Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks

April 2, 1958
Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks
Cartoon about the Bolsheviks

 

Jack Kerouac Reads from “On The Road”
Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Bolshevik Revolution

When the Bolshevik Revolution began in 1917, the western economies viewed the uprising as a threat to theircapitalistic systems. The Bolsheviks challenged the notion of private property, private business, and personal self-determination.

When the nuclear arms race began after World War II, exemplified in particular between the United State and the Soviet Union, propaganda on both sides successfully demonized their enemy.

We Americans associated the suffix “-ik” with Communism and thus with evil intentions. When Senator Joseph McCarthy announced that he had incontrovertible evidence of Communist infiltration into the government and the arts, he launched hearings through the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Committees hearings and accusations damaged the careers of dozens of American citizens.

A corollary of the US-Soviet arms race was the space race. While on paper it looked like a race to get humans into space, the unspoken government goal was to design a nuclear weapon delivery system. 

Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Sputnik

On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 and Americans had  another Communist -ick to hate (NYT article).

replica of Spunik 1 at US Air and Space Museum
Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks

The Beats

In reaction to the horrors of World War II and the increasing emphasis of the American Dream equaling American Consumerism (the antithesis of Soviet Communism), some young Americans like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady (future hippie and driver of Furthur), and many others developed a literary view and philosophy that de-emphasized conspicuous consumerism.

They deliberately did not fit in.  According to the Wikipedia entry, “Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement in New York.” Oxford Dictionaries site.

Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Beatnik

Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks
Herb Caen

Traditionalists already viewed the Beats with suspicion when Herb Caen, a well-known and popular San Francisco Examiner journalist, published a column on April 2, 1958 in which he wrote, “Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.’s beat generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!) hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles’ free booze. They’re only beat, y’know, when it comes to work.”

The term took hold immediately and the San Francisco Beats, already discriminated against, now carried the additionally negative Communist association.

Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Ever ready to take advantage of a popular coinage, the media was able to convert the negative image of the beatnik into one to ridicule and have fun with. The Halloween costume.  The TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in which Bob Denver played Maynard G Krebs, the lazy air-head beatnik. Denver’s acting career, as successful as it was, never recovered as his even more successful character on Gilligan’s Island  is simply the same beatnik without the costume.Beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik

Bolsheviks Sputniks Beatniks
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Sha Na Na Henry Gross

Sha Na Na Henry Gross

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/06/14/specials/nixon-obit.html
Henry Gross from his site
  • original member of Sha Na Na
  • youngest Woodstock alum
  • hit single “Shannon”
  • center of a profanity-laced Casey Kasem rant
Sha Na Na Henry Gross

Henry Gross

Henry Gross was born on April 1, 1951 in Brooklyn, NY. According to his site, “By age thirteen his first band, The Auroras, performed at The New Jersey pavilion of the Worlds’ Fair in New York City. At age fourteen he was playing regularly in local clubs all over the New York area and spending his summers playing at Catskill Mountain Resort hotels.”

When he was 18, Henry Gross helped form Sha Na Na.

Sha Na Na Henry Gross

Woodstock then solo

Sha Na Na’s successful appearance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair launched their career. It also launched Henry Gross’s career as he went solo in 1970.

Though his first album was not a commercial success, Gross continued to release albums and they sold better. He also had success as a sessions guitarist on recordings by Dion and  Jim Croce.

Sha Na Na Henry Gross

Carl Wilson connection

In 1976, he released the song “Shannon.”It was written about the passing of Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter of the same name.

Sha Na Na Henry Gross

Casey Kasem rant

Nine years later a request for the song led to a now infamous tirade by Casey Kasem. On September 14, 1985 while recording his show, Kasem read a “Long-Distance Dedication” from a listener who asked Kasem to play the song “Shannon” because his dog Snuggles had died.

Kasem was upset that the dedication had segued out of the uptempo “Dare Me” by the Pointer Sisters. Here is that piece. Warning: this is a side of Casey you’ve likely not heard before. NSFW. You have to click to listen.

Henry Gross continues to perform regularly throughout the United States.

Happy birthday Henry!

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