Jack Kerouac

The Psychedelic Sophomore ( 1967)

Room to Move 

When I did not get accepted by a fraternity, I interviewed with one of the “Independent” dormitory houses, Canterbury. There was essentially no difference between this situation and a Fraternity house, except for the fact that there is no Greek translation for the word Canterbury. On occasion, we would host a rowdy drinking party and for the special campus Homecoming weekend of 1967, I invited a girl from my old high school class to come down for this affair.

My roommate at the time, Ernie, was a “good old boy” from West Virginia who happened to be away for that weekend visiting his fiancée. Ernie was abstemious when it came to drugs but did imbibe liberally in Wild Turkey whiskey or Jim Beam. Despite my efforts to point out to him that alcohol was a drug too, I could never get him to smoke a joint. He was as thin as a reed, crew cut, geeky, studious, emotionally passive and wore thick black glasses that were so heavy his cadaverous face could not support them. Thus, they constantly fell down over his nose, but not intentionally like the purposeful idiotic moniker of Whoopi Goldberg.

Ernie’s characteristics caused Arthur to torture him mercilessly about growing his hair long or smoking pot. The verbal bombardment was so intensely constant and tormenting; I thought it might have had something to do with Ernie deciding to get married at the end of sophomore year, just to escape.

Ernie met his bride earlier in the year at a Coed import function. These events were social mixers whereby the University bussed in a few hundred or so single women from another unisex college, being something the higher powers felt obliged to do as compensation for Duke’s 4:1 ratio of men to women. The Administration must have considered this the best method for keeping raging male hormones under a modicum of control and confined to campus.

Ernie said it was love at first sight. More likely it was a conveniently desperate way to distance himself from the cabal that was trying to break him down and corrupt him into subscribing to our own bad habits. It was also probably the first woman who had ever really given him the time of day. In any event, Ernie was away the weekend I imported my date. Dorm restrictions at the time were still relatively puritanical and prohibited female guests from overnight stays. Perhaps if the rules had been more flexible, my former girlfriend M. who had dumped me, may have stayed on a little longer because we could have had sex on a bed instead of under a bush. But if discovered, and then prosecuted, overnight female activity could lead to immediate expulsion.

Not really knowing what I was going to do with my weekend date, as well as being unable to afford a motel room, I secreted her in my dorm room. But I had not planned ahead, so when in the middle of the night she had to urinate, I made her pee in an ice bucket, which I then emptied in the common bathroom down the hall. This was all the more risqué since because she was so stubbornly prudish, if I had been expelled over the incident, it would also have been with the added insult of not even getting laid.

Unfortunately, I had no advance warning that in her age group she was the planet’s last living virgin who was romantically saving herself for marriage. More amazingly, she was not even a Catholic, which as a group I mistakenly thought were the only ones still interested such nonsense. I found out later in life that Irish Catholic girls tend to be randomly promiscuous; whereas the Italian Catholics tend to look in your wallet first; but not for condoms.

She did have acne, which led me to believe that my Aunt Jean’s opinion on the subject was probably not at all accurate, as Jean had once opined that the amount of acne a person had was either directly or inversely proportional to how much sex they were or were not having. In the case of a girl it meant she was a sperm filled slut and in the case of a celibate boy it meant that his was backing up to the point of overflow.

If nothing else the episode inspired a desire to move off campus to the relative freedom of private housing. That way I could freely smoke pot, drink beer, and have women over without worrying about a Dorm monitor checking up on my bad habits; just as Ernie had fled to the relative safety of wedded bliss, and to avoid the pressured risk of becoming just another pot smoking hippie. This is not withstanding the possibility of Ernie having risked the pressure of an altogether different kind of nagging.

As the year progressed, Arthur began making plans to drop out of school, go to San Francisco with his girlfriend from New Jersey, and live the dream inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac that were vividly described in his novel, the Dharma Bums. Arthur had already saturated himself with novels such as The Air Conditioned Nightmare and Naked Lunch, all of which he encouraged me to read because he thought they would help with my overall “enlightenment.”

