Legend has it that Feb. 3, 1959, was "the day the music died." On that day, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper found themselves on a small Beechcraft Bonanza airplane, bounced around in a storm like Chesty Morgan's breasticles before finally crashing to earth.
Rock & roll supposedly went toes-up along with Our Heroes—before it was resurrected by the neighborly and suddenly funky Brits a few years later. This banality is due more to the lightweight but undeniably catchy song "American Pie" by Don McLean than to any crumb of reality, but the legend endures all the same (and truth be told, McLean himself could rock about as hard as Ben Stein). And the rock-is-dead community had three pieces of hard evidence: FRANKIE AVALON, FABIAN and BOBBY RYDELL, no-talent, mom-and-dad-approved pretty boys who subsequently became chart-topping stars in the wake of the death of Our Heroes.
But they're only part of the story. Acting as defense attorney for rock & roll, I could submit a longer list of all-time great tunes that charted in the Top 10 after Feb. 3, 1959, and before Jan. 25, 1964, when the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" initially hit the No. 5 spot on the American charts—a sampling of which would include "Stagger Lee" by Lloyd Price (1959), "Chain Gang" by Sam Cooke (1960), "Runaway" by Del Shannon (1961), "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the MG's (1962), "Heat Wave" by Martha & the Vandellas (1963), and "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (1963).
If this is evidence of death, then call the fuckin' coroner 'cuz I'm ready to pull a Cobain any second over here. In fact, I'll take just about any of these songs over much of Holly's later output, anything the Big Bopper ever recorded and certainly the Beatles' ridiculous "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Shame about Ritchie Valens, though.
As for Avalon, Rydell and Fabian, who appear billed as "The Golden Boys of Bandstand" Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Cerritos Center—yeah, well, there's no denying that they pretty much deserved every poison arrow fired at them (although I reserve a soft spot in my heart for Fabian's "Turn Me Loose"). But theirs was a relatively harmless brand of suckage. The Dead Three weren't great enough or the Pussy Three harmful enough for their respective ends and arrivals to kill off so great an artistic movement as rock & roll.
But the rise of the Weakling Trio did signal something else: it was the first wave of manufactured teenybopper music, which yielded such subsequent pantywaist acts as Herman's Hermits, the Osmond Brothers, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli and on and on ad nauseam. Today, their legacy is carried on by such acts as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore and all the so-called Boy Bands.
This is children's music. When you've outgrown Raffi but aren't yet emotionally mature enough to deal with the appallingly stupid sentiments espoused by Eminem, Korn, Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit, who else are you gonna turn to? The Girl Singers and Boy Bands fill that terrifying void.
In the earliest 1960s, the Boys of Bandstand were the void-fillers. When I was a little kid, I loved watching those awful beach-party movies in my PJs at the drive-in, and I still do when they pop up today on TNT, even though my PJs don't have the little feet in them anymore. They were simple-minded, dorky fun for anyone who cared to suspend critical judgment for a couple of hours. Even at age 5, I preferred Dion and Fats and Jackie to Avalon and co. as far as the records went, but—well, I was a sophisticated little fucker, and Dion wasn't exactly singing about rape, gangbanging and murder anyway, now was he?
But what of Avalon, Fabian and Rydell today? At ages 61, 57 and 58 respectively, they ain't hardly gonna be fresh-faced and cute anymore. They're more about hair plugs, face-lifts and scrotal tucks than surfboards, Brylcreem and beach bunnies these days. It is easy to imagine that gastric-reflux burns in their chests, that they fart uncontrollably from spastic colons, and that liver spots mar their once-smooth olive complexions. They never could sing a lick, not a one of them—that sure as hell will be no different 40 years later—and their former teenybopper fans are now grandmas and grandpas with Bush/Cheney signs in their front yards (brrrrr!).
In 2050, after I'm long dead and gone, will Britney, Christina, Mandy and Jessica tour together as "The Golden Girls of 2000"? Probably. And I'm glad I won't be around to write about it.
THE GOLDEN BOYS OF BANDSTAND AT THE CERRITOS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 12700 CENTER COURT DR., CERRITOS, (800) 300-4345. TUES.-WED., 8 P.M. $45-$55.
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