antecedents for music's applications in television may be found
in film and radio. Most television music (like film music) is non-diegetic:
It is heard by viewers and listeners, but not on-screen performers.
This "background" music is added after filming has been completed,
and is used to create moods, fill spaces, provide rhythm and link
the production to other cultural texts. Television music also draws
on the tradition of radio, which foregrounded music through variety
shows and featured performances. Variety shows were based in vaudeville
and dominated the first two decades of television due to their broad
appeal and low production costs. Yet music frequently was considered
an afterthought during television's early years. In 1948, only 17
stations were on the air. Programming largely was produced on a
local basis, and talent and material often were in short supply.
unions played a significant role in determining how music was used
on television in the late 1940s. Under the leadership of James Petrillo,
the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) instigated freezes on
all music recording in 1942 and 1948, and the AFM banned "live"
music on television until the spring of 1948. The union also ordered
that all programs with featured or background music must be broadcast
"live" before they were syndicated via kinescopes, and these kinescopes
were banned from airing on any station not affilliated with the
originating station. This arrangement that favored networks over
independent stations and allowed the powerful AFM to strenghten
its control of the music industry. The union also prohibited its
members from recording for television films until 1950, when the
AFM negotiated a system of royalty payments from television producers
to musicians (although no such royalty system existed in the film
industry). Television music also was hampered by disagreements between
program producers and music publishers. Producers sought a broadened
general license fee for music use, rather than a special license,
while the major music publishing concern (ASCAP) demanded three
times the rate it received for film music.
networks were concerned with "cultural uplift" during the late 1940s
and early 1950s, and they viewed "high culture" as a way to add
cultural legitimacy to the new medium. NBC had telecast a Metropolitan
Opera presentation of "Pagliacci" on 10 March 1940, and all three
networks featured classical music and opera on a semi-regular basis.
NBC aired three telecasts of the NBC Orchestra in 1948, and ABC
telecast an adaption of "Othello" on 29 November of that year. The
NBC Opera Theater began regular telecasts in 1950 with four programs
and continued to air opera specials through 1950s and early 1960s.
The network also aired an experimental color broadcast of "Carmen"
on 31 October 1953.
producers faced a number of problems with adapting opera to television.
The NBC presentations were sung in English and frequently condensed
into one-hour programs, which aroused the ire of some critics. Early
televised operas also were criticized for incessant camera panning
and closeups. A reviewer for Musical America described a
December 1952 closed-circuit telecast of "Carmen" by New York's
Metropolitan Opera to 27 cities: "The relentlessness of the camera
in exposing corpulence and other less attractive physical features
of some of the performers aroused hilarity among the more unsophisticated
viewers, of whom there were, perforce, very many."
networks also showcased classical music in specials and limited-run
series throughout the early 1950s. In 1951, ABC's Chicago affilliate
(WENR-TV) became the first station to regularly televise an orchestra,
and NBC aired Meet the Masters, a classical music series,
that spring. The network continued to air occasional telecasts of
the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and CBS countered with specials featuring
the Philadelphia Orchestra. The classical music series "Voice of
Firestone" had originated in 1928 on radio; in June 1954 it jumped
to television on ABC. Other network programs presented a grab bag
of "high culture." CBS's Omnibus debuted in 1952 with support
from the Ford Foundation. Although it won numerous awards, the program
moved to ABC and NBC because of poor ratings. Omnibus was
cancelled in 1959, and the Ford Foundation's experience with the
program led them to provide the seed money for American public television.
Classical music and opera also made occasional appearances on variety
shows, particularly CBS's Toast of the Town, and performers
were prominently featured on variety shows like Toast of the
Town and The Milton Berle Show. NBC musical specials
in 1951 showcased the works of Richard Rogers and Irving Berlin,
and NBC continued to air lavish musical presentations throughout
Music was an integral part of amateur talent shows, which ran on
all three networks throughout the 1950s. The most successful of
these, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, was adapted from
radio's Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour. Dumont began
telecasting the series in 1948, and it aired on various networks
until 1970. Music also was featured in the context of game shows.
Celebrities rated records on KNXT's Juke Box Jury, which
was carried by ABC in 1953 and later syndicated. Other musical game
shows included ABC's So You Want to Lead a Band and NBC's
Musical Chairs, which aired in 1954 and 1955 respectively, as
well as Name That Tune, which ran on NBC and later CBS from
1953 to 1959 and was briefly revived in syndication in the mid-1970s.
Singers often hosted summer replacement shows in the early 1950s.
