Filed by Casey Phillips
VARIOUS ARTISTS. "Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary." Time-Life.
Let's just get this out of the way, this is a greatest hits collection covering 31 years (1956-1981) of popular music, so don't expect lots of deep cuts and obscure releases.
Obviously, a collection with such a wide scope, both stylistically and chronologically, is going to be massive (as should be expected for the list price of $150), but this one borders on ridiculously so.
Just over 200 songs are spread across 12 discs, covering an almost comically diverse stable of artists, including Patsy Cline, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5 (as well as the King of Pop solo), Elton John, The Supremes and dozens more.
In addition to the songs, the collection also contains a half-hour of noteworthy American Bandstand interviews on a DVD and a 40-page booklet that serves simultaneously as a history of the show and a disc index.
As usual with anything from Time-Life, there's also the requisite certificate of authenticity. As with any certificate of authenticity, this is of dubious value, unless perhaps you have unobservant friends and want to pad your wall of honors and diplomas.
Before getting too deep in, it might be prudent to give some brief background on American Bandstand for the uninitiated.
Started in the 1950s in Philadelphia at WFIL-TV, American Bandstand was an hour-long program that broadcast teens dancing to the beat of the latest Top-40 hits. The show included an opinion segment called "Rate-A-Record" where teens would do just that, and during each airing, an artist would appear to perform (read: lip-synch) their music live and be interviewed by host Dick Clark.
Over time, the show grew immensely popular -- a kind of finger to the country's musical pulse. Every day, kids across the country raced home after school to catch the program, and by 1964, American Bandstand had rocketed up the ratings and was shipped cross-country to Los Angeles.
For those born in the days of iTunes and satellite radio, their only exposure to Clark -- who secured his fame during a decades-long stint on the show -- might be during his yearly appearance on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. But from 1957 to 1988, he was a daily (later weekly) presence in the lives of teens all over the country.
The concept of a show like American Bandstand having such a fanatic following might be hard for today's youth to understand, but during its heyday, few shows captured the interest of the teen population as completely as American Bandstand. This was the outlet to hear the latest releases, see the newest dance moves and follow the lives of the dancers, who became something like stars themselves.
The collection celebrates this popularity by including high-quality recordings of the artists who defined the generations touched by the show and its seemingly ageless host. Given the nature of the program as a showcase of danceable popular music, buyers shouldn't purchase the set expecting a diverse look at a myriad of genres or risk disappointment.
For anyone old enough to remember the show and its format -- or anyone who simply enjoys the popular music of the coverage period -- however, this is a must-have. Even if you aren't a fan of some of these artists, the breadth (if perhaps not the depth) of the collection serves as an auditory depiction of popular music's evolution throughout this period.
Of course, no collection this wide-ranging is going to please everybody, but with 201 songs, there are almost certain to be more hits than misses, regardless of your preferences. If the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive" doesn't make you want to break out your platforms, you might be happy with Ike and Tina's cover of "Proud Mary" or something slower like Elvis' "Don't Be Cruel" or Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man."
Bearing realistic expectations in mind, "Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary" is a treasure trove for nostalgic fans, whether of the show or the songs themselves. If you can bare the hit to your budget, get this one. Besides, even if you end up loathing every artist, you can use that certificate to fill the blank spot between your high school and college diplomas.
E-mail Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org