When I went back to the SER watercooler with my cohorts following the news today of Dick Clark’s death, we were all in a somber and reflective mood. Watching American Bandstand was a late Saturday morning ritual for all of us and probably for most everyone in the USA born from the end of World War 2 until about the close of the 70s (the show ran from 1952 to 1989). That’s a lot of generations who, before the age of MTV, watched Bandstand as the main way they got to see their favorite music acts perform and kept an eye out for the next big thing. Seeing them sing their songs on TV didn’t kill the radio star; back then it bolstered them.
Over such a long period of time, the show went through an array of theme songs, but most of them were variations on the ditty “Bandstand Boogie,” composed by Charles Albertine and swing orchestra leader Les Elgert. The Elgert Orchestra’s own rendition served as the version played on episodes of the show that ran in the 60s, about the time a young Barry Manilow watched the show. As a soft rock superstar in the mid 70s, he wondered why “Bandstand Boogie” got replaced at the end of the 60’s by Mike Curb’s more contemporary “Bandstand Theme” (sounding much like theme song to Hawaii Five-O) and then a synthesizer-ized version of “Boogie.” So, he and lyricist partner Bruce Sussman set about adding lyrics to Elgert’s music and recorded it retro-swing style, putting it on his triple platinum selling Tryin’ to Get the Feeling album. His remake didn’t become a hit, but perhaps more satisfyingly to Manilow, it served as the new theme song for AB for a full decade, from 1977 to 1987.
That’s the version I remember the most whenever I think back at watching all those episodes of American Bandstand. On the day when that show’s eternally young host finally passed away nearly sixty years since his debut on that institution of popular music, that song comes rushing back into my consciousness, leading a flood of memories with it.
I can’t find a lot of common areas of interest with a guy like Barry Manilow when it comes to music, but he, me and everyone else growing up from the 50s to the 80s all could agree on this: Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was THE music show to watch. Clark will always live on in our minds as the man who brought all our favorite popular musicians into our living room.
Hey Im makin’ my mark
Gee, this joint is jumpin’
They made such a fuss just to see us arrive
Hey, it’s Mr. Dick Clark
What a place you’ve got here
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