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The Evolution of the Teenager.

Michael Barson is the author of the new book "Teenage Confidential: An Illustrated History of the American Teen (Chronicle Books, illustrated by Steven Heller). The book traces the evolution of the "teen" and the concept of the "teenager" which didn't exist before World War 2. The book also collects teenage artifacts, like movie posters, magazine covers, and advertisements.


Other segments from the episode on December 16, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 16, 1997: Interview with Richard Landes; Interview with Michael Barson; Review of Charles Mingus's album "Charles Mingus, Passions of a Man: The Completer…


Date: DECEMBER 16, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121601np.217
Head: Millennial Studies
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We're just about two years and two weeks from the end of the millennium. That number 2000 is pretty potent. Some people are braced for doomsday, while others await the coming of the Messiah or the dawning of a new age. Cult groups, new age visions, and conspiracy theories are all flourishing.

My guest is monitoring all the action. Richard Landes is the director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. Landes is also a scholar of the millennial fever that surrounded the year 1000 and its predictions of plagues, famines, and apocalypse. The Center for Millennial Studies was formed two years ago with the mission of archiving all the manifestations of contemporary millennial fever.

RICHARD LANDES, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MILLENNIAL STUDIES, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: My work indicates that one of the problems with identifying just what goes on at millennium moments is that they're so short-lived.

And so what you end up with is, you know, a millennial prophecy -- an apocalyptic prophecy -- is something like a ticket to the Super Bowl. You know, before the game's played, it's worth a tremendous amount -- it has a lot of power.

But once the prophecy fails, the only way it's gonna survive is by getting cleaned up -- you've got to get rid of the embarrassing stuff, maybe salvage some of the more interesting other stuff. But the actual, what I call the "booster rocket" of apocalyptic expectation has to be sort of bleached out of the text in order for it to survive.

So what -- one -- the purpose of the center is to, as much as possible, get this harvest of apocalyptic materials that is cropping up in so many places now, and archive it before it either fades or gets transformed by the passage of time.

These are -- you know, millennialism is an episodic phenomenon. It's not a -- it's long-term in the sense that it's constantly re-emerging, but when it emerges in public, it's for very brief and intense periods of time. So we want to -- we want to archive that.

GROSS: What do you think is the appeal in end of the world thinking? -- and a lot of millennialists subscribe to that end of the world thinking.

LANDES: Yeah, well, I think psychologically speaking, there's something -- there's a tremendous appeal to what you might call "megalomania." If you believe that you were chosen to live at the end of time -- that you are of the generation that is going to witness and maybe even participate in the final resolution of the cosmic battle between good and evil, you know, that's a pretty high place to be.

And if you're really drawn into this, you know, the very way you brush your teeth in the morning has meaning. So psychologically, I think there is that dimension. And of course, you get not only megalomania, but paranoia, and it's a great way to project all of your sort of fantasies and so on.

The second sense is a kind of sociological sense, and is related. And for this, I use the work of James Scott -- a book called "Dominance and the Arts of Resistance" where he talks about public and private transcripts -- or public and hidden transcripts. Public transcript is, you know, how you behave in public under normal circumstances. Hidden transcript is all the resentments that you have about having to smile when your boss makes a stupid joke and you really would like to tell him off, but you don't dare.

Well, one of the ways that we inhibit ourselves publicly is we think about what the consequences of our behavior would be in the future -- how the boss would retaliate if we were to say to his face "I just think that's tasteless and I think you're stupid."

So when you enter apocalyptic time, all this future consequential concerns drop away and you become uninhibited. And so, millennium moments are moments where you get a sort of bottom-up expression of the kinds of things that normally people don't dare say.

GROSS: Let's look at some of the current religious millennial views -- apocalyptic views. Let's start with Christianity. What -- what is the "rapture"?

LANDES: OK, the rapture is this notion that there is going to be a seven-year period of terrible tribulation before the millennial kingdom. And therefore, God will choose those he wishes to spare this terrible thing because they are just people. He will literally, bodily take them up into heaven, and that will be the sign.

I mean, when people start disappearing, and the rapture people have, you know, very elaborate, almost tactile, imaginary scenarios of how, you know, you're gonna answer the door and there's nobody going to be there, or you're in a traffic jam and all of a sudden, you know, a third of the cars are empty.

And in fact, we have a sticker we picked up -- somebody produced a bumper sticker that says "when the rapture comes, may I have your car?"


