Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

Moderator: Moderators

User avatar
Chrissie Boy
GE (Great Erasmus)
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat Feb 12, 2005 11:19 am
Location: Rotherham

Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by Chrissie Boy »

I was just reading ZeroDeConduite's reminiscence about walking from CH to Broadbridge Heath in the 1950s to listen to rock 'n' roll on the jukebox in a bikers' café and I was left wondering what the school's attitude to the rock 'n' roll explosion had been. (My apologies if this topic has been raised before.)

Was rock 'n' roll suppressed, for fear that it would inspire some sort of large-scale teenage rebellion? Is that why boys had to hoof it all the way to Broadbridge Heath just to catch a swift blast of it? Were there in fact any record-playing facilities at all to be had at CH?

I remember that even in the 1970s, Juniors weren't supposed to possess transistor radios, at least in my house, though we were definitely allowed to listen to music on the house record-player. Quite what the significance of the No Radios rule was, I have no idea, unless it was intended to stop us listening to music in bed at night. But it goes to show that the authorities weren't above attempting to control access to radio broadcasts if they felt it made sense.

So was rock 'n' roll considered beyond the pale in the '50s? And what about Teddy Boy hairstyles?

And if Elvis had attempted to visit the school, would he have been escorted straight back to the station by the School Sergeant?
Richard
3rd Former
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:31 pm
Real Name: Richard Slingfield

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by Richard »

Certainly not, at least not in my time, for I left CH late in the fifties.

At no time was R’n’R (nor any other music) banned. A very few had their own radios (clumsy things with glass valves/tubes and big heavy batteries) and no one minded. Each house had a radio (available for non-prep and non-school times) and one favourite programme on Sat evenings was Radio Luxemburg’s The Top Twenty. This was probably first equal in popularity with that evening’s Football Results.

As for Teddy-Boy hairstyles, the school barber was adamant and gave the standard haircut to all, in spite of any heart-felt entreaties. However one rebel in my house had his hair cut in Horsham and consequently sported a semi-Teddy-Boy coiffure. Apart from comments this was tolerated.
sejintenej
Button Grecian
Posts: 3916
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:19 pm
Real Name: David Brown ColA '52-'61
Location: Essex

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by sejintenej »

Must have been shortly after Richard left that they banned "the pops" gaining a large front page article in "The Mirror". Actually it was the records - to have records inside the boundary fence they had to be approved and it was made very clear that popular music of any genre would be confiscated.
In those day there was a radio in the dayroom of Col A and we could listen to Radio Luxembourg but most of the evenings were bound up with trades and homework etc so effective;y the pops could not be heard. Few if any of us could afford radios in those days.
Monday is one helluva way to spend one-seventh of your life.
User avatar
J.R.
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:53 pm
Real Name: John Rutley
Location: Dorking, Surrey

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by J.R. »

I can't recall a house radio in Coleridge B. Some of us in the early had the new small transistor radios - very tinny in sound which quite adequate for listening under then bed clothes. I think mine cost around £10/£11.
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.
rockfreak
Grecian
Posts: 859
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:31 pm
Real Name: David Redshaw
Location: Gravesend, Kent

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by rockfreak »

Yes, it was banned in around 1958/59. The proverbial Clarence ME Seaman (a man who took himself way too seriously in my opinion) sent round a memo banning "pop slush* from our dayrooms. I think this possibly just referred to record players because I still seem to remember listening to things like Two-Way Family Favourites on the house radio in Col B which sometimes featured examples of "pop slush". The problem is of course, who is going to be cultural commissar? Yes, some people still seem to have caught the fading signal from Radio Luxembourg on their personal trannies, so the cultural edict from on high was probably unworkable. Ho ho!

Why is it that the previous generation always seem to think they know best? Let the youngsters have their fun even if it's not our music. Today it isn't my music but at least I wouldn't try to have it banned. Each generation lives out its adolescence
to its own music. In 58/59 rock n' roll was in decline and there was a plethora of hummable pop by people who nearly all seem to have been called Bobby. Then The Beatles came along. I wonder what Clarence made of them, let alone The Rolling Stones.
ZeroDeConduite
LE (Little Erasmus)
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2018 11:29 am
Real Name: PrA8PeA5

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by ZeroDeConduite »

Peele A in the 1950s never had Radio Luxembourg on the house radio, and there was virtually no other broadcaster of post-56 Elvis/Chuck Berry style music to listen to
When the BBC started broadcasting in FM in the later part of the 50s I helped the housemaster select a suitable new house radio to receive the new service. As before with the AM radio sets, the radio was more or less permanently tuned to the BBC - The Goon Show was supremely popular...
PrepA 1951-2 Peele A 1953-60
rockfreak
Grecian
Posts: 859
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:31 pm
Real Name: David Redshaw
Location: Gravesend, Kent

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by rockfreak »

PC Rutley's memory is going, as some of us had long suspected. John, there was a house radio perched on top of the lockers to the right as you walked into the Col B dayroom. There was always a crowd round it on a (I think) a Sunday lunchtime when Two-Way Family Favourites broadcast requests and heartfelt messages between UK families and the national servicemen of the British Army on the Rhine. Mostly it was safe pop of the ballad variety but occasionally there would be something vaguely related to rock n' roll and the place would erupt with delight.