In 1950, Kate Smith and Sammy Kaye hosted replacement shows on NBC
while CBS countered with several summer series hosted by Perry Como,
Vaughn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. ABC configured much of its prime
time schedule around music, particularly after Lawrence Welk joined
the network in July 1955. Welk, who began telecasting his performances
in June 1949, remains perhaps the most popular musical performer
in television history. By featuring performers like Welk, Guy Lombardo,
Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring and Perry Como, networks targeted older
audiences (at the time, "teenagers" as a demographic group were
of little use to network advertisers).
producers in the late 1940s and early 1950s relied on older popular
songs, or "standards," and avoided songs without proven audience
appeal. In addition, ASCAP's outright hostility to television led
producers to use BMI-licensed songs, many of which were older and
in the public domain. Exposing new music largely was relegated to
independent stations. This pattern parallelled post-war developments
in the recording industry, in which new genres like rhythm and blues
and country music were distributed by small, independent labels.
Independent television stations were particularly strong on the
West Coast due to weak network links, and remote band broadcasts
provided inexpensive filler for broadcast schedules. KTLA-TV in
Los Angeles featured five orchestra shows each week in the early
1950s, including Spade Cooley's hugely popular western program,
while KLAC-TV countered with the Hometown Jamboree hillbilly
program. KLAC also challenged the color barrier by presenting a
black singer, Hadda Brooks, regularly in 1949.
"Video deejay" programming provided another economical means of
filling airtime. Al Jarvis had created the radio deejay program
at Los Angeles' KWAB-AM in the early 1930s, and in the winter of
1950 Jarvis began daily broadcasts of records, interviews, horse
racing results and "daily religious periods" at KLAC. NBC began
airing Wayne Howell's deejay show nationally on Saturday afternoons,
and by the end of 1950 video deejays were firmly established in
New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as secondary markets like
San Francisco, Miami, Louisville, Philadelphia, Detroit and Cleveland
(where pioneering rock and roll deejay Alan Freed held forth late
at night on WXEZ-TV). Video deejay programs combined lip-synch performances,
dancers, games, sketches, stunts and film shorts. Between 1941 and
1947, more than 2000 promotional jazz and ballad films, or "soundies,"
were produced by the Mills Novelty Company for coin-operated machines,
and many of these shorts resurfaced on video deejay shows. "Soundies"
also were frequently screened between programs to fill airtime,
as were the 754 "visual records" Louis Snader produced in his Hollywood
studios between 1950 and 1952. Similar films were produced by Screen
Gems and United Artists, with a unique twist: silent films were
paired with phonograph records, which allowed the clips to be recycled
with different songs.
1956, local video deejay programs were telecast regularly in nearly
50 markets. These programs were the only significant television
programming produced for teenagers and, along with "Top-40" radio,
were instrumental in the rising success of rock 'n' roll. The most
notable video deejay program debuted on Philadelphia's WFIL-TV as
Bandstand in September 1952. Dick Clark replaced Bob Horn as
host in July 1956, and the following year American Bandstand
was picked up for national distribution by ABC. The program aired
from 3:00 to 4:30 P.M. Monday through Friday afternoons, and Dick
Clark had begun to parlay American Bandstand's success into
a television empire. More than 100 local imitators of Bandstand
were on the air by March 1958, and TV had become second only to
radio as a means of promoting music. In 1950, standards outnumbered
popular tunes on television by four to one, and popular songs on
television were already well-established on records and radio. Four
years later, the ratio of hits to standards was 50/50. "Let Me Go,
Lover" was recorded by several artists after its initial success
on CBS's Studio One, and the "Ballad of Davey Crockett" from
Walt Disney's ABC-TV series established TV's importance in making
NBC was the most adventurous network in music programming throughout
the 1950s, particularly through Steve Allen's efforts to present
pop, jazz and classical artists on the Tonight Show. Allen
also hosted an NBC special, All Star Jazz, in December 1957.
Like Allen, Ed Sullivan featured a number of black acts on his Talk
of the Town variety show in the 1950s. Although most acts were
comics and dancers, musical performers included W. C. Handy, Billy
Eckstine, Lena Horne and T-Bone Walker. On 1 April 1949, ABC affiliate
WENR in Chicago began airing Happy Pappy, a jazz-oriented
revue that featured an all-black cast, and three years later an
ABC special with Billy Daniels was the first network television
program to feature a black entertainer as star. Nat "King" Cole
became the first black to host a regular network series (on NBC
from 1956 to 1957), yet the program failed to attract a national
sponsor and was boycotted by several stations in the North and South.
As a result, blacks largely were relegated to guest shots on variety
shows. No black performer would host a network variety series until
Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1966.
