Monday, July 15, 2013

Bringing retro spirit back to Disneyland: Rock Around the Park with rockabillies

The thought of going to Disneyland and standing in 2 hour lines behind grouchy children right now, in the dead heat of summer, might not sound like your cup of tea (hopefully it’s ice-cold tea). But I have been daydreaming about a trip to Disneyland a little later in the year, when it’s cooler, not so crowded, and the Nightmare Before Christmas theme has taken effect at the Haunted Mansion. So I’ve been looking forward to the annual Rock Around the Park event, when hundreds of rockabillies and psychobillies liven up the landscape with their retro style and flair. Book your calendars now for Sunday, November 3rd, to join in the fun.

One might not automatically associate rockabillies and psychobillies with Mickey Mouse’s Kingdom, but it actually makes quite a lot of sense. As the organizer of the event pointed out to me, Disneyland opened in 1955 and therefore represents a time that rockabillies and psychobillies are invested and interested in. The mid-century vibe that the park still exudes appeals to the members of the scene today. But I can’t help but think that when Disneyland opened its doors, it stood for just about the exact opposite of everything that the budding rockabilly scene embodied. In 1955, a twenty-year-old Elvis Presley was popularizing his fusion of R&B and hillbilly while shocking conservative audiences with his gyrating pelvis and his wet-your-underpants voice and lyrics. Teens were boppin’ to Bill Haley’s jump blues-based rock’n’roll hits like “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and “Rock Around the Clock,” and they were causing riots at movies like Blackboard Jungle. And – horror of horrors – black and white teenagers were breaking down the ropes that separated them to dance with each other as they rocked and rolled to the thrilling new music. In the midst of this cultural revolution, Disneyland opened its idyllic grounds, an oasis for family values and wholesome entertainment. And so I love the idea of Disneyland being taken over by the people who carry on the legacy of that rebellious spirit of the mid-1950s rock’n’roll revolution.

Regardless of this little bit of irony, I am, like most rockabilly and psychobilly fans, a sucker for the mid-century history and atmosphere of Disneyland. Plus, there’s hardly a psychobilly I know who doesn’t loveNightmare Before Christmas, the most alternative of all the Disney movies and the only one that I think we identify with as society’s misfits. And there’s even a little bit of musical entertainment that rockabillies enjoy, as Billy Hill and the Hillbillies entertain with their boot-stompin' country-and-bluegrass show. One final random connection between rockabilly and Disneyland: the official theme song of Disney’s animated TV show House of Mouse was composed and performed by neo-rockabilly hero Brian Setzer.

I got a chance to talk to the organizer to see what’s in store for this year’s event, which will be the sixth annual Rock Around the Park.... READ THE INTERVIEW BY CLICKING HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment