2/04/2009

Remembering Hullabaloo and Shindig

Not long ago, I spent an enjoyable evening in front of my television, viewing a DVD of Hullabaloo, a program from the middle of the 1960s that featured weekly offerings of rock'n'roll. Sitting on the couch in my living room, I whiled away four and half hours, watching a string of vintage performances by many of the musical names who defined that period: The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Zombies, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Freddie and The Dreamers, Herman's Hermits, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, The Young Rascals, The Outsiders, The Kingsmen, The Beau Brummels, We Five, Joe Tex, and Del Shannon.

When I was twelve years old, I watched Hullabaloo on NBC, together with Shindig!, its counterpart on ABC, every week without fail. As a young person who lived mostly for the exuberant glory of rock'n'roll, I viewed both programs with an earnest mixture of youthful excitement and awestruck studiousness, carefully and hungrily taking in every minute of each broadcast. In the days before the coming of video tapes and DVDs (and YouTube) allowed everyone the delicious luxury of repeated viewings, there was no choice but to watch a program as closely as one could and commit everything to memory. Once it was over, it was gone, and was not likely to be seen again.

The two programs (particularly Shindig!, which was created by Jack Good, a sharp Englishman with a keen understanding of young people) were good while they lasted, but they were not permitted to last for long: both Hullabaloo and Shindig! were canceled after having comparatively short runs. On American television in the 1960s, the wildness of rock'n'roll was not a particularly welcome element in the stuffy realm of prime time. Members of the elder generation still were firmly in control of the broadcast schedule, and when the dull-witted executives at the main networks made their decisions in regard to what would be aired, the kind of music that currently was being enjoyed by American teenagers rarely was favored or even taken into account at all.

More than four decades have passed since Hullabaloo and Shindig! were first shown, but they continue to hold a strong attraction for me. Watching them now takes me back to a time when I was younger, happier, and less worldly-wise. It was a distinct time when rock'n'roll, which still was in its own youth, had the ability to convey a wonderful feeling of untroubled promise and lively inspiration, and a time when the fresh outlook of the 1960s had not yet been torn apart by a harsh combination of bad drugs, bad politics, and the bad results of the war in Vietnam. A time that can be warmly remembered by myself, and by other members of my middle-aged generation, but also a time that otherwise is out of reach.