So there's this -- there's this idea that, you know, these people -- these chosen people will be raptured by God into heaven, out of the physical universe, and then it's going to be seven years of absolute horror, and in the middle of that period, the antichrist will come and literally anybody who's left is going to be damned, not so much because God has abandoned them, but because the temptation of evil in this period will be so great -- it will be so hard to resist evil that everybody who is still around is going to get sucked in by the antichrist and condemned because of that.

GROSS: Are there particular Christian groups that believe in the rapture?

LANDES: Oh, yeah, there are a wide range of groups that believe in the rapture. And you know, all you have to do is go to what I call the "Bible belt" in your cable television stations. There are a series of stations.

You listen for more than 20 minutes and you'll get -- generally, you'll get both rapture and apocalyptic material coming up. My favorite is Jack Van Impe (ph), who is one of the few to specifically select 1999/2000 as the moment when all this happens. Others are slightly less explicit in their attachment to the date 2000, but I think that, you know, the pattern is one where 2000 is clearly a day of great importance.

GROSS: Actually, I was just reading his homepage which is linked -- I got at it through your homepage...

LANDES: Right.

GROSS: ... you have a great millennial homepage...


... with all kinds of links. And on Jack Van Impe's homepage, he has like a message to people, and his personal message includes this, that current international events reflect exactly the conditions and happenings predicted throughout the Bible for the last stage of this age. Millions need to be alerted to the fact that Jesus is coming, perhaps today.


GROSS: So, it's imminent.

LANDES: Oh absolutely. And in fact, there are -- are tour groups who suggest that if you go to Jerusalem now, you could be there when Jesus returns. And I think that, you know, one of the things that I'm willing to predict, as a historian -- and this is based on my historical work -- is that there are going to be a lot of people going to Jerusalem in the year 2000. And the Israelis right now -- remember, the Israeli government is by and large profoundly secular -- think of these people as tourists.

And the evidence suggests that a lot of them will not be tourists, but what I call "millennial pilgrims." And that means that in some cases, they're going to go with one-way tickets. And not one-way tickets 'cause they're trying to save money, but one-way tickets because buying a one-way ticket is an act of faith; it's a way of showing your faith.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Richard Landes, and he is the director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University.

Let's look at some Jewish millennial thinking. What are the groups within Judaism that subscribe to that? Are there any?

LANDES: Ah, well, there are plenty. You mean contemporarily, or back then?

GROSS: Well, contemporarily first.

LANDES: Well, contemporarily, the two major groups that are millennial in Judaism right now are the Lubavitcher Rebbe's followers.

GROSS: This is a Hasidic group and ultra-orthodox group.

LANDES: This is a Hasidic group, right, and in fact, their apocalyptic term, if you will, dates back at least to the rebbe before the one who just died, and is related to the Holocaust. And I think that there was a lot of apocalyptic thinking going on in the Holocaust that has been lost to us because, again, it's one of these things that fades.

And I think that probably far more Jews believed that they were living at the end of time during the Holocaust than, in a sense, the literature would suggest. That's just a hunch. I haven't looked into it, but I have spoken with people who confirm that.

But -- so the current Lubavitcher movement is -- it's interesting because it's interwoven with the last secular millennial wave in the West, which was the '60s. And Lubavitch -- the modern Lubavitch messianic movement dates from the late '60s and early '70s. And they -- a number of them really believed that the rebbe would be the messiah and would reveal himself as the messiah, and were terribly disappointed when he died.

The second group that's very strongly apocalyptic right now are the -- is the religious settlement movement on the West Bank. This is a movement -- there's a very good book by Abe Ravitzky (ph) about this. This is a movement that dates back to the origins of Zionism, which was secular but which had one religious spokesman, a rabbi named Ralph Cook (ph), and his followers have moved more and more in the direction of millennialism, or of apocalyptic messianism. And that dates back in particular to 1967 and the reunification of Jerusalem and the taking of the West Bank, and the cities -- holy cities like Hebron and so on.

So that's a second one, and they have started to get violent, and we see that first with Baruch Goldstein's attack on the Muslims at the mosque in -- at the tomb of Abraham in Hebron, and also in the assassination of Rabin.

And this is characteristic of one aspect that I think we need to pay a lot of attention to in millennialism, and that is when people are disappointed -- when their scenario that they're so serenely confident in is dis-confirmed by events, one of the things that they tend to do is get violent.