It wasn’t until years later after becoming a physician that I even remotely began to understand William Burroughs paranoid delusions, while he traveled the world junked out on heroin or every other drug or drug combination he could lay his hands on. When it was originally published Naked Lunch was considered to be so obscene it was “Banned in Boston” and went on to be a milestone case for the right of free speech. Burroughs, a bona fide multi-drug junkie who was heir to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, was living the life of leisure until the day he decided to play William Tell with his wife and shot her in the head with a pistol instead of hitting the apple. In those days even if you were a celebrity, you could not get away with that kind of thing whereas today he probably could have capitalized on the episode by selling “Heroin Spoils Your Aim” tee shirts.

Arthur, who had already imbibed, had been able to procure some mescaline and LSD from his California connections and then suggested, or more like harangued that one Saturday we should try some of it. He perseverated in his Priest-like mystification of the psychedelic drug experience regaling anecdotal tales of people taking them and either going crazy or losing their minds, while constantly prepping me to remember that no matter what I was thinking during a drug trip it was still only a temporary state of mind.

It would also be part of the ritual that we had to take it early on a Saturday so that any effects would be gone by Monday when classes resumed. He also made it clear that he would be in control of all aspects of the activities during our “trip’ and basically scared the shit out of me to the point I wondered why I was even going to try the stuff.

Mescaline was to be the first drug of choice because of its mystical connection to the American Indians, who had obviously learned the true way to coexist with nature many centuries before; thus in all probability being the original hippies, so to speak, had learned I use it as a peaceful connection to nature.  As such it was touted as a means contributing to my own overall enlightened cerebral liberation.

When the mystical Saturday morning finally arrived, Arthur, the guru, decided we were going to take Mescaline.

The entire angst of the pre-drug experience was soon left behind when we spent the entire day listening to music of Art’s choice while I read Thor Comic books. Nothing happened of any consequence except for the fact of my complete immersion in the comic scene whose characters seemed to vibrantly come to life as they leap off the page. This was all the more interesting since I had never liked Thor to begin with. Spending about eight hours reading the same stupid stories over and over again while repeatedly saying “wow’ at the spectacularly vivid living colors that saturated each page in the book; I enjoyed the fact that each comic strip actually did seem to become animated. No real enlightenment and certainly no acute psychosis occurred, while to this day I do not believe I have ever read Thor comics again.

Having passed the hurdle of the first experience, we tried the drug a few more times during the year, with each experience being nothing more than an acute accentuation of ordinary everyday events or stimuli along with a proclivity to be oblivious to the stresses and strains of the world around us. It made for a nice escape from the rigors of study or the angst of a foreign war, as though both of these things were so onerous we had to get away from them. Unfortunately, the drugs also contributed to a general sense of ennui and lack of ambitious desire to do any homework at all, which was beginning to reflect poorly on my pre-med curriculum.

Things came to a head with Part II of Sophomore Physics.

At that time the pre-med students were put into the same program as the engineering students who were significantly more gifted in math and it was not until years later that the pre-med class was segregated following belated recognition by the University that the course was just too hard for “want-to-be-doctors.”

Left Hand Rule, Right Hand Rule, First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, Gobbledygook, with progressively more complicated formulas or concepts I could not grasp nor had any real desire to actually comprehend. There simply did not seem to be any real practical value to any of it. Having studied little or none of it, I pulled an all-nighter and showed up for the final exam prepared to at least try for enough partial credit to pass it by memorizing as many formulas as I possibly could.

I already knew from Chemistry that if one at least writes down a litany of formulas, the professor thinks you know something to the point that even if you don’t get the answer correct, or even get to a final answer at all, he will let some positive credit points leak out of his pen, which added together at the end will get you over the flunk threshold.

One of my friends in Medical School later told me that to that point his entire academic career had been based on the “Principle of Partial Credit,” a concept rooted in the fact that one does not have to ever know it all or ever get it all right. One only has to know enough of something about everything, as opposed to a modern day news commentator who excels in knowing nothing about everything or everything about nothing. One of the main features of this approach is to at least try to put down some formulation for each question with the most dreaded fault being to leave a question entirely blank. Cardinal sin. Definite F.

