American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire

American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire

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by John Jackson
     
 

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"I don't make culture, I sell it" Dick Clark once remarked. Indeed, the man who reigned as host of American Bandstand for nearly four decades may not have invented rock 'n' roll, but he sold it to the American public better than anyone before or since. Before Clark, rock 'n' roll was the step child of radio—which took to playing records as a

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Overview

"I don't make culture, I sell it" Dick Clark once remarked. Indeed, the man who reigned as host of American Bandstand for nearly four decades may not have invented rock 'n' roll, but he sold it to the American public better than anyone before or since. Before Clark, rock 'n' roll was the step child of radio—which took to playing records as a cost-saving measure after television siphoned off radios most lucrative sponsors. But it was network television—and specifically Clarks Bandstand—that ultimately legitimized what was then viewed by most adults as vulgar, low-class music, broadcasting a sanitized vision of rock 'n' roll straight into Americas living rooms five afternoons a week.
Here is the first book to tell the full story of what happened in front of—and behind—the cameras on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, providing both a history of this landmark show and of the changing styles of rock 'n' roll over four decades. Based on extensive interviews with music business figures, recording stars, and Clark himself, and featuring dozens of rare or never before published photographs, this is a riveting and uncensored account of a show that managed to survive countless revolutions in popular music. Jackson describes Bandstands humble beginnings in Philadelphias blue collar south side, the sex scandal that scuttled the first host of Bandstand and enabled Clark to launch his career, the glory days when an appearance on Bandstand was one of the most prized gigs in the music business and when teenagers lined up for blocks hoping to enter the studio, and memorable Bandstand appearances by rock 'n' roll royalty from Chubby Checker and Frankie Avalon, to Jerry Lee Lewis and Jefferson Airplane, to Pink Floyd and Madonna. Here as well is a candid look at the backstage financial maneuvering that allowed Clark to launch a video and entertainment empire worth nearly $200 million dollars today. Voted Most Likely To Sell The Brooklyn Bridge by his high school classmates, Clark emerges as a cunning business impresario determined to make millions. Readers learn how Clark decided which eager young singers would appear on the show, how he managed to survive a 1959 Congressional payola investigation that destroyed the careers of many other popular disc jockeys, how much money he earned from his personal financial investments in many of the songs played on Bandstand, and his importance to ABC in its fledgling days as a national television network.
As entertaining as it is eye-opening, Dick Clark's American Bandstand will bring back a flood of memories to everyone who lived through that era. It will fascinate everyone interested in popular American culture or in rock 'n' roll history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Valuable and authoritative."—Publisher's Weekly

"John A. Jackson's fascinating book shows how Clark worked the biz side of pop music to become a multimillionaire and how his show fit into 1950s American culture and society."—Jon Wiener, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews
"I don't make culture, I sell it" is the epigram with which Jackson opens this overview of Dick Clark's American Bandstand—the television program that made its star a millionaire several times over.

Jackson (Big Bear Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, not reviewed) also quotes Clark as saying about writers, "Their overt jealousy of celebrities comes out in print. Their stories reek of sour grapes." That being said, it's miraculous that Clark gave Jackson an interview for this book, which explodes any beliefs that people may still hold about Clark being synonymous with "squeaky clean." Depicted as profane, often clueless about musical trends, and motivated almost purely by money, Clark comes off in Jackson's depiction as being a worse ogre than rock 'n' roll aficionados claim he is, for "whitening" black music for widespread consumption. Jackson echoes this charge as well, extrapolating at length on how Clark helped popularize Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and its accompanying dance, disregarding the five-decade history of the dance in the African-American community. A large section of this volume concerns the "payola" scandal of the late 1950s in which Clark figured; he invested in the companies behind the songs he played—essentially giving payola to himself. Behind the scenes, he built vertical monopolies, running ABC's record label, forming his own label, and sharing ownership in a pressing plant, record distributor, and talent management agency. Clark's grave underestimation of the impact that the Beatles' arrival in America would have in 1964 resulted in his show's long, steady decline, but Clark's ability to re-create himself as game-show host and sweepstakes spokesman has kept his pockets lined.

Ultimately, this is not at all about American Bandstand's impact on culture so much as its impact on Clark's wallet—a subject that gets tiresome after 200 pages or so. Jackson should have tried less Clark, more Bandstand.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195130898
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
06/03/1999
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
382,277
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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