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u3a-brackett_A - 100 The 19505 bondage in any way. I’m...

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Unformatted text preview: 100 The 19505 bondage in any way. I’m talking about emotional entrapment. That’s deep stuff. And it’s serious stuff. And no matter what happens to you in this world, if you don’t make it your business to be happy, then you may have gained the whole world and lost your spirit and maybe even your damned soul. But wasn’t Elvis entrapped by circumstance? Absolutely. What could he have done differently? Been hardheaded like me and said, “I will break your damned neck, I don’t care—you can’t scare me. Monetary factors can't scare me. Starvation can’t scare me. Threats can’t scare me.” Imean you have to have that attitude. Elvis also knew that success wasn’t enough. It’s like Mac Davis said, man, and I think this is one of the greatest quotes, Bible included: "Stop and Smell the roses.” Now that’s where we can all find ourselves if we don’t stop and smell the roses. And the sad thing about it is dying before you actually physically die. I mean, you know, bless his heart. 24. Rock ’n’ Roll Meets the Popular Press a...” . 7, g, . megawatt. Beginning in 1956—after the first wave of national hits by Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley—articles on rock ’n’ roll began appearing in mainstream newspapers, such as the New York Times, and in magazines like Time, Newsweek, and Life. These articles recall and amplify some of the topics presented in the series of Variety ar- v ticles included earlier: The tone, by and large, is condescending, making frequent references to the connections among rock ’n’ roll and sex, vio- lence, and juvenile delinquency. In particular, descriptions abound of au— diences and performers trespassing societal norms, and this aberrant behavior (one article describes “snake-dancing around town and smash- ing windows" ‘ is typically linked to the influence ofthe beat or rhythm of the music. The four excerpts that follow are representative of the invec- tive directed toward early rock ’n’ roll, although they constitute but a small portion _of it. 1. This phrase comes from "Yeh—Heh-Heh—Hes, Baby,” Time, June 18, 1956, 54. Part of this article is renrinted here. but not this Darticular passage. ROCK-AND-ROLL CALLED COMMUNICABLE DISEASE New York Times #____._—___.____—____——___— Conn. March 27 (UP)—A noted psychiatrist described "rock—and-roll” music today as a “communicable disease” and another sign of adolescent rebellion.” Dr. Francis I. Braceland, psychiatrist in chief of the institute of Living, called rock-and- ro]l a “cannibalistic and tribalistic” form of music. He was commenting on the disturbances that led to eleven arrests during the week-end at a local theatre. It is insecurity and "rebellion," Dr. Braceland said, that impels teenagers to affect "duckiail" haircuts, wear zoot—suits and carry on boisterously at rock—and—roll affairs. YEH-HEH-HEH-HES, BABY Time When [the names of the stars] appear on theater and dance-hall marquees announcing a stage show or "record hop,” the stampede is on. The theater is jammed with adolescents from the 9 a.m. curtain to closing and it rings and shrieks like the jungle bird house at the 200. If one of the current heroes is announced—groups such as Bill Haley and His Comets or The Platters or a soloist such as Elvis Presley—the shrieks become deafening.2 The tu- mult completely drowns the somd of the spastically gyrating performers despite fully powered amplification. Only the obsessive beat pounds through, stimulating the crowd to such rhythmical movements as clapping in tempo and jumping and dancing in the aisles. Sometimes the place vibrates with the beat of music and stamping feet, and not in- frequently kids have been moved to charging the stage, rushing ushers and theater guards. Suggestive as swing There is no denying that rock ’n’ roll evokes a physical response from even its most reluc— tant listeners, for that giant pulse matches the rhythmical operations of the human body, and the performers are all too willing to specify it. Said an Oakland, Calif. policeman, after watching Elvis Presley last week: “If he did that in the street we’d arrest him.” On the other hand, the fans’ dances are far from intimate—the wiggling 12- and 13-year-olds (and up) barely touch hands and appear oblivious of one another. Psychologists feel that rock ’n’ roll’s deepest appeal is to the teeners’ need to belong; the results bear passing resemblance to Hitler mass meetings. 