Rock Flashback: Tallahassee Roasts the Rolling Stones, 1975

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Despite the negative associations involved with book burning -- Nazi Germany and Ray Bradbury's novel "Fahrenheit 451" -- those who want to make a point about the moral state of popular culture have never been shy about using fire to do it. (Getty Images/Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

Despite the negative associations involved with book burning — Nazi Germany and Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451″ — those who want to make a point about the moral state of popular culture have never been shy about using fire to do it. (Getty Images/Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

Records by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Elvis Presley[/lastfm] were burned in the ’50s; in the 1960s, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Beatles[/lastfm] records were consigned to hellfire. And in December 1975, a public record burning was held in Florida.

A Tallahassee pastor held what a columnist described as “a spirited bonfire celebration.” Several hundred albums worth about $2,200 all told were put to the torch.

Elvis records were burned on various pretenses, from his presumably corrupting effect on the morals of kids to the alleged communist influence of rock ‘n’ roll. Beatles records were burned after [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]John Lennon[/lastfm] suggested that the Fab Four were more popular than Jesus.

By the 1970s, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and that provided the justification for the Tallahassee record roast. The Reverend Mr. Charles Boykin criticized rock music for its “appeal to the flesh,” but he wasn’t just speaking in generalities — he had statistics. Out of a thousand girls giving birth out of wedlock, he claimed, 984 of them were listening to rock music when they got pregnant. To fight this lascivious trend, albums by artists including the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rolling Stones[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Elton John[/lastfm] were fricasseed.

The columnist wisecracked that all of the pregnant girls were breathing at the time of conception, so “maybe the congregation should hold their breath.” While a few critics might have been sympathetic to setting copies of It’s Only Rock and Roll (the Stones’ most recent album) ablaze, the protest got little notice at the time, and had little effect — after all, Boykin wasn’t calling for the burning of rock radio stations.

Experience more Rock Flashbacks.

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