Showing posts with label van morrison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label van morrison. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Got a Good Beat ~ You Can Dance To It

American Bandstand wasn't exactly before my time, but it was more of another era; more my sisters' time than mine, mostly.

Beginning in 1957 (when I was two, mind you), American Bandstand was broadcast every weekday afternoon, up until 1963, when it was moved to Saturdays.

I vaguely remember my older sister rushing downstairs every day, after she'd changed out of her school dress, to tune the big old Motorola in the living room (or "front room", as we called it) to ABC.  My sister and I had an understanding; she would ignore me unless she was ticked off at me about something, and I would stay out of her way.  She was 10 years older than me, so we didn't exactly have a lot of shared experiences.

In our two-story farmhouse, we had a long (to me) flight of wooden stairs leading down from the kids' rooms upstairs to the kitchen; and halfway down, there was a cross-hatched vent in the wall, where I could sit, mid-flight, and peer into the living room, and watch the TV, if I had a mind to.  Or, I could spy on people.  Whichever I chose.

So, since I didn't want to bother my sister (heaven forbid!), I'd sometimes sit on that staircase and watch American Bandstand through the big ol' vent in the wall.  But I was always stealthy like that.

The things I remember most about Bandstand back then were the dancers.  All the kids could really dance.  Dancing apparently was big back then.  Even the guys were good dancers, at least the ones on Bandstand.  People don't really dance anymore, do they?   And you know guys don't dance anymore, and haven't since the 1970's, unless they were some kind of disco freak of nature, or John Travolta.  Guys kind of awkwardly swing their arms and shuffle their feet, if forced onto the dance floor by some wedding emergency or what-not.

But, back then, the guys were good dancers!  They could keep up with the girls, who naturally love to dance.  Girls will dance anywhere, anytime.  By themselves, in a group; doesn't matter.  Two girls can be walking down the street, and if one of them starts dancing (for no reason), the other one will fall right in line, as if the whole thing had been choreographed.  I was walking past someone's desk at work today, and a song from Grease was wafting out of their radio.  I almost stopped in my tracks and started busting some of my famous "Grease" moves right then and there.  Girls are different.

But here, on American Bandstand, in the late fifties, the guys knew all the cool dances.  The.....stroll?  The....jitterbug?  Sorry, I'm not an expert on the 1950's.  Whatever it was they did back then, though, the guys could do.

Granted, Dick chose the best dancers out of the audience, so it was kind of a setup deal, but I imagine the kids didn't even venture to attend the live broadcast if they didn't already know that they could hold their own against the competition.

One thing that Dick did, in order to save money, was to have all his guests lip synch their songs.  I, even at age 3 or 5 or 7 or whatever, realized this.  That was because, (a) I knew all the records by heart, and I knew that nobody could recreate them so faithfully, and (b) the artists tended to mess up sometimes.  (You'd think they would have had the recordings memorized, wouldn't you?  Didn't they even listen to their own records?)

Here's one guy, though, who didn't lip synch, and there's no need to wonder why.  One could not keep a Killer down:

 By 1963, when AB had moved to Saturdays, I was a bit more cognizant of what was going on, music-wise.  The one and only act I can honestly say I remember seeing on American Bandstand was the Beach Boys.  Maybe those matching striped shirts got stuck in my mind.

Gee, do you think the guys are lip synching here?

And by the mid-sixties, the dance moves had changed.  We were long past the twist, which is just a stupid, stupid dance, but fun for little kids to do!

When you think about the twist, it is basically a lazy dance.  I mean, a geriatric old man could do the twist in his kitchen, just reaching to get a box of Raisin Bran out of the cupboard.  No offense to Chubby Checker, because I suppose new dance moves were hard to invent.

But in the mid-sixties, we were so much groovier.  I mean, we had the frug, and we had the jerk.  The jerk is a fun, funny dance to watch someone do.  There is really only a certain tempo that one can do the jerk to, but back then, kids would try to do it to any type of song, even a ballad.  The jerk didn't lend itself well to ballads.

We also had the mashed potato (a variation of the twist, without the arm motions), the pony, the watusi.