Rhythm and blues and rock and roll originally were objects of ridicule
on TV, as exemplified by Sid Caesar's "Three Haircuts" parody skit
on Your Show of Shows, but programmers began paying closer
attention to the burgeoning teenage market in 1956. Ed Sullivan
presented a rhythm and blues special in November 1955 that featured
LaVern Baker, Bo Diddley, and the Five Keys and was hosted by radio
deejay "Dr. Jive," yet attempts at providing a regular network showcase
for rhythm and blues failed due to resistance from Southern affiliates
as well as pressure from ASCAP, who refused to license rhythm and
blues titles for blatantly racist reasons.
music was more readily embraced by programmers. "Hillbilly," as
it was more commonly known, gained its initial video exposure with
shows hosted by regional performers in the Midwest, including Earnie
Lee at WLW in Cincinnatti (1947), Pee Wee King at WAVE in Louisville
(1948) and Lulu Belle at Chicago's WNBQ (1949). By 1956, almost
100 live local country and western shows aired on more than 80 stations
in 30 states. Eddy Arnold, aka the "Tennessee Plowboy," was tapped
as a summer replacement for Perry Como in 1952, and his program
was syndicated throughout the 1950s. Other network efforts included
Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee (ABC, 1955-61), the Tennessee
Ernie Ford Show (NBC, ABC, 1955-65), and CBS ran a country music
program hosted by Jimmy Dean against Today. Nevertheless,
these programs were largely pop-oriented in terms of song selection
and guest stars.
personalities increasingly replaced comedians as program hosts in
the waning years of the 1950s. By the fall of 1957, more than 20
TV shows were headlined by recording stars. Perry Como and Dinah
Shore headlined popular series for NBC, and ABC aired efforts by
Frank Sinatra, Guy Mitchell, Pat Boone and Julius La Rosa. Many
of these shows suffered poor ratings and were supplanted by westerns
in 1958, but the success of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
special on CBS triggered a spate of musical fairy tales on networks
in the waning years of the decade. Yet television was decried for
unimaginative audio throughout the 1950s. Many productions employed
dated music libraries, and dramatic shows often paid little attention
to musical scoring (one exception was Richard Rodger's acclaimed
score for the documentary series Victory at Sea, which NBC aired
in late 1952 and early 1953). Another noted production was the Rodgers
and Hammerstein Cavalcade sponsored by General Foods, which
aired simultaneously on all four networks 28 March 1954.
26 January 1956 Elvis Presley made his national television debut
on the Dorsey Brothers' CBS Stage Show and quickly followed
with appearances on Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan. The
squeals Presley elicited from teenagers were matched by loathing
from parents and critics. Reviewing a September, 1956 performance
on the Ed Sullivan Show, a critic for The New York Times
tsked that Presley "injected movements of the tongue and indulged
in wordless singing that were singularly distasteful." Nevertheless,
rock 'n' roll would remain a fixture on local and national television,
and ABC's Rock 'n' Roll Show was the first prime-time network
special devoted to rock music. The program aired 4 and 11 May 1957
and was hosted by Alan Freed. In addition to specials and variety
shows, rock became integrated into situation comedies. Ozzie
and Harriet provided a showcase for young Ricky Nelson, who
racked up several hits beginning in 1957. The fate of Your Hit Parade
symbolized Tin Pan Alley's eclipse by rock 'n' roll. The program
originated as the Lucky Strike Hit Parade on radio in 1935
and retained its popularity after moving to television. As rock
'n' roll began to dominate popular music, Your Hit Parade
moved from NBC to CBS in 1958 and went off the air 24 April 1959.
An attempt to revive the program in the early 1970s was unsuccessful.
late 1950s also were marked by a decline in "high culture" musical
programming. A 1957 arrangement between Ed Sullivan and Metropolitan
Opera led to a brief series of capsule opera performances on Sullivan's
variety show, yet Met impresario Rudolf Bing scotched the deal when
Sullivan proposed to divide the opera presentations into two smaller
sections, with a ventriloquist act sandwiched in between, to reduce
viewer tuneout. The CBS series The Seven Lively Arts, a short-lived
series of plays and music, was cancelled in 1958, and The Voice
of Firestone was dropped as a regularly scheduled program in
1959 (it continued as a series of specials until 1962). More successful
were CBS's Young People's Concerts, which began airing infrequently
in the late 1950s and continued until the early 1970s. The concerts
were hosted by Leonard Bernstein and each telecast was devoted to
a single theme; two such concerts were "The Sound of the Hall" in
1962 and "What Is a Melody" the following year. The CBS Camera
Three arts series ran Sunday mornings from 1956 to 1979, and
NBC's Bell Telephone Hour presented music "for all tastes"
on a semi-regular basis from 1959 to 1968.
Jazz enjoyed greater exposure during the waning years of 1950s.
