For What It's Worth

Janet Tashjian

Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books



Rock and roll can change the world and save your life—and that’s just for starters. I challenge anyone on the planet to remain in a bad mood when “Gimme Shelter” comes on the radio. It’s physically impossible, right? Rock and roll can get you through a boring school year, give you something to bond over with your friends, even provide you with a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
You think I’m exaggerating? Listening to music is a critical step in growing up, as important as learning how to ride a bike with no hands. And not just rock and roll—pop, rhythm and blues, country, jazz—I don’t care what it is, I’ll listen to it. I’m like a junkie with a twenty-four-hour addiction, except the needle’s not in my arm, it’s on my turntable. Lucky for me, I live in the epicenter of the national music scene. Not just California, but Los Angeles. And not just Los Angeles, but Laurel Canyon. If you love music, there’s nowhere else to be in 1971 but here. I can sit on my front steps, throw a rock in any direction, and hit someone making music for a living. Songwriters, drummers, singers, sound engineers—I’ve trick-or-treated at their houses since grade school. My sister, Soosie, housesits for Joni Mitchell, for crying out loud. Don’t believe me? Ask Soosie to show you the scratches on her arm from Joni’s cat—the singer/songwriter might be known for writing emotionally bare songs about her love life, but her feline companion is a lot less subtle with her claws.
Where do I fit into this musical melting pot? I’m the guy who chronicles EVERYTHING in his ever-present notebook—Elton John’s first U.S. appearance at the Troubador, The Band’s newest demo, any rock-and-roll tidbit a music freak like me might want to know about. I continually make lists of songs, artists, and albums—mostly when I should be doing homework. I begged my English teacher last year to let me write a column for the school paper about the music scene called “For What It’s Worth,” based on the Buffalo Springfield song. She finally relented, and I’ve been cranking out columns and lists ever since. Just to keep in practice, I stockpiled several of them this summer too. Speaking of Joni Mitchell, I just finished one about her dumping Graham Nash while she was on vacation. Women—they’ll annihilate your heart every time.
The city is pulsing, the city is moving to an internal beat—can you hear it?
I can.

Text copyright © 2012 by Janet Tashjian
Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Adam Gustavson