Forget about science. The First Law of Partial Credits also served me well throughout the rest of my academic career.

But getting back to Physics, on the day of the test I was nauseated by the sight of all those Engineering students who showed up with two slide rules in their belts akin to mathematical six shooters, which they then whipped out at the starting bell, flew furiously in their sweaty little hands, then at least fifteen minutes before the closing bell they leaped up, turned in their papers, then headed for the exits with all-knowing little gloats and smirking smiles on their effete cherubic faces. I both envied and loathed them and sometimes wished they would have psychotic breaks or blow their brains out with little homemade cannons like the Engineering student had done. Instead of committing those two Cardinal Sins, perhaps I should have just applied myself to study harder instead.

Then at the “public posting of the test results ceremony” I sweated bullets. Summer was coming nigh and I knew I would not be able to face the non-psychedelic music at home if I had failed. So when I saw a D next to my name, I yelled for joy right in front of a glowering exasperated proctor who had little appreciation for my elation.

  • You mean you’re happy with a D? That’s despicable.
  • You bet. Because the D in “I Passed” is silent. But not the F in Flunked.

All I cared about was that I would not have to repeat a semester in Physics hell although the minimally passing grade, with my gleeful underachieving reaction, was causing the proctor to nearly pass out from sheer disgust.

Unfortunately this D did not help my GPA, which had dropped from a 3.6 to a 2.6. For a high school straight-A student, I knew some serious explanations would have to be invented when these final grades made their way through the postal service and finally to my parent’s mail box at home.

Reverting to false hope by appealing to religion, I said a Rosary for the miracle of the report card ending up in the dead letter bin at Kansas City’s Postal depot.

 

 

hang over

–The wages of sin is bad grades–

 

It’s so easy to slip

It’s so easy to fall

And let your memory drift

And do nothing at all

(George Kibbee)

 

School Daze 2: Freshman Year at College 1965

School Daze 2

The freshman dormitories on the men’s campus at Duke are on the quadrangle west of the Chapel. They are a long series of structures resembling Gothic row houses; and are arbitrarily divided into sections that are lettered in alphabetic sequence. Contrary to this generic lettering, the upperclassman Independent Houses have proprietary names of identification, like Canterbury, while the Fraternity Houses have the customary Greek nomenclature such as Alpha Tau Epsilon. This seems to emphasize your relative worthlessness as you start your academic career and seems modeled after the nameless rank-less military plebe class at West Point.

When my parents dropped me off in front of my new home, the freshman dormitory simply known as “J House”, then hurriedly unpacked the station wagon, put all my things in my room, and abruptly headed home, I had a panic attack. Although I should have been elated at the arrival of my long anticipated emancipation, instead I felt nothing but instantaneous homesickness.

To make matters worse the dormitory interior was crypt-like with narrow sunless hallways, tiny rooms with narrow windows, and even narrower beds. The two young men expected to co-habit the room, whose parents were trying to save on expenses, could immediately feel a pervading claustrophobically interpersonal angst. The housing was nice looking on the outside but akin to living inside a medieval tomb. In addition I had to bunk with a roommate who had been arbitrarily assigned to me.

He was a nice enough, but a very straight-laced person who was in college under the Reserve Officer Training Commission (ROTC), a factor that required him to wear a Navy uniform most of the time. I suppose it was the natural progression after Boy Scouts and did nothing to help my previously ingrained distain for uniforms.

The good thing was that he spent a lot of time out of the room, which was fine with me. However to this day I do not know if this was because of his ancillary military obligations and studies, because I was giving off unfriendly vibrations, or because of the constant taunting of the dormitory political liberal, Arthur, who in salutation would repeat his last name over and over again making it sound like the croaking of a nocturnal marsh frog.

  • Brrrrent, Brrrrent, Brrrrent.