2. Elvis Presley, in fact, became a focus of the media’s reaction to rock ’n’ roll’s "lewdness" and “degeneracy.” For examples of early responses to Elvis’s T'V performances, see "Teeners’ Hero,” Time, May 14, 1956, 53—54,- and Jack Gould, "TV: New Phenomenon—Elvis Presley Rises to Fame as Vocalist Who Is Virtuoso of Hootchy-Kootchy,” New York Times, June 6, 1956, p. 67. Source: "Rock-and—Rofl Called Communicable Disease,” New York Times, March 28, 1956, p. 33. Source: "Yeh—Heh—Heh-Hes, Baby,” Time, June 18, 1956, p. 54. ROCK ’N’ ROLL’s PULSE TAKEN New York Times Oct. 26—(UP)—Herbert von Karajan, conductor of the touring Berlin Philharmonic Orches- tra has offered an explanation for Rock ’n’ Roll. “Strange things happen in the blood stream when a musical resonance coincides with the beat of the human pulse.” WHY THEY ROCK ’N’ ROLL—AND SHOULD THEY? Gertrude Somueis in show business circles there has been bitter controversy about the worth and effects of rock ’n’ roll. Frank Sinatra, a veteran showman, was quoted in a Paris magazine recently as follows: "Rock ’n’ roll smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration and sly,.lewd, 1n plam fact, dirty lyrics, it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth." 25. The Chicago Defender Defends Rock ’n’ Roll The landmark US. Supreme Court decision of 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, which in effect mandated integration Of public schools, 5th shockwaves through U.S. society. The struggles around civil rights for African Americans that intensified after this decision received consider- able media attention from the mid—19505 through the 19605. The follow- ing article attests to the interconnection between early rock 'n’ roll and the increasing public pressure to end racial segregation, an interconnec- tion that was especially important to those who were most concerned with resisting integration. While Asa Carter (head of the North Alabama White Citizens Council) makes claims that may seem extreme in the con- text of previous media reactions (e.g., rock 'n’ roll pulls “the white man Source: "Rock ’n’ Roll’s Pulse Taken,” New York Times, October 27, 1956, p. 58. Source: Gertrude Samuels, "Why They Rock ’n’ Roll—And Should They?,” New York Times Sunday The Chicago Defender Defends Rock ’n’ Roll 103 down to the level of the Negro”), these statements bring out what was implicit in the earlier “Warning to the Music Business” published in Vari- ety. In lighthearted fashion, Rob Roy {the author of this article) makes overt the linkages between the threats of both rock 'n’ roll and integra- tion to US. social conventions ofthe era. The publication ofthis article in the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, indicates some - of the issues related to rock ’n’ roll that concerned the black community at the time. Roy’s experiences in Alabama were hardly unique, nor were they the most extreme instance of harassment: Three days after this article was published, an attack on Nat “King” Cole during a concert in Birmingham by the White Citizens Council illustrates to what lengths. such groups could go. This attack led to the cancellation of the remain- der of Cole's southern tour. Cole was certainly not a rock ’n’ roller by any stretch of the imagination, representing the persistence of older- style pop music into the late 19505 (and into the 19605), but he was also assuredly African American, obviously a factor that was more im- portant to the White Citizens Council than the type of music he was playing.1 BIAS AGAINST “ROCK ’N’ ROLL” LATEST BOMBSHELL m DIXIE Rob Roy .______________________ In a small town in Alabama not so many moons ago, and after several “moonshines” (at a rear bar) this corner [i.e., the author] attempted to play a number on [a] juke box that was situated near a front bar. The bartender yelled, “NO, no, no” so no music was played. That will not happen again. One of the reasons is factual—this corner will hardly be in a position to reach a juke box in that little town again. Then there is the other reason: Should council leader Asa Carter of Birmingham have his way there will be no Rock ’N’ Roll numbers on the juke box and of course no reason for this corner to wish to spend his dime. Even in Birmingham a dime is a dime. Councilman Asa Carter says "Rock ’N’ Roll” music is nothing but a plot by [the] NAACP to lower American youth’s morals. I-Ie indicates he’ll ask blacklisting of juke box operators who carry “Rock 'N‘ Roll” records on their vendors. Only thing wrong here is Mr. Carter, if successful, wouldn’t be hurting the NAACP or the customers who wish to play the music but the juke box operators and the tavern owners. Fancy if you can, a group Of youngsters, patronizing a dancehall tavern and having to waltz each number that isn’t a fox trot. ‘fWhat, no jitterbugging,”? they’d say on the way out of the place. In that case who would be hurt? Of course Mr. Carter would hardly be hurt. One must feel that he does not, operate a tavern. Nor is it likely that his accomplishments 1. For a report on this incident, see "Alabamans Attack 'King’ Cole on Stage," New York Times, April 11, 1956, 1, 27. Source: Rob Roy, “Bias Against ‘Rock ’n’ Roll' Latest Bombshell in Dixie," Chicago Defender, April 7, 1956, 104 " include the jitterbug or rugcutting dance. To do either one must be alert of limb, fast, think what is the next move just naturally, and a few more sensible things. If Asa’s feet match his expressed mind and actions they are too sluggish and out of line for even a dancer. just an old story? "Free schools yet dumb people.” I . Carter, executive secretary of the powerful pro-segregation group, declared that cru- zen's councils through the state were circulating petitions demanding that "rock and r0 ” music be banned from jukeboxes. He said in an interview that what he called “this generate music” was being encour- aged by the NAACP and other