Friday, January 27, 2006

The Day The Music Fried

The cameraman was giggling.

I was in the middle of performing an acapella version of a number entitled A Little Duck Quacked At the People. That was the whole lyric.

I don’t suppose it was every day he was asked to capture something like that for posterity.

In their ongoing march to conquer the world, The Ballets Rude eventually decided it was time to bring their talents to the attention of the media, as the media didn’t seem particularly interested in pursuing them.

It came to my attention that the local public television station had just introduced a program called Vox Populi!, a 30-minute show that allowed local organizations to mount their respective soapboxes and explain something about themselves. After tuning it in for a few nights, I got the idea. It was something like those programs that traditionally aired at 3 in the morning, generally consisting of a great many longueurs connected together by periods of tremendous boredom.

Only this one aired at 7 in the evening.

After giving the producer a call, during the course of which I assiduously avoided any mention of what it was we did, I set about collecting the participants for the performance.

As I mentioned previously, it sometimes required a little friendly persuasion to convince my friends to lend a hand in these situations. Like some nascent Andy Warhol, I saw all of them as stars that simply hadn’t been discovered yet, even if they didn’t think they were particularly talented. I explained that I’d never let that stop me and I always wore them down eventually.

It was decided that, as a television program, a “peanut gallery” would be necessary, in the style of a children’s TV show. So anyone who didn’t want to play an instrument was assigned duty here. Others who were on the fence about the level of their participation were given the Hobson’s choice of picking an instrument or delivering an impromptu speech on the subject of their choice.

We soon had all the musicians we needed.

Before the actual taping, I had to go down to the studio and meet with the producer to explain what we’d need and how the show should go. What I hadn’t realized fully at the time was that this studio was the very one where Dick Clark had broadcast the American Bandstand program back in the days when it had been based in Philadelphia.

That’s right. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Got A Good Beat You Can Dance To It Dick Clark.

Had I been more fully cognizant of this at the time, I would have taken advantage of the historical moment and had two people come up after every song and rate them.

The producer seemed an affable type, although a little puzzled by what we were attempting to do. He seemed to be content with my explanations, however, and we confirmed a date for the taping. I’d told him that we’d need a piano, but otherwise we’d be able to provide everything else.

I drew up a rough itinerary of the order in which we wanted to present things and, after a final pep talk to the troops, we were ready.

Emotions ran high as we took the elevated train to 46th and Market and when we entered at last into the studio, with its piano brilliantly lit in the center of the space, the adrenalin began to pump in earnest.

We were given some time to find our places and I tried to calm any last-minute cases of jitters. When everyone was finally in place, we watched as they set up the title card I had specially prepared for the opening and, when they gave the signal, I opened with a solo piano instrumental.

We were off. But would we ever be allowed on?

Next: That Old Quack Magic


Post a Comment

<< Home