In 1968 a student teacher at the junior high I was attending took a group of us on an after-school outing to see Romeo and Juliet at a local movie theater. Our parents undoubtedly figured what could be bad about going to see a film based on what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous (if not the most famous: Hamlet might give it a run for attention) plays? While they—and we—weren’t familiar with Franco Zeffirelli, I’m sure that if it was noted by said student teacher that the movie was made by a famous director, it made it all seem the more worthwhile.
Realize that then there wasn’t the proliferation of instant information outlets. Perhaps the closest thing would have been AM radio, and in that period of time AM radio was about spinning the 45s, not news and talk (unless the talk was of a religious nature).
And so we saw the movie that included a sex scene between Olivia Hussey’s Juliet and Leonard Whiting’s Romeo. At the time Hussey was 15 and Whiting 16. The two, now in their 70s, have recently filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court against Paramount for having exploited their teenaged nudity, charging that their careers were negatively impacted by their roles. (Oddly enough, Hussey went on to perform in another Zeffirelli film, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Virgin Mary, and as this was serialized and shown on TV in 1977, there was no eyes-wide-open associated with her role; this was not Scorsese’s version of the story. One wonders about her claim.)
In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet is 13 and while Romeo’s age is not given, it is estimated by Shakespeare scholars that he is probably 16.
In 1968 a slightly older friend played an album for me that had been released in the fall of that year: Jeff Beck’s Truth.
The point about Romeo and Juliet the movie, Romeo and Juliet the characters and Truth is this: When we are teenagers, some things like love, star-crossed or otherwise, and music can have long-lasting, indelible effects on us.
And Truth was an album that had an impact on me the likes of which few recordings have.