If I was to invent a dance move, I'd call mine the "head bob".  It's a variation of the jerk, but you only have to bob your head up and down, while keeping the rest of your body motionless.  It's an easy dance to learn, but that's the beauty of it.  And it works with ballads, too.  Unlike the jerk.

The cool thing about all these new sixties dances was that one could do them alone.  Thus began the self-centeredness of the baby boomers.

Aside from the dancers and the lip synch-ers, my two favorite segments of American Bandstand were the countdown and the rate-a-record.

The countdown was always climactic.  "Oh, I HOPE my very favorite song is at the top of the charts this week!  Oh, it is!  P.S. I Love You, by the Beatles!  Scrreeeeem!"

I loved how Dick would slide the covering away from each number, to reveal the songs from 10 to 1.  He'd pull the first 6 or 7 away really quickly, because nobody really cared about those anyway; until he got to the big moment (simulated drum roll) ~ the number one song of the week!

We cared about that stuff, like it mattered, but I guess it did matter back then.  It's like rooting for your hometown sports team, perhaps.  You just wanted your team to win!  And it had better not be those gross Rolling Stones, beating out John, Paul, George, etc.!

Of course, what American Bandstand will always be known for is the rate-a-record segment.  Dick would pull a guy and a gal out of the audience to stand next to him behind the....ledge?  and carefully consider whether they liked song A or song B better, and what rating they would give to each song.  77 always seemed like a popular number.  65 for the second place winner.

"Why do you like song A the best?"

"Well, it's got a good beat.  You can dance to it."

Dick could have just as well said, "Here are the Conga Drum Drummers and their new song, 'Boom Crash Boom', and the kids on the....podium?  would have said, "I like this one!  It's got a good beat; you can dance to it."

Kids are so susceptible to a good beat.  That's why they'd like my new dance, the Head Bob!  I'm going to film a video of it, and it will take off like wildfire!

In conclusion, I never saw this performance "live" (ha), but I found it on YouTube, and it's my very favorite lip-synching song rendition from American Bandstand.  Because it's so excruciatingly painful to watch.

Van Morrison wasn't, apparently, all "down" with the whole lip-synching spiel.  Remind me, though, if I ever chance to see Van Morrison in concert, pray that it's performed in the round.  Because apparently, Van likes to stare at things behind him a lot.

On a more serious note, let me say that Dick Clark did not just host and produce American Bandstand.  He also was in charge of the best pure game show ever, the $10,000 Pyramid.  You know, one of those game shows where one actually had to think.

More personally, Dick Clark also loved country music.

There's lots of YouTube videos to be found of Dick Clark interviewing country stars, and he actually knew them, and knew about them.  Maybe it was all research, but I don't think it was.  Then again, Dick Clark was always comfortable, and interested, in talking to any artist about their music.


I think maybe that describes Dick Clark the best.

We always felt comfortable around Dick Clark.  He ushered in a whole lot of musical eras, and we accepted all of them, maybe because Dick let us know that they were all all right.

Dick Clark was one of the good guys.  I give him a 99.  Point 9.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Songs That Just Never Go Away

I was sitting in the dentist chair yesterday afternoon, and those places are always tuned to the most innocuous radio stations, since sitting in the dentist chair is stressful enough; one does not need to be subjected to aggravating music, besides.

So, they've got the oldies station blaring away, which I like. And the hygienest's got that cavitron buzzing, and I'm just thinking, will this be over soon?

When what, pray tell, comes on the radio, but this:

Watching Van's discomfort while lip-synching this song is much like the discomfort I feel whenever I hear this song.

Granted, this was a good song at one time. But you know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt? Well, there you go.

It's funny how with some songs, one could hear them a million times and still enjoy them. Other songs just don't wear that well.

By way of contrast, I could hear this (awkwardly lip-synched) song over and over and over, and I would still get a little thrill every time:

So, what is it? The melody? I say yes. Some melodies are "decent"; some are timeless.

This proves my oft-repeated opinion that melodies are what counts.

Because, frankly, the subject manner of both "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Don't Worry, Baby" are basically the same. Just little bits of fluff.

