Hullabaloo Vols. 9-12 DVD

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Hey kid. The next time one of us old coots starts rattling on and on about how great the pop music environment was in the mid-60s, try shutting him up with a single word: Hullabaloo.

In those pre-MTV years, tv was hardly a pop music wasteland. There was rock, pop and soul all over tv in the 60s and 70s. But that was part of the problem: it was all over the tv, spread out sporadically among variety shows like Ed Sullivan's (rightly regarded as one of the era's most reliable pop music showcases), Top 40 tv like Dick Clark's show and musical revue shows like Don Cornelius' Soul Train and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (both started in the early 70s), or Shindig! ('64-'66) and its inferior rival Hullabaloo ('65-'66). On shows like Sullivan's, you had to sit through an awful lot of dancing poodles, corny comedians and Topo Gigio to get one or two songs from, say, Herman's Hermits. And even on an all-music show like Hullabaloo, the schlock factor was extremely high. The genius of early MTV was bringing all the music together in one place, with low levels of extraneous crap.

Skipping the crap is where the DVD's chapter-skimming function comes in. Hullabaloo Volumes 9-12, the third in MPI's series, lets you skip through six episodes of the show and 17 bonus performances, picking the cherries and avoiding the cheese. Still, for historical purposes youngsters should sit at least once through the episodes as originally presented, just to get some idea of what a bizarre, apparently haphazard mix of acts it presented.

The May 11, 1965, show, for example, includes priceless early tv appearances by the Byrds, some good Supremes footage and an interesting moment when Sam the Sham's voice cracks as he sings (over recorded music?very little of Hullabaloo was all-live) "Wooly Bully." But you also had to cringe through Peter & Gordon and a horrifying Vegas-style medley of Beatles hits sung by Frankie Avalon with long-forgotten singers Barbara McNair and Joannie ("Who?") Sommers. Another episode gives you a classic Righteous Brothers performance, gleaming like a gem in an ugly swamp of Paul Revere & the Raiders, Bob ("Elusive Butterfly") Lind, a comatose Nancy Sinatra and two Brit gimps named Paul & Barry Ryan.

Elsewhere, the great garage band the McCoys share the screen with hideous schlock from Leslie Uggams and Barry McGuire, including a cornpone tribute to Roger Miller; the Young Rascals play "Gimme Some Lovin'" live, between mortifying turns by George Hamilton and Lainie Kazan; the Everly Brothers and Marvin Gaye get stuck with Paul Anka and Jose Fucking Jimenez; and the Animals, after a fair live rendition of "It's My Life," are forced to mug it up with then-popular tv star George Maharis. It's like the show had no ruling intelligence, but was slapped together by a committee of agents vying to get their completely disparate acts some air time. The bonus tracks are blessedly almost free of the showbiz horrors.

On another historical note, I was amazed to see how multi-culti the show was for the mid-60s. The Hullabaloo Dancers are black, white, Asian and Latino; the racial equality among the star acts looks completely casual and normal. At a time when race relations were anything but, pop music presented a racially mixed image that was, yes, a fantasy, but also a message of potentiality that simply had to have an impact on its young audience. The music industry is always cursed in some quarters for its "racism," while its progressive, if subliminal, influence on race relations is somehow always ignored.

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