PBS wants your dollars, and nothing opens Boomers' wallets quite like nostalgic rock 'n' roll. So get ready to rock this week. Twice.
First up is Ed Sullivan's Rock 'n' Roll Classics
, narrated by Jay Thomas with pledge-drive commentary from Paul Shaffer, which takes us back to a time when Sunday nights at 8 were pretty much the only time you could see the popular bands of the day perform.
This two-hour show devotes about half the time to clips from Sullivan's show both obvious choices like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Beach Boys as well as nice surprises like a Sly and the Family Stone medley that included Sly dancing into the audience (and probably scaring the crap out of white people from Maine to California).
Interestingly but maybe not so surprising for the times Sullivan's people seemed to care more about set design than music. So The Doors performed in front of a wall of doors, for example, and no amplifier is ever visible. Some groups didn't need them, of course vocal groups, in particular, lip-synched their performances and didn't pretend otherwise. Hilariously, Diana Ross was given a microphone; the Supremes weren't. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have no microphones; they do have instruments, but oddly, no drums.
Between segments, you'll have to sit through a lot of sales pitches designed to look like those old "20-hits-by-20-artists" ads. But this is a nostalgia trip you'll want to take.
The trip continues the next night with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live
. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself may be little more than a giant Hard Rock Café and a way for Jann Wenner to honor his friends and punish his enemies, but the induction ceremonies are often something special.
This hour-plus show features 10 performances, beginning with a blistering, Billy Joel-led version of I Saw Her Standing There
from 1988 that features George Harrison and Mick Jagger singing one verse together, followed by a Jagger-Bruce Springsteen duet. Behind them is a band that includes Bob Dylan on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.
Most of the show trades on magical pairings like Santana with Peter Green crushing Black Magic Woman
; John Fogerty, Robbie Robertson and Springsteen plowing through Green River
; and Prince making his guitar cry and scream and stomp on While My Guitar Gently Weeps
, accompanied by Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison, George's son.
Other performances are just great renditions of songs particularly Jackson Browne's desperate Running on Empty
and Springsteen's furious Promised Land
Hall of Fame-worthy performances, all.