Interior Secretary James G. Watt created a nationwide flap last week when first he banned rock music from the Mall on the Fourth of July and then, with a bit of friendly presidential persuasion, rescinded that ban. Here, the Beach Boys' lead singer responds to Watt's actions.
Amid the gratifying groundswell of support that has followed Secretary of the Interior James Watt's Fourth of July edict, let's not lose sight of the fact that Watt was attacking something more than the Beach Boys.
It is true his retreat exonerated the Beach Boys. But the question I ask is: Where does that leave rock 'n' roll?
All of us need to be reminded just where rock 'n' roll came from. Its roots are right here in America. It was a blending of the black music of the '40s and '50s with the hillbilly and country music that came out of the mountains of Appalachia.
Thirty years ago, rhythm and blues was called "race music," and the white music that was to be joined with it was "rockabilly." A new wave of music was born incorporating all the facets of the musical spectrum. Then along came the singers--black and white--who had something new. These singers had a lot of "soul" and they called it rock 'n' roll.
If I had to look back and pick a song that represented the birth of rock 'n' roll, I'd probably think first of Fats Domino's "The Fat Man," but it was really his "Ain't That a Shame" that opened the door to the rock era.
When you castigate rock 'n' roll you're attacking people like Pat Boone, who had his first big hit with "Ain't That a Shame." And you're attacking Elvis Presley, too. The Beach Boys are proud we stand right along side those people in representing American rock 'n' roll.
Some people who think of rock 'n' roll think of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They came from England to become rock 'n' roll heroes in America. But remember, rock 'n' roll started in America, not Britain.
One of the things that has made our group the American representative of rock 'n' roll, is its use of surf music. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, along with a few others, made surf music popular. And America adopted the surf and the surfboard as its own.
Actually a pretty strange thing happened in Wichita, Kan., that really demonstrates the broad-based appeal of rock. Now, Kansas is about as far away from the surf as you can get. But Bruce Brown made a movie and couldn't get any theater to show it. One day in Wichita, the movie that was supposed to run didn't arrive on time, and Bruce got a friend to put his movie on instead. Without any advertising, long lines formed around the theater. A surf movie became an American classic, and it all started in Wichita, Kan. The movie? "Endless Summer"--a name that might have a familiar ring. It was the Beach Boys' biggest album, selling millions of copies. We are the Endless Summer Beach Band.
Sure, there are forms of rock today that don't appeal to me personally, just as opera does not appeal to some people. I remember my mother literally driving us out of the house with Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas cranked up to 10 on the hi-fi. Just like we drove her out of her mind when we did the same with our music.
But that doesn't make any of it bad. The point is, we all loved music.
New generations here and there have created spinoffs of rock 'n' roll and called it their own. Maybe it doesn't appeal to you and maybe it doesn't appeal to most people. But as Billy Joel says in his song, "It's still rock 'n' roll to me."
Finally, the dateline on this short piece ought to read "Rock 'n' Roll City," because that's every city in America.