1966–1975 Peace & Protest

From the Summer of Love to Women's Lib, Gay Rights and Black Panthers

So those who stayed away are not to be chastised, except for a lack of adventurousness. And yet they missed perhaps the most important event in New York rock since the Velvet Underground played the Balloon Farm: CBGB's three-week festival of the best underground (i.e. unrecorded) bands. The very unpretentiousness of the bands' style of musical attack represented a counterthrust to the prevailing baroque theatricality of rock. In opposition to that theatricality, this was a music which suggested a resurgence of communal faith. . . .

Rock simply isn't the brightest light in the pleasure dome any longer (my guess is that dance is), and Don Kirschner's "Rock Awards" only verifies the obvious: rock is getting as arthritic, as phlegmatic, as a rich old whore. It isn't only that the enthusiasm over the Stones tour seemed strained and synthetic, or that the Beach Boys can't seem to release new material until Brian Wilson conquers his weight problem, or that the album of the year is a collection of basement tapes made in 1967. "The real truth as I see it," said the Who's Peter Townshend recently, "is that rock music as it was is not really contemporary to these times. It's really the music of yesteryear."

He's right and yet wrong. What's changed is the nature of the impulse to create rock. No longer is the impulse revolutionary—i.e. the transformation of oneself and society—but conservative: to carry on the rock tradition. To borrow from Eliot, a rocker now needs an historical sense; he performs "not merely with his own generation in his bones" but with the knowledge that all of pop culture forms a "simultaneous order." The landscape is no longer virginal—markers and tracks have been left by, among others, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and the Beatles—and it exists not to be transformed but cultivated.


Theatre
Dancing in the footsteps of the Bard by Diane Wolff

Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company

November 17, 1975

Outside the Evergreen Theatre on 11th Street, there's a bright yellow banner with a jester winking from beneath a fool's cap. The banner bears the legend, Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company. The bubbling lightboard is dark now, and the marquee announces, Coming Soon 1975–76 Season.

It's kind of glamorous for a hometown boy to have his own theatre, and the Evergreen has been a good home for the Ridiculous for the last year and a half. While it's been kind of cozy and intimate for Ludlam's audience, of late it's been a trial for the actors because it's cramped, it doesn't have wings or flys, it doesn't have one amenity dear to the actor's heart–showers. But still it has been home, and now it's another New York real estate story. The building has been sold, and come the end of November, the theatre will be gone.

You'd think with his new play, "Fashion Bound," in rehearsal, Ludlam would be stricken, or at least upset, but he sat on the edge of the stage, took the news, and rolled with the punch. Chance runs amok in the theatre. An actor can break a leg on opening night and you've got a whole new ball game. "Ah well," he said philosophically, "change has always been good for us. Keeps us on our toes."

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