Rock 'n' Roll: The Sound of the Sixties

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You take some music, hot beats,


Finger poppin' and stompin' feet . . . It's got this whole wide land.

Rock 'n' roll forever will stand, Singin' deep in the heart of man.

—It Will Stand by the Showmen

The Trashmen. The Kinks. Goldie and the Gingerbreads. The Ripchords. Bent Fabric. Reparata and the Delrons. Barry and the Remains. The Pretty Things. The Emotions. The Detergents. Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. The Guess Who's. Cannibal and the Headhunters. Them. The Orlons. The Liver-birds. Wump and the Werbles. Like something out of Malice in Wonderland, the hordes of shaggy rock 'n' roll singers thump across the land, whanging their electric guitars. Bizarre as they may be, they are the anointed purveyors of the big beat and, as never before, people are listening—all kinds of people.

For the past ten years, social commentators, with more hope than insight, have been predicting that rock would roll over and die the day after tomorrow. Yet it is still very much here, front, center, and belting out from extra speakers on the unguarded flank. Many cannot take rock 'n' roll, but no one can leave it. The big beat is everywhere. It resounds over TV and radio, in saloons and soda shops, fraternity houses and dance halls. It has become, in fact, the international anthem of a new and restless generation, the pulse beat for new modes of dress, dance, language, art and morality. The sledgehammer refrains of Wayne Fontana and the Mind Benders' Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um can be heard parting the walls of a Yokohama teahouse, a recreation room in Topeka, or a Communist youth club in Warsaw. For better or worse, like it or loathe it, rock 'n' roll is the sound of the Sixties.

Nothing Sacred. The big boost for big-beat music has come, amazingly enough, from the adult world. Where knock-the-rock was once the conditioned reflex of the older generation ("Would you want your daughter to marry a Rolling Stone?"), a surprisingly large segment of 20-to-40-year-olds are now facing up to the music and, what is more, liking it. Mostly, the appeal is its relentless beat. It is perhaps the most kinetic sound since the tom-tom or the jungle drum. It may seem monotonous to the musicologist, too loud to the sensitive, but it is utterly compelling to the feet.

The result is that rock 'n' roll has set the whole world dancing. Its shrine is the discotheque, a place of sustained noise, smoky ambiance, and the generally disheveled informality that rock 'n' roll inspires. In a discotheque, it's all records and loudspeakers—since the beat is the thing, who cares about the subtleties of a trumpet solo, even by Miles Davis?

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