CBS aired Stan Kenton's Music '55 as a summer replacement series,
and the success of the NBC special All-Star Jazz in December
1957 led to a jazz boomlet the following year. NBC ran a 13-part
series hosted by Gilbert Seldes, The Subject Is Jazz, ABC
aired Stars of Jazz as a summer replacement, and CBS telecast
four hour-long excepts from Newport Jazz Festival in July 1958.
Still, most jazz programming consisted of standards, swing and dixieland.
One exception was the widely acclaimed Jazz Scene USA (1962), produced
by Steve Allen and syndicated by New York's WOR-TV. Television shows
increasingly featured jazz background music, particularly tough-guy
detective and adventure series like Peter Gunn and Ellery Queen
(NBC), 77 Sunset Strip (ABC), and Perry Mason and
Route 66 (CBS). Although several of these themes charted
on the "Billboard Hot-100," much of the music for establishing moods
and providing bridges was imported from Europe. However, musicians
and producers began to soften their adversarial stances in 1963,
following James Petrillo's dethroning as head of the American Federation
of Musicians.In October 1963, all network producers (with the inexplicable
exception of the Mr. Ed production team) agreed to use live music
early 1960s continued to see a shift away from musical variety shows.
By 1961, only Perry Como, Ed Sullivan, Gary Moore and Dinah Shore
remained on network schedules, and both classical and pop music
largely were relegated to specials. One notable exception to this
rule was Sing Along with Mitch, in which viewers were invited
to participate by reading lyrics off the screen. The program was
hosted by Mitch Miller, record company executive and arch-enemy
of rock 'n' roll, and aired on NBC from 1961 to 1964. Country music
continued to figure prominently on television throughout the 1960s.
Jimmy Dean hosted a weekly variety show on ABC from 1963 to 1966,
and by 1963 more than 130 stations carried local or syndicated country
music programs. Among the most popular were Porter Wagoner (whose
eye-popping sequined suits rivalled any Liberace creation for sartorial
excess), the Wilburn Brothers and the bluegrass team of Flatt and
Scruggs. The latter duo had been performing on television since
1953, but broke out nationally through exposure on The Beverly
Hillbillies and the subsequent success of their single "The
Ballad of Jed Clampett." These programs were joined in 1965 by syndicated
efforts from Ernest Tubb and Wanda Jackson. In what surely must
have been a surreal viewing experience, Richard Nixon performed
a piano duet with Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith on the latter's Charlotte,
North Carolina-based show. By 1970 almost three-quarters of the
stations in the United States featured some form of rural music.
folk music boom of the early 1960s was represented by ABC's Hootenanny
(1963), the first regularly scheduled folk music program on network
television. Featuring well-scrubbed folk music in the style of the
Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, the series was embroiled
in controversy from the outset when Pete Seeger and the Weavers
were banned from the show for refusing to sign a government loyalty
oath. Hootenanny was dropped from ABC's schedule in the fall of
1964. American Bandstand switched from daily to weekend-only
broadcasts a year earlier, due in part to fallout from the payola
scandal. Dick Clark had come under congressional investigation during
the payola hearings in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although
he was never indicted, ABC insisted that Clark divest himself of
music publishing and record distribution interests. Local Bandstand
imitiators were down significantly from their peak in 1958, and
the music's lack of presence on television reflected a general malaise
in rock 'n' roll.
changed 9 February 1964, when the Beatles were featured on the Ed
Sullivan Show. In what arguably is the most influential musical
performance ever presented on television, the Beatles were seen
in an estimated 73 million homes. The British Invasion was not universally
welcomed, however; when the Rolling Stones appeared on Hollywood
Palace, host Dean Martin openly disparaged their performance
and snarled that they "oughta get haircuts." ABC's Shindig premiered
in September 1964 with the Rolling Stones, the Byrds and the Kinks,
and subsequent programs featured a host of English and American
"beat groups" surrounded by a cast of writhing dancers. NBC answered
with Hullabaloo from January 1965 to August 1966.
it folded in January 1966, Shindig also helped black artists
like Sam Cooke to cross over to white audiences. In one particularly
memorable broadcast, the headlining Rolling Stones paid homage to
their influences by sitting at the feet of the great bluesman Howling
Wolf as he performed "The Little Red Rooster." The extent of the
racial crossover in music was indicated by the fact that Billboard
dropped its rhythm and blues chart in 1964. Efforts at integration
were slower in other areas, however; the Chicago branch of the AFM
remained segregated until January 1966. Television finally caught
up with the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s. By 1968, a growing
number of black performers were showcased in network programs, such
as an NBC special featuring the Supremes and Four Tops.
dance shows enjoyed a resurgence in 1965. Some of the most notable
syndicated efforts were hosted by Lloyd Thaxton, Casey Kasem (Shebang,
which originated from KTLA in Los Angeles), Sam Riddle (Hollywood
A Go Go), Gene Weed (Shivaree) and Jerry "The Geater
with the Heater" Blavat's The Discophonic Scene. The ubiquitous
Dick Clark also started a weekday teen show, Where the Action
Is, on ABC. In addition to records and dancing, these shows
often featured filmed performances as well as short "concept" musical
films triggered by the success of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.
