Riot on the Sunset Strip and Stuff

Today I continue a series of posts about — Rock music — the most important thing that ever happened to me. 

One evening when I was about 10 years old my grandmother called me into the living room to see something on the television.

It must have been the news. There on the screen was an audience of over-excited young girls, screaming, grimacing, weeping, out of their minds over some musical group.

The newscasters snickered or outright laughed in disbelief. What a phenomenon! What could make these young girls lose all decorum and behave so strangely? We’d soon find out.

Beatlemania would jump the pond and infect America seconds later.

What made those girls lose their collective shit?

Sex. Or rather the first inklings of powerful physical attraction.

These girls had probably been surrounded by stuffy uptight be-sweatered father figures, kind or curmudgeon.

Their mothers had kept them away from the wrong kind of boys and then it all went wrong.

The Beatles weren’t greasy, leather-clad rockers (after Brian Epstein cleaned them up). They had sweet faces a mother could love. They were bright and shiny.

You’d let your daughter go ’round to the Cavern midday to see them perform, wouldn’t you?

But John-Paul-George-Ringo had been to the Reeperbahn. Their steady gig at the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg taught the lads things that would curl a mother’s hair. The matching suits and clean dress covered but didn’t erase the “umph” beneath.

The girls and boys could feel it and that’s a big part of what made rock and roll.

This all went over my head back then. Paul was safe-cute and I liked Paul. If I had to participate in the mass Beatle hypnosis, which I felt I did, I could manage to “like” the boys who seemed like puppy dogs.

After a couple of years of maturity, still Beatling, I recognized that I wanted to be John Lennon. I didn’t identify with the girly role. I didn’t want to hold their hands. I wanted to use my hands and stand like John behind that guitar and move my thighs the way he moved his, in that rhythmic bounce and sing into the microphone and be free.

I didn’t want to curl my hair or put on a dress and sit with my legs together and be polite. I wanted to wear a long sleeved shirt and tight trousers, maybe a vest and boots. Geez, not much has changed.

I spent hours sitting out in the garage behind the wheel of my grandfather’s ’47 Plymouth Deluxe. I wore my grandfather’s Irish-style cap and pretended that I was driving through London, on my way to some delicious Beatle adventure. I was alone and free and living well in my imagination.

I never saw the Beatles perform. I wasn’t old enough to get around until well after the Monkees hit the scene.

We’d been escorted to Los Angeles. My Monkees-Batman watching Teenset-reading partner Rita had convinced her mother to drive us to Hollywood to Screen Gems studio so we could see the Monkees.

I remember wearing gold glitter stockings and a navy blue dress. I guess I must have been brainwashed a bit by the Yardley commercials. That image of the fetching waif warped my rock vision a touch.

I think it still may be warping minds, that time, check out this fun blog, Child of the Moon.

1965/1966 — The Beatles were strong. The Rolling Stones and all their girls had come onto our mental screens. The Monkees and Batman and Yardley ads and “Where the Action Is” were can’t-miss after school fare. 

And this guy, this mercurial thief, was doing his thing in 1965.

 Rita’s parents once drove us to the Sunset Strip at night. I think they had friends in from out of town. We rode up and down the strip in a giant sedan. the sidewalks were jammed with hipsters. Rita’s square dad guffawed at the long-haired freaks. The boys’ haircuts were only an inch or two over their collars but that was enough to bring ridicule. It was a wonderland to us and we were itching to be set loose smack dab in the middle of it.

Ever see the film Riot on the Sunset Strip? It is a hoot. Even though it earnestly tried to portray the reality of those times in that place, it had a very Dragnet POV.

Now there’s a book called Riot on the Sunset Strip that takes a real look. I’m going to have to check it out. Here is a post about the book from the blog Paperback Rider.

My favorite band, the Buffalo Springfield wrote an anthem about the strip, “For What It’s Worth.”

I found a really innaresting (as Neil sez) comic page about the Springfield on this blog.

Here is my latest home decor collage.

It’s a bit of an hommage to Cynthia Plaster Caster. I’ll get to the first brave girls of rock next time.

The photo of Cynthia is from Genyfhyr Novak’s site.


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