Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let The Old Times Roll

The revival in 50s music arguably started in the early 60s. There was a doo-wop comeback, not to mention the song "Those Oldies But Goodies" in 1961. But that was more a hiccup. The true revival started in earnest about a decade later, and continued throughout the 70s--and then some.

The ultimate 50s revival band Sha Na Na performed at Woodstock in 1969, a clear harbinger. By the early 70s there were collections of 50s hits galore. Then came American Graffiti (1973), a quantum leap in interest for everything 50s. Soon after you had the TV show Happy Days and the spread of 50s-themed restaurants which, amazingly, live on to this day. (Why don't we see diners from other eras?)

I was thinking about all this while watching Let The Good Times Roll, a major piece of 50s nostalgia from 1973. It's a concert film featuring Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and many others. Watching it today, however, you can't help but think that the performers were so much closer to their heyday than they are to 2010. Or 2000, for that matter.

PBS stations show a lot of music specials appealing to nostalgia, including more than a few with 50s rockers. A lot of the original artists are gone, and those that have hung in are now past retirement age. The audiences tend to be successful baby boomers, just about ready to retire themselves. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that--rock and roll never forgets. But watching Let The Good Times Roll, what hit me was how vital everything still was. Back then it may have seemed like nostalgia, but now you look at it, see that audience in their 20s, maybe 30s, and think these people are still young enough to Twist.


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