Here’s an oldie but goodie that gets to the heart of our “This Is Your Rock Town Hall!” reminders. Alexmagic had connections to at least one Townsman before delighting us with his comments, but like a number of other regular participants we now take for granted he wasn’t part of my personal inner circle. I believe this was Alexmagic’s first Main Stage contribution, appearing under my byline, as he had not yet had Back Office privileges in place. I still get chuckle out of it, and I still look forward to his comments and the promise of some more original posts. He’s not the only Townsperson whose take on rock we’d benefit from seeing on the Main Stage more regularly. This is your Rock Town Hall.
This post initially appeared 7/20/07.
Regulars in the Halls of Rock might have noticed a post from a newcomer, Townsman Alexmagic, in the comments section of yesterday’s hypothetical Beatles question. Those who do not follow as closely or who’ve been away might have missed it, so we’re bringing it to the Main Stage. Enjoy. Thanks, Alexmagic, and may you make yourself heard in these hallowed halls on a regular basis!
Unfortunately, this premise is flawed and presents a question impossible to answer, since the 1967 musical landscape would be radically different had the Beatles not shown up until this point. Instead, this should be approached as a complete alternate history (such as, “what would World War II have been like if aliens had attacked?”), contemplating the musical landscape of 1967 if the Beatles had never formed, though all would still have existed. We begin, then, with a starting point of Lennon and McCartney never meeting at the St. Peter’s Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete.
This new history means that there was no British Invasion as we know it. The “Fab Four” are Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and Fabian, as the Original Philly Sound (which it would come to be known) sweeps the United States, and the Four make a series of popular, hijinx-filled teen movies about their shenanigans at the Jersey Shore, one of which debuts a young Bill Cosby. Chubby Checker will later spend the mid-1990s through the 2000s demanding that he receive the Academy Honorary Award prior to every Oscars telecast, dubbing himself “the soil Hollywood grows on.”
England responds to the clean-cut, genial sound gripping the States by countering with its own exports of boyishly-handsome actor/singers, possibly led by a young Davy Jones and (as he would be billed) Jimmy McCartney. I speculate that this Alternate Timeline Paul McCartney ends up with the lead in Alfie. John still ends up working with George Martin, but as a comedy record producer and part-time member of the Bonzo Dog Band. He gets into a fistfight with Peter Sellers on the set of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! – which, for reasons that will soon become clear, is a film about surfing instead of hippies.
George Harrison’s fate is less clear in this Rock Earth 2 scenario, but Ringo stays on with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who become The Savage Young Rory Storm and the Even More Savage, Equally-Young Hurricanes when they back Tony Sheridan. Sheridan, incidentally, later forms The Tony Sheridan Experience, featuring himself, Ringo on drums, Ace Kefford on bass and a peculiar pair of guitarists named Jimmy James and Tommy Chong.
Post-Army Elvis fares much better in this Alternate Timeline, with Roustabout holding up better as a film in 1964 compared to the Bobby Rydell-led Fab Four vehicle Wildwood Days than it would against A Hard Day’s Night. An East Coast/West Coast Elvis vs. Frankie Avalon feud is narrowly avoided when Elvis instead turns his attentions that year to the Mike Love-led Beach Boys, now his chief US pop chart competition, though Elvis himself later grudgingly admits that he likes his rivals better after they “got rid of the fat one” (Mike and Murry Wilson secretly kill Brian, disguising it as a suicide, in early 1965 following his anxiety attacks, thinking him too much of a hassle and an anchor on the band’s appeal to their ever-growing surf song fanbase).
Elvis makes no fewer than four surfing movies in 1965 and 1966 (Hang Ten, Wave Goodbye, Surf & Turf and The Kokonuts), and things come to a head in November 1967 when Elvis competes with Mike Love and Dennis Wilson for a guest spot in that Batman episode where Batman and the Joker have a surfing contest. Neither ends up in the episode, but Elvis wins in the long run when he reveals that The Jordanaires had actually played The Penguin’s henchmen in the 1966 Batman movie. A disgraced Mike Love flees to India, where he meets the Maharishi Yogi, who puts together a band featuring Love, Brian Jones and Donovan. Love later goes on to take Jack Nance’s roles in all of David Lynch’s productions. In this Alternate Timeline, Frank Booth wears a captain’s hat in Blue Velvet, but the movie is otherwise unchanged. Dennis, meanwhile, comes up with the idea to do a TV show about a band, and The Sunrays debuts on TV (directed by Murry), with Dennis, Stephen Stills, Charles Manson and John Sebastian. Manson plays drums in the fictional band and 30 years later, becomes a radio DJ and kind of a jerk. This also results in that weird, creepy Dion submission for a Welcome Back Kotter theme actually becoming the theme song for the show, and thus it never becomes popular, preventing Gabe Kaplan from appearing on Battle of the Network Stars, which creates numerous and far-reaching historical shakeups which fall outside of our 1967 vantage point.
This all leaves out what becomes of Motown, which doesn’t run into a British Invasion and perhaps goes folk instead of going psychedelic, in response to Dylan, who probably makes it to this Alternate 1967 mostly intact. Outside of the scope of the question at hand, I also speculate that James Brown and Elvis eventually come to blows in the 70s when this Alternate Elvis – alarmed when Brown (who remains unchanged in all Alternate Timelines) stops riots in 1968 in DC – volunteers to go undercover as a member of the newly-formed JBs on behalf of Richard Nixon when the two meet in 1970.