Thus, my little songwriting lesson of the day, because there really should be a point to this post, other than just posting videos of songs that I'm really sick of (although that does make me feel better).

So, seeing as how I'm old, and I remember stuff from back in the gramophone days (seriously, I don't), these are some of the songs that, in my opinion, just got overplayed ad nauseum on the radio, back when people used to listen to the radio. And if I hear these songs today, after lo these many years, I'm still sick to death of them.

In this particular performance, the tempo is sped up from that on the record, which is a good thing, because the song gets over sooner.

Even "moderned up", while the performance is nice, the song is still sickening. Sorry, Joe South.

Remember this? 1968? Most played to death song of the year. I like Tom T. Hall; he wrote a lot of good songs, but....

Okay, yea, Johnny Cash is a legend and all that. I'll grant you that, but this song isn't even that good! And it's so repetitive. If you overlook the fact that you're viewing a performance by one of country music's icons, you will admit that this song is just tiresome:

Even as a non-songwriter in 1972, I realized how bad these lyrics were. And I was sort of offended by the inanity. But the radio station just kept playing it!

Let's see if I've got this right: "Skippity doo-dah, thank you, Lord, for makin' him for me"......"I'll fix your lunch if you fix mine".....

No offense, Donna Fargo. I understand you're a really nice person. But back then, I was cleaning motel rooms for spending money, carrying my portable radio with me, and I had to keep hearing this whole skippity doo-dah nonsense, and it made me irate. It was bad enough just cleaning those rooms. I was seventeen, it was hot, and I just wanted to be lying out by the pool, and not getting up at 7:00 a.m. every day in June to clean toilets.

Fast forward to the eighties (all decades should be well represented). I was searching for this video, and I found some comments to the effect of, "thanks so much for the memories". Well, yea, I have memories of this song, too. Memories of every freakin' time I got in the car to drive somewhere, I had to be subjected to this song. "Uh-huh":

I've mentioned this song before, but it just has to be included here. Back in the sixties (I'm told), there was a big counter-culture drug thing going on. And it makes sense when one listens to this song. I'm imagining Hoyt Axton scribbling these lines on a napkin, and somebody saying, "that's heavy, man", when in reality, it's obviously complete nonsense.

Unfortunately for us (the listeners), and fortunately for Hoyt Axton, this song achieved heavy rotation on the rock stations. But anytime I hear the words, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog", I just have to punch that button to change the channel.

So, there you have it. Some of my least favorite, albeit, overplayed songs of the millennium.

I didn't include my all-time least favorite song, because, thankfully, it hasn't really been overplayed. But readers of my blog know what that is.

I would be interested in knowing what your most overplayed song is. Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Songs You Like, But Never Want To Hear Again

Driving along, doing my Saturday errands, I flipped the dial to the oldies station, and, as I've said in the past, you never catch the good songs. I don't know if they keep them in a time-release vault, only to be opened at the witching hour, or what, but seeing as Daylight Savings Time ends tonight, I think they must play the good songs in that "extra hour" that happens once a year.

But the song I heard this morning isn't actually a bad song; it's a good song. It's just that, after hearing it approximately 3,000,000 times in my life, I don't care to hear it ever again.

Here's the one I mean:

(lip-synching badly - ha!)

Notice on the second song how the harmonica starts playing before he even pulls it out of his it! ha! And what's with him staring at that honeycomb wall throughout the whole song? "Don't look at me - I'm hideous!"

On the other hand, I never get tired of hearing this song, maybe because I've only heard it 2,000,000 times:

And you gotta love the "choreography" in this performance. "Okay, Dennis & Carl, you stand with your arms crossed; Al and Mike, stand there - do nothing! I repeat, do nothing. Okay Mike, you can snap your fingers during the last half of the song, but that's it."

Dick Clark was kind of a doofus. I know he's a legend and all, but he acted like he'd never heard of the Beach Boys before.

I do like the part about, "Well, I write and produce the songs, so I guess I get to say what we do next." You go, Brian!

I think I'll browse youtube some more later, to see if I can find some of those other songs I never want to hear again.

How about you? Got any songs that you're thoroughly sick of?