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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Sly & The Family Stone Kicks Ass
I spent much of the afternoon watching MPI Home Video's DVD of THE MUSIC SCENE. THE MUSIC SCENE was a risky experiment for ABC in the fall of 1969: a rare 45-minute weekly series that was followed by another 45-minute series, an Aaron Spelling production called THE NEW PEOPLE (which ABC ripped off last year as its hit series LOST).

Both shows were designed to appeal to the young audience, as they featured large casts of young hipsters. In contrast to the drama on THE NEW PEOPLE (a show I've never seen, but would like to), THE MUSIC SCENE was a musical variety show produced in association with BILLBOARD and dedicated to current trends in popular music. Although it's obvious there was a major attempt to be tropical and hip (David Steinberg was the main host and writer), the show was also committed to featuring then-current hit records, which were often anything but hip. For instance, The Archies' smash SUGAR, SUGAR is lambasted week after week, which must have come as a disappointment to audience members who liked that song, treacly as it may be.

So while you had electrifying rock acts as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Janis Joplin tearing up the stage, the show's format also provided a venue for square acts like Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee" (guest host Tommy Smothers rips Merle during his introduction and mimes toking up) and Roger Miller, whose attempt at making "King of the Road" cool is an embarrassing failure.

Not that the creative team's liberal bent doesn't come in for lambasting, as is clear when watching guest host Michael Cole of THE MOD SQUAD dramatically reciting Rod McKuen poems. As bad as television can be, it rarely gets as jawdroppingly insane as that.

Steinberg's repertory company includes a cute Lily Tomlin, Larry Hankin (still a familiar character actor who played "Kramer" in the pilot-within-the-show on SEINFELD), Chris Bokeno, Christopher Ross (who passed away in 1970, just a few months after the show left the air; since Ross missed a couple of episodes due to an illness that the cast talks about, I wonder if that had anything to do with his death soon thereafter) and Paul Reid Roman.

Now that you can fast-forward through the duller acts (can you sit through a leather-jacket-and-ascot-wearing Steve Lawrence crooning "The Drifter" on a cheap barnyard set?), MPI's THE MUSIC SCENE, VOLUME 1 is a fascinating glance at popular music as it was in 1969 (the show was cancelled, along with THE NEW PEOPLE, in January 1970 after 16 weeks). Sly & the Family Stone are incredible, doing four sizzling songs, including "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey". There's also The Rascals, Three Dog Night, The Temptations, James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis for the cool crowd, and Bobby Sherman, Oliver, Buck Owens and Tom Jones for everybody else.

Stan Harris, director of THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR, probably the hippest variety show on television at the time (LAUGH-IN be damned), directed and co-produced the show, and Carl Gottlieb and Richard Schaal, both of whom appeared as extras, were on the writing staff.

My back feels a little better today, although I still have a bit of discomfort in my neck. I figure on taking it easy today. I'm staying in tonight anyway to watch Game 1 of the World Series, which should be a good one. Two teams with outstanding starting pitching, decent defenses, average offenses. The Astros have a better bullpen, but the White Sox's relievers won't be much of a factor if the starters continue pitching nine innings.

I went to bed early last night. Slept eleven hours. Haven't done that in a long time.

Posted by Marty at 3:35 PM CDT
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Monday, October 24, 2005 - 10:02 AM CDT

Name: ld

"There's also The Rascals, Three Dog Night, The Temptations, James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis for the cool crowd, and Bobby Sherman, Oliver, Buck Owens and Tom Jones for everybody else."

Tom Jones, not cool? I think I want to fight you McKee.

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