October 10, 2018

But can you dance to it?

For some reason—because I seldom remember having watched it when I was growing up—I found myself immersed in watching this clip from American Bandstand. It's an episode from the end of 1967, and it serves as a fascinating snapshot of the time. For instance, we learn that a coat and tie are still acceptable dance clothes for young men, at least when you're dancing on television. I suspect we won't be seeing that many more years.

And look at the songs in the top 40. Yes, "Light My Fire" by The Doors is #1 (at least according to AB, but there's also Frank Sinatra (albeit with help from daughter Nancy, singling "Something Stupid"), Aretha Franklin demanding "Respect," The Seekers looking for "Georgy Girl," and songs from Bobby Vee, Lulu, Frankie Valli, and Bobbie Gentry. In fact, there's just about every kind of genre listed there that you could ask for in 1967, and you wouldn't see anything remotely that eclectic in 2018. It's an astonishing commentary not only on the music industry, but on how Balkanized we've all become. If you listened to a Top 40 radio station in 1967, this kind of mix wouldn't have been surprising at all—in fact, you could probably see it most weeks on The Ed Sullivan Show. In today's world where we're our own programmers, our own storytellers, the author of our own lives—well, it's no wonder that the country's in the shape that it's in, when we have so little in common. No wonder loneliness is becoming a public health problem.

I don't know why I didn't think to dive into these archives before; Bandstand offers an excellent sample (albeit perhaps a unique one) of American pop culture at any given time. Here's a snippet of the show. "Fascinating" is a good word for it—after all, Mr. Spock has made that a very trendy word.


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