The conservative BBC and the Musicians Union saw to it that we didn't get much of the real stuff coming from America. And many American hits were covered by our artists. In about 1959 a good-looking lad from the Isle of Wight called Craig Douglas had a massive hit with 'Only Sixteen'. The girls swooned, everyone went around humming it. Then I mentioned that I'd heard a rather good alternative version from America via the fading airwaves of Radio Luxembourg by a guy called Sam Cooke. "Oh you and your American versions!" they derided. Well, whither Craig Douglas now?
User avatar
Ajarn Philip
Button Grecian
Posts: 1888
Joined: Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:30 pm
Real Name: Phil Underwood
Location: UK, Robin Hood country

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by Ajarn Philip »

rockfreak wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:16 pm Well, whither Craig Douglas now?
In a wheelchair, apparently, but still performing until comparatively recently.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Douglas
He continues to perform, with bookings at night clubs and on cruise ships.[1] Until 2010, Douglas toured venues across the UK, including the Medina Theatre on the Isle of Wight. He appeared at the Amersham Rock 'n' Roll Club on 11 December 2010, an event in his benefit. John Leyton, Mike Berry and the Flames all took part, while Jet Harris and other celebrities attended. Douglas sang three songs from his wheelchair at the close of the concert. He suffers from a rare condition that affects his legs. Sky News filmed the event.
Sam Cooke was sadly shot dead in 1964 at the age of 33.
Phil Underwood Ma A Col A Mid B 69-75
User avatar
J.R.
Forum Moderator
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:53 pm
Real Name: John Rutley
Location: Dorking, Surrey

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by J.R. »

rockfreak wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:16 pm PC Rutley's memory is going, as some of us had long suspected. John, there was a house radio perched on top of the lockers to the right as you walked into the Col B dayroom. There was always a crowd round it on a (I think) a Sunday lunchtime when Two-Way Family Favourites broadcast requests and heartfelt messages between UK families and the national servicemen of the British Army on the Rhine. Mostly it was safe pop of the ballad variety but occasionally there would be something vaguely related to rock n' roll and the place would erupt with delight.

The conservative BBC and the Musicians Union saw to it that we didn't get much of the real stuff coming from America. And many American hits were covered by our artists. In about 1959 a good-looking lad from the Isle of Wight called Craig Douglas had a massive hit with 'Only Sixteen'. The girls swooned, everyone went around humming it. Then I mentioned that I'd heard a rather good alternative version from America via the fading airwaves of Radio Luxembourg by a guy called Sam Cooke. "Oh you and your American versions!" they derided. Well, whither Craig Douglas now?
You may well be right, Freaky.

I can honestly say I have recollection of a house radio in Col !
John Rutley. Prep B & Coleridge B. 1958-1963.
Florida Blue
2nd Former
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:36 pm
Real Name: Godfrey Wells
Location: Florida

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by Florida Blue »

Interesting subject but straying a little off the core subject & digging deep into the memory cells, yes, Maine B had a house radio in the dayroom. I recall the occasion when it croaked its last crackle of Radio Luxemburg, the Goon Show or some such show. A new radio was duly ordered & when it arrived it was realized that CH was still in the stone age & generating DC current. The new radio was AC only so the high tech brigade was summoned & the relevant equipment installed to get the thing going. Not sure when CH switched to the national grid, suppose I could look it up but am getting lethargic in my old age!
(Prep.B/MaB. 46-53)
eucsgmrc
GE (Great Erasmus)
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:38 pm
Real Name: John Wexler
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by eucsgmrc »

Florida Blue wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 11:22 am .... A new radio was duly ordered & when it arrived it was realized that CH was still in the stone age & generating DC current. ... Not sure when CH switched to the national grid ...
The school was still generating DC from the boiler house - part of the gym/swimming pool/armoury complex - in my first year, 1954-55. The manual school was powered by a horizontal town gas engine via a belt-and-pulley system. The switch-over to mains AC came in the summer of 1955. When we came back after the summer holiday, every unit of machinery in the manual school had its own electric motor.

At least, that's how I remember it.

As for the rock-and-roll ban, that did happen. It was a few years later. The edict came down from the headmaster and was widely derided. We were prepared to be very annoyed, but we found there was no need. Enforcement was in the hands of housemasters, who for the most part couldn't recognise rock-and-roll if they heard it. Besides, there was quite a range of musical tastes among us, and we weren't all smitten by R&R. With only two or three radios in a house of fifty boys, it had to compete with all sorts of other music. It was never going to inspire the whole school to riot. So the whole issue faded away quite quickly.
John Wexler
Col A 1954-62
sejintenej
Button Grecian
Posts: 3916
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:19 pm
Real Name: David Brown ColA '52-'61
Location: Essex

