As Tightwad Hill so eloquently put it, it’s UCLA week. The national champ runner up comes to town, bringing with it the coolest foreign player name since Gadzuric. Just a few weeks ago, I crossed this off as an easy loss, but now who knows. An assuredy spirited rivalry, it doesn’t take much for these two teams and fanbases to become filled with passionate rage. Some focus on The Streak, a 50+ game losing streak by Cal at the hands of these UCLA Bruins. Others focus on the legions of bandwagon UCLA fans, who couldn’t even pick out Yaounde, Cameroon on the map. I mean, c’mon!??!!? But for some the animosity stems from something stretching back further than the early Kennedy administration: the fight song(s).
For those with Golden Bear allegiances, it’s Big C. For those who sacrifice tasty, young children to the bloody altar of Wooden, it’s Sons of Westwood. The names might be different, but many might have noticed that both schools have eerily similar fight songs. The only real difference is that UCLA’s horn lines are a bit more legato if you know what I mean and I think you most likely don’t. Frankly, staccato is where it’s at, bitches.
But most probably have no idea why, how, which, when, why, or even how both schools seemed to get a similar fight song. Some have been known to even wonder what both schools seemed to get a similar fight song. And those people are idiots.
Well, basically, UCLA stole our fight song over almost 60 years ago. They already "sampled" our colors and mascot (though why their neutered it makes no sense, especially considering they later gave it what I can only assume is an absurdly horny girlfriend). They even stole our Shipp (he was ours, dammit!). So, taking our fight song certainly wasn’t that far away. To shed some light into yet another reason why Maurice Jones-Drew’s singlehanded slaughter of us in 2005 was so painful, I turn to the Cal Band Alumni Association History Project on Big C, found here.
“Big C” is traditionally the first song of the pregame to which the Band marches its signature Flying Wedge formation, and it is unquestionably the most famous and controversial Cal Song. “Big C” was written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams, with words by Norman Loyall McLaren. It was written to commemorate the large cement C built “on our rugged Eastern foothills” in 1905, and also as a result of the Daily Californian’s annual song competition. In the Fall of 1913, the competition was stiff; but the Rally Committee managed to narrow the field down to two songs, “Big C” and “Stanford Jonah.” “Big C” took the prize and “Jonah” won the next year.
The controversy around the song has its roots in the “All University Weekend,” an annual event which began around 1948 and lasted into the 1960s. This event was a double header football game that pitted Cal against UCLA and UC Davis against UC Santa Barbara. The games were played alternately in Berkeley one year and in Los Angeles the next year. Bands from all four of the schools would perform together in one giant, combined halftime show. In one of the last “All U Weekends,” F. Kelley James, then Associate Director of the UCLA Band and alumnus of the Cal Band wrote an arrangement of “Big C” for the combined halftime show.
Afterwards, UCLA kept using his arrangement of “Big C,” adding its own lyrics and renaming it “Sons of Westwood.” The UCLA Band began playing it regularly as the new fight song. James Berdahl, then director of the Cal Band, was incensed over what he felt was a violation of the sanctity of Cal Songs. A bitter exchange ensued between Berdahl and James for the next several years concerning the legal and ethical grounds under which “Big C” was appropriated. The matter came to a head in February 18, 1969, when Irwin Coster, working on behalf of the UCLA cause, received official word from the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress that “Big C” had never been copyrighted, and thus it was in the Public Domain. Public Domain status meant that only adaptations and arrangements of the song could be copyrighted, so UCLA had every legal right to “steal” the song. Some regents and UCLA administrators thought it quite reasonable that this “little sister” of Cal maintain “Sons of Westwood” as an affirmation of the University of California’s solidarity. However, ardent students and alumni at Cal were never happy with the situation, especially Berdahl, who continued to fight for the abolition of “Sons of Westwood” through the remainder of his tenure as director. Ironically, uninformed people recognize “Sons of Westwood” as UCLA’s song due to their successful football program and exposure on televised games and wonder why Cal plays UCLA’s fight song so much.
DAMN YOU, TURNCOAT F. KELLEY JAMES! May Tedford smite you and turn your wives into pillars of salt.
There was supposedly a Cease and Desist letter sent from Cal to UCLA, but I cannot find it online. If anybody knows where to find it, that would be cool.
UCLA’s regional insecurities have put a sour taste in our mouth for decades longer than we here at The California Golden Blogs have even been alive to have mouth in which a sour taste might be put (not a run-on sentence!). As our focus turns to the two teams meeting in valiant battle, I just wanted to bring attention to one of the lesser known, yet still as important, reasons to dislike UCLA. May Tedford shine His light down upon our basketball team to lead them to victory over our southern baby brothers.