pro-integration groups, adding: “The NAACP uses this type of music as a means of pulling the white man down to the level of the Negro.” . _ He declared that "rock and roll” as well as other forms of jazz, was underng the morals of American youth with its "degenerate, anamalistic [sic] beats and rhythms.” He added: "This savage and primitive type of music which comes straight from Africa brings out the base things in man.” I “Rock and Roll” music, he said, got its start in Negro night clubs and Negro radlo broadcasts and its influence was spread by the NAACP. . "Instead of opposing it in an attempt to raise the morals of the Negro,” he said, "the NAACP encouraged it slowly for the purpose of undermining the morals of white people. ’ He estimated that 300,000 signatures would be collected by the petitions and added: "If jukebox operators hope to stay in business they better get rid of these smutty records with their dirty lyrics.” The 19505 The Music industry Fight Against Rock ’n’ Roll influence in the broadcast media. Several rounds of public hearings resulted.‘ The repeatedly asserted link between BMI and radio stations was specious: All broadcasters at that time had licenses from both BMI and ASCAP that required them to pay a fee for using music affiliated with those organizations, and even radio stations that owned stock in BM! did not receive dividends. No, the battles focus truly lay in a conjunction of aesthetics and politics.2 The old guard were defending their business interests, as well as their taste in music. The analyses of BMI’s power, while inaccurate, could have been applied quite fairly to the position of ASCAP before BMI-affiliated music began making inroads in the pop music mainstream during the late 19405.3 The payola hearings (which grew out of congressional hearings into crooked practices on television quiz shows) represented yet another offi— cial intervention into the business and media practices associated with eariy rock ’n’ roll. in media accounts of payola, one is struck by how politicians were so quick to believe that the popularity of rock ’n’ roll was due to either a conspiracy with BMI or payola; in other words, they thought that the music was so horrible that there had to be some form of external coercion involved for people to want to listen to it. A new form of rock ’n’ roll emerged that was designed to please both politicians and teenagers. The main variety of this new rock ’n’ roll, “teen pop,” was promoted by a nationaliy syndicated television show, 105 American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, a figure at once youthful and nonthreatening. Teen pop adopted older techniques of pop music pro- duction to late-195os’ popular music, incorporating aspects of rock ’n’ roll while reinstating the separate roles of songwriter, instrumentalist, and singer that had been collapsed by artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. American Bandstand largely featured the stars of teen pop, known as “teen idols”: goodrlooking young people from the Philadelphia area (where American Bandstand originated) singing music that was produced with a vague resemblance to rock 'n' roll. Equally striking as the official, public response to rock 'n’ roll was the disparate fates of Alan Freed and Dick Clark: The Jewish Freed rose to success by playing black popular music to white kids and by promoting concerts at which both performers and audiences were integrated. The 26.. The Music Industry Fight Against Rock ’n’ Roll Dick Clark’s Teen-Pop Empire and the Payola Scandal 1. For a summary and analysis of these hearings, see Trent Hill, "The Enemy Within: Censorship in Rock Music in the 19505,” South Atlantic Quarterly 90, No. 4 (Fall 1991), 675—708. The hearings lasted from 1956 into 1958. For accounts in the press, see "Rock ’n’ Roll Laid to B. M. 1. Control: Billy Rose Tells House Unit That ’Electronic Curtain’ Furthers ’Monstrosities,” New York Times, September 19, 1956, 75; Val Adams, "Networks Held Biased on Music: Senate Unit Hears Charges That They Promote Products of Their Own Affiliates,” New York Times, March 12, 1958, 63; Val Adams, "Hanson Decries Hillbilly Music: Tells Senate Unit Hearing Tunes Heard on Air Are ’Madison Ave.’ Version,” New York Times, March 14, 1958, 51. 2. See Reebee Garofalo, Rackin’ Out: Popular Music in the LISA (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997), p. 172; and RUSSEH Saniek. "The War on Rnr‘k.” Dn'rrmihpnf Mnair' '77 Vans-Annie {Phinann- hfln'lmw 107'“ The 19505 ended on a bum note for rock ’n’ roll: Chuck Berry was on the verge of being convicted for having transported a minor across state lines; Elvis was in the army; Little Richard had left popular music for the ministry; Jerry Lee Lewis had effectively been blacklisted for having married his 13-year-old cousin; and Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper (all of whom had scored major hits during 1957—58) had died in a plane crash. As early as 1956, defenders of pop music’s old guard, represented by ASCAP officials and songwriters-performers associated ...
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u3a-brackett_A - 100 The 19505 bondage in any way. I’m...

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