Mainstream pop music remained the province of variety shows and
specials throughout the 1960s. Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra
aired acclaimed specials in the mid-1960s, and ABC presented an
adventurous special, Anatomy of Pop, in February 1966 which
featured artists as varied as Duke Ellington, Bill Monroe and the
Temptations. Another ABC special, 1967's Songmakers, followed
the creative process from composition to recording with artists
like the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and the
Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The Big Three networks virtually abandoned
classical music to the fledgling NET public network by the late
1960s, although CBS aired a special on Igor Stravinsky in 1966.
Perhaps the greatest rock special in television history, the T.A.M.I.
Show, was produced by Steve Binder (who later produced Elvis's
comeback special and Pee-Wee's Playhouse) for ABC in late
1964. Shot on video and later transferred to film for theatrical
release, the T.A.M.I Show featured Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley,
the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and an electrifying
performance by James Brown. The program also captured an interracial
musical mix conspicuously absent from later rock documentaries like
Monterey Pop and Woodstock. Other noteworthy rock
specials included a 1965 performance by the Beatles at New York's
Shea Stadium (aired by ABC in January 1967) and Elvis Presley's
legendary comeback performance on NBC in December 1968. The globalization
of television was marked by the 25 June 1967 live telecast of Our
World. Transmitted by satellite to 34 countries and aired in
the U.S. on NET, the program included a performance by classical
pianist Van Cliburn and climaxed with the Beatles warbling "All
You Need Is Love."
also entered the kid-vid rock market when Beatle cartoons premiered
on ABC in September 1965. The most successful cartoon group were
the Archies (an assemblage of anonymous studio musicians), who scored
a massive hit with "Sugar Sugar" in 1969 and cloned a dozen copies
in the late 1960s and early 1970s like Josie and the Pussycats,
the Bugaloos, the Groovie Goolies (described by critic Lester Bangs
as "Munsters dipped in monosodium glutamate") the Cattanooga Cats
and the Banana Splits. Equally contrived, though in human form,
were the Monkees. Four actors were recruited by former Brill
Building pop impresario Don Kirshner to star in a series modelled
on "A Hard Day's Night," and The Monkees premiered on NBC
in September 1966. The "band" racked up several hits of carefully
groomed material, but shocked their followers in Teenland the following
year when they admitted they didn't play their own instruments.
The series was cancelled in 1968. ABC's The Music Scene ran
for 17 episodes beginning in October 1969 and featured comic sketches
interspersed with performances by artists ranging from James Brown
to Buck Owens.
Johnny Cash on The johnny Cash Show
The Supremes on Hullabaloo
Kate Bush in her music
video for Running up that Hill
Luciano Pavarotti in The Three Tenors
Smothers Brothers also presented some of the more daring "underground"
acts of the late 1960s (The Who's Peter Townsend was nearly deafened
by an exploding drum set during one memorable appearance, and the
Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick made a controversial appearance
in black face). Other variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan and Jonathan
Winters presented a variety of alternative acts, each more hirsute
and glowering than its predecessors. Sullivan did draw the line
at lyrics, however. In a 1967 appearance, amid much eye-rolling,
the Rolling Stones changed the lyrics of their latest hit to "Let's
Spend Some Time Together." Other performers were less accomodating.
After surveying the set before taping an appearance on The Tom
Jones Show, Janis Joplin stormed offstage, complaining that
"My public don't want to see me in front of no fucking plastic rain
drops." Late-night talk shows like the Tonight Show and The
Dick Cavett Show also featured some rock stars (Joplin was a
particular favorite on the latter). The syndicated Playboy After
Dark also presented a variety of "alternative" artists; in a
1969 taping, the Grateful Dead "psychedelicized" the unwitting production
staff. Despite (and, in part, due to) the increasingly outre nature
of rock music acts on television, country music's video popularity
continued unabated in the late 1960s. Johnny Cash was featured in
an ABC summer replacement program in 1969, and his guests included
the reclusive Bob Dylan. A more enduring success was CBS's Hee
Haw, which presented a hick version of Rowan and Martin's
Laugh-In beginning in June 1969. After CBS cleaned its house
of "older-oriented" shows, the program continued in syndication
until the late 1980s.
1970s began with the New Seekers unconsciously predicting the increasing
melding of music, television, advertising, and the global imaginaries
of Live Aid and MTV with "I'd like to teach the world to sing."
