Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the U.S.A. Chapter 5: The Reaction to Rock ‘n’ Roll Outline Introduction
- In the conservative climate of the 1050s, rock ‘n’ roll was a target for repression.
- Postwar prosperity made teenagers an identifiable consumer group.
- In a consumer society, hedonism was both encouraged and discouraged.
5.1: The Established Powers Fight Back5.1: Recount the systematic attempts made by the major record companies to blunt the crossover appeal of early rock ‘n’ roll
- From 1955-59, major labels lost a large share of the market to independents.
- The major labels largely resisted rock ‘n’ roll, also made attempts to coopt it.
- Columbia’s signing of Presley was successful but difficult to duplicate.
5.1.1: Cover Records Sanitize Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Of the major companies, Decca and Mercury had the best luck with sanitized covers of independent hits.
5.1.2: Pat Boone and the Cover Strategy
- Pat Boone has been the lightning rod for criticism about covering other artists.
- His obvious white-bread sound is a major clue as to why the cover strategy was rather short lived.
5.1.3: From Kingston Town to the Kingston Trio
- The promotion of a sanitized version Calypso music was part of a strategy to divert public tastes from rock ‘n’ roll.
- The Kingston Trio was a cleaned-up version of the folk music that would later attain true popularity.
5.2: “Schlock Rock”5.2: Examine the rise in popularity of schlock rock as the new pop orientation in rock ‘n’ roll
- By the late 50s, both major and independent labels had devoted themselves to schlock rock performed by processed teen idols like Fabian.
- Philadelphia was the center of the independent schlock rock movement.
5.2.1: Italians Conquer the Pop Charts
- Italian American vocalists like Frankie Avalon became schlock rock favorites.
- They Anglicized their names because the overwhelming social function of these artists as a group was to put a bland, white, middle-class face on rock ‘n’ roll.
5.2.2: Chubby Checker Becomes King of the Dance Craze
- Chubby Checker, a black face among a sea of white schlock rockers, was an invention of Cameo/Parkway Records in Philadelphia.
- His record “The Twist” set off a novelty dance craze that lasted through the jerk, the hully gully, and the locomotion.
5.2.3: Television’s Greatest Hits
- American Bandstand’s location in Philadelphia allowed Dick Clark to promote locally produced schlock rockers Fabian, Frankie Avalon, etc.
5.2.4: Ricky Nelson Makes Rockabilly Respectable
- Nelson played himself on the television sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
- He was not entirely a media creation, as he was a respected country singer in his own right.
5.2.5: The Brill Building Becomes the New Tin Pan Alley
- Paul Anka and Neil Sedaka were part of an effort to professionalize rock ‘n’ roll by restoring a Tin Pan Alley approach to popular music, in which writers wrote songs, singers sang them, and artist and repertoire staff brought the two together.
- The Brill Building in NYC was the locus of this activity, featuring songwriters like Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
5.3: The War on Rock ‘n’ Roll5.3: Summarize how the focus on payola became the operative strategy for neutralizing rock ‘n’ roll
- After targeting individual songs for suggestive lyrics, enemies of rock ‘n’ roll found a more potent weapon: the payola “scandal.”
5.3.1: Rock ‘n’ Roll Threatens the Structure of the Music Business
- The war on rock ‘n’ roll represented an intersection of agendas among ASCAP, the major labels, Tin Pan Alley and government officials.
- After an antitrust suit against BMI yielded no results, an anti-BMI Senate bill also died.
5.3.2: Payola Hearings Target Radio
- In 1959 a subcommittee of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce launched a new probe into payola.
- But probe yielded little hard evidence but broke the careers of many deejays, including Alan Freed.
- Radio was intimidated into playing as few black artists as possible.
5.4: Surf Music Makes Waves 5.4: Explain the growth trajectory of surf music and its musicians as a gateway to the music of the 1960s
- From 1962–64, surf music arose as a consumerist but nevertheless creditable form of rock ‘n’ roll made by white people.
- Dick Dale created the prototype surf sound.
5.4.1: Surf Music and the Tradition of Instrumental Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Two groups dominated the guitar-based sound that eventually came to define instrumental rock ‘n’ roll—Duane Eddy and the Rebels, and the Ventures.
- The Ventures established the instrumentation of the classic rock ‘n’ roll quartet—electric lead, rhythm, and bass guitars, and drums.
5.4.2: The Beach Boys Ride the Wave
- They delivered all the raunchiness of a high-school garage band but still managed to sound as squeaky clean as the Philadelphia crowd.
- Brian Wilson became determined to perfect the oceanic version of his idol Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” based on the Beach Boys’ harmonic virtuosity.
- Have students research early 1950s advertising and bring in examples of TV or magazine ads from the era. Talk about the cultural disconnect between these images and authentic R&B and rock ‘n’ roll of the era.
- Have them examine the Hollywood image of the rebel through cheesy TV shows like 77 Sunset Strip and Dobie Gillis. Where do these hipsters come from? What is behind the mannerisms of people like “Kooky” on 77 Sunset Strip? Relate this to the sanitization of culture in the 50s.
- Have students take early rock ‘n’ roll classics and sanitize them in terms of lyrics, and for the courageous among them, singing style. How would Connie Francis sound singing “Great Balls of Fire”?
- To what extent is there tension between consumerist hedonism and “responsible” living? How does the current situation compare with the 50s?
- Play Little Richard vs. Pat Boone on “Long Tall Sally” for the class. Is Pat Boone defensible in any way in retrospect?
- To what extent do dances like The Twist and The Mashed Potatoes mirror today’s dance styles? Is twerking the Hucklebuck of its day, or does it come from a different type of source?
- How was Dick Clark able to keep out of trouble despite his conflicts of interest while at the same time Alan Freed was pilloried?
- Have the class watch Pat Boone and the hipsters:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEN97Ng_UQ8&nohtml5=False What is the purpose of this interaction?
- Play Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” for the class.How do you think Frank Sinatra judged this music?
- Play the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” from Pet Sounds for the class, preferably in better fidelity than this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD4sxxoJGkA What makes this song great? Why do you think this is considered to be among the greatest records of all time?
- If rock ‘n’ roll threatened the structure of the music business in its day, what presents a current threat to it?
Recommended Listening “Such a Night”Artist: Johnny RayMusic/Lyrics by Lincoln ChaseLabel: Columbia “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”Artist: Big Joe TurnerMusic/Lyrics by Jesse StoneLabel: Atlantic “God Only Knows”Artist: The Beach BoysMusic/Lyrics by Brian Wilson/Tony AsherLabel: Capitol “The Locomotion”Artist: Little EvaMusic/Lyrics by Carole King/Gerry GoffinLabel: Dimension 1000