Steve Klein will showcase a portion of his solid-gold album and poster collection in
What are you listening to on your iPod?' is probably a good question for a director of Student Activities to be asking college kids.
But, when they respond with The Dandy Warhols, The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket or some other contemporary band, they probably don't expect the 'old guy' to come back with, 'Track 3 is my favorite on that album.'
Steve Klein, with his graying beard and polo shirt, defies a few stereotypes. 'Here I am at 49, and I can talk their talk. It's always an easy intro,' said Klein, who has been at Pacific University for 21 years.
His office, which is tucked away into the northeast corner of the University Center, is decked out with his passion. The walls are covered with framed posters of classic bands like Blue Oyster Cult and Little Feat. His computer screensaver alternates between family snapshots and live rock concerts, and, of course, music is softly playing in the background.
In the corner lean even more posters: Steve Earle, Eric Clapton, Steve Miller, The Grateful Dead, Sum 41, Santana and Jimi Hendrix are just a few. His office has become somewhat of an overflow of his rock memorabilia collection. Klein owns 3,000 albums, 600 45s with picture sleeves and 5,000 CDs.
'I'm definitely a pack rat, much to my wife's chagrin,' he said. 'But it's like a library. It's a reference.'
In March, Klein will share his collection during an album exhibit at Pacific's Cawein Gallery and a one-day poster exhibit at A Framer's Touch.
It all began with what Klein called a 'mentor.' He had a friend whose older brother would bring home his big box of records from college, and he would shift through all of them listening to the new 'cool' bands. 'In high school and college, I became a straight up rock and roller,' said Klein. 'Originally it was just the music, and as I became older it became an art appreciation.'
He bought his first album in 1971, and since then he has continued to look for the vinyl albums of his favorite bands.
'Just like you can hear a signature sound, you can see the signature of an artist,' said Klein, who has favorite visual rock artists as well as favorite musicians. 'Many bands underestimate the importance of art. If there's a very culturally provocative cover, then I know there's going to be some depth to the music.'
The album show at Pacific will take viewers through time showing how the album art has developed along with culture.
'In the turbulent '60s the art and music exploded into psychedelics and counterculture statements that were politically relevant. In the '70s music became much more big business and the albums were more self-serving. Then in the late '70s and early '80s came the MTV era, along with punk rock which incorporated designs at the forefront of computer generated art coupled with the rawness of the punk attitude,' he explained in a description of the show.
The show will feature some expected covers like The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1984), along with some expected pop artists like Andy Warhol, who did covers for The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones.
Klein challenges the viewers to think about what the artists was trying to project in the photo or design of a few of the covers at Pacific's show and asks that viewers vote for their favorite.
Klein started collecting posters in the early 90s of concerts he experienced back in Iowa where he grew up.
Some of his posters are valued at $500 to $700. The show at A Framer's Touch will include two of Neil Young - one by Jermaine Rogers and one by Emek - that are in that price bracket.
'I've probably seen 250 live shows,' said Klein. 'I'm kind of a live music junkie.'
It's a lucky thing that he lives in the Portland area, which in Klein's opinion is a hotbed of great music right now. 'There are a lot of vital, vibrant bands in Portland,' he said.
Though it's tougher to get to concerts now that he's older - the late hours just aren't very practical - Klein still makes a point to get out to concerts on the weekends when he can.
'I see The Who whenever they come through town, but I also look for up-and-comers, the latest buzz,' said Klein. 'For example, I saw Nirvana in a small bar in their early days. It's a lot more fun being in on the discovering than to be a follower.'
And what 'live concert junkie' hasn't at some point wanted to be in the limelight?
'There were always thoughts that I would lock myself in a room and learn an instrument,' said Klein, who's dabbled with a few instruments. 'But, it's kind of fun to live vicariously without being in the business and instead studying it.'
Klein reads any rock biography he can: Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Beatles.
'Probably if I would have been in a band, I would be dead now,' he said. 'It looks really glamorous, but the toll it takes on your body. You can't keep a family, and your sanity is a day-to-day experience. And the temptations … '
It's not worth the price for Klein. Instead, as he put it, he's turned into a 'walking Wikipedia of music information' - a resource that some Pacific students are taking advantage of.
A small handful of students calling themselves Recsploration have started a vinyl appreciation group. Some of them even contributed a few of their albums for the exhibit at the Cawein Gallery.
'They're 18 years old with a strong appreciation for late '60s and early '70s music. It's going back into time for them,' said Klein. 'I'm very surprised by the knowledge these guys have.
'They must have had a mentor somewhere because they said a couple of things they shouldn't know.'