And so that's something that we see now, with -- since Oslo. Oslo was, in a sense, you know, the thing that reversed what should have been the juggernaut of redemption for these messianic Jews.

GROSS: Now, what about the world of Islam? Is there a lot of Muslim faith in the apocalypse at the millennium?

LANDES: Islam has a tradition that every 100 years can be -- there are various ways of phrasing this -- either it's a moment of renewal, a moment of profound renewal, or, and I think that this is probably more likely a way to understand it, before the 100-year marker comes, as opposed to after, it's a moment when the hidden body or the equivalent, if you will, of the second coming of Jesus -- it will happen.

And so if you go through Muslim history, you can literally pinpoint every hundred year marker as a period where some fairly remarkable things happen. I mean, this is what I call the "geography of sacred time," which people in the State Department would do well to pay attention to. The last century marker for Islam was 1979, which was the year that Khomeini took over in Iran.

And I think that -- that, you know, if you look at what happened in Teheran in that year, with these millions of people gathering in the square protesting the government, and then the government would shoot them down and then there'd be 40 days of mourning. And then, there'd be another million people out in the square protesting the government. You have a good sense of the kind of collective power that a millennial belief can bring.

GROSS: My guest is Richard Landes, director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Richard Landes, director of the Center for Millennial Studies.

What are some of the new age signs that the millennium will bring apocalypse?

LANDES: Well, again, let's -- I mean -- let me change -- that the millennium will bring some kind of major transformation. "Apocalypse" is probably too...

GROSS: Right. That's just one scenario.

LANDES: ... intense and too religious a word.

GROSS: Right.

LANDES: Yeah, that's one scenario.


LANDES: I think new age is definitely millennial. I think that, you know, when it kicked off -- at least the current version of new age kicked off in the '60s, the Age of Aquarius was unquestionably in my mind millennial rhetoric; that you had a wave of people who let's say climaxed either at Woodstock or possibly the Chicago riots in 1968 or whatever. Sixty-eight was sort of the big millennial year back then.

You had people who believed that the world was on the edge of a radical transformation, and that the future would be unrecognizable or the past would be -- would vanish and there would be a really different way in which people dealt with each other, treated each other, and so on.

So that's all millennial thinking, and I think new age has never really given it up. It sort of went underground or went -- went out of the public eye during the big chill. But I think there's plenty of evidence that it's coming back. I know there are lots of groups of -- it's unfair to call them "'60s retreads," but you know, lots of groups of people who are planning all sorts of big peace movements for the year 2000.

And then again, new age has picked 2012 as their big -- 'cause there's a Mayan calendar that gives us information up to 2012, and then after 2012 it stops, and there are new age thinkers who are taking that as a sign that this was a prediction from the Mayan who where a -- a native religion -- that this will be the end point.

So you get that -- you know, you had the harmonic conversion several years ago and stuff -- that's built-in to the new age belief. And so you've got that, and then that hooks up with things like ecological concerns. There's a lot of apocalyptic rhetoric at Kyoto. Greenpeace uses apocalyptic rhetoric. Apocalyptic rhetoric is really valuable because it gets people motivated.

If I tell you to go recycle your stuff and, you know, save your garbage or whatever or make all these sacrifices for the sake of the Earth, you know, if I say, well, 'cause otherwise in 100 years the Earth could be in trouble, that's not really going to motivate you. But if I say, you know, we don't do something in the next five years, the Earth could choke on its fumes, then I might get your attention.

GROSS: And do you find militia groups are using millennial thinking to support the bearing of arms?

LANDES: Right. Oh, yeah, unquestionably. I mean, you know obviously something like Waco was, you know, you can't ask for a better combination of weapons and apocalyptic interpretations in the Bible and so on.

The militia groups, in fact -- the Center for Millennial Studies has attracted a number of people who come from studying right-wing militia groups who are not trained in apocalyptic scholarship at all, but who find more and more just how much of this kind of material is, in fact, apocalyptic and are quite struck by it. And the work of Michael Barkin (ph) and of Paul Boyer and of Chip Berlay (ph) are all works that indicate just how powerfully apocalyptic the militia groups are.

GROSS: Now, you are a Medieval scholar, and one of the things you've studied intensively is the first millennium...


GROSS: ... and what the movements were around that millennium and what happened afterwards when the apocalypse didn't happen; when no great change happened. What were some of the predictions right before the year 1000? What were people expecting?

