Tag Archives: Don Kirshner

R.I.P. Don Kirshner

Don Kirshner, music impressario, died yesterday at 76.

Kirshner, who got his start (and a hell of a bankroll) through music publishing and plugging, was one of the true giants of the industry. He worked with everyone from Bobby Darin to Brill Building songwriters to rockers of three generations but was probably best known for his work with The Monkees and his iconic concert program.

The story of his tenure with The Monkees is well-known; Kirshner having been hired to provide the songs for the faux band to sing and delivering one chart-topping hit after another, thanks to the stable of songwriting legends like Neil Diamond, Goffin/King and Jeff Barry. But the band wanted to write and play their own material, fired Kirshner (even though he made them millionaires) and achieved their goal…albeit killing the cash cow in the process.

After working as a consultant for ABC’s In Concert, Kirshner broke off on his own to produce and syndicate Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The first episode featured The Rolling Stones  – quite a coup since they hadn’t been on television in four years – and a new format featuring real live music instead of lip-synched stagings. Kirshner’s stiff persona and bad haircut (he resembled a thinner and less blustery George Steinbrenner) became a running joke, and his mannerisms were fodder for impressionists for years.

Video: Check out Don introducing Joe Walsh, who then dazzles with songs from Barnstorm backed by an all-star band.

Kirshner was painted as a villain because of the Monkee debacle, and there were those who thought of him as simply a scheming capitalist who was the antithesis of the music he was featuring on his show. But there’s no denying that he almost single-handedly brought rock’n’roll into your living room every week when television was merely three networks and PBS. The show ended just as cable television – and this new concept called MTV – was born.

If there’s a rock’n’roll heaven…well, Don is probably running the damned thing by now. R.I.P. to a true pioneer.

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Blast From The Past: Herman’s Hermits

So what were *you* doing when you were 15 years old?

So what were *you* doing at fifteen years old?

 Although Herman’s Hermits were never taken as seriously as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals or The Kinks (to just name of few of their contemporaries), they were a dominant force on the pop charts in the 60s, and unbelievably outsold The Beatles in America in 1965. Like many of those bands, they started as a tight r&b band (as evidenced by guitarist Lek Lekenby’s guitar work on this DVD) until pop stardom took them in another direction. The American market was receptive to novelty hits like “I’m Henry VIII I Am” (which wouldn’t fly in the UK), and although the band was now pigeonholed into “the boys next door”, their success was phenomenal, with one charted single after another in rapid succession. But when MGM’s financial woes caused a lull in their output, The Monkees exploded onto the scene and things were never quite the same.

Producer Mickie Most helped manager Harvey Lisberg control their career with his knack for selecting hit singles (similar to the role Don Kirschner would play for The Monkees), and thanks to his connections young studio musicians Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones played on many of the early records. But this DVD, a televised special from Australia in 1966, clearly shows that the band could hold their own quite nicely. The footage is not bad quality, considering its age, and there are no sync problems and very few jumps.

For some odd reason there are two versions of the show – the original thirty minute broadcast and a “2007 mix” where the footage is enhanced by animation, graphics and some visual tricks straight out of a 60s acid flashback movie. Stick with the original; the latter is useless and annoying to watch. The band looks and sounds great, performing nine hits with three interruptions for the oddly risque commercials for Hilton “ladderproof” nylons (who knew?).

But the real value on the DVD is in the bonus features. Along with an odd video for “No Milk Today” and behind-the-scenes trailers for two of their movies (with amusing commentary) we also get performance clips from German and Norweigan TV programs; it’s a treat to watch them tackle  “Dandy” (The Kinks) and “Bus Stop” (“The Hollies“).  “The Hermits Story” is a short documentary that includes Most, Lisberg, writer Johnny Rogan and band members Karl Green, Keith Hopwood and Barry Whitwaw, among others. The documentary looks like it was dubbed from a damaged videotape, but despite the occasional smear it’s fascinating to watch.

Years later I saw the Herman-less Hermits play a club show. Wearing white suits and telling ribald jokes between songs, they were the antithesis of the young and innocent image of the original band. But of course, that whole cheeky image was a calculated act; these guys were as crazed as any group of teenage boys would be tossed into a world of madness. Peter Noone continues to sound great, having later success with The Tremblers and on various oldies tours; even collaborating with Richard X Heyman on a great EP.

Highly recommend picking this DVD up. The price is low, the value is high, and the memories are priceless..

 hermans hermits

Buy this DVD at Amazon.

The Herman’s Hermits website.

The video for “No Milk Today” on the DVD isn’t as good as this one.

A TV performance of “Kind of a Hush” with live vocal from Peter.

Peter Noone resurfaced in 1978 with The Tremblers.

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