David Bowie Is. Review (3 pages)

In your review, please address at least one of these themes: the politics of popular culture, authenticity, stardom, fandom, image making, pop criticism. Choose one aspect from the exhibition David Bowie Is that is on view at the Brooklyn museum (a costume, for example, there are a lot of pictures from the exhibition). I will attach a few, you you can choose one of them and connect it to two-three of the themes above. I also attached a few articles that will be useful for the review. Course: Pop! Fashion, music and cultural studies. Chicago StyleLet’s put a few quotations also, just like in the short essay for the same course.
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Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 25, Issue 3, Pages 301–325
Excitement is Made, Not Born: Jack Good, Television,
and Rock and Roll
Norma Coates
University of Western Ontario
Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ image architect and early
manager, never missed one of Jack Good’s mid-1950s rock and roll
television programs, and called one of them “earth-moving” (Oldham, 34).
Tony Meehan, drummer/arranger and producer of Cliff Richard’s band, the
Drifters, called Good “a visionary” and noted that “none of us missed an
episode of Oh Boy!,” Good’s groundbreaking rock and roll program on
the British ABC network (35). In the context of his quote, from Oldham’s
autobiography Stoned, Meehan’s “none of us” implies British teenagers
tout court, not just the members of the Drifters. Oh Boy! was, according
to Meehan, “the most exciting rock television show there’s ever been”
(Oldham, 35). Oldham’s boarding school friend, John Douglas, asserts that
“Oh Boy! was unbelievably influential on Andy’s entre´e into the British
rock scene,” and that the 14-year-old future rock impresario managed
to “blag his way” into the audience for a taping (Oldham, 37). Oldham
further asserted that “Oh Boy! was a weekly communion of pure sex and
energy”—much like the image he constructed for the band he managed in
the 1960s, the Rolling Stones (36–7). Rolling Stone Bill Wyman affirms
that Good played a “big role in helping early pop by producing the TV
series Oh Boy!” (110). Future British recording artists and scenemakers
watched, learned, and were inspired by Good’s programs. At the height of
the British Invasion in 1964 and 1965, American audiences were treated
to his televisual style via Shindig!, the memorable primetime rock and
roll program. Yet television producer Jack Good is but a footnote to rock
history, especially in its American inflection. Given Good’s involvement,
Shindig! should be recognized as an example of the transnational influence
on American television production, in that the program reflected a “more
inherently visual approach”—one that media scholar Michele Hilmes
attributes only to British television drama (253). This article seeks to inject
Good and his telemusical style into rock and roll and transnational television
history.

C
2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
302
Norma Coates
Good is well-known to the generation of British musicians and
audiences who came of age in the mid to late 1950s, and who were exposed
to rock and roll by Radio Luxembourg, American films, and television,
especially two shows that Good coproduced or produced, Six-Five Special
and Oh Boy! The BBC’s Six-Five Special, coproduced by Good, was not the
first popular music program broadcast by the venerable national network,
nor was it the first to broadcast youthful pop, but it was the first to highlight
rock and roll and its youthful audience.1 Good was the first television
producer to combine the formal tools and conventions of television—even
in its comparatively early and technically primitive days—with elements
cribbed from theater, to both access and amplify the latent excitement he
divined in the new genre. For Good, rock and roll’s authenticity depended
upon the audience response. The task of the television and stage producer
was to generate that response. Authenticity was not a value discerned by a
select few, but a feeling, an affective sensibility that could be aroused and
amplified. Good used artifice and style, not in terms of dress, but in terms
of comportment, movement, lighting, patterning, and noise, to unlock and
produce authentic emotion.2
Despite Good’s recognized legacy in Great Britain, little to no critical
or academic attention has been paid to the how, and more importantly the
why, of Good’s presentation, indeed interpretation, of rock and roll for the
television screen. This critical lacuna serves several purposes: it helps to
reinforce the increasingly compromised but still influential “rupture” theory
of rock history (Peterson); it dismisses the exchanges between national
television systems; it privileges an American-centric vision of the rock and
roll of the era, especially that of the mid to late 1950s; and it rests upon an
erroneous assumption that all rock and roll performers emerged, like Elvis
Presley and a small handful of other artists, with their stage personae and
skill intact (Weingarten). Consequently, a particular ideology of authenticity
as something immanent to a performer or performance, recognized only by
a discriminating subset of the audience, remains reified and reiterated in
much popular music scholarship and criticism.
