The Beach Boys

WDBS: Duke Broadcasting 1969

The Fun Stuff 

As College students, we thrived on music. Music empowered our thinking and played to our politics along with our desire to break the stifling social mores of the 1950s.

The 1960s were also a time when musical icons were virtually in reach and not the untouchable superstars of today. We felt as though they spoke for us, that they were one of us and were truly an integral part of us.

For example, Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Ponies gave a lawn concert where the student body could sit at their feet. The Beach Boys gave a concert in a warehouse and then danced with the Duke girls when they finished. Hopefully that’s all they did: just dance, dance, dance. Pete Seeger sang at the Duke vigil and then mixed with the crowd. Janis Joplin gave a concert and then pleasantly agreed to an interview at the campus radio station, WDBS. After she sobered up. 

At some point, one of my roommate Arthur’s connections got him an hour-long spot on the station at a time when beside Jazz, Classical, and Be-bop, the most radical music being played were the banal love ballads of The Beatles or the inane tunes of Herman’s Hermits, while the ballads of summer freedom and surf bumming were belted out in endless succession by the Beach Boys

The power structure running the programming was principally represented by conservative, preppy Frat boys who had little desire to let the radical, freaky hippie elements get their hands on a radio microphone.  Conservative broadcasting was the backboned cultural history of WDBS.

Somehow Arthur slipped under someone’s radar screen and came up with the idea of combining a talk show with an agenda that would play some of the more radical music of the times such as the protest songs of Bob Dylan or the endless psychedelic modulations of groups like the Grateful Dead. Their song “Alligator” running at  over sixteen minutes long was destined to break the mold of the more typical three-minute sentimental rhapsody.

Arthur was also a great advocate of the traditional blues represented by the old black masters Muddy Waters, Big Momma Thornton, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. He also liked the hard driving electric blues of the new wave White groups epitomized by the likes of John Mayall or Paul Butterfield.

As such it became Arthur’s personal mission in life to raise the musical consciousness of Duke University.

wdbs

(WDBS: Duke radio control room circa 1969)

Even the bad-boy Rolling Stones, although established, were somewhat anathema and did not enjoy the same reputation of the clean-cut mop heads; or their copycat spin offs.

Hymns about Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter did not juxtapose well to a subliminal reincarnation of a Willie Dixon song about a wayward little red rooster who is having a sexual dalliance in another hen house, when instead he should be taking care of business at home.

When the Stones toured and gave a concert at Raleigh, it did not even sell out. Arthur begged me to go to the concert with him, but I waffled because at that time I was a Beatles fan. I was stupid about it, or temporarily depressed; stayed home instead and then had to suffer through the recapitulations of how great the show had been. Now you cannot even come close to getting a Stone’s ticket, even if you can afford it.

For the intended radio spot, Art recruited Buck and me to join him to create a humorous side show routine that would satirically poke fun at local or national society as well as to promote the music we liked. A few radical political agendas were also on the table.

Buck portrayed a character known as “Funky Farm Fella.” You can imagine how that went down on Tobacco Road.

I do not recall Art’s or my character portrayals, but only vaguely remember that I probably had little to say as I undoubtedly championed the cause of ‘dead air time.’ Playing the long version of the Grateful Dead’s “Alligator” was great. No one had to talk, and as far as I was concerned it would have been just as easy to play uninterrupted music.

Art could spontaneously run his mouth, whereas I could not. But then again, he was in pre-law and I was in pre-med. He liked to talk and he liked to hear himself talk. Enough said. Lawyers are bad enough just by practicing their craft, but when, God forbid they go into politics, there has already been plenty of time to practice saying nothing of substantive content in twenty-five thousand words or more.

But the campus hierarchy, the sponsors, and the local citizens were not yet ready for self-reflective mind expanding humor, long psychedelic songs, protest music, black blues, and white blues; all being accompanied by offset timing of cornbread corn-fed homegrown commercials.

Local businessmen who were less than sympathetic to the cause of racial equality, integration, or ending the Vietnam war were not too keen on the overall content of ‘The Funky Farm Fella Show.’

After several broadcasts, the hate mail poured in, the sponsors revolted, and the conservative preppie Frat boy in charge of programming shit his pants when our broadcasts ruined his relaxing Scotch and cigar evenings at home. He lost no time giving us the old Vaudeville hook. Lateral arabesque and Exit stage left.

I could have cared less. Having worked at the station had allowed me the opportunity to meet Janis Joplin when she gave a concert on campus, and if nothing else was an experience I could use to beef up what was a very slim resume for Medical School applications. Not that the Dean of admissions would have cared much about the Janis part.

Since there was not enough airtime behind us to generate the campus support needed to launch a sympathetic protest, we went out with a simple little whimper. Nor did we possess the courage to commandeer the microphones, lock ourselves inside the studio, and go out with an atomic SWAT team bang.

One exposure to the Billy-club wielding, tear gas heaving policemen had been sufficient for me to let the cause of free speech linger for others to champion.

  • Hey Funky Farm Fella; did ja abber ebber see a mule?
  • Nope; Nabber. And while yer at it I’d sure ‘preciate another helpin’ o’ them fine home cooked mountain oysters.
  • Cummin’ right up bub. Fried pig balls, along with some fine grits, okra, and hushpuppies, too. Ain’t nothin’ like it on God’s green Earth.
rednecks

Well, he’s got him a house on the hill

He plays country records till you’ve had your fill

He’s a fireman’s friend, he’s an all night DJ

But he sure does think different from the records he plays.

Well, he don’t like the young folks I know

He told me one night on his radio show

He’s got him a medal he won in the war

Weighs five hundred pounds and  sleeps on his floor

He’s a drug store truck drivin’ man

He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan

When summer rolls around

You’ll be lucky if he’s not in town

(Gram Parsons and Roger Mc Guinn)

From the article: “Remembering WDBS” by Jeff Miller: Duke 1968-1970 www.geocities.com/wdbs56ol
Red Neck http://www.bangitout.com

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