You Kids Get Off My Berlin Wall

by Scott McLemee on April 26, 2007

Two radio spots that aired when I was a freshman in high school (that would be Wills Point High School, aka “Home of the 1965 State AA Football Champs,” which can now also proudly boast that it is “ranked as ‘academically acceptable’ under the Texas Education Agency”) have stuck in my head for the past—oh good lord, this can’t be true—thirty years almost. And to think Kieran feels old.

Both ran on the “album oriented rock” station in Dallas, i.e., the one that played “Stairway to Heaven” every day. One of them had Andy Warhol endorsing the Talking Heads. I’m pretty sure it was More Songs About Buidlings and Food. Imagine hearing “Freebird” and then, “Hi, uhm, this is Andy Warhol and, uhm, I think Talking Heads are really great….”

But the other ad really brought the culture clash: an announcement that the Sex Pistols would be coming through on tour. For years I have been puzzled by this memory, given that the only show in Texas anyone ever seemed to discuss was the one at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio (several hundred miles away) where Sid hit somebody over the head with his bass.

Somehow I forgot that the Pistols actually did play Dallas. That ad was neither a trick of my memory nor a sign of how badly organized the tour must have been. And it turns out that a video from that show of “Holidays in the Sun” is available online, which I put up now for all the other geezers in the house:

[ Word Press being strange about embeds sometimes, here’s a backup link ]

{ 29 comments }

1

John Emerson 04.26.07 at 9:18 pm

The radio spot I remember (on a hard rock station from sometime between 1978-1988) juxtaposed an ad by the Mormon mission to an ad for diabetic syringes. (Hint: diabetics are not part of the explanation.)

2

Quo Vadis 04.26.07 at 10:06 pm

I don’t remember the ads, but I remember the cultural dissonance created by the Sex Pistols and Dallas coming together. At the time I was attending McKinney High School (Home of the 1980 Texas State AAA football champs – Envy us all you lesser institutions of learning!).

3

MR. Bill 04.26.07 at 10:07 pm

Dude, you should have seen the Pistols at their first US date at the Great Southeast Music Hall (in Lindberg Plaza strip mall) in Atlanta.
It was a madhouse, the music sucked, I was wasted, and vaguely remember Johnny saying “I thot u were all cowboys!?”…
Thank god my girlfriend was driving..

4

fred lapides 04.26.07 at 10:31 pm

once you begin with the good old days, you are on your way to—despair, retirement, fogginess, contempt for the present, sneering, hardening of not just the arteries…onward and upward! eschew memory and learn rap

5

Scott McLemee 04.26.07 at 10:35 pm

I have never been tempted to think of my time in Wills Point as “the good old days.”

6

kvenlander 04.26.07 at 11:29 pm

“geezers” – speak for yourself.

One of the defining moments of my teenage angst was when the Sex Pistols were banned from performing in Finland. Not that I would have been able to see them anyway, but the opposition was a truly impressive wall of stupidity from the left (“capitalist bourgeois entertainment”) through center (“think of the children”) and right (“subversive commies”).

Never trusted anybody over 30 40 50 60 since.

7

bob mcmanus 04.26.07 at 11:55 pm

I thought the Sex Pistols at the Longhorn Ballroom is covered in both Sid and Nancy and The Filth and the Fury, besides being independently infamous, for reasons a visit to Wikipedia or any Sex Pistol history will demonstrate. So I am confused.

I was in Dallas at the time, but out of contact with pop culture.

8

Quo Vadis 04.27.07 at 12:30 am

@Scott

From your website:

I discovered the work of Alfred Kazin, Seymour Krim, Paul Goodman, and Susan Sontag, among others.

I can’t imagine that you made many of these discoveries at the Wills Point Public Library.

9

Karen 04.27.07 at 12:57 am

I grew up in Commerce, Home of the 1997 and 1999 AAA State Football Champs. (Although when I was in high school, (1978 – 1981) we were a patsy in all sports but tennis. We dominated the UIL academic events in the spring though.) My dad taught at East Texas State, which I flatly refuse to ever call “A & M Commerce.”

So, Scott and quo vadis, I have to ask, did you have a flying elephant KZEW sticker on your car’s back window?

10

Quo Vadis 04.27.07 at 1:19 am

@Karen

No Zoo sticker, but I had an FM converter slung under the dash so that I could rock that little dashboard speaker out.

11

Scott McLemee 04.27.07 at 1:47 am

quo vadis (#8): No, certainly not the WPHS library, which was crappy. But all kinds of things ended up at First Monday, a kind of centralized gigantic monthly yardsale in the next county. Plus there was a Carnegie Public Library in a nearby town.

12

Scott McLemee 04.27.07 at 1:55 am

karen (#9): No KZEW sticker, but man what a jolt of remembrance you just delivered. That elephant had wings, as I remember.

On Sunday mornings, KZEW broadcast what seemed like an interminable series of lectures on Zen, or something, by Alan Watts. Followed by the regularly scheduled “Stairway to Heaven”/Cheap Trick/Bugs Henderson marathons.

