SPRING VALLEY — "A lot of people think that music videos came with MTV," said David Peck. "What they don't realize is they've been making music shorts since the '30s."
Peck, 21, is a rock 'n' roll archivist: He has collected rare vintage footage of the music world's stars in their rare and not-so-rare television appearances on over 200 videotapes. His collection ranges from footage of the Beatles' appearances on the "Ed Sullivan Show" to a music promotional that Bessie Smith made in 1929. He also owns 2,500 singles, 500 albums, 300 cassettes and 100 compact discs.
Peck said there really isn't anything new about music videos "except that the ones they're making now aren't very good. Half the time on MTV, all you see is some pretty girl dancing around, and you don't even see the band until the video is just about over."
Peck's assemblage has made him an authority on rock from the "Big Chill" era and earlier. He has signed a publishing contract with Pierian Press to write a book on the topic with San Diego Reader music critic John D'Agostino. Peck will also present a program curated with D'Agostino and La Jolla Museum's film curator, Greg Kahn, of rare television footage, featuring major soul artists of the '60s, at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art's Sherwood Auditorium at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday.
Peck has shown his work once before at the museum and in seven months will take another presentation on a tour of museums on the West Coast. He said he thinks museums are the perfect places to show his collection.
"I love to show off what I have," he said. "I want people to see this stuff. I don't really know what I'm going to do with it. I haven't yet figured out a way to make money with it."
Peck has given plenty of tapes away. He often sends his favorite rock personalities tapes of their favorite performers. These gifts have garnered him lunch and a lasting friendship with "Late Night with David Letterman" music conductor Paul Shaffer; occasional phone calls from Mick Taylor, ex-guitarist for the Rolling Stones, and back-stage passes to an REM concert, when they were in San Diego, from guitarist Peter Buck.
Collectors from all over the world trade tapes they have made with Peck. In a big, rocking, arm chair plopped in the middle of his bedroom, Peck views his new treasures on a 13-inch color television. His room's walls are covered with album covers from every music era, including recent releases from John Cougar Mellencamp and the Georgia Satellites.
"I love all kinds of music," he said. "Well, actually, I take that back. I don't really care for synthesizer bands. I don't think they're very creative. People tell me constantly that all I care about is the '50s and '60s, but it isn't true. At the same time, older people ask me, 'Why are you interested in the '50s and '60s, you weren't even around then?' I tell them that no one (alive now) was around when Beethoven was alive, but plenty of people love classical music."
Part of Peck's interest that musical era comes from his older sister and brother who were attending college.
"They constantly played their records when I was a kid, and I just got into it really young," he said. "When I was 7 years old, my brother played me a Bruce Springsteen album and I just went crazy. Springsteen wasn't really catchy enough then to excite a 7-year-old, but I thought it was great."
Peck hopes to eventually make a living from his hobby but in the meantime cleans buildings at night. He said he didn't want to go to college because there wasn't a major for rock archivists.
"I just keep collecting," he said.