Rocky Horror Picture Show – Original Soundtrack

7 Jan


The CD I’m listening to is on the Pacific Records label ( OSVCD 21653) and is the soundtrack to the 1975 film. Recordings from other productions exist and may be  equally good but the original version with Tim Curry and Meatloaf as well as Richard O’Brien with Susan Saradon and Barry Bostwick (as Janet and Brad), Little Nell; Patricia Quin and with Charles Gray as the narrator) is the one for me. This is because of the my memories of when I first saw the film.

I came quite late to the Rocky Horror phenomenon and the first time I saw it was in Marianna, Florida, in August 1979. That was the summer I came back from university to work as a dustman (refuse disposal operative) for Chiltern District Council in order to fund a four-week trip to the USA where I aimed to travel from New York to California and back by road! My plan was to buy an time-limited but unlimited mileage ‘Ameripass’ ticket for Greyhound buses and to economise on hotels by sleeping overnight on the bus! Wisely, all my friends found excuses not to join me , although, bizarrely, I did bump into someone I knew in LA! So I went and returned alone despite some noteworthy encounters along the way!

In a bout of unaccustomed sensibleness, I did pre-arrange to impose on the kindness of two families with whom my parents were friends quite  early on  in the trip, in Philadelphia and Marianna. This proved a very sound idea since the bottle of duty-free scotch I’d brought as a gift to my late father’s Philadelphia friend broke in my luggage in DC, giving all my clothes a distinctive aroma which benefited from laundering before I was thrown into a drunk tank!

So it was that I arrived in Florida to bunk for a few days R&R from my insanely punishing schedule with some dear friends who had started as neighbours when the US Air Force posted them to West London.  As was often the case, my mum hit it off with them so well that they became and remain my Honorary Aunt, Uncle and cousins (makes us sound like one of those odd Appalachian clans but it’s not). We’d holidayed  a couple of time together in Europe before they returned to the States so it was great to catch up with the three sons (two older than me, one younger). Thirty five years later I am fuzzy about which son it was who  had snagged a part-time job as projectionist at Marianna’s cinema and suggested we spent the evening at his workplace.

It was dead interesting: I learned about the craft of the (pre-digital) projectionist, I ate buckets of popcorn and learned something about the business model used by movie theatre to relieve their patrons of cash, was given a couple of posters and experienced the emergent phenomenon of a Rocky Horror Show from the projection booth.

This was just as the cultural meme of Rock Horror was emerging. As far as I was aware, cinemas on ordinary towns didn’t DO late night screenings in my experience! Marianna may be the county seat of Jackson County but it was hardly big-city nightlife. Also a cinema full of folk throwing rice (in the wedding scene) or squirting water (during the rainstorm) and singing along and supplementing the dialogue (in unison) was wholly weird, foreign and fun to the 20 year-old me.

At this point the dressing up bit (now a big part of Rocky Horror in the UK)  wasn’t developed – but since then I’ve attended theatre revivals of the play where (what seemed) entire rugby teams have embraced the idea of blokes dressing in stockings, suspenders and basques! This is worth mentioning because I can remember my mum telling me that the friends,with whom I was staying, were utterly bemused by their first British Christmas pantomime (where, of course, the Principal Boy is generally an attractive woman and the Dame  is an man in drag).

Nowadays of course, gay ‘national treasures’ like Julian Clary subvert, tease and confuse everyone in this territory and academics who deconstruct  sexual politics would have a field day, but I prefer to imagine the picture of my parents attempting to explaining panto to friends who’d served their country in far more exotic places (Japan and Turkey) than Ealing, West London!

No, I have never been moved to crossdress to enjoy this music –  but I do like the songs and the whole ridiculous premise and  and regret that the peculiar talent of Richard O’Brien (the writer/composer) remains not much more than one-show(s) wonder. But hey, If you’d written the ‘TimeWarp’ or ‘Toucha-toucha-touch me’ and given thousands of people great enjoyment then I know it’s only rock’n’roll, but I like it!


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