Kinescope - Kaleidoscope: Dick Clark

American Bandstand and Dick Clark in 1959

American Bandstand and Dick Clark in 1959

Presentation prepared by Ron Kozlow and Kurt von Meier

Recently the field of popular music is coming to be recognized as a valid and vital subject of historical concern. Of all the musical directions developing within the last dozen years, Rock and Roll emerges as perhaps the most culturally significant. Indeed, it may be considered the real folk music of our times, reflecting most accurately the varied sources and influences as well as documenting the changing patterns and configurations of the youthful world around us. Through the new and incredibly expanded technological means now provided by the vast concert of entertainment and communi­cations media, the effects of Rock and Roll have penetrated into our lives in a way unparalleled in the entire previous history of music. Historians and critics, scholars and serious fans have begun to study this fascinating field, in order to better understand the nature and extent of its culturally conditioning influences. Rather surprisingly, perhaps, much of the evidence tracing the rise of Rock and Roll is already lost--if only because no one considered it very important at the time, or thought to preserve it for histor­ians of the future. Thus, the Kinescope segments preserved from the ABC-TV show, "Dick Clark's American Bandstand," or the Saturday Night "Dick Clark Beechnut Show" provide fascinating and important documentation, of unique interest today.

Dick Clark was on the scene throughout most of the development of Rock and Roll. His Kinescope collection now almost amounts to a personal popular music film library. From 1958 to 1960 the "Dick Clark Beechnut .Show" presented a wide selection of current major performers in the field of Rock and Poll. The show covers one of the key periods in the historical evolution of popular music as well. The period thus documented falls roughly half way in between the two major landmarks for Rock and Roll: Elvis Presley in 1956 and the Beatles in 1964. The year 1960 is a convenient point of chrono­logical reference--and in these Kinescopes, it is possible to view both the prime influences from the past and the coming changes of the future.

This theme provides the basic premise for a 50-minute color special, presenting a highly-visual approach to popular music while following some of its main lines of development. The Kaleidoscope, with its fast pace and colorful, constantly shifting focus, relates the newest, most exciting developments in sound to the stimulating creation of a total-environment aesthetic--in which flashing strobe lights, extraordinary clothing, wildly-projected images, moire effects, and astounding graphics (from posters to body painting) combine in the spirit of the music. But this is not just a cultish or youth movement. National news magazines and all the various media have become entranced by the phenomenon. Sometimes it is unfortunately linked to sordid sensationalism—but the real effects of "what's happening today have a far more solid and healthy historical background. It is just this relationship of the present to the past (as documented by Kinescope segments from Dick Clark's show) that are explored in this special, following the thread of popular music that has been so dominant.


Open: Quick cat of Elvis Presley montage, tinted with Kaleidoscope mat technique. "Heartbreak Hotel"

Intro: Dick Clark introduces show, statement of intent and descrip­tion of Kinescope function. Presentation of three major tradi­tions in popular music, with brief film clips of each:

  • R&B - Blues - Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, or John Lee Hooker CW-Country - Carl Perkins, Everly Brothers
  • Pop-Easy Listening - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin
  • Explanation of the way in which these three traditions came together to form Rock and Roll in the mid-1950s, as summed up in Elvis Presley. Spread of the style, and developments through the later 1950s, with parallels in teen culture.
  • Shift focus to music today. Cite value of historical understanding, background. Introduce four categories of contemporary music for relating to Kinescope segments.

1.      Rhythm and Blues.

  • Historical comment, definitions, cite major figures in. tradition.
  • Present Contemporary group, e.g.: Canned Heat Blues Band, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag, Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Kinescope segment with introduction and commentary: Fats Domino, Lloyd Price
  • Contemporary Reprise

2.      Teen Ballad, or "Soft Roc"

  • Comments as for R&B, relations to teen culture, times.
  • Contemporary group carrying on tradition: Association, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield
  • Kinescope: Dion and the Belmonts, The Teddy Bears, Sam Cooke
  • Contemporary Reprise

3.      Hard Rock

  • Comments, definitions, major figures.
  • Contemporary group: Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who
  • Kinescope: Bill Haley and his Comets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis

4.     Something Different

  • Commentary, definitions, history of experimental performance, novelty songs, etc.
  • Contemporary group: Velvet Underground, U.S.A., The Doors, Country Joe and the Fish
  • Kinescope: The Coasters, Sheb Wooley

Close: Dick Clark reiterates message, establishing historical significance of American Bandstand in presenting early groups. Importance of the years around 1960 stressed as stylistic watershed, pointing to newer developments, post-Beatles.

Credits over Beatle montage. "A Day in the Life"