Tag Archives: East of Eden

October 5th 1975

David Essex. Didn’t get up until 12 o/c. Did TD all afternoon. Watched superb “East of Eden” in the evening”

For all my prog rock / psychedelic / jam band / art rock leanings as a 17-year-old boy I will admit to having a soft spot for the more ‘poppy’ offerings of teen hearthrob David Essex.

He’s quite a nice boy really” was the refrain from many a mother in the mid-70’s. My mother amongst them.

Until he got into the utterly disgraceful awfulness of his early eighties hit “A Winter’s Tale” and that acting hiccup starring in the derisible “Silver Dream Racer” he appeared to make fine (and non conventional) career choices whichever way he turned.

Not for him the simplistic pappy pop his fellow teen idols (Osmonds, David Cassidy etc) were churning out, but preferring to write songs which enhanced his credibility beyond that of mere hormonal girls.

His first hit “Rock On” was a slice of superb musical minimalism leaning far closer to originality than many could admit at the time.

He followed that with a succession of other finely crafted pop songs such as “Lamplight“, “America“, and “Hold me Close“. He starred in – and was GREAT in – a pair of old fashioned ‘rock & roll” movies – “That’ll be the Day” and “Stardust” – infusing his acting performance with a sense of ‘been there, done that’, bafore taking a leading voice-over and singing role on Jeff Wayne’s 1978 magnum opus “War of the Worlds

Until he became – as I have said – a little too much of a ‘housewives choice’ (and I’m sure there are many housewives who would have taken that choice and grabbed it with both hands) I always liked the guy and appreciated what he brought to rock & roll’s little table.

So much so in fact that I evidently planned to see him live in concert this night in 1975. For whatever reason I nixed the idea – perhaps I sold the ticket or perhaps I never bought a ticket in the first place, who knows? – and thus never had the opportunity to spend time in a theatre squeezed into the middle of a gaggle of screaming teenage girls any of whom could have drunkenly mistaken me for the aforementioned Mr Essex and taken me back to their place for a good seeing to (as it was sometimes described back then) after the encore.

Instead – and after a (half) day of toiling over a hot Technical Drawing board – I sat and watched Elia Kazan’s movie “East of Eden” starring one of my new idols, James Dean. I may have described this film as ‘superb’ in 1975, but years later I realise it is instead a somewhat gloomy and embittered tale packed with lots of conflict and little joy. It certainly looks good – Kazan made full use of the then-new technology of ‘Cinemascope’ – but in terms of telling a story (this one based on the bible fable about Cain & Abel) I now think it falls flat.

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September 30th 1975

“Nig came round in the evening. watched a programme on James Dean – damn good!”


(Pic nabbed from the official James Dean website. Hopefully they won’t me using it here? Especially as I have mentioned the official James Dean website. Twice.)

Long before the phrase “man crush” came into existence, I – like many other disgruntled teenage boys of the 60’s and 70’s – had a man crush on James Dean.

I don’t know if the TV programme I mention here was responsible for my initial fascination or if I was already infatuated at this point, but I do know that over several years I consumed everything there was to consume about the guy. I hunted down and read just about every book I could find, going so far as to obtaining frame by frame ‘picture scripts’ of all three of his movies and (perhaps gruesomely) building a plastic replica of a Porsche Spyder, the same car he crashed and died in back in 1955.

Back then the media wasn’t quite as powerful as it has become these days so his life was far more of an enigma, his death not reported on in the same depth – or with the same mawkish enthusiasm – as, for instance, someone like Health Ledger’s was.

I think the ‘legend’ status of Dean is assured, his contribution to film history immense. Whenever one of his trio of starring roles turns up on a television listing here I will almost always record or watch it. “Rebel without a Cause” used to be my favourite – that angry young man perhaps reminding me of myself? – but as I grow older and wiser I can see that his consummate performance was actually in “Giant” outshining Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson in every scene he appears. “East of Eden” has always been bottom of my list, but when that list is just three titles strong it’s not falling very far from grace is it?!

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