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Rock Around the Clock: L/A's Music Making Machine 1950's & 1970's



The Power of Music and its influence can be seen through the age of music most important to the local baby boomer generation.  The exhibit which places emphasis on Rock & Roll of the 50’s to the 70’s with its rhythm and blues, reveals a snapshot of L-A history embedded with images and memorabilia.  One can view the economic, political and cultural changes that were the background of local music life such as the decline of manufacturing, the local garage band movement and the civil rights struggle in our nation. 

The desired effect of this show design is to give a sense of the energy and the upheaval of rapid changes with a sort of visual chaos resembling a teenagers bedroom walls.  By having these evocative objects and images in a visual jumble, we hope the element of surprise and seemingly random combination will touch off powerful feelings for the viewer.  The exhibit serves to make a most important connection to an aging but still active and energetic population of local musicians and their fans as well as introduce a fun and highly changing era to the younger generations.  For most of the working musicians of our area, their active working period stretched from their teenage years in the 1950s all the way through the seventies and beyond, many still performing today.

One of the exciting pieces to the exhibit was the discovery that – “As the mills fell, the music rose,” which is reflected in a striking vignette by a resident artist, Lane Taplin, at Maine College of Art (MECA).  “Woven Stories of the Spirit of Millwork from the Past, Present, and Future”, showcases the demise of the mills with incredible sculptures and installations fashioned out of remnants from the mills and serves in capturing millworkers in their intricacy, their art and their impact.  After scavenging through storage areas of the Museum, the artist hand-wove and silkscreened three pairs of millworker’s overalls, known as “Pantalon avec Bavette”, inspired by stories told by Bates Millworker’s children and grandchildren. 

Dale Chapman, Chair of the Bates College Music Program identified local music influence through three major movements:  The Civil Rights Movement showing the modern movement unfolding in the wake of the Second World War, in the context of an extended period of American prosperity and optimism; The Suburbs and Postwar American Culture where the mortgage subsidy provisions of the G.I. Bill worked in tandem with the dramatic growth of the suburbs during this period; and, 1950’s Rock n’ Roll and Postwar American Culture where the exhibit continues by recognizing the contrast that while with the Tin Pan Alley lyrics, which tended to be focused on romantic love, rock n’ roll songs were shocking in their frank allusions to sexuality.

Amid the civil rights battleground, manufacturing decline, sexual revolution, urban renewal, business growth, global economics, lava lamps, bell bottoms, classic cars, space race, and more, music framed the post-war time of the 1950s to the 1970s. From the rock & roll fifties to the rhythm & blues of the seventies, music reacted to, reflected on, and influenced the times and the people of Lewiston-Auburn.   The Power of Music unfolds in this exhibition and showcases the visual jumble of memories and memorabilia from an era we remain nostalgic for today.
Kevin Callahan and Rachel Desgrosseilliers – Co-Curators