Freshman dorm relationships in general tend to be a bit like a group of vacationers stuck together on a long tour package. After a lot of random interactive shuffling about, the various personalities sort themselves out, and then cliques form. The absurdity of it all is that even though you are now buddies, if you met the same people on the street or at a cocktail party, you would never even give them the time of day. Eventually the re-sorting evolved and everyone either joined a fraternity or moved into an Independent Dormitory.

But during that first college year, the blend of disparate souls can make for a significant degree of diversity, camaraderie, or interpersonal tension and hostility before it does eventually re- shuffles. Perhaps this accounts for the origins of the “birds of a feather” Fraternal system in the first place. Better to be with an asshole identical to ones self than to be a diametrically opposite asshole who in relative terms is a real asshole. Our dorm was no exception.

Living next to me in a single room was a good-natured carefree soul from Pennsylvania, Doug, who was totally unperturbed by the world as he let everything roll off his back. He was passionate about golf, and despite his lack of a legacy, got into a fraternity simply because of his athleticism.

Across the hallway was a highly neurotic Jewish pre-dental student who could not get going in the morning unless he repeated his bathroom rituals in a predetermined properly correct order. He could easily be tortured by simply placing one of his previously and neatly aligned pairs of shoes out of line, or by moving his toothbrush two inches to the right. One day he actually had a near nervous breakdown when he lost his Mezuzah. It was the first I had ever heard of this uniquely religious good luck charm and its loss caused the small world of our dormitory came to a screeching halt until the item was finally relocated, then once again placed above his doorway, with all of its associated blessings and mystical protections happily restored.

We had to find it or he would still be perseverating to this day:

  • I lost my Mezuzah. I lost my Mezuzah. I lost my Mezuzah. Where’s my Mezuzah?

He eventually joined the small Jewish fraternity that consisted primarily of intellectual nerds, and was never seen by us again; although I subsequently learned he has made a fortune in cable television but not in amalgam dental fillings or in realigning crooked teeth in some glitzy northern New Jersey suburb.

Being Jewish at Duke University may have fulfilled certain admission quotas, but generally speaking, the Jewish students were a targeted minority. Being a northern Catholic with an Italian last name this made me look good by comparison.

Perhaps it was no accident that the Jewish fraternity house, the Tao Epsilon Phi, (The TEPs) was physically adjacent to the football athlete’s Fraternity house, the Alpha Tau Omega (The JOCKs); such that  on many a liquored up Saturday night it would not be infrequent that these frustrated animals would crash through the barrier door in the basement separating the dorms and proceed to use the Jewish “dweebs” as footballs.

That is if they were not first entertaining themselves or their sorority sisters by their unique tradition of group mooning out the windows or  throwing a television set off the dormitory roof and then gleefully screaming as the screen and neon tubes disintegrated as the appliance completely disappeared into a pile of tiny silver dust particles. The authorities would usually turn and look the other way or slap some inconsequential punishment on the cheeky offenders.

Administrative authorities also turned their other cheeks to the jock’s generally poor academic performances and the fact that their sorority sisters wrote most of their term papers. But after all, what is a major University if it does not have an athletic program, even if the athletes themselves do not really go to school, or in order to matriculate will enroll in specially designed classes such as “Citizenship 101” or “Advanced Primitive Tribal Face Painting”

This particular course comes in especially handy for them on football game day when they put that idiotic black paint under their eyes, a ritual ostensibly designed to keep reflected sun glare from bouncing off their mirror-like steroid induced shiny skinned faces and temporarily blinding them.

  • Sorry coach. I flubbed it cause I couldn’t see the ball. I forgot to wear my war paint.

So what if Duke Football at that time ranked consistently in the bottom ten percent of all Division I colleges. Since the team consistently gets pummeled into the gridiron every Fall Saturday afternoon, their tactics and tendencies to beat up on TEPs may have in reality been nothing better than a simple case of Kick the Dog Syndrome. It certainly was not an example of putting the elements of “Citizenship 101” into daily practice 

In general it seems strange that many Division I colleges continue to maintain both football and basketball programs, but that very few seem to excel in both simultaneously. I was told once that it all revolves around solicitation of alumni donations backed up by a perpetual hope that someday, no matter what, the monetary support will bring in a National Championship. Duke football fans will be dead three times over before that ever happens again. 