The song was a worldwide hit after airing as a Coca-Cola commercial.
Looking backwards, ABC introduced The Partridge Family with
veteran stage and Hollywood musical star Shirley Jones and her son
David Cassidy. The half-hour comedy used the tried-and-trusted Monkees
formula to successfully target the teen market. Jones played
the single mom of a large musical family with a lovable but inept
manager placed in various quirky situations. Musical numbers were
performed in rehearsal and in a wrap-up concert setting as the denouement
of each episode. As well as the oldest of the Partridge progeny,
Cassidy became a teen idol as a solo performer. The most traditional
outlet for music on the networks in the early 1970s were the host
of variety shows: The Johnny Cash Show, Glen Campbell's Goodtime
Hour, This is Tom Jones, The Carol Burnett Show. Almost invariably,
musical guests would lipsync to their latest hits and sometimes
engage in banal patter with the host. However, reflecting the increasing
dominance of market segmentation, ratings for most musical variety
shows were plummeting by the mid-1970s. Even so, insipid pop duo
Captain and Tennille and the Jacksons both entered the variety market
in 1976, with their own network shows.
was a common practice on television shows, but the influence of
rock counterculture with its ideology of authenticity made the presentation
of live music more important. The success of theatrical films of
musical events increased the demand for "live" rock shows. Some
of the films on offer at the local movie theatre in the late 1960s
and early 1970s included Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter,
Let it Be, Elvis-That's the Way it Is, Pink Floyd in Pompeii, Jimi
at Berkeley, Concert for Bangladesh.
In 1973 three network shows featuring live music were introduced.
NBC's Midnight Special presented 90 minutes of a live concert
recorded on a studio soundstage. The show tended to favor more mainstream
commercial artists, David Bowie, Marianne Faithfull and Van Morrison
being the limit of its adventurousness. Midnight Special was hosted
by veteran DJ Wolfman Jack and by Helen Reddy from 1975-77. ABC's
In Concert combined old film clips by such groups as the Rolling
Stones, with footage from concert venues. Produced by Don Kirshner
and then taken over by executive producer Dick Clark, the show basically
simulated the bill at the Fillmore Auditorium at which three bands
played a short live set each. Many of these concerts were shot at
the Academy of Music in New York. Kirshner also presented the syndicated
Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Again, this featured clips of concert
halls around the country interspersed with promotional clips. White
rock acts dominated the program. In a different musical vein, the
Great Performances series debuted on PBS in 1974. Produced
at WNET in New York, this paved the way for the broadcast of classical
music concerts and opera on the Bravo cable network since 1980.
Country music found a live showcase in Austin City Limits, first
broadcast through Austin's PBS staation KLRN TV in 1976. The show
reflected a return to the rawer roots of country music, away from
the saccharine Nashville sound of the period. In its earlier days,
musical acts like the "Outlaws"--Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings
and Kris Kristofferson--performed on a stage in front of a small
and intimate studio audience. The format remains essentially the
same today. Live music has also had a highly visible spot on NBC's
Saturday Night Live since 1975. A guest star performed one or
two live numbers between the program's many skits. Musical choices
were often a little more left field on Saturday Night Live.
On one particular occasion in 1977, Elvis Costello and the Attractions,
who had replaced the Sex Pistols at the last minute, ripped into
a version of their anti-fascist classic "Less than Zero," then abruptly
stopped. Elvis told the band that he had changed his mind, and they
then tore into "Radio Radio," running over time and giving producer
Lorne Michaels a few nervous palpitations. Sinead O'Connor's appearance
on the show in 1994, when she ripped up a photograph of Pope John
Paul II after a rendition of Bob Marley's "War," had a similar effect
in this prime television showcase for musicians.
musical acts found a space for lipsynched performances of soul,
funk, and disco hits on Soul Train. The brainchild of Don
Cornelius, the show was started in Chicago in 1970, but moved to
syndication and Hollywood in 1971. Soul Train featured famous
names such as Ike and Tina Turner, and Al Green miming their hits
while a studio full of mainly African-American dancers grooved away.
