The Ministry of Truth
— Things we find interesting from our collections
It all started when…
“Try It,” was released, it was right after “Riot On Sunset Strip” and Billboard Magazine had picked it to be The Standells next big hit. They thought for sure it was going to climb the charts, but right about that time, this man from Dallas Texas, by the name of Gordon McClendon, who was the owner of radio station KLIF and a big company that programmed for a number of radio stations, decided to form this committee to judge record lyrics and for some reason he picked out song “Try It” for being obscene and encouraging young girls to have sex.
Gordon was very conservative. He went on national campaign about “Try It,” saying, “This record is a classic example of what we call obscene, and we’re not going to play it on any of our stations and we advise other radio stations not to play it as well.”
That stopped the record dead cold, it was number one on a lot of markets and all the sudden they refused to play it anymore. In Los Angeles for instance, it was number one on KLRA, and KHJ refused to play it—so it stopped it dead in it’s tracks. It was probably no more encouraging to a girl to have sex than “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.
At this time, Art Linkletter had a TV show called House Party and he had a segment on it called “Let’s Talk,” where he’d have on different factions debating each other on issues and had the Standells on debating Gordon McClendon. The Standells were really pissed, to say the least because they thought it was going to be a hit record, and so did everybody else. Art Linkletter heard about him banning the record and decided to have everyone on the show debating McClendon. They had this debate at the Hullabaloo Club, which was a big teenage nightclub that was very popular back then and later became the Aquarius Theater. The Standells used to play there with the Buffalo Springfield and other groups.
The place was chocked full of teenagers; so you couldn’t ask for a better audience for the Standells. Word got out to all those kids, about some of Gordon’s misdeeds and during the debate, somebody would shout out, “What about the baseball games, McClendon?”
And his face would get all red because it was known that his radio station did “live” broadcasts of baseball games that the announcer’s didn’t even go to. The Standells made him look pretty bad by all accounts, because it was so ludicrous. Larry Tamblyn* really got him when I said, “What about the song ‘Birds Do It, Bees Do It’? What does that mean?”
Immediately everybody roared, and he said, “What are they referring to, ‘Birds do it, bees do it, let’s fall in love?’”
He couldn’t answer that, of course, but they cut that out in the editing, but everyone who was in the audience knew they massacred him.
But it was all for naught, the record was destroyed—people just wouldn’t play it even though it was selling, and that was probably the beginning of the end for The Standells.
*Larry Tamblyn is one of the original members of the Standells, a group that recorded what many consider to be the first punk song, “Dirty Water," which is a 1965 ditty about how Boston is a shit hole. "Dirty Water" is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.