At Duke, an equally strange curiosity was the fact that there seemed to be an inverse proportion between the size of the athlete and the size of his unusually diminutive girlfriend, which gave rise to our jocular reference to their imagined sexual encounters as being “spinners” or “propeller jobs.” All in all I suppose that is probably better than the imagined sexual implications attached to the fall and spring Fraternity classics known as the “Greek Games.” 

Further down the hall, in J House, lived another Jewish student, Dan, who was the antithesis of the obsessive pre-dental nut case. He rarely studied, eventually flunked out and later enrolled in a smaller college that was easier to survive academically.

His favorite pastime was to have everyone come into his room, turn off the lights, lie back on his bed, then pull up his legs and ignite his farts with a butane cigarette lighter. He could fart at will and we all laughed hysterically as he entertained us with a repetitive flame throwing demonstration that could have made him a comfortable living in any carnival side show: Methane Man: The Human Flame Thrower.

Of course this is not to say that we neither discouraged him nor did we ever think we were not freaky ourselves when we attempted to measure the distance of the flaming eruptions with a ruler. These activities can be lumped into the general classification of: ND-SN-FBS: No Date-Saturday Night-Freshman Boredom Syndrome.  

Because Dan had no problem hanging cartoons up in the dormitory lounge for public review one of his most legendary achievements was to sponsor the first annual “Gross-Out Art Contest,” an event that nearly got him expelled when one of the contestants submitted a picture of Donald Duck giving Jesus Christ a blow-job. He was an advocate of freedom of the press, having taken some inspiration from the radical contemporary author’s Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs who were breaking down the barriers of literary censorship on a national level with books the likes of “Howl” and “Naked Lunch,” while at the same time Bob Dylan was breaking down the barriers of racial segregation by questioning the morals and mores of polite society or centralized government with his music.Dan was also a natural born stand up comedian, who because of not having a car or other monetary means, traveled back and forth to New York by hitch hiking with a handmade placard stating:

Dan F: A laugh a mile

He always got a ride.

 

Dylan

(Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Allen Ginsberg)

Another standout was the good natured Georgia boy, “Buck”, who had an innate sense of humor, an open curiosity about the world, was always too quick to fall in love, but who also had a tendency to be easily influenced and easily led astray. Sometimes I think the world was simply a little too much for him. At one point he had to temporarily drop out of school when he retrieved his mail, only to find a note written by his parents to this effect:

“Dear son; Had enough, decided to quit, sold the house, moving away, and sorry but now you are on your own. By the way, this also means you get no more money. Pay for school yourself. Love, Mom and Dad.”

He then decided to either sell or to give away all his possessions, as he became a passionate follower of the teachings of the transcendental meditation icon, Maher Baba, who had concurrently been made famous by the Beatles. Although he was only following his own soft, kindly heart, and truly did believe he could make a difference in the world by following the pacifist trail, we all thought Buck was a little crazed with his fascination for the squeaky impish rodent-voiced little Indian prophet.

Even though cultural issues in America were then turning out to be quite troubled, as America’s youth was beginning to turn away from materialism, most of us seemed to be able to smell the phony little rat wrapped up in the white Sari. We were also still a bit mercenary and not quite at the stage where we were about to think twice when we absorbed all of Buck’s cast aside 33 speed records into our own vinyl collections.

As it turned out Buck was but one of the many, including the Beatles, who were hoodwinked into believing that this great teacher was going to reveal the long awaited key to salvation, but who then were equally and horribly disappointed when on his death bed the Baba’s highly anticipated pre-advertised final words of holy revelation were:

  • I was Rani, I was Shiva, I was Krishna, I was Vishnu, I was this one, I was that one. I am also Maher Baba. I will die, but I shall return.

Why should any one who knows anything about Buddhism or Brinkmanship have been disappointed or even remotely surprised at this wondrous, ever so profoundly clever yet fraudulent revelation? After all, if one believes in reincarnation the Baba did not tell a lie, did he?

