Whether it was rock and roll in the 1950s, psychedelic rock in the 1960s, disco in the 1970s, or new wave in the 1980s, American Bandstand embraced it and presented it to US TV audiences. Here are 10 great memories from Dick Clark's legendary show.
American Bandstand was still in its early days in 1957, but it quickly became a national institution. At that time the show was broadcast from Philadelphia every afternoon for an hour and a half as well as having primetime specials in the evening. Approximately 200 performers appeared in the show's first five month season. From the beginning American Bandstand did not steer away from controversial performers. Jerry Lee Lewis drew ire for the sexual suggestiveness of his music. Despite that "Great Balls Of Fire" hit #2 on the pop chart and topped both the country and R&B charts.
The Beach Boys were already the kings of surf pop by their first appearance on American Bandstand in 1964. They had four top 10 pop hits and "Don't Worry, Baby" was the B-side to their first #1 "I Get Around." They look just a little uncomfortable all standing in place singing with no instruments. Mike Love talks about Australia not being as "modernized" as the US.
In 1967 psychedelic rock was exploding out of San Francisco and the Jefferson Airplane were at the forefront. They appeared on American Bandstand to perform the top 10 pop hits "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" from their seminal Surrealistic Pillow album. The camera efforts to make the performance look somewhat psychedelic are amusing today. However, the songs retain all of their compelling power. Dick Clark asks Paul Kantner if parents have anything to worry about. His answer, "I think so. Their children are doing things they didn't do and they don't understand."
In 1975 ABBA were still seen as somewhat of an exotic Swedish import. They had hit the top 10 with "Waterloo" and followed it with the minor hit "Honey, Honey." ABBA took the American Bandstand stage to perform "SOS." Despite astonishingly bad clothing choices, ABBA remains a gold standard for pop music. These were the happy days for the group when Bjorn and Agnetha were married and Benny was engaged to Anni-Frid.
In 1976 John Travolta's star was rising quickly. He was a key part of the success of the hit TV series Welcome Back, Kotter and his music career was taking off with the single "Let Her In." John Travolta's forte was clearly not pop music, but the song went to #10 on the pop chart anyway. It is fun to listen to him talk about performing on stage in Grease, his first dramatic film work in Carrie, and pre-Saturday Night Fever dancing at a disco.
With its focus on dancing, American Bandstand was strongly impacted by the late 1970s disco revolution. Gloria Gaynor released "I Will Survive," one of the biggest disco hits of all time and performed it on the American Bandstand stage. After the interview segment she invites the audience to party with her on "I Wanna."
It is unlikely anyone had a real inkling what a sensation the song "Bette Davis Eyes" would become when Kim Carnes appeared to perform it on American Bandstand. It spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 which made it one of the biggest hit singles of all time. It also topped pop singles charts all around the world. The performance by Kim Carnes is filled with signature moves she created for the song such as the one-handed slap in the air and pulling her hand across her eyes.
Cyndi Lauper re-worked the song "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" with lyrics she felt were more uplifting for women. It was successful and became her first smash hit as a solo artist. She brought her idiosyncratic stage performance to American Bandstand. Cyndi Lauper also brought a food gift from Philadelphia for Dick Clark. It is quite fascinating to hear her discuss the details of her singing. Following the interview segment, Cyndi Lauper delivers a heartfelt performance of "Time After Time."
The biggest left-field pop hit of 1986 came via Austrian pop singer Falco. Inspired by the award-winning movie Amadeus, "Rock Me Amadeus" was a #1 hit around the world. Falco waxes philosophical about what happens when a musician's popularity wanes.