The spectacle of skilful and creative dancing was as important as
the appearance of the musical performer. In many ways, Soul Train
was a return to the old formula of the teen dance show, except for
one major difference: it was black. The show was vital in the popularization
of funk and disco music. By 1975 the disco boom was well established,
and every one was trying to get on the bandwagon. Syndicated shows
like Disco America, Disco Mania, and Disco 76 came
and went as fast as the latest disco hit. Even James Brown deserted
funk for disco with the shortlived syndicated program Future
Shock. Some journalists and critics feared the end of that discotheque
culture was killing live music. But if anything, the real challenge
to live performance on television came from music video.
late 1970s and 1980s saw the video boom that has changed the face
of music on television. By 1975, many artists had made promotional
film clips for their single releases. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody,"
Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs," and several promotional clips by Swedish
quartet Abba had helped their songs become hits in the Euro-American
market. In 1975, Manhattan cable TV began showing video clips on
a program titled Nightclubbing. Rock performers were experimenting
with the visual form. New Wave group Devo released The Men Who
Make the Music in 1979. This anthology was the first long-form
video released in the United States. By 1979, America's Top Ten
played video clips. The Boomtown Rats "I Don't Like Mondays" was
one of the first to make a mark, remembered for the accompanying
visuals as much as for its sound recording. The more traditional
chart show, Solid Gold, debuted in syndication in 1980, and
combined a professional cast of dancers with lipsynched performances
by various chart-topping pop artists.
The rise of music video is inextricably tied to the ascent of cable
television. In 1980, the USA network debuted Night Flight,
which ran both videos and old movies. The emphasis was on new wave
videos, since at this time these artists were more innovative with
the nascent form. Another cable network, Home Box Office (HBO) began
simulcasting rock concerts, while Showtime and the Playboy channel
allotted some time for music videos. Also in 1980, ex-Monkee and
Liquid Paper tycoon Mike Nesmith's Pacific Arts Company packaged
clips into a half-hour show called Popclips, which was sold
to Warner Cable, and shown on Nickelodeon. The Nashville Network
(TNN) and Country Music Television Network, from 1983, set about
showing music videos. The former maintained some shows that fit
the variety format of older country programming.
during the 1980s and 1990s, the musical stage on television has
been defined by MTV. Owned by Warner-Amex, MTV began broadcasting
in August 1981, prophetically with the Buggles hit, "Video Killed
the Radio Star." Robert Pittman, vice-president of programming remarked
that: "We're now seeing the TV become a component of the stereo
system. It's ridiculous to think that you have two forms of entertainment--your
stereo and your TV--which have nothing to do with one another. What
we're doing is marrying those two forms so that they can work together
in unison. We're the first channel on cable to pioneer this." MTV
provided a twenty-four hour service of videos introduced by quirky
VJs. It was a kind of radio for the eyes, mixing different kinds
of musical genres in a continuous flow. Many of the early videos
were by British "new pop" groups like Duran Duran, ABC, Culture
Club, and the Human League, who formed what critics called the "Second
British invasion." By 1982, record companies confidently claimed
that MTV increased sales of their top artists by 20%. As MTV became
available through cable providers throughout the country, in the
midwest and not just the urban centers of the east and west coast,
the music played on the network also changed. New pop had faded
away, therefore programming began to reflect the tastes of a largely
white national audience demographic. Heavy metal was the predominant
music on the channel.
cable networks incorporated some of the same strategies as MTV.
In June 1983, NBC debuted Friday Night Videos in the old
Midnight Special slot. WTBS began broadcasting the similar
Night Tracks in June 1983, and Ted Turner launched the ultimately
unsuccessful Cable Music Channel in 1984. MTV weathered an antitrust
suit from the competing Discovery Network. In 1984, it signed exclusive
deals with six major record labels for the broadcast of their artists'
first American Video Awards took place in 1984, testifying to the
emergence of a new cultural form. Meanwhile, more traditional musical
fare was on offer in NBC's Fame which began in 1982 and was
based on Alan Parker's 1980 film. The program was set in a school
of performing arts in New York, with a multiracial cast of talented
musicians and dancers who would energetically perform numbers in
rehearsal, in class, and at school concerts. The show celebrated
traditional showbiz values in a familiar format. It was essentially
The Partridge Family with angst, Shirley Jones replaced by
choreographer and teacher Debbie Allen as guiding hand and maternal
MTV's impact on network television and the place of music in televison
could be more directly seen in the NBC police/crime series Miami
Vice (1984-87). Its working title was MTV Cops. The show's
creator Michael Mann later claimed that "the intention of Miami
Vice was to achieve the organic interaction of music and content."
Sometimes an entire episode would be written around a song, such
as Glen Frey's "Smuggler's Blues." Frey and other rock musicians
would often make cameo appearances as characters in the show. Record
companies were obliging with copyrighted material after the success
of the pilot and its use of Phil Collins' hit "In the Air Tonight"
as the detective partnership of Crockett and Tubbs drove to a climactic
shoot-out through the rain-sodden, Miami streets.
visual style of the show owed a great deal to MTV. Film and television
narratives incorporated music with the camera angles, lighting,
rapid cutting, and polished, high production values of music videos.
Television advertising was increasingly sensitive to music video
aesthetics. In 1984, Michael Jackson appeared in a Pepsi-Cola commercial
shot like a music video for one of his songs. Madonna's brief--and
eventually banned--Pepsi commercial in 1989 used her song "Like
a Prayer," a visual extravaganza for cultural critics as the other
music videos that made her a megastar.