13

Quo Vadis 04.27.07 at 2:09 am

14

Karen 04.27.07 at 2:10 am

Until I read your post, I hadn’t thought of the winged elephant in probably 15 years, but that was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned “Stairway to Heaven.” I missed the Sunday morning lectures, what with going to church with my parents who decidedly were NOT Zoo fans, so I heard WBAP then. I was more of a KVIL person in those days. (For the non-NE Texas crowd, KVIL was another Dallas FM station that played Top 40 and pop, with a generous oldies selection. Thanks to Ron Chapman I became a huge Buddy Holly fan.)

15

Karen 04.27.07 at 2:13 am

quo vadis(#13) that’s a trip down memory lane. I remember KLIF always having to reduce its frequency at 6 p.m., meaning I couldn’t hear it out in the sticks. And of course WBAP was my parents’ station, thus providing the soundtrack to the first 15 years or so of my life. Country music really started to reek once that station switched to talk format, which provides another reason to hate talk radio.

16

Quo Vadis 04.27.07 at 3:08 am

@Karen

I can almost hear the twang in your voice.

…in the sticks

One of my favorite colloquialisms from that place. Unlike others like ‘fix’n’ and the adverb form of ‘done’, I still use the phrase when referring to the rural circumstances of my youth, but here in San Francisco people often seem confused by it.

17

Karen 04.27.07 at 3:19 am

quo vadis (#16) People in Cali don’t call rural areas “the sticks?” Huh. I could have sworn I’ve heard television actors use the phrase. They need to get out more, to lose that parochial attitude.

I live in Austin, and my parents still live in Commerce, so I get to hear the lingo. “Sticks” is about the only phrase I still use, though, having dropped “fix’n” about twenty minutes after my parents left me in the dorm at UT in 1981. My husband, despite a year in Canada and England and several years of speech training which left him with a perfect FM radio voice, still says “cain’t” for the contraction form of “cannot.” You can take the kid out of the sticks . . . .

18

David 04.27.07 at 3:36 am

The Sex Pistols did indeed play Dallas, at a venue called the Bronco Bowl, I think. It was in January or February, the time of year when ridiculous ice storms glaze Fort Worth and Dallas, and one did just that during the day of the Pistols’ show. A friend and I had tickets, but we lived in Fort Worth and getting to Dallas would certainly have been hazardous and possibly impossible, so we bagged it (hardly a very punk attitude, I concede). The show did go on, and I think Sid Vicious made a special effort to be a nuisance. Pity I don’t still have the unused tickets — they’d be worth something to somebody I’m sure (another not very punk attidude, I suppose). I look forward to seeing the video.

19

David 04.27.07 at 3:37 am

thanks, bob mcmanus, it was the Longhorn Ballroom, not the Bronco Bowl

20

René Daumal 04.27.07 at 4:16 am

I’m going to take this opportunity to emphasize the spirit of this piece, as I understand it, which is “Wait a second? Did punk even happen? Am I even remembering that right? Oh wait, yes, it did happen, because it’s on YouTube.”

But YouTube isn’t big enough to fill that vacuum.

21

Bill Humphries 04.27.07 at 5:36 am

Ah, the Morning Zoo, and the stairs…

22

Clayton 04.27.07 at 6:13 am

Wow,

I was at the Longhorn Ballroom a few months ago and someone told me that the Sex Pitols had played there. I suppose now I have to believe them.

23

dave heasman 04.27.07 at 8:08 am

It seems to me that far more people saw the Sex Pistols in the US than in England.

Though perhaps more people in England claimed to have.

(I saw them once in London; thought the bass/drums combo was great, nearly as good as Entwistle/Moon. (Of course, that was Matlock.)The other two, not so much)

24

Scott McLemee 04.27.07 at 10:29 am

René (#20): No, “Did punk even happen?” is not the spirit of it at all. That question would not even be possible for anyone who knows a thing about the subsequent Texas punk scene.

But to think that there were ads for the Sex Pistols and the Talking Heads on KZEW in 1978 (when people listened to 10 minute guitar solos because the quaaludes made them seem really deep, man) does make you want some documentation before trusting the memory.

25

rea 04.27.07 at 12:29 pm

Never trusted anybody over 30 40 50 60 since.

Jerry Rubin said that about 40 years ago, so it must be the 70+ year olds we’re not supposed to trust now . . .

26

eweininger 04.27.07 at 1:45 pm

Scott my man, here is a related historical doc you might enjoy. I will leave the YouTube epistemology to otehrs.

27

Scott McLemee 04.27.07 at 2:42 pm

That’s fantastic. Thanks.

28

René Daumal 04.29.07 at 4:28 am

Scott, forgive me, but what was the subsequent Texas punk scene? Not that I don’t know. I’ve got the first pressings of their debut EPs. But I’m still curious…

29

Scott McLemee 04.29.07 at 11:50 am

I’d wager that the “first pressings of their debut EPs” bit is sarcasm. But to play along, undeterred….

The scene included the Big Boys, the Stains (later and better known as MDC, aka Millions of Dead Cops), the Dicks, Scratch Acid, the Mydolls, and Poison 13, to give the names only of groups that became fairly well-known (as these things go) elsewhere. There were the usual networks of people running fanzines, shows, and small record labels, and Houston and Austin were regular stops for bands for hardcore and postpunk bands.

None of this is on YouTube, and yet I remember it. Quite the paradox.

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