Fans of vinyl, from left, housemates Jennifer Coliflores 06, Samantha Chun 06, and Sarah Kelly 06, read liner notes while listening to albums at home off-campus in Waterville. Some of their favorites include vintage Marvin Gaye and Beatles.
Photo by Fred Field
To Colbians of an earlier generation, the scene at Kelly's apartment would be startlingly familiar. In fact, Kelly '06 and her platter-spinning, rock and roll-loving roommates are following in the footsteps of Colby women who rocked their downtown neighbors more than 35 years ago, according to Christine "Chris— Crandall '70. "We would blast [Led] Zeppelin all the time and we knew every single word,— she said.
Crandall's voice—and her penchant for rock music and memorizing lyrics—landed her a gig as the lead singer of Colby's staple campus band, Love Equation, which opened for Janis Joplin at the Waterville Armory in 1969. The band's gigging did not end there, as they reassembled in 2004 and 2005 at Colby reunions, thinking their classmates would love hearing the classics from their college days.
As it turned out, the audience on the hill wasn't all over the hill. As Love Equation cranked out '60s covers to the delight of their contemporaries, more recent graduates snuck away from their own reunion party nearby, drawn by the music. "All of a sudden these young kids crashed the party and started dancing,— said Ron Caruso '69, singer, guitarist, and the band's founder. "They were loving it as much as anyone.—
"I have had students come by and talk to me with incredible, detailed knowledge, as only a fan would know, about rock in the late Sixties. And I'm just sitting there astonished.—
Professor Paul Machlin
While their love for classic rock may have started with listening to their parents' music, most of today's students never stopped loving it. "I think our parents' generation was one that rejected the morals and ideas of their parents' generation, whereas we are much more accepting of our parents' values and, specifically, musical taste,— said Sisson, who graduated in May.
And for those who were there back then, the spontaneity and celebration Kelly talks about enjoying today was indeed the most exciting aspect of the music. "It was a time of unfettered rock development, when rock was an open celebration of blues, country, and soul that had come together,— said Greg Williams, assistant director of operations at the Colby College Museum of Art and a longtime rock guitarist who organized last summer's exhibition of guitars, The Player's Art. "You got a rush just from turning on the radio.—
Times have changed, as a few large companies now own the majority of radio stations, limiting radio diversity. In response students turn much more to CDs, MP3s, or Internet sources to listen to music. It has gotten to the point that devout music fan Melanie Scott '06 admitted, "I never realized how great [Colby's radio station] WMHB was until senior year when I was woken up by my new radio alarm clock, because I never really listened to radio.—
But where today's radio lags, the visual media excel. With an onslaught of vintage concert footage remastered on DVD, it has never been easier to see classic rockers in concert. For students who weren't born when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Lewiston Armory in March 1968 ($2.50 a ticket), several Hendrix concerts are available on DVD. The same goes for those who missed The Grateful Dead in Bangor in April 1971; the Dead conveniently recorded a live video that same month at the Fillmore East.
Kelly recently was the host at a viewing party at the Mary Low Coffeehouse of Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, featuring The Band. A large group of students showed up, she said, because "it showed musicians all getting together to play, back when money wasn't the focus, because so few bands today do concerts for the fans.—
(The Band was not always so loyal to Colby fans. Slated for a gig on Mayflower Hill on February 20, 1970, The Band never showed up. Its notoriously difficult front-man Robbie Robertson cited a "viral infection,— although The Colby Echo reported that Robertson and friends performed healthily the following night at Boston College.)
Today's emphasis on, and innovation in, newer genres such as hip-hop and electronic music may also explain why students look to the past for the best in rock and roll. "Talent used to be focused into country, rock, acid music, and folk,— said Bruce McDougal, Colby's director of safety and former professional rock musician. "Add the political climate [of the 1960s and 1970s], the drug movement, and the great home stereo equipment coming out at the time, and everybody wanted to be part of it.—
And so do young people today. "I just think of the way Jimi Hendrix used to hit those unbelievable notes or even used feedback as part of his songs—you just don't see people doing such original things today,— said guitarist Avi David '08. Indeed it was a time of rock-music innovation, as electric amplifiers and music production technologies developed. Or as McDougal put it, "It was the first time three people could shake the walls.—