"The Anti Rock & Roll Crusade"
by Janet LaRene
Q: Reverend Riblett, you recently constructed a seven-foot cross out of
rock-and-roll records contributed by members of your congregation, doused it
with gasoline and set fire to it. Why did you do that?
A: Well, it all started several months ago, when I preached a message called
"Rock and Roll: The Devil's Diversion." That's not an original title; it's
from another young man who has a book by the same title. I was preaching on
the various evils of rock and roll, mainly the lyrics and the beat and all
the rest of it that goes with it. It all blends together to make just immoral
music as far as I'm concerned. I read some of the words to it, quoted right
out of some of their own magazines, which I have to use with that message. At
the end of the service, I gave an invitation -- I almost didn't but I decided
to right on the spur of the minute -- and we had eighteen teenagers come
forward re-dedicating their lives, many of them to give up rock and roll.
Because they never realize, although they sit and listen to it twenty-four
hours a day -- sometimes go to bed with it in their ear -- listen to it on
their car radio and at home and everything, they don't really listen to the
words. Most of the time you can't make out the words anyway because of all
the jungle music behind it. We also had three or four come forward trusting
Christ as their Savior -- that's the best part of it. Also, I preached the
same message at Wayne Baptist Temple. We had eleven right there strictly
rededicating their lives to give up rock and roll. Again they didn't realize
what the words said.
Q: If they didn't realize it, do you think it could have any effect on them?
A: Yes. Because of the beat to it. You see, in normal music we have today in
church -- as a matter of fact, I'm Minister of Music, too -- we hit the beat
on the first and third beat, and their music hits it on the second and
fourth, and that's contrary to regular music, normal music. Psychologists --
and this I take from their own words, which they know about about more than I
do -- say it has a definite effect on the human body, the nervous system.
We've run across so many of our teenagers who can't sit still. You've seen
them. They sit around and twitch, doin' something all the time. And I believe
that's a direct cause of it. Because they listen to this stuff all the time,
and the beat and the words. And some of them even use the excuse, "Well, I
don't listen to the words, I just listen to the music." Which is, most of the
time, the worst part of it. It's been traced right back to the jungle drums.
That's where it all comes from. The headhunters use the same beat before they
go out to hunt heads and all this. Of course, that's somebody else's
authority and not mine. I haven't proven it. I can't go to Africa.
Q: So what if the drum beat is from Africa?
A: Well, if the Americans want to go around acting like a bunch of Africans,
I guess it's their business. But the music is primarily to get the natives
stirred up, you know. And that's the only reason they beat the drums is to
get 'em for war -- war drums. I even have a record by Yma Sumac -- I don't
know if you've ever heard of her -- called "Yvarro," and it's got jungle
drums in it. Was recorded right out there with the Africans and the Yvarro
Indian tribe. And it's got all the drums and everything to it. And they
played these drums, beat these drums, before they even went to war or went
out huntin' heads...
Q: Have you ever gone to a Negro Baptist Church?
A: A what?
Q: A Negro Baptist Church?
A: I've heard the music. I haven't been to one personally.
Q: What about the Negro gospel music?
A: Well, rock and roll takes it from -- that's where the history of rock and
roll comes from. It starts out with country and western speeded up faster and
the beat put to it and from Negro gospel music. If you've ever listened to
the Negroes' gospel music, the only problem -- it's not really a problem --
the only thing you can blame them for is enjoyin' their religion. And I think
the colored folk really enjoy their religion a lot more than we do. And I
think it would behoove us to enjoy ours, too. Heh, heh.
Q: So there is nothing evil in the origins of rock and roll?
A: No, because it's taken from everything else. It's not all by itself.
