If you are offended
by four-letter words or explicit sex, this book is not for you. However, if you're offended by four-letter words or explicit
sex, you probably didn't come of age during the 1960s or 1970s, a time when “let it all hang out” was the catch
phrase, young people were openly and unashamedly “getting it on” with multiple partners, and profanity was not
only not discouraged in mixed company as in years past but actually encouraged as freedom of expression.
These turbulent decades marked the end of innocence, for the world in general and for the children of the 1950s in particular.
It is these folks—the babyboomers, the rock and rollers, the hippies, the artists, the fans, the musicians of my generation
and those who love their music—to whom this book is dedicated.
Rock and roll music
wasn't so much an invention as it was an evolution. As an art form, it first started to be noticed during the early 1950s
and by the end of the decade was in full flower—the Golden Age of rock and roll—before going into a bit of a decline
caused in part by the famous “payola” scandal. The popular disc jockey Alan Freed, who is credited with coining
the phrase “rock and roll” or at least being the first to bring it into wide public consciousness, was hit hardest
by the scandal. This was neither random nor coincidental, as will be pointed out later. Before getting into all that, however,
it may be of interest to examine the environment in which the newly christened rock and roll, an outgrowth of country music,
rhythm & blues, gospel and jazz, flourished.
The post-War years brought
the United States into a new level of prosperity. It also brought a baby boom as soldiers returned home, and the resulting
children, born between the years of 1946 to 1964, are collectively known as the Baby Boomer generation, or Babyboomers, or
The great War had been
preceded by the Great Depression, a period during which some 25% of Americans were unemployed. There was little money for
necessities, much less luxuries. The United States rallied during World War II, as young men went into the Armed Forces
to serve their country while women and others left behind joined in the war effort by working in factories. Once the war ended,
and gasoline and other rationing came to an end as well, the American Dream was within reach for more and more families. This
was due in no small part to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and its subsequent amendments, which among other things defined
the number of weekly hours beyond which workers were entitled to overtime pay, and mandated the minimum hourly wage. Housing
developments were beginning to pop up, many with low-cost, affordable homes. During the Eisenhower administration, young families,
finding themselves with more disposable income than ever before, took full advantage of the housing market, moving out of
city apartments and into houses that actually belonged to them. Home ownership was a possibility for increasing numbers of
middle-class people, a fair number of whom relocated not just to residential neighborhoods, but to the suburbs. Suburban living
was itself made possible by the automobile. Television was in the process of becoming much more of a staple of everyday life,
and several popular TV shows had automakers as sponsors; once television began evolving out of the single-sponsorship format,
car commercials started dominating the airwaves—along with those for soft drinks, beer, and cigarettes. Soon enough,
a car was no longer a luxury but a necessity, and the locally owned mom-and-pop service stations were disappearing in favor
of those owned by or affiliated with the large oil companies. Generics were on their way out, brands on their way in.
While much of this was going on, rock
and roll was coming into its own. The progeny of varying styles of music, rock and roll had first stood up on shaky legs in
1951, when Alan Freed used the term on his radio broadcast. By the middle of that decade, with the proliferation of singers
like Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard, the genre was at a full gallop. Kids no longer had to settle
for listening to their parents' music, the crooners and girl singers who'd first become popular during the Big Band era of
the 1940s; they had their very own music—all theirs—to listen and dance to, to sing along with … and to
buy. Teenagers, 13- to 19-year-olds who had disposable income of their own, were a new demographic for record labels to target
(the term teenager hadn't even been in wide use until the previous decade), but target it they did and by the 1960s
scores of record labels and publishing houses had sprung up, all of which were specifically geared to the creation, manufacture,
and sale of rock and roll, not just to teens but in many cases by teens. All of this happened despite (or maybe because
of!) the protestations of parents and others who felt that rock and roll was the devil's music. The problem child turned out
to be a cash cow, and it wasn't going anywhere.
Payola, or the practice
of disc jockeys being paid “under the table” by record companies to spin their platters, was not yet technically
illegal, although it would become so in 1960. In his excellent book, Sh-Boom!: The Explosion of Rock 'n' Roll (1953-1968) (ISBN-10: 160037638X; ISBN-13: 978-1600376382), the late Clay Cole devotes a chapter to the payola scandal, which took place
concurrent with his popular eponymous New York variety show. Cole strongly speculates that the scandal was created to discredit
rock and roll music, which few adults cared for and which most parents would have loved to see disappear for all time. Alan
Freed's career was all but ruined by the payola scandal; he was fired from radio and television, his deejaying and concert
hosting jobs dried up, and he died in 1965 at the young age of 43. Rock and roll, however, refused to die, although it did
limp along for a few years. It regained its footing during the British Invasion, and by the time the Summer of Love, 1967,
rolled around, it was once again moving along at a respectable pace. By this time, the breach between the generations was
complete. “Don't trust anyone over 30” had become the catch phrase. Young people began experimenting with drugs;
young men started growing their hair long; young women began celebrating their sexuality. No longer was hanging on to one's
virginity until marriage endorsed as the proper thing to do; the youngsters were having sex—coupling, getting lucky,
getting laid, “doing it,” going all the way, copulating, fornicating, screwing—openly and frequently. Monogamy
was out, free love was in. The advent of antibiotics and the birth control pill had removed much of the fear associated with
sexual intercourse. Kids whose very existence proved that their parents were sexual beings had gotten fed up with the hypocrisy
fueled by these same parents and members of their generation, which dictated that the sex act, in any form, was dirty and
shameful and to be avoided outside of holy matrimony, and then only to produce children. They were also questioning why having
sex before marriage was considered wrong, while going off to war and possibly being killed was right. Everything was turning
upside down; the pendulum was swinging (no pun intended) the other way, in spectacular fashion. Draft cards and bras were
being burned. “Make love, not war!” was the cry of the masses. Children born to unmarried parents were no longer
labeled as “bastards”; if such a baby was branded at all, it was usually with the more palatable “love child.”
Having babies out of wedlock had become fashionable. Soon enough, it would become the norm.
The Golden Era of rock
and roll was the decade from 1954 through 1963. Its sub-genres, such as doo-wop, were not as cleanly delineated as they would
become during its second decade; the surf sounds of the early '60s gave way to the British Invasion, and the Summer of Love
ushered in the psychedelic era and the early days of heavy metal. There was bubblegum and sunshine pop for the “tweens”
and early teens. By the mid-seventies and the advent of dance music, soon to be known as the disco era, rock and roll had
gone through another paradigm shift; by 1980 it had changed completely. The children of the eldest babyboomers were themselves
teenagers. A new generation of stars had claimed the charts. And, suddenly, the original rock and roll songs were “oldies,”
and the original rock and roll singers were “oldies acts” who had careers to reinvent—or to give up completely.
Life Rocks On details the lives of five young rock 'n' rollers, those they love, and those who love them. It follows them through the
decades as they grow and mature, live and learn, enjoy mind-blowing successes and suffer devastating setbacks, and experience
highs and lows, hills and valleys, and love and loss. These people represent us as we were back in the day, and who we've
become as a result of the lives we've lived. They are composites of everything we are and were, whose triumphs we can vicariously
enjoy and whose struggles and pain we can empathize with, reliving our own journeys as we accompany them on theirs. Life Rocks On is a story about music, sex, drugs, money, love, and rock & roll. It's about five adults—three men and two
women—who learn that they are neither invincible nor immortal, and who are reminded, in the age of “anything goes,”
that all actions have consequences.
It's a story about us.
*Originally intended to be included
at the beginning of the book itself, these "words from the author" will instead reside on this website. The above text
has been replaced in the book with a more personalized account of the writing process, which I, as the author, feel better serves
the reader and allows a smoother transition into the storyline.