October 3, 2009


(Tyranny Of Teenagers in 1963 - Forever going to hell in a handbasket)

A few months ago I ran a post about the supposed "teenage problem" in 1953, hosted by Justice William O. Douglas which included the collective shoulder shrug that "kids today are just messed up". Ten years later, in 1963, kids were still messed up.

Strange to think these perceived out-of-control hormone cases are now the parents and grandparents of the current crop of perceived malcontents. But some things just never change.

In 1963 the current events panel program The Open Mind tried, in their own mainstream media way, to examine just what was going wrong with the youth in America.

And so heading up the panel were Al Capp, creator of the Lil' Abner comic strip of the 1940's and 50s, Grace Hechinger, whose book "Teenage Tyranny" was the basis for the panel, and singer Paul Anka, who represented "the kids".

Anka confesses he knew nothing about the premise of the panel and denied he fit into the perceived mold since he was a: Canadian and b: no longer a teenager.

Rather than stop the panel dead in its tracks, they muddled on with Anka trying to maintain a respectful distance while Capp yucked it up with a stream of pithy anti-kid sayings.

Al Capp: “I must say I enjoy music for teenagers and uh . . . I don’t understand it, I don’t understand the fascination of teenagers with death, for instance. Most of their songs concern themselves with a sudden a violent death with the beloved who is 14 ½ years old and has stolen his fathers car and rammed it into a wall. Isn’t there a song that’s sort of like that?

Paul Anka: “That’s one of a million. If you go back a little further, I think it was the day of the balladeers the songs were more tragic. That’s how your music and poetry started. Your balladeer. I mean if you read, and I’m sure you have and remembered the minstrel that wandered through Sherwood Forest . . Robin Hood, which is now a commercial selling point, not due to the teenagers . . we won’t go into that either. But this guy sang about death and John Brown’s baby being swallowed by a dragon, I mean this is worse than the . . . .

Al Capp: “Yeah but the . . . you can talk about death in the words of Shakespeare or Shelley or you can talk about death in the language of Tin-Pan alley. One – the poet makes death a noble and immense event. Tin-Pan Alley makes death an incident on which to base some frivolous little lament, so the subject isn’t important, it’s the treatment of it and I think the treatment of poetry in teenage music is abysmal.”

And it slides downhill from there.

The panel is interesting and funny in its quaint way with Hechinger maintaining a position that is probably best described as archaic, even by 1963's standards. Capp epitomizes what became known as the Generation Gap and it's clear to see why the 60s were as combative as they became.

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