What Can We Say About This ‘Acne Rock’ Which Permeates Amherst's Air Waves?

by '70
Amherst Student

Jim Steinman in college band Things That Go Bump In The Night

In this era of rhythm and blues, hard rock, the psychedelic sound, and the teeny-bopper beat, what music is the Amherst man tuned into, and what music do Amherst bands offer him?

Things That Go Bump In The Night, with spokesman, electric pianist Jim Steinman '69, has as its "project" "skin-flower rock, a new conception in love, the joy of psychedelic refuse, a chance of a life-time to come in contact with exciting new people, amazing new Ideas, astounding sonic effects, and disgusting fetishes."

The group describes itself as "a viable alternative to suicide, but no substitute for resurrection," attempting "to put the power of spiritual milk of magnesia back into the bloodstream of the American satyr and prevent the finky brain police of the stupid establishment from blocking the flow of truth forever more."

‘Spellman War Machine’

In their music, the group strives "to destroy the spectre of a dead society, the Cardinal Spellman War Machine" with music described by Steinman as "the sound of one leather leg undulating, hoping, rhapsodizing, and whispering yes."

Presently the band, which had to abandon hopes of learning "Louie, Louie" because of the number's "extraordinarily complex structure," is "working with Allen Ginsberg on a folk-song mass."

"The sound of individualistic characters," the Flower and Vegetable Show, plays mostly musically difficult songs which they enjoy, music which "doesn't appeal to teeny-hoppers." The group performs sophisticated numbers, rather than songs that would appeal to the typical Amherst man, described by Budd MacKenzie as "mundane sounds, guttural sounds, cheap music which is easy to play. Most people can't sing, and an easy song like 'Gloria,' where all they have to do is spell, appeals to them; they can't handle a complex song."

The A-men base their sound on a varied repertoire, ranging from current rock hits, patterned largely from national groups like The Young Rascals and Rolling Stones, to rhythm and blues numbers popularized by soul singers like Otis Redding. The group, billed as "the last word in music," aims at music which is conducive to dancing, and enjoy playing blues numbers "because they are more popular than straight hard rock."

'D.C. Dynamism'

Gang Green, "the band with the sound that grows on you," uses the many facets of Roger Hamilton '67 to achieve its distinctive sound. Hamilton, "Amherst's most flamboyant Armenian," plays lead guitar, alto clarinet, tenor and soprano sax, tenor alto recorder, and sitar with a switchblade.

Mike Bresler '68, described the "ethos" of the group as consisting of "D.C. dynamism, Minnesota morality, Yonkers yiddish, and Armenian ambrosia," and said that the group liked to play "jazz to a rock and roll beat and African drums with a vision of Armenian snake charming."

The Leaves of Grass capitalize on the "dearth of soul in the East" and fill a musical niche by playing mostly rhythm and blues numbers, following the lead of groups like the Butterfield Blues Band.

Rick Weinhaus '70, the group's bass guitarist, expressed the opinion that the Amherst audience appreciates groups like the Animals and Rolling Stones, which have taken Negro arrangments and changed the beat and words, diluting the music's soul content, and creating Caucasian soul.

Steinman of Things That Go Bump In The Night summarized the approach of most of the campus bands: "The acne rock that permeates the air waves must be transformed by the thrust of Clearasil suppositories charged with strobic truth."

Source: Amherst Student archives