Sweet Baby James

1196434307While our generation may best know James Taylor as the singer-songwriter from our mom’s vinyl collection, or as the guy who sings at Fenway a lot, the Belmont-born musician has more to his name than Greatest Hits. During the 70’s, he also had a brief career as a movie star.

In this month’s Boston magazine (buy it now at your favorite retail location!) Matthew Reed Baker reviews Two Lane Blacktop, the 1971 classic starring a foul-mouthed Taylor. As you can tell by these pictures, it seems almost kitschy.

It’s quite a time capsule, where money is called “bread” and the Doors blare on car radios, but also odd, abstract and beautiful—a cinematic Zen koan for gearheads, featuring broad vistas and forgotten main streets, in which the thin plot of a cross-country road race matters less than the act of speed and knowing your machine. And how’s J.T.’s performance? Awkward, intense, and inarticulate. Hardly Oscar-worthy, but just right for a character obsessed with cruising down that country road.

1196434356Maybe our parents are on to something. When we opened the image of a shaggy-haired young Taylor, we thought we were looking at an Abercrombie model. Now that we’ve had a momentary lust for a guy our mothers dreamed about, we feel a little weird.

Taylor image. Credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Group image. Credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection