The Wild World of Rock and Roll, 1973
Almost Famous just wouldn't be Almost Famous without its setting: the early 1970's rock-and-roll scene. The movie is a glimpse into the era, featuring some real-life figures (Lester Bangs, Ben Fong-Torres, Jann Wenner) and real-life bands (Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Humble Pie, The Who) of the day. The time period is made explicitly clear in the film, with subtitles reminding the viewer that we start out in 1969 and move on to 1973.
The film is semi-autobiographical, based on Cameron Crowe's own experiences on the road as a teenaged rock journalist. Just like William, Crowe is from San Diego, and he also finished high school early to travel around the United States covering some of the era's biggest rock stars. Almost Famous follows William on one of these tours with a fictitious rock band, Stillwater, whose wardrobe, attitude, and tunes embody this era of music.
Nothing captures the movie's setting better than the soundtrack. Crowe had a habit of documenting each year of life with a mixtape, comprised of the songs he was listening to at that time (source). The soundtrack of Almost Famous is mixtape for the years 1969 and 1973, capturing the music that defined the era.
For more on the use of music in the film, intrepid Shmoopers, read on…