College Quarterly
Spring 2006 - Volume 9 Number 2
Reviews Turn! Turn! Turn! The ‘60s Folk-rock Revolution
Richie Unterberger
San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2002

Reviewed by Howard A. Doughty

This is probably the shortest book review I have ever written. It may be the shortest one I will ever write.

My reason for doing so is that two books I have read for this issue of The College Quarterly are excellent examples of their type. I refer to Mark Kurlansky’s 1968 and Wallin et al.’s The Origins of Music.

Richie Unterberger’s Turn! Turn! Turn! is another matter.

Unterberger takes as his subject the 1960s’ folk-rock revolution. It is alleged to be helpful to students of popular culture. Unfortunately, there was no revolution. If there was, Elton John would not be so angry at Britney Spears.

Unterberger’s book begins with Bob Dylan singing an acoustic Mr. Tambourine Man at Newport in 1964 and ends with Dylan’s motorcycle accident in 1966. In between, this book is a fan club letter to the Byrds.

I do not disdain paeans. I am especially inclined to accept them when the praise is spread around and, to be fair, Unterberger is not totally fixated on the Byrds. He acknowledges, in passing, lots of pop icons. He speaks nicely of Fred Neil and Eric Anderson, of Jackie de Shannon and Marianne Faithful, of Ian and Sylvia and Donovan, of Judy Collins, John Sebastian, the Mamas and the Papas and Roger McGuinn.

But wait a minute.

Roger McGuinn used to be known as Jim McGuinn. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds was once Jim McGuinn, who provided the instrumental music for the Chad Mitchell Trio.

Evidently he changed his name.

Does anyone remember the Chad Mitchell Trio?

I certainly do. More than Marx or Marcuse, they defined my 60s politics.

They were neat and tidy. They wore blazers and short hair. Unterberger despises them. They took lots of risks. They sang “protest” songs … lots of them. They were kept off radio and television.

When Chad Mitchell left the group, he was replaced by John Denver. That really upsets Unterberger. The other members, Mike Kobluk and Joe Frazier, went on to other careers. Kobluk became a director of the Spokane Civic Center and Opera House (from which he has since retired. Frazier became an Episcopalian priest.

The thing that galls Unterberger most is a song that Chad and the lads sang entitled “The Sound of Protest (Has Begun to Pay).” It is done in the style of the Byrds. He thinks that it mocks them. It was written by Fred Hellerman. Unterberger reviles him. Fred Hellerman was an original member of the Weavers. He knows a good deal about artistic and political integrity.

Jim McGuinn changed his name. The Weavers didn’t. Neither did Chad Mitchell.

I liked the Byrds. They were OK. They did not define the “folk-rock revolution,” and the folk-rock revolution left some things undone.

Why did I bother commenting on this book? It showed up a few weeks ago in the “new books” section of my college library. I am interested in music, so I thought I’d take a look. I did. I was not pleased. Sometimes, when you have the chance, it is good to try to deflate overly gaseous balloons.


Howard A. Doughty teaches in the Faculty of Applied Arts and Health Sciences at Seneca College in King City, Ontario. He can be reached at <howard.doughty@senecac.on.ca>.

Reviews

• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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2006 - The College Quarterly, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology