Grammy Museum show reflects LA music's darker side

By John Rogers

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

After clowning around with comedian Jack Benny during a 1965 TV appearance, the usually shy Brian Wilson and his group perform "California Girls," while surrounded by a gaggle of bikini-clad dancers.

For those who prefer their music radio style, there's a section containing a car's innards (complete with tuck-and-roll upholstery) and the sounds of cruising songs like War's "Lowrider." There's also a mountain of radio memorabilia from the legendary Art Laboe, who is credited as perhaps LA's first disc jockey to regularly play rock 'n' roll.

"I was sort of like a surfer catching a wave," says the 86-year-old Laboe, noting it was the teenagers who attended his weekend dance shows in the 1950s who told him they would rather hear stuff by East LA's Cannibal and the Headhunters and South LA's the Penguins than Frank Sinatra or Doris Day.

"I put it on in the afternoons and the kids went crazy," recalled Laboe, who still hosts a nightly syndicated show through the Internet's iheart.com website.

During those early years, and well into the 1960s, much of the city was intensely segregated. While that may have contributed to the wide array of music that developed here, it also led to numerous confrontations with authorities.

Thus the words "Trouble in Paradise," explained Kun, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication whose expertise is the region's pop culture history.

Zappa's song "Trouble Every Day" was inspired by the deadly race riots that raged through the city's largely black Watts section in the summer of 1965. The Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills wrote "For What It's Worth," with its famous lyrics "Look children, what's that sound? Everybody watch what's goin' down," after witnessing the Sunset Strip riots erupt the next year when police attempted to drive teenagers from Hollywood's music clubs by cracking down on the city's 10 p.m. youth curfew. Thee Midniters' "Chicano Power" was inspired by a civil rights movement that, before it concluded, resulted in the East LA riots of 1970.

Finally, for whatever reason, there was a quiet acceptance from LA's music scene that, despite all the changes that had occurred, there would likely always be trouble in paradise.

One of the last exhibits in the show features Jackson Browne's 1974 song "Before the Deluge." Its lyrics include these words: "And in the end they traded their tired wings, for the resignation that living brings."



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