Friday, November 11, 2011

What We Didn't See

Getting lost in YouTube again...

Looking through the 60's music for something fun, and I keep coming upon clips from Shindig!  Wait.  They had the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Walker Brothers, Petula Clark, Glen Campbell. The Dave Clark 5, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Bobbie Vee - and four other acts ALL ON THE SAME NIGHT??!!  Where was I?  How did I miss this? and Hullabaloo?

They did this week after week.  The guest list at the link, plus this one for Hullabaloo, is simply astounding.  Both shows lasted about a year-and-a-half before being dropped for low ratings.  How could this be?  How were we not glued to this, all of life coming to a halt?  Whoever chose these bands had a magic touch.

Well, it was 1964-66, so that's a partial explanation for me.  I was nearly oblivious to popular music until very late 1965, when I moved to a more suburban, fashion conscious junior high (and the transition from 6th-7th grade was pretty much the dividing line in those days anyway.  7th graders went to dances; that was improper for 6th-graders). In November 1965 I bought my first 45, "California Dreaming" for $0.79 at Manchester Music (directly across from the Red Arrow, which is still there).  It was a line crossed.  Before that, only Hayley Mills and the Green Bay Packers penetrated the from the outside world into mine highly local one.

But the kids just a few years older - why did they not watch?

My theory is that it was caught between generations.  Television viewing was different in those days.  Families had one TV, it was in the living room, and during prime time, what was watched was a negotiated affair.  It was actually a dictatorial affair by parents, but they wanted to have as few arguments in their lives as possible, so they tolerated some kid-only shows and just went elsewhere for 30 minutes.  Not only was Shindig an hour, it was non-stop music they weren't interested in.  They could put up with single performances by rock bands on Ed Sullivan, but a whole hour was just too much.  Worse, some of these bands were not merely music they weren't interested in, but things they actively objected to.  Hair. Electric. Suspiciously bluesy - which would be the wrong kind of black music.

American Bandstand could get away with it, not being in prime time.

Next, check out the MC's and guest hosts on both shows.  They sometimes get it right - the Righteous Brothers, Peter Noone, Barry McGuire - but more often just don't get it: Pat Boone, Trini Lopez.  Many of these were exactly the performers that hippies were sniggering at and trying to get rid of.  They were, like, so uncool, practically Lawrence Welk material.  Suckered the parents in enough to watch, then smack them with the Kinks Girl, you really got me goin'... and after a few tsks and pointed comments from one parent, the other would cross the room "to see what else was on." (Answer:  Shindig's competitors the first year were The Beverley Hillbillies.  Second year, Munsters and Daniel Boone on Thursdays; Flipper and Jackie Gleason on Saturday.  Hullabaloo was up against To Tell the Truth and Twelve O'clock High.  Mom and Dad would have put any of those ahead of the Rolling Stones singing "Heart of Stone."  Paul Anka, okay, maybe.  But not all those dirty-looking bands that can't sing.)

There was another Shindig, BTW.  Scottish, mid 80's.  Also a variety show.  Fascinating if you are interested in 1. The Scots roots of American country dancing - square, reels, contra - performed by men in kilts and women with petticoats.  2. The return influence of American country music on Scottish popular, and/or 3. Well, that's about it, actually. 

Whenever I watch these dances, I think of the line from Tolkien "...and began to dance the Springle-Ring.  A pretty dance, but rather vigorous."

1 comment:

Michael said...

I think you nailed this one. The only reason I watched Shindig was because my brother watched it (2 years ahead of me in school). And he only watched it if he could get away with it (it usually meant my father was on a business trip). It's a good thing my mother wasn't a Beverly Hillbillies fan! Being that I was 10 or 11 and the Red Sox were my primary focus, all I really remember was the Shindig dancers with their knee high boots and short skirts. Without YouTube and the internet, I would be hard pressed to tell you a single group that I saw on that show.