Monday, March 11, 2013

Hullabaloo and The Eagles

by Bill Holmes

In the last few days I have watched some TV shows about music in the 20th Century. My local PBS station is having yet another pledge drive. That means they break out the oldies music shows and maybe a newer concert. I have also caught a few music shows on other channels.

PBS has a whole vault full of My Music specials. There are big band, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's music compilation shows. These are made up of several "Oldies" acts, usually performing just one song each. There are individuals and groups that have performed continuously over the years, reunited original groups, some groups with one or two original members combined with new guys and some vintage film. PBS also has some more contemporary full concerts by one performer or group. Then there are the highly produced "specials" like Celtic Women or The Tenors. The one common thread of most of these PBS shows is that they are aired during pledge periods. That turns a one hour concert into a two hour TV program. They are perfect candidates to be recorded. You can then watch later and skip the very long pledge breaks.

There have also been some good concerts on other channels. There was an AXS broadcast of a recent Fleetwood Mac show. Those guys are still getting it done although I do miss Christine McVie. I saw only a little over half of the show and didn't record it. AXS is a source for many concerts.

The two programs I want to address here are the Showtime History of the Eagles and a PBS compilation show of Hullabaloo.

Hullabaloo was a music variety show on NBC in 1965 & 66. It was sometimes a half hour and sometimes an hour show. It was a music show aimed at the youth of the day. I did see it on occasion but not regularly. I think that was probably because, like most mid 60's households, Dad controlled the TV. He wouldn't have been a Hullabaloo fan. There was no option to go to my bedroom to watch my TV. It didn't exist. Also, in those years, I tried to spend as little time at home as possible or didn't live at home. There wasn't much interest in watching TV. Nevertheless, there are vague memories of the original show.

The PBS show was just a compilation of clips from the original Hullabaloo programs. It was almost all songs by the original artists interspersed with a few introductions by the guest hosts and some shots of the dancers. Although the show was taped in color, most of it was later transferred to black and white film so the tape could be reused. A cost saving move with no regard to history. As with most PBS pledge drives, there are CD's and DVD's that contain much more material than what was aired. Pete Noone (aka Herman of the Hermits) was the PBS host. He had also been a guest host and performer on the original show. One of the strange things about Hullabaloo is the hosts often don't fit. It was a youth oriented show but Sammy Davis, Jerry Lewis, Jack Jones and Alan King were some of the hosts. This was probably an effort to lure a few older viewers in with established stars. Mom and Dad might not know who The Zombies were. I'm sure the kids knew the musical acts that were featured and probably weren't all that interested in Jerry Lewis's shtick.

Speaking of the musical acts, here is a list of those featured on the broadcast:

  • Herman's Hermits
  • Sonny & Cher
  • Jay & The Americans
  • The Kinks
  • Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
  • The Four Seasons
  • The Byrds
  • Barry McGuire
  • The Cyrkle (Red Rubber Ball)
  • Trini Lopez
  • The Lovin' Spoonful
  • The Mamas & The Papas
  • The Bobby Fuller Four (I Fought the Law)
  • The Young Rascals
  • Dionne Warwick
  • The Outsiders
  • The Zombies
  • The Animals
  • Paul Revere & The Raiders
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • The Righteous Brothers
That's quite a lineup. Now here's the kicker. I remembered all the songs and almost all the words to those songs. I can't remember when I last heard the Cyrkle or Bobby Fuller Four but the words came back to me. I also can't remember what I had for lunch but that's another story. Based on the promos for the CD's and DVD's there were many other performers who appeared on Hullabaloo. I guess it was the place to be in 1965. It and Shindig! were the only prime-time TV shows for rock or folk acts at the time. Those were the days of Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and other more traditional variety shows. Those shows would occasionally have a rock act on but were mostly aimed at an older audience. 

I was struck by several things. The performers looked very young and not very polished. The production values looked very poor. The sets looked cheap and the camera work was bad. Maybe it looked better in color. The dancers were very enthusiastic but the choreography was weak. None of the instruments were plugged in and there wasn't an amp or speaker  in site. During one of the pledge breaks, Lesley Gore said that all the music was prerecorded but the singing was live, kind of like karaoke . That is probably mostly true because some of the singing and sound levels were a little off. I do think at least some of the backup singing was prerecorded too. There were some clips where five or six people were sharing one mic yet it sounded just like the record. Despite these flaws it was a great trip back to the mid 60's. 

