Rock Never Dies

Rock Never Dies

Sixties rock finds new fans among today's students

By Brendan Sullivan '06 | Photos by Fred Field

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.

imageKelly 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.—
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  • On September 7, 2006, Erin Ryan wrote:
    I have a fourteen year old son who we just took to see his first rock concert, John Fogerty! My son knows more about classic rock and roll than my husband and I ever did. He is in his first year of high school and is starting his own band. It is great to see him listening to this music. He has also learned so much about the time period we middle agers grew up in! Great rock and roll never dies!

  • On September 7, 2006, Chris Crandall wrote:
    I loved the idea of this article and was interviewed by Brendan as a part of the 60s Colby band, Love Equation. My 16-year old son has always enjoyed the music of the 60s, but he is equally involved in current music. He hands me his Ipod earphones whenever he has a song he thinks I'll like, and he's usually right. I'll hear something on the Seattle alternative radio station (KEXP) and download it for him. That cross-generational music sharing has been, for us, an important way to stay in touch. And at 57, it's fun to know more current music than 90% of friends my age. I remember my dad buying me one of the first Moody Blues albums before I had heard of them (he was and still is at 86 very music-cool), so I have tried to keep up that tradition. Current alternative music is different than ours, of course, and frequently innovative (take the Magnetic Fields or Radiohead). On a separate note, the Love Equation performed at a couple of reunions recently and were lucky to have two generations of performers -- Vic Pinansky, who started the band in the 60s and son Marc, who recently graduated from Colby. Music sharing at its best.

  • On September 13, 2006, A. Vaughn Tolle wrote:
    As one who is familiar with 60s rock, as I was there, I commend the photographer for finding and arranging the album covers illustrating the story. Looking at them brought back memories of listening to Janis Joplin, with Big Brother and the Holding Company, tear into "Ball and Chain" while visiting a campus hot spot my Freshman year in college; and the Moody Blues doing "Timothy Leary's Dead" in my scholarship hall room. Great memories of great rock and roll. The magazine cover captures the album covers of the era; like the artist, I was there!