Sadly, several years ago I heard that Buck had gone on to become a high school teacher who in being well loved by most but apparently not by all in Atlanta, Georgia, was subsequently shot to death one day in class by a disgruntled student. Perhaps his biggest flaw was that he was the kind of person who could never even hurt a fly and that the disgruntled student probably took his offbeat sense of sarcastic humor without the necessary grain of salt.

In dorm life as well as in societal life, as might be expected, there is always an alpha personality that rises to the top and tends to lead the pack. In J House, his name was Arthur, a pre-law student from Trenton New Jersey, who had an insidious ability to insert his views, to make them predominant, and to cast an air of arrogant condescending superiority.

He was extremely intimidating and liked to prey on weaker personalities while attempting to turn them to his point of view, or if he could not, then spent a great deal of time torturing the intended victim until he at least raised a reactive response. Then when all else failed, his final tactic was to simply raise his voice higher than any one who might be trying to propose a countervailing argument.

My ex-wife also liked to use the torture tactic as she consistently misinterpreted peace and quiet as meaning a lack of interest or lost love. Equally confusing was her belief that having a nasty loud argument meant I was actually taking a sincere interest in our relationship.

Art’s political philosophy was inherently to the left side of liberal. He was also far ahead of me intellectually as he had already been versed in literature I had never even heard of, lording over our conversations with ideas and quotations he had extracted from the likes of T.S. Elliot, Ezra Pound, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac; to name few. He also had very broad musical interests, and despite the intimidation factor, was instrumental in elevating my awareness to considerably more expansive horizons than those attached to my insular introverted upbringing.

Finally and ultimately then, there was myself. A nerdy, conservative northern boy, who originally intended nothing more than to go to school, to study hard, to get into medical school, to subsequently have a life and career that would basically run predictably on auto pilot; with a lucrative almost guaranteed income.

Nice house. Perfect wife. White picket fence. Two perfect kids playing in the yard. Dream on.

I could have never possibly guessed that God had somehow sent my own personal devil, Arthur, to test and to tempt every value I had ever known, or that the War in Vietnam had already set the substrate for my not unwilling journey into largely uncharted waters. I was about to be tested on my ability to tell the difference between black and white. In fact the entire country was headed in a direction that would not allow for any shades of gray whatsoever.

It was 1965 and Lyndon Johnson had just committed the first 200,000 Marines to an escalating firefight, in a geographically divided Southeast Asian country, despite a foreboding forewarning by the fleeing French who had already abandoned the contest that it could never be anything but a no-win situation.

This was a war being proffered by a paranoid super power interfering with a foreign struggle for independence, in a place it had no business to be, and which nearly resulted in tearing the United States to shreds by igniting a domestic civil war of opposing philosophies and moral differences. It was a conflict that in this country was about to cause a borderless internal division having nothing to do with the Mason-Dixon Line and a conflict which ultimately gave Ho Chi Min the ongoing fortitude to see his mission fulfilled and his own visionary dream for his country won and finally realized.

It was a contest that shortsighted American politicians had failed to realize, could only have been successfully accomplished or completed by genocide, an idea that might have actually crossed the minds of some Washington politicos, except for the small fact that the Vietnamese people were not about to go quietly and gently into that good night.

 

Black and White

 

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn.

And everybody’s shouting

“Which side are you on?”

And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot

Fighting in the captain’s tower.

While calypso singers laugh at them

And fishermen hold flowers.

Between the windows of the sea

Where lovely mermaids flow

And nobody has to think too much

About Desolation row.

(Bob Dylan: Desolation row)

Dylan, Robertson and Ginsberg: Source  robbie robertson.com
Poster www.ragtime-society.de/Video/Deutsch/cover.htm

 

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones (1960s)

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were nothing more than accidents waiting to happen.

Even though Rock and Roll in the United States had been suppressed nearly to the point of extinction, the powers that be failed to realize that this music had already infected the rest of the world. They were also afraid to admit to themselves, or more likely were mired in a great collective denial that it was not already too late to stop it.

