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Rediscovering music from 'Behind' the scenes

One night a month or so ago, I sat in front of the television for an hour watching the saga of the late '70s / early '80s rock phenom known as Styx. I hadn't heard of Styx before, but as VH1's "Behind the Music" narrated the highs and lows of the group's career, I recognized several of its signature songs. Somewhere in my past, I'd obviously experienced something set to "Come Sail Away" because, as soon as the tune played, it felt familiar.

I was similarly affected by "Babe," "Lady of the Morning" and "Mr. Roboto." But Styx is not the first band on "Behind the Music" to intrigue me.

I thought Heart was a pretty underrated group after spending 60 minutes reliving its ascension to - and subsequent descent from - chart-topping excess.

Whenever I finish familiarizing myself with a featured artist or group, I get the urge to go out and buy its music (this accounts for the presence of the Go-Go's "Beauty and the Beat" in my personal collection).

As I flipped through the used-CD bins at Plan 9 on the Corner several days ago, hoping but not really expecting to find a Styx album, I began to wonder if anyone else ever watched "Behind the Music" and found herself compelled to rediscover the hits of bands gone wrong.

When I asked my roommate Jen about her relationship with "Behind the Music," she threw her hands in the air.

"I don't have a relationship with 'Behind the Music,'" she said. "No one should have a relationship with a television program. I've seen the show twice, but that's all. I enjoyed snickering at the spectacularly grand falls of Milli-Vanilli and Vanilla Ice, but I'm not counting the days until the next show or running out to buy myself a copy of 'Ice, Ice Baby.'"

Another friend, Emily, stared at me blankly when I asked her thoughts on the music documentary.

"I don't watch VH1," she said after I explained the show to her.

"I don't even ever flip to the station," she continued, "it seems so old and boring."

Though a few people admitted to viewing the program occasionally, no one exhibited the same commitment as me.

I tried to rationalize my proclivity for the music of has-beens by reminding myself that in their day, those profiled moved millions of copies of their music.

Discovering them at a later date did not automatically render their music (or my taste) horrible.

In addition to more campy artists, musicians universally recognized for their genius, such as Jimi Hendrix, have been awarded their own "Behind the Music." No one can accuse the show of a lack of breadth when it comes to choosing subjects. In past years, performers from Billy Joel to Ozzy Osbourne to Public Enemy have discussed their careers with VH1's cameras. Watching the show provides fascinating insight into the creative minds of reclusive artists such as Cat Stevens and mythical music figures like Jim Morrison.

I'm not at all embarrassed by my affinity for "Behind the Music."

As television watching goes, enjoying this program seems far more productive than being hooked on something tawdry and without educational value ("Temptation Island," for example). Though I am without shame, I really hoped my inquiry would lead me to find fellowship with other VH1 devotees.

Shut down in my efforts to develop a camaraderie with those who love the show, I reconciled myself to the fact that when it came to getting excited about the upcoming premiere of "Behind the Music: Huey Lewis and the News," I was alone.

While walking home from class with my friend Tina, I lamented my inability to find another "Behind the Music."

"You like that show?" she asked.

"I love that show," I corrected her.

"My boyfriend watches that show all the time," she said. "I think he and his friends have seen them all. I know for a fact that they've watched the one on Poison at least nine times."

"Nine times," I mused.

"Nine times," she repeated.

Suddenly I didn't feel so strange and alienated anymore.

Not only was I connected with other "Behind the Music" fans, but my level of devotion paled in comparison to those who would spend nine hours of their lives pondering the meaning of Poison's moment in the sun and celebrating the group's musical achievements.


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