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by sejintenej »

eucsgmrc wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:07 pm
As for the rock-and-roll ban, that did happen. It was a few years later. The edict came down from the headmaster and was widely derided. We were prepared to be very annoyed, but we found there was no need. Enforcement was in the hands of housemasters, who for the most part couldn't recognise rock-and-roll if they heard it. Besides, there was quite a range of musical tastes among us, and we weren't all smitten by R&R. With only two or three radios in a house of fifty boys, it had to compete with all sorts of other music. It was never going to inspire the whole school to riot. So the whole issue faded away quite quickly.
But John, you must remember the loud racket that used to come out of the left hand monitor's study when we were trying to study!!!! I suspect that you were a little further away from it than me.
I don't recall a problem elsewhere in the dayroom; the house radio was usually off
Monday is one helluva way to spend one-seventh of your life.
eucsgmrc
GE (Great Erasmus)
Posts: 174
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:38 pm
Real Name: John Wexler
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by eucsgmrc »

sejintenej wrote: Fri Feb 26, 2021 4:52 am But John, you must remember the loud racket that used to come out of the left hand monitor's study when we were trying to study!!!! I suspect that you were a little further away from it than me.
That may well be true, David. I can't even remember who was in that study - except for my last year, when I had it myself. But I do remember some of the effort we made to "enjoy" our music LOUD. Like the empty beer barrel that - was it Peter Hitchcock and Ian Packington? - equipped with a big speaker in one end, to make a resonant cavity with a generous bass response. You see? I can still dredge the old hi-fi twaddle out of my memory banks.

But if it was loud, it wasn't necessarily rock. We enjoyed lots of stuff - light music (as in Two-Way Family Favourites), West End musicals, skiffle (does anybody remember that?), romantic classical (Grieg, Rachmaninov), jazz ... well, now I come to think of it, Clarence might have wanted to ban jazz and blues as well as rock, but perhaps he just didn't know what to call them.
John Wexler
Col A 1954-62
sejintenej
Button Grecian
Posts: 3916
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:19 pm
Real Name: David Brown ColA '52-'61
Location: Essex

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by sejintenej »

eucsgmrc wrote: Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:29 pm
sejintenej wrote: Fri Feb 26, 2021 4:52 am But John, you must remember the loud racket that used to come out of the left hand monitor's study when we were trying to study!!!! I suspect that you were a little further away from it than me.
That may well be true, David. I can't even remember who was in that study - except for my last year, when I had it myself. But I do remember some of the effort we made to "enjoy" our music LOUD. Like the empty beer barrel that - was it Peter Hitchcock and Ian Packington? - equipped with a big speaker in one end, to make a resonant cavity with a generous bass response. You see? I can still dredge the old hi-fi twaddle out of my memory banks.
A bit after my time. I suspect that Ashton was in there but he was not a noisy one AFAIR. Perhaps someone beginning with P?
But if it was loud, it wasn't necessarily rock. We enjoyed lots of stuff - light music (as in Two-Way Family Favourites), West End musicals, skiffle (does anybody remember that?), romantic classical (Grieg, Rachmaninov), jazz ... well, now I come to think of it, Clarence might have wanted to ban jazz and blues as well as rock, but perhaps he just didn't know what to call them.
The immediate reaction was silence - you could hear your thoughts! i heard that it went back after I left.

As for the types you mention my firsts were almost certainly :
Jazz - first heard in the 100 Club in Oxford Street (a lot of the big American names appeared there) but that was 1964/5
Greig, Rachmaninov etc in the last 20 years on Youtube and winter Christmas type concerts in London
Musicals; duty attendances because a (past) West End star is a relative of my wife. The first was Les Mis so that dates me.
Opera; sitting on the grass outside the Royal Opera House. After the performance inside a couple of the singers came outside and sang for us afterwards. Probably in the seventies. Also in France, last 20 years an ROH female singer had a house near us and she would bring over half a dozen performers from the ROH plus pianist and we would get a three hour performance in a barn for 10euros. Magical

Big School; yes an annual bore of bach, Beethoven and worse. Hell!

As for now YouTube has created a set for me (!). A real mix of Brazilian TV music, regional French, German, Greek, Spanish, military, light classical, Serbian!!! That is on if I am not listening to Classic FM
Monday is one helluva way to spend one-seventh of your life.
rockfreak
Grecian
Posts: 859
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:31 pm
Real Name: David Redshaw
Location: Gravesend, Kent

Re: Was Rock 'n' Roll Banned at CH in the Fifties?

Post by rockfreak »

The aforementioned Skiffle was interesting. It was actually an amalgam of roots American styles that had been picked up willy nilly by people who may or may not have had any notion as to its cultural significance. Thus you could hear Woody Guthrie (folk), Leadbelly (blues) or Roy Acuff (country) all thrown into the same melting pot and played with great enthusiasm on primitive instruments. And none did better out of it than Lonnie Donegan. It was our way of competing with the brio of American rock 'n' roll.

In the early 60s the musicians started to tease apart and explore the differing strands that had contributed to rock 'n roll and the seminal book on this is probably still The Sound of the City by my late journo contemporary Charlie Gillett.

Regarding Sejintinej's comments about the sounds coming out of the left-hand monitor's study, would this have been 'Elvis' Carter by any chance?
Post Reply