On the West Coast, the Beach Boys were beginning to sing about the carefree California lifestyle of surfing and drag racing. Then like a second invasion of Normandy, the ghost-like musical heritage of American Rock’s prior generation had crossed the Atlantic to liberate the minds of a few scruffy street musicians who passionately decided to revive it.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had neglected to become vaccinated against this musical “cancer,” so when the music got under their skin and then into their blood, it germinated, grew and blossomed. Then before long these musicians changed the world forever.

The two bands formed by these individuals had scooped up the ashes from the funeral pyres of J. Edgar Hoover’s rampage through the American music industry. And being geographically enough at arm’s length from the oppressive American political climate, had then been able to resurrect an unstoppable Phoenix.

It was the equivalent of a musical Second Coming.

Then just like God and the Devil, it soon became obvious that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were diametric polar opposites.

The Beatles dressed in neat, uniform cookie-cut suits with tight pant legs and black pointed leather boots. They played original, clean lyrical music with a somewhat tame, polite demeanor, and curtsied when they finished a song. The Mersey beat music was new, fresh, and pleasant; having a peculiarly unique sound that had never been heard before, albeit interlaced with a few haunting Buddy Holly tunes or similar refrains.

The Stones appearance on the other hand was scruffy, wild, more colorful, more individualized and more outlandish. They played a venue of recycled Black American Blues, which eventually became blended with their own unique style of raunchy Rock.

Having a raw edge, they were rougher and tougher than the Beatles Yet for some intangible reason, possibly rooted in White repression and repressed bigotry, it seemed easier for the American public to accept an English band playing “The Little Red Rooster” than it would have been to embrace the on stage presence of it’s original black author, Howlin’ Wolf, who had composed the song over a generation before.

It was actually this contrasting style in both appearance and in musical venues that created the basis for the ever-escalating popularity or the two groups, as adolescents seemed to identify with or to gravitate more to one than to the other.

Although the bands were cast somewhat as polar opposites, cults and subcultures were beginning to develop as they generated great immediate controversy, along with universal fear in the minds of the White middle class. It was a sneak attack on the soft underbelly of America, only because they became so enormously popular so fast.

Ultimately no matter how it was sliced , the unifying element that portended the new corruptive ruination of America’s youth was not so much what these groups sang, how they sang it or whether the clothes were nice, neat or scruffy and disheveled.

The principal feature predicting a new rallying point for America’s youth was imparted in a key part of the haberdashery which had nothing to do with the clothing. It was something America’s youth could identify with, and something which would allow for a unique form of adolescent rebellion that would particularly yet definitively distinguish the old from the young without the limiting rebellious outlaw image that had been cast by the motor-cycle riding James Dean or by the crazed ramblings of the disaffected author Jack Kerouac.

What was uniquely different resided on their heads; that awful decidedly sexy styling that flopped and shook, partially covering their eyes and ears as they pranced around on stage, occasionally looking like a kennel of shaggy sheep dogs. It was the Pudding Basin haircuts that finally put the audience over the edge as it caused hysterical mass frenzies in the teenaged female population.

Shaking manes and cute suits had replaced the Duck’s Ass slick back coif and the Elvis pelvis as the new sex symbol for the girls, while bawdy blues with a raunchy casual delivery had created a new masculine icon for the boys.

Viewed either as a blessing by some and a curse by others; meaning either as repayment for the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II, or as the penultimate revenge for the British Army’s defeat in the U.S. Revolution, history had now come full circle with all the favors being returned. But this time the troops on the beachheads were armed with guitars, drums and amplifiers instead of cannons, M-15s, machine guns and tanks.

The genie was out of the bottle for good. The Liverpool Mop-head Mods and the British Bad Boy Rockers had invaded America.

Rock and Roll

Rock n’ roll is here to stay,

It will never die.

It was meant to be that way,

Though I don’t know why.

I don’t care what people say,

Rock n’ roll is here to stay. 

We don’t care what people say,

Rock and Roll is here to stay. 

(Danny and the Juniors)

 

Photo source. The Lindey www.swingdanceshop.com