This article draws upon personal interviews with people involved
in the production of Oh Boy! and Shindig!, including the reclusive Good;
contemporary reviews and articles; detailed examinations and discussions
of rare television episodes; and Good’s own scrapbooks and notes. I use
this material to argue that the analysis of Jack Good’s early telemusical
style, especially as realized in the British telemusical program Oh Boy! and
its American incarnation, Shindig!, forces a reconsideration of television’s
Jack Good, Television, and Rock and Roll
303
encounter, in both Great Britain and the United States, with early rock
and roll through the dawning days of the British Invasion. In these cases,
television was, contra Simon Frith and others, more than an exploitative
medium that had little impact on popular music culture (Frith 288; Dettmar
58–61). Television played an essential role in shaping performance practices
and audience responses to rock and roll and rock music.3 I assert that
Good’s production style defined an alternative way to theorize authenticity
in popular music, one in which authenticity is tied more to affective
responses and reactions invoked in audiences than to aesthetic values lodged
in performers and performances, accessible to select taste and knowledge
cohorts.4
In Good’s approach to television production everything available to
him, including music, musicians, lighting, camerawork, and mise-en-sce`ne,
were plastic elements that he could mould to achieve his vision. Cameras
did not “report” activity on stage but added movement and excitement
to the scenes taking place in order to arouse and energize the at-home
audience. Music and camerawork together propelled songs, which never
ended but segued into each other without pause. Exuberant use of closeups and extreme close-ups in tandem with the judicious play of spotlights
and shadow created or added drama to even the drabbest performances. For
Good, musicians were little more than actors, characters in the scenes that he
envisioned in his mind, to be brought to life with costumes, lighting, acting,
sets, and blocking. Music itself was one tool out of many, fused with other
elements in the pursuit of nonstop excitement.
Good, born in 1931, grew up in a middle-class household in Palmer’s
Green, North London. His father sold pianos for Harrods. His grammar
school English teacher introduced him to theater and to Shakespeare. As
a teenager in wartime London, he sat at the front of the gallery at the
Old Vic upon its reopening in 1944, watching and learning from great
actors including Lawrence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, and Alec Guinness
(Good interview). After a two-year stint in the RAF for National Service,
Good entered Balliol College, Oxford, to study philology. His acting ability
and social skills propelled him to the presidency of the distinguished Oxford
University Dramatic Society (OUDS), where he acted in and directed
Shakespeare plays (Cleave 8).
After graduating, Good attempted to make a living as an actor. During
a free afternoon while an understudy in a West End play, he wandered into a
screening of Rock Around the Clock, a hastily crafted teenpic that exploited
both the song and the burgeoning popularity and notoriety of rock and roll
304
Norma Coates
music in the United States. What Good refers to as his “Road to Damascus”
moment—the moment when he became interested in rock and roll, or more
accurately, in the effect of rock and roll music upon audiences—was kindled
by the film.5 He identified in rock and roll the vehicle he had been looking
for in his studies of mind control, behavioral psychology, and related modes
of eliciting excitement and other emotions, including fear, from human and
animal subjects.6 As Good recounted to Royston Ellis, chronicler of the
British Beat scene in the years before the Beatles, “as soon as I heard this
fantastic new sound—voices shrieking, “razzle dazzle” and stuff like that—I
knew there was something here for me. But I wasn’t quite sure what” (Ellis
113). Good was less concerned with what the music sounded like or who
performed it, and more interested in what he could do with it—in the total
effect and impact he could create using other tools, specifically those of the
theater, to produce particular reactions in audiences.
In 1956, failing to find enough acting work to support his wife
and growing family, Good enrolled in a television production course at the
BBC. The broadcaster asked Good and another young producer, Josephine
Douglas, to devise a program with youth appeal.7 According to Good,
Douglas “was sympathetic to my ideas” but “she could not have realized the
extent of my enthusiasm” (Good interview). Douglas wanted a “‘hobbiesfor-youngsters’ kind of programme,” while Good wanted all music. Good
also wanted the audience in front of, rather than behind, the camera, an
innovation that the BBC did not care to make (Good interview). Nor did
Douglas (Ellis 114).8 For Good, the audience, its reaction, and its onscreen
dancing were as much if not more important than the performers and
performances before that audience. His goal was to incite the audience
with noise and stagecraft culled from the theater, creating scenes and the
sensation of “wild abandon” in the studio and at home.
