Sticking it to the Man – Six Decades of Teen Angst (The 50s)

by Sarah Gray

Did you think your Nana was innocent of all night partying, pre-marital sex, and raging against the proverbial machine?  Guess again.  Teen angst is as time honored a part of our culture as apple pie and baseball.  For the next several weeks this list will serve as a time travel getaway from the birth of rock and roll, and thus the birth of our widespread, mass marketed teen angst from the 50s through the oughts.


The 50s gave teen angst its first large scale media outlet with the advent of rock and roll and its emphasis on youth and fun.  The initial backlash against the popularity of rock and roll is emblematic of every generational clash initiating from the dawn of time and many attribute rock and roll with defining teen culture as a distinct counterexample of adult culture and authority.  Rock and roll gave teens an outlet to fight the power, though the songs themselves tend to focus on the fun of youth in the 1950s.  This will not last.  We get properly angry soon enough.

1 – Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues – 1958

You know what is a huge downer?  Working instead of chasing tail and going to parties.  Summer is the time you are supposed to be free as a teen.  School is out and you haven’t yet begun the doldrums of the workaday life.  In “Summertime Blues” Cochran highlights the injustice of having your car privileges revoked because you take a day off of work and even jokes about Congress not caring because he is not old enough to vote.  Said as a cheeky aside or not, this is true.  No one takes you seriously in your teens because you are not old enough to vote and have no money and it is super annoying!  Because you have opinions!  And stuff you want to do!

2 – The Coasters – Yakety Yak – 1958

What was that, mom?  Clean your room, do your homework, be nice to your sister, blah blah blah?  Also known as yakety yak?  The Coasters hate chores and responsibility as much as you do.  The next time your Nana makes a passive aggressive comment about how messy your room is, check her record collection for The Coasters and know that she was just as useless and irresponsible as you were in your teens.

3 – Chuck Berry – Roll Over Beethoven – 1956

Out with the old, on with the new.

4 – The Everly Brothers – Wake Up Little Susie – 1957

This song was banned on a number of more conservative radio stations for its suggestive lyrics, which would seem tame by today’s standards, but what better to drive your parents crazy with than a song about staying out late and getting in trouble (with a member of the opposite sex!) that has been deemed inappropriate enough to ban?

Check Back Next Friday for 5 More From the 60s.  

4 thoughts on “Sticking it to the Man – Six Decades of Teen Angst (The 50s)

  1. All so true. I am a teen of the 70’s but lived the 50’s through my parents, the 60’s through my older sisters and the 80’s through my older sons. I just can’t think about the 90’s. Good music has just gone underground it seems. I love your style. 🙂

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