I used to love those songs. I remembernplaying them over and over. Butnlistening to them now, I realize thatnthey are horrible: musically, culturally,nin every way. Phil Harris, this whitenman from Ohio, was working in thencoon song tradition. From the middlenof the last century until the middle ofnthis one, that tradition produced literallynscores of demeaning songs thatnwhite folks apparently found inexhaustiblynamusing. We need to benreminded of how awful they were, ifnonly so as to understand that black folksnreally do have reason to be ticked off.nFor my part, listening with embarrassmentnto these songs that I oncenloved uncritically made me glad thatnGod sent rock and roll when he did —nsometime during my junior high years.nEven a screaming, eye-shadowed flamernlike Little Richard was a morenwholesome influence on Americannrace relations than Phil Harris. Rocknand roll was a definite improvement,nand I don’t care what Allan Bloomnsays.nBut the Golden Age of biracialnSouthern hegemony in rock and rollnwas short-lived. By 1960, it had givennway to the era of the teen idols: RickynNelson and Fabian and Dion and thenBobbies — Bobby Vinton, BobbynDarin, Bobby Vee — meretricious,nmarketed, mediocre. (About the samentime, as I recall, something similarnhappened to the presidency.) Whennthe Beatles came along, they probablyngot a better reception than they deservednbecause these guy’s were so bad.nThe Fab Four were OK when they didnold Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewisnnumbers (Ringo tended to sing them),nbut “Norwegian Wood”? Come on.nI guess the 60’s were OK for thosenwho were stoned the whole time. Fornthe rest of us, though, “A WhiternShade of Pale” just didn’t hack it. If wenworked at it, we could find songs worthnlistening to, and not all of them bynSoutherners like Delaney and Bonnie,neither: Eric Clapton and Joe Cockernand some of the other English rockersnknew where the bodies were buried,nand the Rolling Stones were arguablynthe greatest rock and roll band ever.nBut the dominant, drugged-out streamnthat flowed from the Beatles andnwound up at the Fillmore left me cold.nAnd sometime in the 70’s, I lost itnaltogether. Now I can’t tell the differ­nence between New Wave and heavynmetal — and frankly I don’t care. I cannrecognize that Prince is the LittlenRichard of the 80’s, but even thatnrecognition doesn’t make him any easiernto listen to. Some of my contemporariesnclaim that the torch has beennpassed to Bruce Springsteen, but Indon’t see it. For starters, how can yountake someone named Bruce seriouslynas a rocker? (No offense, you Brucesnout there, but it is a lot like Bobby.)nSo where does an old rock-and-rollernturn these days? Country music isnwhere I turn, back to the source. Tonme, these days, it often sounds morenlike rock and roll than rock and rollndoes. Listen to Hank Williams Jr.’snrecent “Born to Boogie” album, fornexample. The words of the title cutnaren’t much, but it’s got a good beat andnyou can dance to it. “Honky TonknWomen” goes up against the memorynof Mick Jagger and pummels him to andraw. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”ncovers a hit by the Georgia Satellites, anneotraditional group I wish well, if onlynbecause their leader told Southernnmagazine that “[t]he last vestiges ofnregionalism should be hung onto like anDoberman with a sweater.” My favoritenis probably a solid rocker calledn”Buck Naked” (which Hank pronouncesn”nekkid,” of course, in keepingnwith Lewis Grizzard’s observationnthat, in Southern English, “naked”nmeans you ain’t got no clothes on,nwhile “nekkid” means you ain’t got nonclothes on and you’re up to something).nAnd that’s just Side A: fivensongs, four of them pretty fair rock andnroll.nLike the rock and roll of 30 yearsnago, the rocking country of CharlienDaniels and Waylon Jennings andnHank Williams Jr. should be listened tonin smoky dives, on crowded dancenfloors, or in steamy parked cars. This is,nin short, good-time music. Ignoringnthat fact is part of what was wrong withnthe 60’s, and I’ve come perilously closento doing it here. Rock and rollnshouldn’t be treated solemnly.nBut that doesn’t mean it can’t bentaken seriously.nFrom 1961 to 1963, ]ohn SheltonnReed was the host of “Rock and RollnMemory Time” on the student FMnstation at MIT, playing those greatnold songs of 1956-1960.nIn&’n^nnnii ns’-)n/’.I’/’iV . sO 4″n”This is an analytic work ofngreat perception and insightnabout the need of politics tonunderstand also vmatntranscends itself. Molnar is anclear guide and a judiciousncommentator on this mostncentral of civilizationalnissues — that of why politicsnis limited by the sacred andncannot itself replace thisnsame sacred withoutndestroying civilizationnitself “n—JAMES V. SCHALLn”Thomas Molnar is alwaysninteresting — and oftennfascinating — for the simplenreason that he thinks, annunusual occupationnnowadays. Twin Powers maynwell be the best of his manynbooks. ‘ _j p McFADDENn.tn^rivnV(Hii- Injok-iturt-. nr L.III r-Xro-A?;-m2ftnkWM. B. EERDMANSnPUBLISHING Co.n1«1|KI-I’1.KV).S ^Vt •.!• C.K.4NL)XArins,UU M 4U« ;nFEBRUARY 1989/39n