RIP Dick Clark

I have to admit I have mixed feelings on the passing of Dick Clark. Yes, like almost everybody else, he's been around my entire life (albeit in a much lesser capacity the last couple of decades). Yet he meant little to me in my early days of rock 'n' roll discovery. The late 60's/early 70's were not one of his prime periods, as the rise of supposedly serious rock made the pop stars that appeared on his show appear frivolous.
There are plenty of video clips from that time seems to prove this viewpoint to be correct. Some time in the early days of home video I obtained a compilation of Beatles TV appearances that included the American debut of the "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane" videos. This was a coup for Bandstand, yet his audience wasn't too impressed with arguably the band's greatest 45 achievement. "They're ugly", says one teeny bopper, and that was the nicest statement of the segment.

Yet there's still plenty of wonderful appearances from that time period. One of the only high quality clips of Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators comes from their performance of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on Bandstand. Syd Barrett-era Syd Barrett's first American TV appearance was also on Bandstand. Outside of the biggest of the biggest stars of the time (Beatles, Stones, Who), almost any band with hopes of hitting the singles charts still found time to appear.

I also can't deny that my love of pure pop music comes from watching Bandstand during that time period...and I bet a good percentage of my later punk and garage heroes had that same experience. The reissue of Let It Be by The Replacements, for example, included an outtake of a cover of The DeFranco Family's "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat", and I'm sure the love of tracks like that are the result of Paul Westerberg watching those same Bandstand episodes that I couldn't miss.
As I moved away from the AM dial in the mid-70's, though, Clark's influence on my musical taste waned. While I was discovering hard rock, punk, and singer/songwriters, Bandstand was focused on KC and the Sunshine Band. Clark completely jumped on the disco bandwagon, and I had no room for that.
When disco died, however, Bandstand reverted back to a final attempt to break new ground. Power pop, new wave, and even post-punk made my hungover Saturday mornings worth waking up to witness. I vividly recall Joe Jackson sprinting around the studio lip-syncing "I'm the Man", and John Lydon not even pretending to perform P.I.L.'s "Poptones". X, Nick Lowe, The Romantics, Prince, and so many more performed on network television during a time when there were few opportunities for even the biggest acts.

It wasn't long, though, that the show reverted back to primarily dance-pop, and the rise of MTV lessened the need for recording artists to have this outlet. Since then, Clark's focus was on producing prime time shows that I had little use for, along with the annual New Year's Eve broadcast that I don't think I ever viewed.
Yes, Clark had a hand in the demise of the first wave of rock 'n' roll, and he could have (or should have) seen the end of his career during the payola scandal of the early 60's. But his sins were greatly outnumbered by the historical greatness he brought into the homes of every young person of the last 60 years. As music becomes more and more niche-oriented, there will never again be a person in the music industry with so much power. Forget about the hack jokes of his post-stroke speech impediment, and remember the music.


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