Neither Hullabaloo or Shindig! lasted past 1966. Both had ratings problems. I don't know why but I suspect it was due to one TV households with that television being controlled by the parents. I don't think the poor production values would have been a problem. Most TV shows of that era look poorly produced in retrospect. The country was far less sophisticated back then. I also don't think teens watched TV as much. We were too busy doing other stuff. Even so, these shows were the precursors of music videos and MTV. You could finally see the artists who you had been listening to on records, jukeboxes and the radio even if they didn't do a concert in your home town. 

Now we move from the 1960's to the 70's. The Eagles were never on Hullabaloo, they came a few years later.

The Eagles 70's version
The Eagles documentary is three hours. Two hours about the 1970's when they were formed and reached their peak. The last hour covers the 1994 reunion until now. They have now been reunited twice as long as they were originally united.

I lived through the 70's. It was a time of great change for me. The Vietnam War was still raging as the decade began. I went from business neophyte to running a small field office. I went from single to married. I became a parent. I bought my first house. The 70's were also a time of change in our music. The Beatles split and the British invasion faded. Several new singers and groups emerged. One of those bands was The Eagles.

At the core, The Eagles are Glenn Frey, from Detroit, and Don Henley, from Linden Texas, who met in Los Angeles. They are the only constants in the band. They first played together in Linda Ronstadt's band. After that they formed the original Eagles with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. That was in 1971. The bands name came out of a peyote and tequila soaked outing in the Mohave Desert. An eagle flew over their campsite at dawn.

Those original members recorded the first two albums. For the third album they added Don Felder. There were now five Eagles.

By then the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll were in full swing for The Eagles. After the fourth album Leadon left the band for artistic differences. Back to four Eagles, but not for long. Joe Walsh joined the group. Joe brought solid rock 'n roll chops, additional drugs, alcohol, craziness and world class hotel room trashing abilities. By this time The Eagles had a number one album. It was 1975.

Next came Hotel California and there was no stopping The Eagles. It was Life in the Fast Lane. So of course the internal strife escalated. The usual ego problems and creative differences emerged, fueled by increased pressure to produce and drugs. Meisner left after the Hotel California tour. They added Timothy B. Schmit, formerly of Poco.

Finally in July 1980 it all came crashing down. The internal problems percolated to the surface and then exploded. The cocaine probably contributed. The Beatles dominated  the 60's but broke up in 1970. The Eagles were the dominant band of the 70's and broke up in 1980. It's tough to be number one. As Glenn Frey said in the documentary, "We made it and it ate us."

Unlike The Beatles, The Eagles have risen from the ashes. Maybe they should change their name to Phoenix. In spite of  Don Henley's statement that the band would get back together "when Hell freezes over", in 1994 The Eagles reunited. So of course the tour was called Hell Freezes Over.

All five guys who made up The Eagles in 1980 returned for the 1994 reunion. They each had varied success as solo artists during the 14 years apart. Henley and Frey were the most successful. Walsh hit bottom with the drugs and alcohol. He went to rehab and sobered up before the reunion. All the guys had cleaned up their act so we now get to hear the sober adult Eagles. Hell Freezes Over was planned to be a one-time only three month tour. The guys had fun and enjoyed being together again. They're still at it here in 2013.

The Eagles - 2007
Unfortunately all the old wounds weren't healed. In 2001 Felder was fired. It's hard to tell which side is at fault in the split. Frey and Felder talked about the reasons, Henley agreed with Frey. The other two members didn't address the situation. He sued everybody. The case was finally settled out of court in 2007. So there are now four Eagles again, the original number they started with in 1971.

As of 2013, The Eagles are still together. There last album was made in 2007 and they have some dates scheduled this year although it's not a tour. They all do solo stuff and collaborate with other musicians and groups between Eagles gigs.

It was an interesting documentary. Of course the music was great but the interviews were the real jewels. There were interviews and candid recordings from the 1970's and recent times plus a little from the 14 years they were apart.

Two good shows that were packed with good music and mostly good memories. Sure beats the normal fare on TV. My local PBS station is still in the middle of a pledge drive so there may be more to come. I recorded a PBS Hootenanny compilation show the other day but haven't watched it yet. Maybe that will be worth a future blog.


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