Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #19:
Free Fare

Things were very different back in the early 70's when I attended junior high and high school. The Vietnam War, and that asshole Richard Nixon, gave the youth of America a common enemy to unite against. We feared the draft, but beyond that, students everywhere were uniting against causes of repression large and small. A powerful tool had been discovered in the 60's: Civil Disobedience.

Basically, civil disobedience works like this: Some authority somewhere makes oppressive rules that create suffering for a large group of people. This could be something as large as the draft, or as small as a new rule against smoking on school grounds. Civil disobedience occurred when the entire group of repressed people all broke the rules at the same time, challenging the authorities with the daunting and impossible task of arresting or punishing everybody at once. Usually, this would consist of a large protest attended by virtually everyone at a given major college, shutting down the whole school until the protesters were placated somehow, or, as in the Kent State shootings, someone was murdered by the authorities.

This idea trickled down to many smaller disaffected groups, which even included my entire junior high school at one point. I don't even remember what the cause was, probably the draft or the war, but one day all the students at my junior high school decided to walk out of their classes at a certain predetermined time of day, and march around the school's track. The school's administration knew they could do nothing about this, and just let it go on. Afterwards, everyone went back about their business as if nothing had happened.

This little tale is not really about civil disobedience. But it does show that, given enough loathing for something or someone, students could become of one mind when showing their displeasure toward a hated entity.

In my school district, Junior High consisted of grades 7 through 9, and of course High School was grades 10 through 12.

One day during my ninth grade year of junior high, an exciting assembly was held in which a real live rock band gave a concert. The name of the band was Free Fare. They played covers of the current hits and made fun of commercials on TV, doing skits as well as music. Remember, this was 1973 or so, and rock music was only just beginning to be accepted by the older half of the country's population, and had yet to dry up in a creative sense and become nothing but the tool of industry and government that it is today.

So this was very heady stuff, for your school to be calling an assembly that was simply a short rock concert. Free Fare was very well accepted, and they would be giving a REAL concert at the school this Friday night! Would we go? Hell yes, we would!

Free Fare gave their concert that Friday night. It was very well attended. They sold posters at the end of the show, and I even bought one and sported it on my wall for about a year.

But they did one little thing at the very end of the show: They preached a little. They revealed themselves to be Christians and gave a brief little "inspirational" message before departing.

I blew that whole thing off, but I remember my school counselor, Mr. MacDonald, relating that many, many students were put off by the Christian bomb that Free Fare had dropped on them at the end of the show. It was only then that most students realized that many of the songs they had played had lyrics that were spiritual in nature. The only one I remember was "Keeper of the Castle." Anyway, this left many students feeling duped and offended by both the band and the school.

The label "Christian Rock" hadn't been invented yet, and indeed, it sounded like an oxymoron at the time. But that's what they were, and since there was no MTV, and radio stations generally wouldn't touch them (there were exceptions, like The Grass Roots, Bread and The Hollies), the only way for them to get their message out was through the schools.

Life went on, and we graduated junior high, and moved on to high school.

One day, during my first year of high school, another Free Fare assembly was called. Naturally, I was excited. I had loved last year's assembly and concert at the junior high school, and I hadn't been too put off by the whole Christian thing.

But once the assembly began, I realized there was a serious problem. It was NOT the same band. I'd had the poster on my wall for a year, and not ONE of these fuckers was on it! That was when I realized that the whole Free Fare concept was not a band at all, but just a Christian tool. And the Christians had just made a serious mistake.

The new band did their best. I remember a parody of a McDonald's commercial they did that made me laugh out loud. When I looked around, nobody else was laughing.

As the assembly ended, they gave their pitch for their concert at the school. Everything got very quiet, and some kid yelled, "We're not teeny boppers!"

Two days later, during the morning announcement over the intercom, it was announced that the Free Fare concert had been canceled due to lack of ticket sales.

Nearly every student in the entire school burst into applause and cheering. No shit, I could hear the noise coming through the walls from the other classrooms!

I thought of the Who's "We're Not Gonna Take It" or "Won't Get Fooled Again", and I felt proud. My entire school had rejected the school administration's cooperation with the Christians and their silly and rather insulting tool, Free Fare.

Nothing that cool ever happened in school again.

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