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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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The mural will be unveiled on Oct. 29. The mural will be unveiled on Oct. 29.

Unveiling SDSU's Rock 'n' Roll History

A mural unveiling celebrates the importance of artistic and musical history at SDSU.
By Hallie Jacobs

Some say music isn't as important as it used to be. They argue that songs don't contain the same social, cultural and political charges as they did in earlier decades. But according to Seth Mallios, an anthropologist at San Diego State University, popular entertainment remains a catalyst for social change.

"The acts that have played at SDSU have defined crucial moments in history — and they continue to do so," Mallios said.

Mallios has spent the last five years studying SDSU's rock 'n' roll history which dates back to the early 60s. More than 3,000 concerts have taken place on campus, featuring big names such as Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, The Ramones and Lady Gaga.

Although genres have shifted over time, messages in music are a constant — stories of love, heartbreak, loss, uprising and revolution are present in the songs, regardless of the decade.

Many of these songs were echoed in a tiny concert venue located in unfinished lanes in SDSU's old bowling alley. The Backdoor served as the stage for a number of classic acts, many of whom unknowingly walked past a vibrant painting located near the rear stage entrance.

Mallios has been instrumental in restoring the Backdoor Mural, which is one of the most important cultural artifacts of SDSU's rock 'n' roll history. With the support of donors — such as Aztec Parents, Steve and Susan Weber, the President's Leadership Fund and dozens of supporters through SDSU Strive — the now infamous Backdoor mural is getting a second chance in the spotlight.

An Oct. 29 ceremony will unveil the coveted mural and explore SDSU's role in chronicling musical history. The event will include a release of a five-volume book anthology on the history of live popular music at SDSU, and will also feature a performance by famed songwriter, SDSU alumnus and Backdoor mainstay Jack Tempchin.

About the Backdoor Mural

Painted in 1976 by students in Professor Arturo Anselmo Roman's Chicano art class, the artwork serves as a glimpse into the height of SDSU's bustling music scene which simultaneously coincided with pivotal moments for Chicano activism. 

“SDSU's rock 'n' roll history is extraordinary; yet most San Diegans have no idea,” Mallios said. “So many of us have had favorite musical moments on Montezuma Mesa, but virtually no one knows how they all fit together to make this campus the rock 'n' roll epicenter of the region.” 

”Let it Rock!” will be available in hardcover and eBook formats.

Let it Rock!

Mallios and his co-author Jaime Lennox’s anthology titled "Let it Rock!" details SDSU's concert repertoire. According to their research, SDSU has hosted more live music shows than nearly any other college campus. The books include an array of performances, from Joan Baez to the Grateful Dead, Ray Charles to Adele.

Each book contains pictures and personal accounts from concert attendees. 

Event details

The Backdoor Mural unveiling event runs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29 on the third floor of Love Library.

The event is free and open to the public.