Six-Five Special thrived despite BBC Light Entertainment and
Douglas’s disapprobation. The program’s “accent on music” was recognized
in a preview article published in Stage, a British entertainment trade journal,
although it was not all rock and roll: “Traditional jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, skiffle
groups, steel bands will all find a place as the weeks go by, nor will classical
music be forgotten” (“Accent”). The New Musical Express later called the
program, which premiered on Saturday, February 16, 1957 at exactly 6:05
p.m., “one of the most fantastically successful shows ever produced by the
BBC” (“The 6.5 Special Is All Steamed Up”).
By the time those words were published, Good had parted ways with
the BBC. Good claimed that he had left because he wanted to produce a
Jack Good, Television, and Rock and Roll
305
stage version of the program, and because he realized that, “I could go on
for ever in television and never produce anything but Six-Five Specials, so
I had to leave (Ellis 116).9 Good wanted to produce people on television,
not television qua television. He also wanted to delve further into his ideas
about creating excitement.
Good indeed mounted a stage show using the Six-Five Special name,
taking it to variety halls around the country. A review of its stop at the
Finsbury Park Empire noted that it provided “a feast for rock ‘n’ roll
teenagers, but fails to constitute a true variety programme” and described
a show dominated by music of many types, including jive rock ensembles,
vocalists, skiffle, and “sound-comedy” (“Round the Variety Halls”). Good
found the stage show wanting. Much of the excitement generated by Six-Five
Special, Good recalled, was channeled to the home audience by the vision
of jiving dancers on the soundstage. That is, the excitement was visual,
not aural. He realized that the excitement of a stage version of something
like Six-Five Special had to be channeled onstage through stagecraft and
theatrical spectacle, not through music alone. He added different elements
to draw out and intensify the excitement he discerned in the music. He
turned a new singer into a “singing James Dean” and renamed him Adam
Faith. He hired a troupe of girls, dressed them differently to emphasize their
individual personalities, and suggested songs for them to sing.
Before long, and based on Good’s success with Six-Five Special,
British commercial network ABC-TV snapped him up for a new program
where the ideas with which he experimented in his stage show could be
brought to full fruition using the formal properties of television to achieve his
vision.10 Good used some of his brief break between production stints to read
a new book about methods of inciting behavioral responses in human beings.
William Sargant’s Battle for the Mind, initially published in 1957, detailed
processes of religious conversion in voodoo, early Methodism, and other
religious practices, as well as related methods of political brainwashing.11
Good’s desire to experiment with these mind control techniques
via the presentation of rock and roll was not born out of antipathy to or
fear of the emerging genre, but came, rather, from his enduring interest in
ways to create excitement. Rock and roll provided him with an appropriate
object. He already had an idea of how to do it. Inspiration came from the
French National Theater’s performance of Shakespeare, viewed in Paris or
London in the 1950s. Good remembers the production as set “against drapes
with spotlights, hard white spotlights” (Good interview). Dramatic lighting
and sparse sets became hallmarks of his production style and provided
306
Norma Coates
a fresh departure from convention. Popular music historian Tony Palmer
notes that early British rock and roll, as well as that of the British Invasion,
was influenced by the British music hall tradition. Early British agents,
for example Larry Parnes, were theatrical agents, not envoys from the
recording or music publishing industries, a connection underscored in the
recent anthology, Britpop and the English Music Tradition (Palmer 222; see
also Bennett and Stratton). Good seems to have largely eschewed the music
hall tradition in favor of techniques and methods cribbed from theater.
Without the meddling of timid superiors or coproducers, Good,
with director Rita Gillespie, augmented his theatrical toolkit with mobile
camerawork to create movement and elicit specific emotional responses.
Good made his vision clear in a manifesto outlining his approach to
presenting rock and roll on television, published as part of the advance
press for his next program, Oh Boy!:
The problem for a “pop” music programme on television is clear,
then. It is: How can vision be added to these sounds in a way that,
at worst, the excitement is not lost and, at best, it is boosted to an
even higher level? . . . Oh Boy! will show exciting singers and bands
playing exciting music to an exciting audience. The vision and the
sound will be firmly linked. The one will be the source of the other
(Good papers).
