“Come on, Children” (teen documentary, 1973)

I just watched Allan King’s sublimely weird documentary Come on, Children (1973), which includes young Alex Zivojinovich (i.e., Alex Lifeson, Rush’s guitarist) living in a rural Ontario farm house with nine other teenagers for ten weeks. It’s the winter of 1971, and Alex turned 17 the previous summer and became father to the first of his two sons, Justin, in October of 1970. He did not go back to finish high school (grade 12) during the 1970-71 school year and also seemed to be split up temporarily from his girlfriend Charlene: Justin’s mother, then apparently living on welfare. (Alex and Charlene did end up together, though, getting married in 1975.)

The movie is like “reality TV” (but 35 years ahead of time), because there are actually almost no interview elements in it at all! The part of it I had seen before (excerpted in the 2010 documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage) features a family-visit day, during which Alex argues with his parents, etc. about his decision not to go back to finish high school the following year, as he doesn’t plan on going to university. He mentions that the band (never named, I think) will be able to make $240 ($80 each) per gig starting that fall.  Dissertation aside: By the fall of 1971, the band members (which didn’t include Neil Peart until the summer of 1974) would all be 18 and thus able to play in bars, because the drinking age in Ontario was set to be lowered to 18 in the summer of 1971 (it would later be raised to 19).

The parts of the movie involving Alex that I hadn’t seen before have him being relatively “grown up” compared to some of the others (cooking, making the others clean up, not really being into drugs that much anymore, I think, and so on) and having a bit of a fling with one of the girls in the group. Musically, he plays bluesy acoustic guitar (sometimes along with one or more of the other three musicians in the group, such as on John Hamilton’s performance “Mr. Bojangles”), or–more to the point–doing loud and distorted Jimi Hendrix-like instrumental electric guitar solos (including a BAD attempt at “The Star-Spangled Banner”) or blues-rock Clapton/Cream-like improvisations, etc.

The movie’s worth a look, too, for the relative freedom re teenage drinking (sometimes to excess), smoking (Alex included), drugs (pot, hash, LSD, speed, and even heroin), etc. in that period. Alex is very tame in those regards (only one of the ten abstains completely), although it could have just been edited to look that way.

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