Songs are becoming golden oldies faster than ever in the all-new, ever-changing AC (After Computer) world. World-shakers such as the Beatles or Beethoven are relegated to sound bytes in computers or questions in trivia quizzes, while American Idol stars are replaced at an ever faster rate. As media moves faster and pop culture frantically tries to keep pace we find more of our memories becoming obsolete. Society moves forward, but at what price?
Recently I was wearing my old, comfortable WMCA Good Guys sweat shirt, a scruffy but clean grey with Peter Noone's face thereon. (If I mentioned he was a member of Herman's Hermits would it help?) I apent more time explaining who he, and they, were rather than doing the shopping I went out for. Luckily nobody saw the Dick Clark medallion I was wearing, for while more people might know the Dorian Grey-like host of American Bandstand and Times Square broadcasts, I'd just as probably have to spend more time explaining it.
Growing up nowadays means you missed the Golden Age of rock and roll radio. Bedtime meant you stayed under the covers with the radio on your ear, listening to the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, The Monkees, Aretha Franklin, The Temps, Ella Fitzgerald and anything else the jocks decided to throw at you between pimple cream ads and radio spots for whatever groovy group was in town that weekend. There wasn't any compartmentalization of bands due to the music they played or any other reason. It was good, it was played. The jocks were like old friends talking about the bands, and they'd do guest appearances at neighborhood schools. As FM radio gradually took over we acquired new musical guides such as Pete Fornatelle and Allison "Nightbird" Steele, but we also got a sense of what music was "hip" and what wasn't. I'd still buy Monkees albums, but I'd hide them between the Beatles and Doors records.
Rock and roll TV was a hell of a lot more fun before the advent of music videos. Ed Sullivision, excuse me, Ed Sullivan, might have had Topo Gigo The Talking Mouse, but he also had the Beatles, Stones, Doors and lots of other bands. The Beatles' Sullivan appearance was one of the most watched television events ever, and who can forget both the Stones and Doors trying to see what they could get away with lyrics-wise. It's fairly safe to say most of America grew up musically with Ed Sullivan's "really big shew."
I'm too young to remember Dick Clark's "American Bandstand"'s Philadelphia origins with teen idols such as Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and the other suave Italians, but the show did give me at least one lasting memory. I hadn't heard of them before, but the mighty Bob Seger System was there to promote "Noah", probably playing "Lucifer" or "Big River". Seger had a reverse Gibson Firebird painted like the American flag and drummer Pep Perrine had four (!!) bass drums, two mounted on poles above his head. He played them too!
Kids nowadays won't remember them, and probably their parent won't, but the 45s! Incredible covers-Beatles, Stones, Lovin' Spoonful, Creedence. I remember taking a portable phono down to Van Cortlandt Park and lazing in the sun with a name long forgotten blonde whose mom was trying to match myself and her daughter. As the song says, memories are made of this.