LANDES: Well, first of all, as we mentioned at the beginning of this interview, a lot of the documentation is lost. I mean, we just don't know what people were saying because there was no printing press. We have a much better idea what was going on in Protestant apocalypticism because of the printing press.

But by and large, there's nobody there who's really recording. For instance, we hear from Abel of Flouris (ph) that the end of the world -- that there was a preacher preaching the end of the world somewhere in his youth, let's say about 970, and he said that in the year 1000, the antichrist would be unleashed and shortly thereafter would be the last judgment.

OK, so that's one scenario. It's what you might call the -- the post-millennial scenario, which is the millennium has already been in progress; the reason that the world isn't perfect already is because it's an invisible millennium -- that's Augustine's argument. And now we're coming to the end of the millennium predicted in Revelation; we're coming up to the release of antichrist and he will be defeated in the battle of Armageddon, and then God will judge the quick and the dead, and the good will go to heaven and the bad will go to hell. And it will be the end of the physical universe. OK?

The other version, which I think is the more radical and more, shall we say, consequential version, is a belief that we are on the verge of the transformation of this world. That is, that the people who dominate this world now -- the people who are unjust, the people who are corrupted by power, and who oppress the people who are powerless -- are about to be punished by divine forces and a new age is about to dawn on the Earth.

And that, I think, is a more consequential belief. And I personally -- and again, I don't have a whole lot of evidence for this, although I think I have considerable evidence, if it's read correctly -- I think that that was the widespread belief amongst the commoners, as opposed to the elites.

Again, we only have what the elites thought. We -- there was no commoner -- nothing is written in the vernacular around this period. The only period who are leaving records are the clerics who are writing in Latin and so on.

GROSS: You're very interested in what happens to the people who are disappointed that the millennium did not bring cataclysmic change.

LANDES: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So what happens when we crossed that threshold of the first millennium and cataclysmic change has not happened? Do you know anything about what happened to the millennialists?

LANDES: Yeah, I think that there are a couple of things that are quite clear. First of all, and we know this from modern movements, nobody gave up. You know, people didn't say: "oh, well, I guess we got it wrong. Let's quit." For one thing, I think probably the next millennial date was three and a half years later, and people interpreted 1000 as the unleashing of the forces of antichrist, and then three and a half years later the good guys would take over. So you got to delay it three and a half years.

And I think that's where you get the seven years of the tribulation, which is three and a half years before the millennium, plus three and a half years after the millennium. You have your seven years of tribulation.

But the next big apocalyptic date that everybody settles on is the millennium of the passion, 1033. And I'm willing to predict right now that Christians will redate after 2000 to 2033, and that we can expect another wave of Christian apocalyptic expectation and messianic hopes and so on around 2033.

GROSS: Which is the anniversary...

LANDES: And certainly...

GROSS: ... of Christ -- of Jesus' crucifixion.

LANDES: ... yeah -- it's the bi-millennium of the Passion, right.

GROSS: I'll bet you're glad that you're alive to witness this period leading up to the millennium.

LANDES: Well, you know, there's an old Chinese curse that says "you should live in interesting times." And I think we definitely live in interesting times and I think that there are very serious problems that could arise from disappointed millennialism, and I think that, you know, just to give one example, Christians tend to be philo-Semitic in pre-millennial moments, and they tend to get anti-Semitic in post-millennial moments.

So I think that, you know, there are all sorts of things to worry about. There's a tremendous challenge right now to civil society that some of the more radical and more paranoid and more violent forms of millennial thinking can bring about.

But I also think it's a moment of tremendous opportunity, and I certainly don't plan to stick my head in the sand and say, ah, it's just a construct of the human imagination and of not great significance, and I'll just, you know, sort of -- I'll sleep through the millennium and wake up and everything will be the same.

GROSS: Richard Landes, is it premature to wish you a happy new year?


LANDES: No, I think that's -- I think we should all be wishing ourselves a happy millennium.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

LANDES: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Richard Landes directs the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Richard Landes
High: Richard Landes is assistant professor of History at Boston University and the executive director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. The center is keeping track of and analyzing apocalyptic and messianic movements related to the coming millennium. Landes will talk with Terry Gross about the upcoming millennium as well as past millenniums.
Spec: Culture; Religion; Memory; Millennial Studies
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Millennial Studies
Date: DECEMBER 16, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121601np.217
Head: Teenage Confidential
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.


ACTOR: Say pops, gimme one of those crazy beers, will you man?

ACTOR: Man, that was real cool, Dad.

ACTOR: Thanks, daddy-o.

ACTOR: That's fine -- oh, playing, oh -- we got to get this beer-o. You know.

ACTOR: Thank you, pops.

ACTOR: Pop me, dad.


ACTOR: I popped you dad. Hey pops, thumb me, will you daddy-o? C'mon, that's it. Thumb me. Now, gimme some skin and ooze...

ACTORS: Oooze...

ACTOR: ... it out. Just nice and cool.

ACTOR: Atta boy. Ooze it...

ACTOR: Now, elbow us. Just elbow us.

ACTOR: Pops, do you pick up on this jive, man?

ACTOR: "What?"

ACTOR: "Do you pick up on this jive -- this crazy music here, man? Did you dig the rebop?

ACTOR: "What?"

ACTOR: The rebop, dad? The rebop?

ACTOR: He's a square, man, don't you get this at all? 'Fore you take the brew on the side on the time, and you take this bottle, right, and do be, bop, de bop, de bao. Nippy is tubwany, and you take this drink, and you all de doo dable oooh de...


GROSS: Young people -- who can understand them? Obviously not the adults in this movie, "The Wild One," which starred Marlon Brando as the leader of a motorcycle gang.

My guest, Michael Barson, is the author of "Teenage Confidential," a new illustrated history of the American teenager and the movies, records, books, and magazines for and about them.

Barson is the author of previous books about B-movies and commie-scare films. He says teen culture doesn't really begin until about 1940.

MICHAEL BARSON, AUTHOR, "TEENAGE CONFIDENTIAL: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN TEEN": It's an interesting thing. Obviously, everyone went through the teen years since the beginning of time or the beginning of human kind, anyway. But those adolescent years, until fairly recently, I think everyone spent more or less as adults in waiting, or adults in training if you will.

For instance, with music, there was no special teen music until, I think, around the time of Frank Sinatra, and frankly even Sinatra, when he began in the late '30s and into the early '40s, was singing songs that, although teenagers were his most passionate audience for them, they really are indistinguishable from the songs he kept doing throughout his life, in terms of the -- the topics and the themes of them.

They were generalized for, you know, emotions and romantic experiences and loss and that sort of thing, but even there, where he was perhaps the first teen idol, his music wasn't strictly about teenagers. That all came later, really, in the 1950s.

GROSS: You mention Sinatra and how that was in some ways the beginning of music for teenagers. World War II happening at a similar time to Sinatra's early success -- what effect do you think that that had on the growth of a population called "the teenager" -- of a culture called "the teenager?"

BARSON: Well, I think that the -- the advent of World War II is really what ignited teen culture. I think it had been in the smoldering stage through the late '30s and in 1940, and you could see with somebody like Sinatra where he was a lightning rod for a teenage audience that was looking for a lightning rod, I think -- that something was about to happen. Maybe it was the Depression that had allowed teenagers to spend more time together; perhaps parents weren't watching them as closely.

But however it began, World War II just set it off because once the dads went overseas to fight and the moms were called to work for the war effort and consequently left the home, it was like a petri dish. You had this group of adolescents who suddenly had all this unsupervised time for the first time, really, in the history of adolescence.

And I think that that, over the course of the five years that World War II took before we finished with it in 1945 -- by then, the parents came back and they had this sub-culture in full force ready to greet them.

GROSS: You have some terrific paperbacks from the 1950s that are kind of like teen exploitation books. Great titles like "Rumble in the Housing Project," "Go, Man, Go," "The Young Wolves," "Run, Chico, Run," "The Thrill Kids," "Play It Cool," "Teenage Mafia," "The Juvees (ph)." And you know, so many of the covers of that period had a kind of tough looking teenage girl with a really large chest and a really tight-fitting sweater and worn-out blue jeans cuffed; sort of standing with her hands on her hips maybe. And there'd be a bunch of kind of restless thug-like looking male youths behind her, leering at her.

Is that like a standard cover?

BARSON: Well, this is -- this is the "bad kid" culture. Now, you know I'm sure because you, like me, must have begun in what I call the "clean teen" culture where we only could hope and pray that some day we would be bad enough to be accepted into the other culture -- the "JD" culture. But it never happened for me.

GROSS: Were you a nice suburban boy or a nice city boy?

BARSON: I was a nice suburban boy -- Haverhill, Massachusetts had a population, probably still does, of 40,000. So it was big enough to have a big high school and, you know, stores and all that sort of thing, but small enough that we never really found out what the rest of the world was 'til we all left it -- at least those of us who did leave it.

GROSS: Now, what was the allure of the tough teenager -- the delinquent to you, as the nice kid growing up in the suburbs?

BARSON: Well, I think that it's the word "rebel." They were able to live out, at least for a few hours a day, whether it was just even having the nerve to wear jeans to school. I wouldn't have been able to get out the front door with that on me.

But just the idea that you were overtly presenting yourself as one of the rebels in the James Dean or Elvis image, and that meant not only that you looked totally different from adults, which was one of the main goals, but also that girls would be attracted to you, which was perhaps the main goal -- of course, only a certain kind of girl.

GROSS: Right -- who wouldn't be attracted to your father anyways, probably, right?

BARSON: Or to me. Or to me. I don't care about my father. To me. No, all we clean teens could attract was other clean teens, and that was no fun.

GROSS: Well, this leads me to The Wild One, the 1954 film starring Marlon Brando as the head of a motorcycle gang that terrorizes a small town. I don't know if you -- obviously you didn't see this film when you were young, you know, 'cause it came out when you were two or three, but when did you first see this film and what impact did it have on you?

BARSON: Well, actually this one didn't have a special impact on me because, although the biker culture and the "rebels without a cause" theme were right there and immortalized by Brando as no one else could do, it clearly wasn't about 13- or 14- or 15-year-olds. In fact, Brando was probably about 27 when he made this, and Lee Marvin was in it -- he was probably in his 30s I think.

But you know, I think it was the film that came out the next year -- the "Rebel Without A Cause" -- the Nicholas Ray (ph) movie with James Dean that was the one that really was all teen-centric. It was told from the point of view of these alienated teens.

James Dean moves to this town, so he's double-alienated because he can't even get into the local teen culture, being an outsider. Plus, he's completely alienated from his parents. And so he's doubly alienated. And that's something that I think is -- has always been there for somebody going through the adolescent years -- this -- this profound sense of alienation.

But when you have a whole culture to hang it on, and that means you've got your own music; you've got your own magazines; you've got your own clothes; your fashions, your hairstyles -- it really helps instead of just, you know, closing the door to your room and turning out the lights and sobbing.

GROSS: Yeah, and as you point out, The Wild One in 1954 with Brando helped create the black motorcycle jacket as an important, almost fetish item for biker culture and for teen culture in general -- something to aspire to.

And you know, Rebel Without A Cause gave you that sense of, you know, alienation. Though it didn't have a rock and roll soundtrack, you point out, but "Blackboard Jungle" did have one rock and roll record and that was pretty, kind of important in shaping teen culture, too.

Talk a little big about Blackboard Jungle and its use of "Rock Around The Clock."

BARSON: Well, Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets had actually been released in 1954, the same year as The Wild One. And it was a minor pop hit. But what, again, triggered everything a year later was the brilliant person at MGM, whoever it was, who decided to play that song under the titles of the film Blackboard Jungle as it opened with scenes of marauding high school thugs.

I mean, these were really thugs -- not just kids who were appropriating the badge of a biker and wearing a jacket, a black leather jacket. But these were, you know, criminals in training, basically. You had Vic Morrow; you had Sidney Poitier in one of his first roles -- as the kids.

And -- and the good guy was Glenn Ford, the high school teacher -- I think he was an ex-Marine. He's got a crew-cut. And he comes into this urban -- it's you know, a New York urban high school which is just dilapidated and the kids are ready for mayhem, and through most of the movie commit mayhem until Glenn Ford tames them.

So it's not teen-centric that way, because really it was a little too much for most teens to really aspire to. I mean, you didn't want to be in a vocational industrial high school killing each other with switchblades if you had any sense.

GROSS: My guest is Michael Barson, co-author of the new book Teenage Confidential. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Michael Barson, co-author of the new book Teenage Confidential: An Illustrated History of the American Teen.

I guess it was after the success of films like Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One, a whole bunch of teen exploitation films come onto the market and then, you know, a little later, you have a lot of rock and roll teen films coming out. What are some of your favorites of the teen exploitation films?

BARSON: Well, I've always had a fond spot for "Invasion of the Saucer Men" from 1957, which was one of the many, many, many American International pictures that were made on a shoestring. They were usually made to be released two at a time, largely for the drive-in movie market.