Q: What effect do you think rock and roll has on the young people you see in
your congregation, other than making them jittery? Do you think it's changing
A: Well, yes, since it comes from an evil influence, it can't have any good
effect. Evil produces evil -- it doesn't produce good. Good begets good and
evil begets evil. I don't think it does them any good in their Christian
testimony to go out and be listenin' to this stuff. They're supposed to be
the ones that are saved, as we call them, the ones that are trustin' Christ
as their Savior and have been born again, as the Bible says. It's not a very
good testimony for them to go right out doing the same thing that the rest of
the world does. Because we're supposed to be different. We're supposed to be
peculiar. The Bible says that we're a peculiar people. Old things have passed
away; all things have become new. And one of the things that I think has to
become new is the music. Because it's no good.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to?
A: Mainly gospel.
Q: Getting back to the burning of the cross in the church parking lot, what
was the ritual significance involved?
A: Well, that's a strange one, too. In my house I have a missionary room that
we have for missionaries that come to preach here or at any of the local
churches and they can stay in my house, see. And it was Burl Nelson,
missionary to Australia, and I told him I wanted to do something different, I
should have something unique... instead of just throwing the records out
there on a bonfire and burnin' 'em. And he said, why not make a cross. And I
said, well, that sounds good.
Q: Do you see any Biblical analogy to the effect the new music has on people?
Say, Sodom and Gomorrah? Is it really that great a threat?
A: It possibly could be. Once they slip the suggestive lyrics in and nobody
says anything it'll keep gettin' worse, just like Hollywood, the movies. It
progressively gets worse and the psychologists and all the other men in the
know say that it definitely has an effect on the nervous system. If you
eventually destroy all their nerves and their morals and everything else,
you'll have a Sodom and Gomorrah. Which is what it's comin' to now.
Q: I noticed a picture of the burning cross that most of the records turned
in by your congregation were several years old -- old Elvis Presley, the
Platters. Have you heard any of the new sounds from the Detroit-Ann Arbor
area -- the MC5, in particular?
A: No, I haven't. Those albums in The Observer -- I sent several to young
people into the church to bring them out to me as I was poundin' them onto
the cross there -- it was mostly covers; I had 'most all the records taken
out, because of the fire department. They didn't want too much smoke. I
received one letter that they didn't like the idea of my burnin' Elvis
Presley's records because he's such a nice guy and all this stuff. But I know
to the contrary that he's not such a nice guy. He looks good in public and
before his fans and everything, but I guess he doesn't do so much in his
private life. And he couldn't be too good as he gets up there and sings and
everything and the girls wouldn't tear their blouses off and run up and want
to have babies by him and Ringo and all the rest of 'em, you know. It just
can't be any good, that's all.
Q: Well, then, it's not just the music you object to, but also the lifestyles
the musicians have?
A: Well, that plays a part in it. I don't know of any really good people in
it. All of 'em are either on pot or havin' love-ins and everything. The
Beatles are an immoral bunch. John Lennon and his girlfriend -- Japanese
girlfriend -- Yoko Ono or whatever her name is, livin' together -- open
adultery -- and advertisin' it everywhere so all their teen-age idols could
see it. And I guess all of 'em have been convicted of marijuana, smokin'
marijuana and heaven only knows what else. I don't think they're the greatest
idols for our teenagers to look up to.
Q: What are your steps from here in the campaign against rock and roll? You
said that you are Minister of Music in your church. Have you considered
starting your own group -- fighting fire with fire?
A: No. I see no sense in it. The Bible has had the same appeal to young
people through the ages. All of the Psalms, if we knew the Jewish lyrics to
them, are songs, and David wrote many of them while he was out in the fields,
you know, and playin' his harp. God appealed to him then through the written
word, just like he appeals to teenagers today. Only trouble is gettin' 'em to
sit down long enough, turn the rock and roll off long enough to listen to it.
It's on the radio, you know, they got it plugged in their ears -- transistors, sittin'
- from Twenty Minute Fandangos and Forever Changes: A Rock Bazaar, ed. by
Jonathan Eisen (New York: Random House, 1971).
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