|MILESAGO - Television
Popular music/variety series
Nine Network, 1958-72
Warwick Freeman 1958-66; Ray Newell 1966-68; Brian Morelli 1970-72
Premiere: Feburary 1958
For most of its tenure BANDSTAND was overseen by its creator, Nine Network executive Bruce Gyngell, who was the first person to appear on Australian television on the first day of broadcast in 1956.
Prior to his move to the nascent broadcast medium in 1954, Gyngell was the first A&R manager for Festival Records. After helping to establish Frank Packer's TCN-9 in Sydney, Gyngell travelled to America to study TV trends there. He returned to set up a new music show meticulously modelled on Dick Clark's hugely sucessful AMERICAN BANDSTAND.
For almost all of its run, Bandstand's urbane and immaculately dressed host was New Zealand-born Brian Henderson, Nine's perennial senior newsreader; in 1964 he became the anchor of Nine's main evening bulletin, a post he holds to this day. Bandstand (and Nine) made "Hendo" a celebrity in his own right, and made stars of its most popular acts.
Bandstand began in 1958, taking over from an earlier shortlived teen-pop series. It hit the screens at the height of the rock'nroll era, and was at its peak in the six years before before the emergence of The Beatles. Although consistently popular for its entire run, Bandstand's reputation as Australia's No.1 pop show (still vigorously curated by Nine's publicity machine) rests chiefly on the Australian acts it launched in this period -- the so-called "Bandstand Family" that included Col Joye, Little Pattie, Johnny Devlin, Bryan Davies, Judy Stone, Digby Richards, The Bee Gees, The Allen Brothers (the duo that included Peter Allen), Olivia Newton-John and others.
Bandstand's influence was greatly augmented by its intimate relationship with Festival Records -- not surprising, given that Gyngell was a former senior employee. Indeed, most of the "Bandstand Family" were Festival acts, and the series was a promotional goldmine for the label.
Bandstand came to epitomise Australian popular music during the "quiet years" from 1960-64, and its leading stars like Col Joye largely defined the look and sound of the period. It was still Australia's leading music show at the start of the beat boom of 1964-65, but unlike its American namesake, which featured a wide range of newer groups, the changes in the music scene largely passed Bandstand by. Although The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were reshaping popular music, there was little evidence of this on Bandstand, where it was business as usual with the clean-cut, short-haired, neatly dressed members of The Bandstand Family.
John Byrell's entertaining book Bandstand And All That lists scores of performers who appeared on the show, but this list includes only a handful of the important pop/rock acts of the 60s. The Easybeats, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs and Ray Brown & The Whispers are the only major groups mentioned, and the only other notable pop/rock performers who appeared can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand -- Merv Benton, Russell Morris, Allison Durbin, The Affair, Little Sammy & The In People, and Jeff St John.
As the Sixties progressed, Bandstand aged with its original audience, bringing in more and more elements from jazz, country and club entertainment. It studiously avoided any of the threatening, raucous elements of the new 'beat' music, and stuck to a variety format that relied for the most part on personable solo singers giving live performances backed by a house orchestra (led in later years by Geoff Harvey). It insisted on high production values and allowed for no unpredictable or 'unsavoury' elements.
Structural changes in Australian music and TV were also influential on Bandstand's retention of its "family" format. Alongside the enormous changes on the international music scene, Australian TV was being rapidly reshaped. Between 1963 and 1965 a new TV licence was issued in each of the mainland capitals and these new stations gradually affiliated to form the 0-10 Network, the third Australian commercial TV network, in 1965. Although never a serious rival to Nine's overall ratings hegemony, Melbourne's ATV-0 took the lead in one important area -- teenage pop music programming. It was home to the most popular and successful music shows of the era: The Go!! Show, Kommotion, Uptight and the Happening 70s series. There was clearly little chance for Nine to challenge this successfully, so they stuck to what they knew. Channel 0's success was also a reflection of the fact that by the mid-60s Melbourne was indisputably the epicentre of the booming new pop scene.
In hindsight, it's clear that the Nine Network and Gyngell chose to ignore the challenge of the "beat craze", opting to hang on to Bandstand's familiar, safe and successful formula that famously "appealed to anyone from eight to eighty". From the mid-Sixties onwards, teenagers audiences left Bandstand to their elders. The shows that catered to their tastes all emanated from the 0-10 network.
By 1972 Bandstand was irrelevant to current trends in Australian popular music. It catered to mostly to parents and grandparents; their offspring, the Sunbury generation, were getting their music from HAPPENING '72 and GTK. Bandstand is credited with launching the career of Billy Thorpe in 1964, but by the end of its run it would have been unimaginable to see the new hard-rock incarnation of Thorpie on Bandstand, delivering the kind of the blistering live-in-the-studio set that he performed for Happening '72.
Nine tried to revive and update the series briefly in the late 1970s with Hey Hey It's Saturday host Daryl Somers taking over from Hendo, but this half-hearted attempt to counter the all-powerful COUNTDOWN failed to connect, largely because Nine never really had the right people or the right approach to carry it off.
|References / Links
John Byrell -- Bandstand And All That, Kangaroo Press, 1995
Albert Moran - Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series - AFTRS, 1993
Tony Harrison - The Australian Film and Television Companion - Simon & Schuster, 1994