Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sabbath Sunday: Back in the Day

Back when I was a kid the only you got to see your favorite rock bands was on late weekend nights, with shows like Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or Midnight Special. There were a few scattered shows here and there that showed music videos, and if you absolutely had to there was Dick Clark's loathesome American Bandstand. Of course, you were hostage to the guest-lists on these shows and I always seemed to tune in when some hairy band of musos like Uriah Heep or the Atlantic Rhythm Section were noodling away.

But every once in a while you got lucky and saw a band you were genuinely excited about. I still remember seeing Cheap Trick on Don Kirschner in 1978 and being totally blown away by the sheer newness of them, and how they seemed to promise a Dionysian future for us all. Also in '78 was the above blast from the last Sabbath tour before Ozzy was fired. I can still remember sitting in my living room on Saturday night, watching this with my mother and her boyfriend Nat (who owned one of the biggest Chevy dealerships in New England at the time). I remember how utterly horrified and disgusted they were by it and how utterly captivated I was. It was one of those moments you knew everyone in school would be talking about on Monday morning, since you never heard Black Sabbath on the radio and hardly ever saw them on those music shows. Back then, those moments really seemed to matter.

There was a long intermediary period after the Don Kirschner era, where you had MTV and VHI and other channels playing all sorts of videos no one cool was interested in. But I must say that the total immersion of video-on-demand is even more exciting than the old days of novelty-via-scarcity. Music video can be an amazing and transcendental artform when handled properly. And there are so many clips that people missed in the old days that can almost be life-changing when they see them today. And then there are other clips like "Never Say Die" that are a nice window on the past.

When I was 12, I was heavily into sword and sorcery - Lord of the Rings, Conan and Kull comics and paperbacks, John Carter- and the Sabs look like characters from the stories here. Of course in this age of steroids and HGH, every Metal band look like extras from Conan the Destroyer. But the Sabs have that long-ago look in their faces- you can imagine them trudging through the moors at the order of some Norman princeling. Except maybe for Ozzy. He'd be the court jester.

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