Preserving Wheaton site would not honor its ties to rock
About 30 years ago, many radio stations adopted the “classic rock” format, a term that entered the public lexicon without much recognition that it’s an oxymoron. As a style of music, rock ’n’ roll is rooted in rebellion and rejecting the status quo. Would Jerry Lee Lewis want to be called “classic”?
A debate in Wheaton could take oxymoronic musical genres to new heights with the creation of “historic rock.” A number of people think the Wheaton Recreation Center should receive a historic designation, in part, because in 1969, before anyone knew who they were, Led Zeppelin played there. Maybe that’s true, or maybe that’s an urban legend. Many people believe the assertion though there’s little evidence to support the band actually played there.
But since when has rock ’n’ roll been about bricks and mortar? Elvis Presley shook his hips to outrage middle America. Long after hip-shaking became passé, rock found other ways to shock, including Led Zep’s ever-increasing volume and sensuality on stage.
If indeed the band played in Wheaton — and even if the assertion is false, who doesn’t want to believe it? — preserving the rec center is no way to honor that event. The building has a leaky roof and mold. A kitchen stove has only two burners that work. There’s a lump on the basketball court that defies attempts at repair.
Beyond the tenuous connection to popular culture, others want the building preserved because of its Asian-influenced modern design architecture. Even so, there’s not much to preserve. To most people, the building would be a universally endorsed candidate for demolition.
The community desperately needs the new rec center-library that’s planned to be constructed in its place. The Planning Board should approve the request to raze the building.
And if there are people who want to honor one of the band’s first performances, a music festival might be more appropriate. Or possibly a plaque on the new building: “Robert Plant might have slept here.”