This is a perfect case of movies that were made that they knew no adult was going to see. I mean, this wasn't teens appropriating adult culture. This was pop culture for teenage consumption period.

And in Invasion of the Saucer Men, you have teenagers out in lovers lane somewhere parking and smooching and everything. And these little green men with big heads and bug eyes and razor-like talons land and start committing mayhem. And it's up to the teenagers to overcome them and save the Earth. And there's barely an adult in the entire picture.

So in 70 minutes, and for a budget of probably $35 it looked like, you have this, you know, really dumb thing, but it was fun because again it was teen-centric and teenagers saving the world from aliens is even better than adults saving the world from them.

GROSS: Do you think much about the fact that, for instance, your grandparents were never teenagers per se? If there's this whole sense of a part of life that they never would have experienced, and your parents kind of barely experienced it 'cause the life of the teenager hadn't quite been established when your parents were young?

BARSON: I think about it a lot, especially now, having just immersed myself for a year in this. You know, my grandparents, I'm sure, from the age of 12, they were probably working. I know my -- both of my grandfathers certainly were, and you know, one of them was working in a shoe shop his whole life practically.

So yeah, it is kind of poignant to think of that. And I guess -- I think my parents, you know, were perhaps just right there on the cusp of it. My father was a high school athlete. He had all these track records. And you know, he probably was a popular guy -- you know, sort of a big man on campus in the high school at the time. So I think they were in on some of the teen culture as it dawned in the early '40s.

GROSS: You devote two pages of Teenage Confidential to what you describe as "Tune Tragedies: Death by Adolescence." Tell me about these records and why you've singled them out for -- to be showcased like this?

BARSON: Well, I hate to sound like my parents, but you know, they don't make 'em like they used to. And this is one thing that was in full bloom in the early '60s when I started listening to the radio. And I swear, it just dried up and disappeared. And it was an entire genre of pop music -- I won't even call it rock and roll because I'm not sure these songs really qualify as rock and roll -- but you had things like Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her;" and Mark Denning's (ph) "Teen Angel"; and "Patches" by Dickie Lee; and Jody Reynolds doing "Endless Sleep."

And it was -- it all began right around 1959, 1960 and it went through right to -- I guess the end-point was the Shangri-Las with "Leader of the Pack" where you get this little story, which involves somebody getting killed.

And it was done as kind of teen opera, I guess, and sometimes it was done for noble reasons -- Tell Laura I Love Her -- the narrator wants to get his girl a ring and he doesn't have the money, so he enters a stock car race and he gets killed in it. But before he dies, with his dying words, he asks somebody to pass on the message "Tell Laura I love her."

Teen Angel, they're parking and they're on railroad tracks unfortunately for them, and they escape in time, but the girl runs back because her ring, for some reason, came off while they were parking and she tries to retrieve it, the train hits her, and she becomes a teen angel.

And of course, Leader of the Pack -- there, you know, this is really the whole thing in a microcosm. You've got the girl who falls for this bad boy, but this very charismatic bad boy. And her parents break it up because he's -- he's a juvenile delinquent and not good enough for her.

So in a pique, he roars off on his motorcycle -- something I always wanted to do, but have yet to try in 46 years of living -- and it's a rainy night and the bike spins out and he gets killed. "And I'll never forget him -- the leader of the pack," she sings.

The Shangri-Las, incidentally, were teenagers from Queens when they made all those great records. So, they were one of the few teen idols that actually were still teens when they became teen idols.

GROSS: Well, why don't we end with the Shangri-Las singing Leader of the Pack -- one of the great death songs. And Michael Barson, thank you very much for talking with us about the history of the teenager and your new book Teenage Confidential.

BARSON: Thanks, Terry.

GROSS: Michael Barson is the author, with Steven Hiller, of the new book Teenage Confidential: An Illustrated History of the American Teen.


SINGERS: Is she really going out with him?
Oh, there she is, let's ask her?
Betty, is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing?
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
By the way, where'd you meet him?

