It was fall of 1968. I was a high school senior (yes, you can do the math), but my school did not offer typing, and my mother correctly felt I needed a typing class before I went to college (where I made some money typing others’ term papers).
I signed up for a night class offered by the county, taught by my former sixth-grade teacher! It was a really good class. Anybody remember typing “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” over and over?
One day, on the radio, I heard an announcement about a meeting at a local hotel, on the same night as my class, to be held by the Christian Anti-Communist League, to discuss those Communists the Beatles and their dastardly new album The Beatles, a.k.a. the White Album.
How was I going to miss that?
It was… remarkable. Here were men presenting to an audience ready to lap up their observations — men who had no inkling about satire, parody, or much of anything else, incredibly monolithic in their world view.
Naturally, feebly attempting to dissect the album track by track, they started with the first one, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” It was obvious that they had never heard Chuck Berry’s 1959 classic “Back in the U.S.A.” which Berry wrote after an unpleasant trip to Australia nor the Beach Boys’ lilting harmonies on songs such as “California Girls.” There was no internet at the time, of course, so I didn’t appreciate the nuances we can research now, but I knew Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, and I knew that these men from CACL were totally out of their depth.
In fact, Wikipedia now cites Paul McCartney’s 1984 Playboy interview:
I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody. And “Back in the USA” was a Chuck Berry song, so it kinda took off from there. I just liked the idea of Georgia girls and talking about places like the Ukraine as if they were California, you know? It was also hands across the water, which I’m still conscious of. ‘Cause they like us out there, even though the bosses in the Kremlin may not. The kids from there do. And that to me is very important for the future of the race.
49 years later, I don’t remember many other details of the presentation, which lasted an hour and a half, all of it absurd. You might imagine how they looked at “Happiness is a Warm Gun” (funny how that’s developed) and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” — clearly appeals to throw off the shackles of American oppression. And they were really confused about “Helter Skelter.”
My brain tells me it was the Christian Anti-Communist League. Perhaps it was really the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC), founded by Dr. Fred C. Schwarz in l953. Their mission was to sponsor “antisubversive” seminars in the United States and overseas.
I am sure they felt they were doing their best to combat evil, but in this particular case the pitch was, to quote Bob Uecker, “just a little outside.”