In addition, the show would be live and fast, “one of the fastest shows
on television” (Good papers).12 Indeed, Oh Boy!’s pace would return, to an
extent, on Shindig!, but was not achieved again until MTV, and then only in
postproduction through editing, not through live transmission.
A small number of kinescoped episodes of Oh Boy! travel the bootleg
circuit, and excerpts are available on YouTube. These samples are enough
to demonstrate how Good created intense excitement from a live show
staged in a performance hall, the Empire Theatre in Hackney. Motion and
geometry, dramatic lighting, rapid editing, swooping camera movements,
unconventional shot framing, performers who look like the audience, and
the disarming and frequent use of extreme close-ups treated the audience to
an experience and aesthetic unique to television. Good approached television
production as a theater director would approach a play, carefully blocking
every physical movement, camera shot, camera movement, and lighting cue
in advance.13 The full 50-member cast was on stage during the entire show,
often heard but not seen. Lights came on and off at strategic moments
Jack Good, Television, and Rock and Roll
307
to intensify audience responses and highlight musical and other elements.
Good and Gillespie collaborated on the televisual generation of musical
excitement, planning camera and lighting in advance, and adhering to strict
timing and cues (Lusher interview). Nevertheless, Oh Boy! looks and feels
organic, as it carries spectators away on waves of excitement that do not
break until the end of each 30-minute episode.14 Gillespie’s assistant Diana
Bramwell (now Lusher) was armed with a stopwatch and charged with the
precise timing of camera shots, lighting cues, and on and offstage entrances
and movement.
One segment flows quickly into another, signaled by sound, light, or
movement. It is difficult to discern which, if any, element is most important
to the overall effect. Shadows and silhouettes create and amplify drama.
Close-ups of faces, not of fingers on fretboards or other shots that would
become visual cliche´s, provoke authentic affective responses. The pace is
modulated by well-timed ballads. Oh Boy!’s half-hour flies by. The in-theater
audience can be heard screaming throughout the program yet there are no
audience reaction shots, thereby permitting at-home viewers their subjective
reactions to the action on their television screens. The authentic exhilaration
of rock and roll still leaps from the television due to the artifice employed
to coax it out. Indeed, Good pushed his artists “and himself to the extreme”
to transform “the lightning pace and excitement” that he divined in rock and
roll into a home and live audience response (Valentine).
Reviews of the program clipped for Good’s personal scrapbook reveal
that Oh Boy! excited and horrified staid television critics. Derek Hoddinott’s
initial review in The Stage was titled “‘Oh Boy!’—Oh Dear,” and reported
that “watching this thirty-five minute programme made me terrified.
Terrified because it was like Orwell’s ‘1984’—here was Big Brother, namely,
‘rock ‘n’ roll,’ to which all of us must bow” (Hoddinott 8). Hoddinott’s
terror did not preclude him from describing what obviously fascinated and
disturbed him at the same time. The show, he noted, “organized excitement,
movement, and emotions televised against a black backcloth so that gyrating
figures were brought to relief with hypnotic and sometimes horrifying effect”
(8). The live audience was equally choreographed. The whole effect was to
transport “people to the realms of a world that normal people knew very
little about” (8). Hoddinott saw in Oh Boy! a dystopian future, one in which
young people and their interests supplanted those of the entertainment status
quo. Others, like Andrew Loog Oldham, saw their career path.
Critics also commented vociferously on the program’s “noise.”
Indeed, Oh Boy! was propelled by an almost nonstop blitzkreig of sound
308
Norma Coates
led in equal parts by the wail of a saxophone and an ample use of brass
instruments tightly joined to camera movement, lighting, and other elements
of stagecraft.15 The noise of the audience punctuated and interwove with the
driving pace of the music and visuals. Unlike American variety programs
and even Six-Five Special, the emcee played a minimal role and most bands
and performers appeared without introduction. “Appear” is an appropriate
word here, as lighting cues and changes introduced performers, background singers, dancers, and instrumentalists, and signaled segues between
acts.
Good applied his sense of theater and costuming to young male
musicians. Palmer states that most o …
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