I met him at the candy store
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture?
Yes, we see
That's when I fell for the leader of the pack


My folks were always putting him down --
Down, down
They said he came from the wrong side of town
What you mean when you say that he came from the wrong side of town?
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That's why I fell for the leader of the pack


One day my dad said "find someone new"
I had to tell my Jimmy we're through
What you mean when you say that you better go find somebody new?
He stood there and asked me why
But all I could do was cry
I'm sorry I hurt you, the leader of the pack


He sort of smiled and kissed me good-bye
The tears were beginning to show
As he drove away on that rainy night
I begged him to go slow
Whether he heard, I'll never know
No, no, no, no, no, no
Look out, look out, look out, look out


I felt so helpless, what could I do?
Remembering all the things we'd been through?
In school they all stop and stare
I can't hide the tears, but I don't care
I'll never forget him, the leader of the pack


Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Gone -- the leader of the pack
Now he's gone
The leader of the pack
Now he's gone
The leader of the pack
Now he's gone


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Michael Barson
High: Michael Barson is the author of the new book "Teenage Confidential: An Illustrated History of the American Teen. The book traces the evolution of the "teen" and the concept of the "teenager" which didn't exist before World War II. The book also collects teenage artifacts, like movie posters, magazine covers, and advertisements.
Spec: Books; Authors; Youth; Culture; Teenage Confidential
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Teenage Confidential
Date: DECEMBER 16, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 121603np.217
Head: Passions of a Man
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: CD box sets have become popular holiday gift items, so we've asked our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead to choose a couple to review. Today, he has a review of a box set of Charles Mingues' Atlantic recordings.

Bassist and composer Charles Mingues had already made some fine records before he began recording for the Atlantic label in 1956. But the albums he made for that company over the next six years, including "Pithecanthropus Erectus" (ph), "Blues and Roots," and "Oh, Yeah" did as much as any recordings to establish Mingues' reputation.

Kevin says it's still easy to hear one reason why: they're about as much fun as any records he ever made.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: The Charles Mingues Quintet playing George Gershwin's "A Foggy Day." Mingues portrayed himself in his autobiography and elsewhere as a man of turbulent passions. And that's true, and they usually helped his music.

But during that Atlantic period, Mingues coupled that intensity with a light-heartedness he didn't always show. There's a long taped interview with him which makes up one of six CDs in the new Mingues box "Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings, 1956 to '61."

In that interview, Mingues says: "everybody that's creative is a ham." He said it after making the album "Oh, Yeah" where he sang and played piano in mock-evangelical style. Mingues said he was serious when he used blues and gospel music, and the humor he brings to it doesn't undercut the experience; it enriches it with one more layer. He can be fervent and funny.


'Cause I know
More than wrong, (unintelligible)
Don't botch it
Oh, yeah, don't (unintelligible)
Don't talk about my Jesus
Don't (unintelligible)
Oh yeah, I know, I know you

WHITEHEAD: Mingues loved voice-like horns and had excellent taste in saxophone players. The ones in this box include Jackie McLean (ph), Eric Dalphey (ph), Pepper Adams, Ross Anrolankirk (ph) getting some of his first major exposure; and the great Texas blues man Booker Irvin (ph).

Often a pair of saxophones will blend in a thick, not-quite-unison line, as on the piece we just heard, Ecclusiastics. That practice looks ahead to how Ornette Coleman (ph), John Carter, and others voiced wind instruments later.

On a 1961 concert recording from Antibes, Mingues keeps combining and recombining three horns in foreground and background roles, to give the illusion of a band bigger than a quintet. On drums, as always, is Danny Richman (ph), who Mingues taught to play from scratch. This is "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" -- the soloist is Booker Irvin.


Nobody whipped bands into fighting shape like Mingues. His ensembles are always crackling -- well, most always. Besides some undisputed classics, the Mingues Atlantic box has a session by vibist Teddy Charles (ph), some of which sounds like it was recorded underwater, and a quaint relic of the beatnik era, "The Clown." That's narrated by Gene Sheppard (ph), for good or ill, a grand-daddy of all public radio storytellers.

And then there's that full CD of Mingues talking, which seems excessive, but does reveal a lot about the man beside the music. It is odd that 120-page booklet has no room for track timings or the order in which these pieces appeared on the original LPs, but does have room to plug the Mingues big band that plays in New York every week.

It's great that people still play his tunes and sometimes they sound very nice, but it's not like having the real Mingues among us. As a composer he endures, but as a bassist pushing the band from behind, he's irreplaceable.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead reviewed Charles Mingues, Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings, 1956 to 1961 on Rhino Records.

Dateline: Kevin Whitehead; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews "Charles Mingues, Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961."
Spec: Music Industry; Charles Mingues; Passions of a Man
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Passions of a Man
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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