Well, in the past week I’ve packed up all my things, moved 500 kilometres back home, unpacked stuff, gone through all the remaining stuff I have at home, repacked everything, put it all in a van, and then moved another 50 kilometres and unloaded and unpacked everything again. I guess you could say it’s been an exhausting week. Now I’m back at school for another term, though, which I’m pretty excited about. I’ve got plans to do some reading, plus try to be more active, and also work on expanding my culinary repertoire as well by finding some new things to cook. I think it’s going to be a good term.
Anyway, in the process of going through my stuff at home, I was looking through my parents’ bookshelf for anything that might be mine. I ended up finding a wonderful gem, which I took with me to school (shh! don’t tell my parents!) so that I could read it. It’s called Rock & Roll: The Devil’s Diversion, and it was written in 1967. I just got finished reading it, and it’s absolutely hilarious. And fascinating at the same time. Essentially the author blames rock and roll for everything that’s wrong with society, backs up very little of what he says other than with random stories and anecdotes, and then ends it all off with an “anti-rock pledge.” All throughout the book, I couldn’t help but wonder what this guy must think about the fact that probably 90% of evangelical churches today use electric guitars and rock-style music in their worship services. Although he’s still active, his website doesn’t seem to mention anything about rock and roll – it’s all about the occult and demonic possession. I guess even he changed along with the times.
So of course, almost anything from over 40 years ago is pretty funny. Times have changed, and looking back on things can be entertaining. I, of course, wasn’t alive at that point, but it was funny to read his description of these “sexualized” dances like the Twist – oh no, someone call the morality police! We’ve got someone gyrating their hips! Of course, a lot of his descriptions sounded pretty accurate, about the drugs and sex of the hippie movement, but then he makes the bizarre claim that these things were caused by rock and roll music, rather than the idea that changing societal norms caused them and rock and roll. So instead, he goes on about the pulsating rhythms of rock that are reminiscent of African tribal dances and how both send people in to wild frenzies. He talks about how rock leads teenagers to have unrestrained sexual encounters – because of course teenagers don’t already have raging hormones or anything. He even tells a story about how a teenage boy who was dancing to rock and roll music with his girlfriend was led (by the music) to rape and murder her. Because of course this kid obviously didn’t have any other serious problems – it’s all because of the music! Well, no, it’s really all because of Satan using the music to demonically possess teenagers. I had to laugh at his explanation of why Satan would use rock and roll. Ready for it? Here goes. Rock music leads to wild dancing that physically exhausts teenagers, leaving them susceptible to demonic possession. I had to wonder, why do we have to be exhausted in order for that to happen? Does our immune system normally fight off demons if we’re in healthy condition, so sickness and tiredness leaves us open to attack? Hmm…we had better tell doctors about this breakthrough discovery!
At any rate, I mentioned that this book was also fascinating. It truly is a product of its time – a glimpse into a reaction against societal change. As we all know from history books, the 60s and 70s were a turbulent time in the US. Hippies, drugs, the war in Vietnam and its protests, race riots, etc. With the Pill introduced, there was a growing culture of women exploring this newfound sexual freedom. This book is a gemstone, because it is written right in that time period when the changes were happening. It tries to provide an explanation for the radical changes that were happening. Of course, I’m going to step out on a limb here and say he got it entirely wrong, but it’s still fascinating to see the incredible lengths he went to in order to try to explain what he saw as moral decay and degeneration. There have been psychological and sociological studies that have shown that people tend to become more conservative in times of uncertainty. Because of the instability around them, people tend to cling to what they know and understand. This book is a perfect example of this – anything new is regarded as a tool of the devil, and the cause of all the woes in society.
But of course, times continue to change, and the ruckus over rock music has largely died down. Nobody goes crazy over Elvis Presley’s new dance moves or the new Beatles album. There are, of course, new social catastrophes to complain about, and so rock music has simply been accepted and integrated into the larger whole. It’s no longer part of the counter-culture – it’s been subsumed into the culture itself. And that’s not good or bad – it’s simply social change. New books can now be written about the sexually explicit rap lyrics out there today (which are ten times worse than the lyrics he was quoting in the book), and eventually that style will either fade out or be integrated as well as new forms are created. History is interesting in that it provides us with a window into the ebb and flow of society. We can see as new trends emerge, develop, and either die out or become accepted and normalized. And all the time, there are champions of the trend and naysayers who speak out against it. This book merely provides a glimpse into one of those trends.
Anyway, I’m off to go take an LSD trip and do some meditation, then maybe I’ll protest some wars and do some hip gyrations at the same time. I’m such a rebel.