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How A&E Helped Develop My Love of Hard Rock and Cult Movies

 When my family was finally able to afford cable, I made up for lost time by watching all night long as often as I could. There were a few channels that dominated my viewing. Of course, there was MTV. There was Nick at Nite, which at the time was showing t.v. shows from the 50's and 60's. And there was A&E. A&E stood for arts and entertainment. And they did show a lot of art programs. They also had their Biography show, and would show British movies. But on Saturday nights, they would change things up a bit.

The first time A&E changed my pop culture life was when I happened to catch the Woodstock movie. I was captivated, and it began my love affair with late 60's counter-culture. I was introduced to such great musical acts as Ritchie Havens, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Country Joe and the Fish. I had heard of Jimi Hendrix, but this deepened my appreciation immensely. I saw characters like Wavy Gravy and really caught an interest in the hippie movement. Up to this point I had listened to the hard rock and heavy metal of the day, and the country music and 50's rock that my parents were into, but I had completely missed out on 60's rock other than a little Beatles. Now whole new musical soundscapes were opened up before me.

Not long after I came across another Saturday night movie that altered my musical tastes for life. I didn't listen to much classic rock radio. I mostly listened to tapes of new bands, or watched MTV.  As a result, I had read about Led Zeppelin but had not really heard much of them. Then A&E showed The Song Remains The Same. The only Zep song I really knew was Stairway to Heaven, which of course they play in the movie. But now I was hearing No Quarter, Whole Lotta Love, and Rain Song. This was not only the genesis of the music I was listening to, but something else entirely at the same time. I could hear how they had influenced other bands, but no one else sounded like them. I became obsessed, and while I still say the Beatles are my favorite band, Led Zeppelin runs neck and neck with them. (Since that time Black Sabbath has also joined their ranks.)

Not all the movies I saw on A&E were music documentaries. They would show "cult" movies as well. Most of those I enjoyed bu they didn't leave a real impression. But there was one that was so weird and wonderful that I became an evangelist on its behalf, making my friends watch it. The Warriors was different from anything I had ever seen. The premise was so unapologetically goofy, yet played straight and somehow it works. The different gangs that rule their section of New York, each with it's particular theme, should seem dumb. And truth be told they did, but in the most fun and wonderful way possible. This was a new kind of fearless and reckless film like I had never seen before. It's well known as a cult classic now, but at the time no one I knew had ever heard of it. I'm glad it's finally getting the recognition it deserves.

I'm sure this is the tip of the iceberg of things I watched on this channel that influenced me. But as I have said in other posts, time and tide make things a little hazy. These were such bombshells in my pop culture landscape that they are imprinted on my memory. And a pay cable art station is to thank.


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