Tumbling Down Memory Lane

Herb Hendler: Year by Year in the Rock Era: Events and Conditions Shaping the Rock Generations That Reshaped America; Greenwood Press; Westport, CT.

Late in February NBC broadcast a night to forget. First up was something designated TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, which was based on a strategy similar to that of a self-referential statement. That is, it was an idiotic show that displayed the idiocy of other programs that have aired. Next there was what was advertised as a “spectacular two-hour event,” Super Night of Rock ‘n’ Roll. That program probably did more to boost the sales of all types of music other than rock and roll than any other event, spectacular or not. The show was meant to be an orgy of self-praise for the so-called rock generation. It turned out to be an utter embarrassment for all those on either side of the TV screen. Moreover, if the dead can figuratively roll in their graves, then a large number of boppers, many of whom were shown on black-and-white clips, were rocking around the crypt. The host was a man who is pushing 50 in a graceless manner; he was dressed in costumes that were supposed to be appropriate for the particular periods in question (e.g., slicked hair and iridescent pants for the 50’s; long hair and beads for the 60’s), but which merely pointed out the paunchy absurdity of the host and, by extension, the ridiculous nature of the whole concept. While severely abbreviated film clips made up the bulk of the show, there were some performances by relics including Chuck Berry, The Four Seasons, The Hollies, The Jefferson (née Airplane) Starship, and other resuscitated victims. By and large, these undead performances were worse than the clips; high voices cracked, and clinkers punctuated chords. But everyone seemed to be happy, which, perhaps, can be explained by the fact that NBC undoubtedly paid dearly for the smiles and the dancing girls in the front row.

The two television shows are not unlike Year by Year in the Rock Era. That is, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes consists of footage that belongs in either a wastebasket or a curio shop; Super Night of Rock ‘n” Roll shows that an extremely small fraction of the pop music produced during the last 30 years will survive the next 30, and most of that only as the result of commercialized revivals. Year by Year is simply a compendium of trivia, lists of items that may be of marginal interest to cultural historians of the near past but which should not be used to fill up the empty spaces in many of the skulls that have been created since 1954. (SM)



Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Violins; Asten Magna Ensemble; Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records.

Vivaldi for aficionados, dependably assuaging, in a bit colorless, but correct, performance.


Janácek: Concertino; Prokofiev: Overture on Hebrew Themes; Berwald; Septet; The Amsterdam Nonet; Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records.


Janácek and Prokofiev represent the same period of transforming music into the grand modernist compromise between lyricism and intellect, imagination and knowledge. Somehow Prokofiev was one of the very few who saved the intangible and the magic. Berwald hailed from Sweden of the early 19th century and idolized Beethoven. The Amsterdam ensemble renders justice to both epochs.


Samuel Barber: Summer Music; Elliot Carter: Woodwind Quintet; Irving Fine: Partite; Joseph Goodman: Scherzo for Wind Quintet; Soui Ventorum Wind Quintet; Musical Heritage Society, Inc.; Tinton Falls, NJ.

Barber unexciting, but sweet; the rest—respectable but unexciting.


The Western Film World of Dimitri Tiomkin; London Studio Symphony Orchestra & The John McCarthy Singers; Musical Heritage Society, Inc.; Trinton Falls, NJ.

Hollywood sinfonics of Anglo-Saxon musical roots by a composer with a Ukrainian family name. It’s frightening how little it means and matters without the appropriate moving pictures.