If you’ve attended a basketball game since students returned from winter break, you may have noticed something a little different coming from the pep band. The crowd favorite ‘Rock and Roll, Part Two’ is gone, and according to Dr. Richard Bundy, the director of the Blue Band, it’s gone for good.
Bundy says the Blue Band has been playing the song since the mid-80’s, and that it’s always gotten the best crowd reaction and participation. The Blue Band typically plays the song before the football team comes out of the tunnel and during other points of the game, as the crowd loudly spells out “P-S-U” following three short build-ups. Many of you may recall that the song was not played during the game against Nebraska this year in lieu of the players walking out of the tunnel to mid-field for a prayer.
‘Rock and Roll’, also known as ‘The Hey Song’, was written by British glam rock artist Gary Glitter in 1972. Glitter is a registered sex offender, and was convicted of possession of child pornography in 1997. He was convicted again in 2005, for obscene acts with minors.
“At the time of the first conviction, I received a flurry of concern about using the song,” Bundy said. “Through the years, every season, I would get e-mails questioning our use of that song. In 2005 when he was convicted again, I received another flood of e-mails questioning the decision.”
The NFL even banned its teams from using the song in stadiums beginning in 2006, but the Blue Band continued to play the anthem on the grounds that it wasn’t compensating Glitter. Instead, they had an agreement to use the song whereby no money or any other type of compensation was exchanged. This all changed in early November when the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse allegations were made public, and Bundy decided to alter the song.
“When the Sandusky situation broke, we got another flurry of e-mails requesting us to stop using the song,” Bundy said. “I thought it would be helpful to break ties with the song because of what Gary Glitter was convicted of. Playing his music doesn’t insinuate support for sexual abuse, but I didn’t want to give the media and Penn State critics any other thing to bash us about.”
The song has now been completely purged of Glitter’s influence. Instead, the tune begins with a few verses from Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ followed by the beginning of the Penn State fight song, ‘Fight on State.’ The idea is that fans will say “Fight on State” during each of the three buildups followed by the appropriate “P-S-U.”
“I wanted to keep the same form and traditional crowd responses with a couple minor changes so it no longer has anything to do with ‘Rock and Roll, Part II’,” Bundy said.
The first time I heard the new version was in Dallas during the TicketCity Bowl. As someone who has been humming the Penn State version of ‘Rock and Roll’ for most of my life, it takes some getting used to. Every student I’ve spoken to agrees that the new version doesn’t sound nearly as good as the original version. But I believe that if the crowd begins to yell “Fight on State” along with “P-S-U”, it could create another a cool gameday element.
As Bundy put it, “I’d rather explain this change to Penn State people than explain to a critic why we’re still playing it.”