his wife talk about her. On the flip side, William’s story line is not glamorous at all. He has to do laundry for the girls, he almost dies, and oh hey, at the beginning, being a journalist isn’t even enough to get him halfway into the backstage area, when the girls just glide right by after one of their own (my beloved Sapphire, of course) throws open the backstage door like a drunken hurricane. William couldn’t even get in with them. Penny is the one that promises to “do what she can”. Even after he gets in, and is “in” with the band, even on the road with them for Rolling Stone magazine, he’s still struggling with getting the interviews, writing, and meeting a deadline. He struggles throughout while there’s only a few hiccups for Penny, and only because she “took it seriously”, something she advises her girls not to do.
I had to get my heart broken by a handful of “rock stars” to realize that maybe, just maybe, the girls didn’t have it so good either.
So I watched Almost Famous one day, years later, and I realized: Maybe William didn’t have it so bad. I know a lot about music. I have a lot of opinions. Sure, he got screwed over by a band, but that doesn’t happen to everyone. Most journalists don’t tour with bands anyway, I told myself, scribbling as William does “be honest and unmerciful” as the header of a piece I can’t remember the title or subject of.
Three years later, and I’m still writing. Some of my pieces even make sense. Some of them get reblogged, retweeted, and praised by the people they’re about. I’ve interviewed one of my personal heroes and I’m in talks to write a book about a band I’ve loved since before Almost Famous barreled into my life at age fifteen. I curb the “unmerciful” a lot, because after I bought every collected work that was offered on him, I found that Lester Bangs was sometimes cruel for the sake of taking rock stars down a notch or two. I can’t do that. I can’t hurt a band’s feelings just because I can.
At times, I’m more Penny than William. I’m overjoyed when bands thank me for writing about them, no matter how small they are. I bask in the glow of their attention, their promise of guest lists and after show drinks for my words of praise. I have yet to take any of them up on their offers. Look what happened to Penny when she did. Look what happened to William. Penny tells her girls “never take it seriously, never take it seriously and you never get hurt. You never get hurt, you always have fun! And if you ever get lonely… just go to the record store and visit your friends”. I think William’s advice to fellow journalists would have went something like this: “Always take it seriously, always take it seriously and you can’t get hurt. You can’t get hurt so you always have fun. And if you ever get lonely… just go to the record store and visit your friends.”