There will be alot of press about Don Kirshner now that he passed away, we’ll hear endless stories about the Monkees and the Archies and Paul Shaffer’s SNL impersonations and that’s all fine, but when you take the bubble gum off of the bottom of your shoe, you’ll find out that Don Kirshner was one the guys who changed the world of rock and roll. Without Don Kirshner there is no MTV, without Don Kirshner there would be no FM rock radio explosion of the mid 70’s and I’ll explain why.
Don Kirshner had a TV show at a time when there were only 5 or 6 channels available it aired on saturday nights on NBC in NYC at 1am after SNL, he didn’t look good, he had a bad New York jewish accent; but he had vision. In this day and age a Don Kirshner couldn’t get near your TV screen and there’s a bazillion more opportunities now than back when “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” aired.
Here’s what that show did that changed the world: it let artists perform a set of songs live in a row, not just a hit or two like SNL does or even Ed Sullivan did, so you would get album tracks; you would get to see the band in that extended environment. It made you connect with the band, it made you want to buy an album, it made you want to see them live. It was a compliment to FM radio. Some may argue that Midnight special was better, that’s not the case. Midnight Special was great in it’s own right, but occasionally there was lip synching, and the acts most of the times were already on the charts plus the presentation was cheesy. Don Kirshner gave you acts before they broke, as well as established superstars. There were times when he didn’t have the acts live but gave you their live performance promo films (ie videos) , of the Stones, of Meatloaf when Bat of Hell was exploding and the first full length Springsteen footage ever shown on American television, and you didn’t get just one song, you got multiple songs.
It would spawn MTV which ironically combined what Mike Nesmith (of the Monkees, who became Don’s nemesis in the 60’s) was doing on Nickelodeon with POPCLIPS and what Don was doing on Rock Concert. MTV not only played videos they also played live promo films and even had a Saturday Night Concert Series that in effect replaced Don Kirshner when he went off the air.
Don Kirshner was a pioneer and a legend, Rest in Peace Don. go here and read about Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and be blown away by some of the acts on the show…
Here’s a video of the Ramones from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1977