Category Archives: Teenage culture

Haight Street Head Shops

Haight Street Head Shops

On January 3, 1966 the legendary Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street opened its doors. It was likely the first, but no one was keeping track.

Haight Street Head Shops

Haight Street Head Shops

Why “Head” ?

Why did the word “head” come to refer to someone who used marijuana? The association between the word head and drug use goes back at least to 1911 when the writer C B Chrysler wrote in White Slavery Opium smokers, ‘hop fiends,’ or ‘hop heads,’ as they are called, are the fiercest of all the White Slavers.”

In other words, the drug of choice, usually an illegal one, was the prefix for the word “head” until the word alone referred to a drug user.

In the 1960, the most common drug was marijuana, of course, so a “head” commonly referred to that person and that drug.

Haight Street Head Shops

Feed Your HeadHead shops

While that use of the word may have been an underground one, entrepreneurs would still shy away from using that specific a word to name their establishment.

Head shops were not simply a supply store. They were places where so-called underground news was found whether it be in newspapers, flyers, or political conversation.

What were a head shop’s supplies? Black lights for posters that used inks containing phosphors. When the ultraviolet light hit those inks the posters glowed. A nice enhancement to an evening atmosphere in a dorm room or a basement rec room.

The pill case, but not the pills, The grass container, but not the grass.

Candles and incense. The Beatles influence went beyond music, of course, and their delving into Eastern philosophy meant those things associated with the East were automatically interesting.

When tie-dyed clothing became popular, it joined the scene along with other “hip” clothing along side water buffalo sandals.

Haight Street Head Shops

Accouterments

Haight Street Head Shops

Not that a head shop sold the drugs themselves (at least not directly), but the shop sold those things necessary for drug use. Rolling papers (Zig Zag? Big Bambu?), hash pipes, and water pipes (for those harsher cheaper blends that were the only mixes sometimes available or adding a bit of mentholated mouth wash to the water for a cooler drag).

Haight Street Head Shops

On line

Google “on line head shop” and not surprisingly one will discover that that they are there in full. “Smoke Cartel,” “Dankstop,” “Everyonedoesit,”  “Smokesmith Gear“, and many others offer both the new necessities (vapes) and the old school standbys.

As always, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Haight Street Head Shops
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Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Bill Haley & His Comets singing “Rock Around the Clock”

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle
L-R: Louis Calhern, Glenn Ford Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle
Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

 Communists everywhere

In the 1950s many Americans thought they saw Communists in every nook and cranny. And Americans blamed what they defined as social ills on Communism’s influence.

Civil Rights? Communism.

Folk music? Communism.

Homosexuality? Communism.

The Beat Generation? Communism.

Juvenile delinquency? Communism.

Rock and Roll? Communism.

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Ed McBain

           The novel Blackboard Jungle was published in 1954. Ed McBain, using the pseudonym Evan Hunter,  wrote the book.  The following year Richard Brooks directed the film.

The film reinforced the popular view that teenagers, particularly those who lived in the cities, were out of control. Disrespectful. Lazy. Intemperate.

The movie opened with Bill Haley & the Comets “Rock Around the Clock.” The song was actually the B-side of a single the band had released in May 1954, “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town).” The single didn’t go far on the charts. Not until its now-famous B-side opened the movie.

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Rock Around the Clock

           On July 9, 1955, “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of Billboard’s Pop charts. The song stayed there for eight weeks.

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

10 Times the Clock

It was on this date, May 17, in 1955 that the so-called Princeton Riot occurred.

According to Princeton dot edu, “On May 17, 1955, the juvenile delinquency drama Blackboard Jungle closed its run at Princeton’s Garden Theater. That night, 10 enterprising students met at a local record shop to purchase copies of the film’s groundbreaking theme song, “Rock Around the Clock.” The plan, as revealed in the next day’s “Prince”: to blare Bill Haley’s hit single at 11 p.m. from “key places” on campus “in hopes of triggering an outburst.

Blackboard Jungle
NYT article
Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Earlier Memphis Ban

That Blackboard Jungle was in the news was not new. On March 28, 1955, Memphis, Tennessee’s censor board had banned the film.

In fact 1955 was a tough year for rock and roll promoters. On May 22,  Bridgeport, Connecticut authorities had cancelled a Fats Domino concert because of the dangers of “Rock and Roll.”  Similar rock and roll concert cancellations due to local officials’ fear of possible violence occurred in Boston, Atlanta, Newark, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and Burbank, California.

And remember that the Ed Sullivan Show had presented only the top half of Elvis Presley’s first appearance.

As for that Princeton riot, the faculty committee suspended four students.

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Princeton Four

Blackboard Jungle
NYT article
Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle

Clare Boothe Luce objects

On August 26,  Blackboard Jungle was removed from consideration at the Venice Film Festival because of objections by the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Clare Boothe Luce, but the movie received four Oscar nominations (won none).

Today considered a landmark film about the 1950s. And though Bill Haley’s song was not the first rock and roll song, it is often credited with making rock and roll popular far beyond its 1950 boundaries.

Princeton Riot Blackboard Jungle
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Church Bans Rock Music

Church Bans Rock Music

Chuck Higgins and his Orchestra, Pachuko Hop

Ban Rock and Roll

Church bans Rock music

Change in the weather

1950s teenagers, living in their increasingly industrialized world, learned that society had postponed adulthood. Education routinely extended beyond grammar school into high school and often to college.


20th century technology had already provided Americans young and old with the ability to do new things (like travel in a car), see new things (in the movies), and hear new things (listening to recordings). Sometimes they did all three at once.


Church bans Rock music


After World War II, the ever growing Boomer generation discovered and turned their radio dials to stations that played bebop and something called rock and roll. It had been called “race music” because rock and roll springs from the roots of the segregated Jim Crow culture of American Blacks. The music’s gut bucket emotion, honesty, and driving sound attracted many teenagers looking for something exciting to fill in those “tween” years. It also distinguished thems from their parents. That wish is as old as humanity.


As rock and roll became more popular, the Establishment found more reasons to try to slow or stop its spread.


Church bans Rock music

On March 3, 1957, Samuel Cardinal Stritch banned rock and roll from Chicago archdiocese Roman Catholic schools. He said, “Some new manners of dancing and a throwback to tribalism in recreation cannot be tolerated for Catholic youths. When our schools and centers stoop to such things as ‘rock and roll’ tribal rhythms, they are failing seriously in their duty. God grant that this word will have the effect of banning such things in Catholic recreation.”


Church bans Rock music

Church bans Rock music

Racist-based


Of course the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) view behind such bans was racism. The presumed inferiority and moral bankruptcy of Black Americans meant anything having to do with them was also inferior and immoral. Or dangerous.


On June 3 that same year, Santa Cruz, California city authorities announced a total ban on rock and roll at public gatherings, calling the music “Detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.


Why? The night before Chuck Higgins and his Orchestra had played. When Santa Cruz police entered the auditorium,  according to Lieutenant Richard Overton, there was a crowd “engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.”


Two weeks later in its June 18, 1956 issue, Time magazine reported on similar bans recently enacted in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and in San Antonio, Texas, where the city council’s fear of “undesirable elements.


We can cynically explain how rock succeeded when faced by such bans (there are many other examples) by the fact that rock made money. More and more money. And while censorship of lyrics has relaxed, there are still complaints today when musicians perform music.


Church bans Rock music

 

Ban Rock and Roll

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