WEST BERLIN, JUNE 9 -- Three nights of clashes between East German rock music fans and police could be a sign that a whiff of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reform program is encouraging popular pressure for change in one of Eastern Europe's most regimented communist societies, western diplomats and commentators said today.

The confrontations along a tree-lined, downtown boulevard in East Berlin quickly assumed a political character. Hundreds of youths protested police lines erected to keep them from gathering at the Berlin Wall to listen in on British rock stars performing at a three-night open-air festival in West Berlin just beyond the concrete barrier.

The clashes, highlighted by chants of "The wall must go!" and "Gorbachev! Gorbachev!" were mild compared to street battles in neighboring Poland at the height of the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s.

In East Germany, however, which has one of the weakest dissident movements in Eastern Europe, the confrontations were the most serious public disturbances in nearly a decade. A total of at least 60 persons were arrested last night and Sunday, and many of the detainees tussled with police, who occasionally used night sticks.

The clashes indicated that East German leader Erich Honecker may have to reckon with a hitherto unexpected threat of public unrest if he continues to resist introducing the "openness" and "restructuring" officially preached by Moscow, the western diplomats and commentators said.

So far, the East German leadership has made clear its lack of enthusiasm for Gorbachev's calls for fewer restrictions on the media, increased self-criticism and greater "democracy" in politics.

The official East German media routinely censor Gorbachev's speeches to delete his appeals for glasnost, or openness. East German officials contend that such ideas are fine for the Soviet Union but that East Germany is doing well with its own practices.

Nevertheless, the western diplomats said many middle- and low-ranking East German officials, in private conversations, express much greater enthusiasm than the leadership for Gorbachev's program. The public is widely believed to hope that the Soviet leader's new ideas could eventually lead to some loosening of restrictions in East Germany, the diplomats said.

Prospects for change also have been encouraged by signs that relations between East and West Germany may be on the verge of improving. Honecker said last week he "probably" would make a long-awaited first trip to West Germany before the end of this year.

"The Gorbachev thing has tended to raise expectations far beyond the East German government's framework," a western diplomat said.

Referring to the street clashes, he said, "Some of the heavy brew of Gorbachevism and {potentially better} German-German relations contributed to a spontaneous thing."

The moderate West German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung said in an editorial that the clashes suggested that there may be "a pressure growing from below . . . for a reorientation toward reform."

Western diplomats noted that the East German government has no objection to rock music but is unwilling to allow a potentially unruly crowd to gather right next to the Berlin Wall. If a large number of persons rushed the Wall, border guards would face the dilemma of opening fire or allowing a mass "escape," they noted.

The East German authorities' official response to the street clashes suggested that they hoped the unrest would be a soon forgotten, one-time affair.

The official news agency ADN reported this morning that no clashes had taken place "at all" and that the incident "exists only in the fantasies of some western correspondents" who sought to create "a sensation."

The West German television network ARD, which can be seen in most of East Germany, broadcast film this evening of struggles between police and youths. East German state television did not mention the clashes or the official denial that the clashes had taken place.

The Bonn government and ARD reported that East German police had beaten one of the network's cameramen last night before discovering who he was. Bonn filed a strongly worded protest with the East German authorities.

The East German Foreign Ministry, without confirming that any clashes had occurred, indicated that the detainees have been released. "Nobody is in custody, and nobody was injured," a spokesman said.