In the mid and late 1980s, MTV became less idiosyncratic in its
juxtapositions of different kinds of music, moving toward block
programming, and the development of shows that fit certain musical
genres. MTV's programming began to look more like a traditional
television schedule. In January 1985, the network introduced the
VH-1 channel programming adult-oriented music that demanded less
of the ear and aimed for the pocketbook of the older baby boomer
consumer. VH-1 began with a video of Marvin Gaye singing that old
chestnut, "The Star Spangled Banner." In 1986, MTV also indicated
its move towards a more traditional television strategy as it began
showing old episodes of The Monkees.
developments reflected the segmentation of marketing and targeting
of very specific groups of consumers through different channels
and shows. This also coincided with Warner-Amex selling their controlling
interest in MTV Networks to Viacom International in August 1985.
The change in leadership initially brought a more conservative music
policy. With criticism of the representation of sex and violence
in music videos, there was a brief move away from heavy metal as
the central genre. However, the strength of metal in middle American
markets led to its return shortly thereafter.
The biggest triumph of the mid 1980s for MTV and for the music industry
in general was the successful broadcast of the Live Aid concerts
in Philadelphia and London in July 1985. The event, designed to
raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, proved popular music's
sociopolitical value, and like the Beatles worldwide broadcast of
"All You Need Is Love," projected a global imaginary (and market)
for popular music culture. In 1987, MTV started MTV-Europe, and
the network's rapid movement into further areas of global market
continued apace. Live Aid was followed by the 1988 worldwide transmission
of an anti-apartheid concert in London to celebrate the birthday
of Nelson Mandela. However, in the United States this mammoth rock
spectacle was not the success of Live Aid, with charges that FOX
had delayed the broadcast signal and censored "political" comments
made during the event.
the early 1980s, critics charged MTV with racism because of its
dearth of black music videos. In its early days, the network featured
African-American VJ J.J. Johnson and later black British VJ "Downtown"
Julie Brown. However, apart from some big names like Michael Jackson
and Prince, few black acts were found on the video playlist. This
changed somewhat in 1989 with the introduction of Yo! MTV Raps,
a show hosted by pioneer graffiti artist and hip hop pioneer Fab
Five Freddy. Yo! MTV Raps joined other specialist music programs
like Headbanger's Ball (heavy metal) and 120 Minutes ("alternative"
rock) on the network's schedule. Since then, rhythm and blues artists
and rap groups like En Vogue and Salt and Peppa respectively have
had huge success based in large part on their snappy music videos.
in 1989, MTV introduced Remote Control, a game show that
tested viewer's knowledge of television trivia. In the 1990s, the
breadth of shows on the network reveals that MTV is now more concerned
with the integrated elements of contemporary youth popular culture
presented in a more traditional televisual format, not just music
videos. A fashion show (House of Style), a verité-style documentary-cum-soap
opera (The Real World) and even a dating game are staples
of the ntetwork's programming. The Chose or Lose and Rock
the Vote programs contributed to higher voter registration among
young citizens during the 1992 presidential election campaign. In
all these television formats, music is important as an extra level
of commentary on the visual and documentary/news material.
professed main goal to integrate the stereo system with the television
has significantly improved the audio quality of stereo sound on
television. Now MTV like most other outlets for music on television
in the mid-1990s combines the kinds of music programming found in
older forms like variety shows, live concert broadcasts, lipsynched
performance, with an up-to-date staple of promotional music videos.
Though it looks increasingly like other television stations in its
programming structure, MTV gives everything from fashion to politics
to family crisis a musical bent. In this respect, it has "musicalized"
television to an unforseeable extent. MTV also marks the decline
of radio and the ascent of television in marketing musical commodities.
This is exemplified in the live acoustic show Unplugged which
debuted in 1990. When the Unplugged sets were released as CDs they
sold as successfully as the "proper" studio releases by the musicians
concerned. Television now shapes popular musical culture as much
as the sound recordings themselves.
McCourt and Nabeel Zuberi
Malone, Bill. Country Music U. S. A. Austin, Texas: University
of Texas Press, 1985.
Lawrence. Rock is Rhythm and Blues: The Impact of Mass Media.
East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1974.
Nick. Country: The Biggest Music in America. New York: Dell,
Ed, Geoffrey Stokes, and Ken Tucker (1986). Rock of Ages: The
Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll. New York: Summit, 1986.
Music Television; Eurovision
Song Contest; The
Lawrence Welk Show; Messer,
Don; Much Music; Music
Television (MTV); Pittman,
Tommy Hunter Show; Top
of the Pops; The
Voice of Firestone