Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rant #426: "Rock Concert" In the Sky

The music business lost a giant yesterday when Don Kirshner passed away.

Kirshner, 76, was a music mover and shaker in the 1960s and 1970s, and his influence was responsible for numerous hit records, as well as the solo careers of artists such as Neil Diamond and Carole King.

In the mid-1960s, he established Aldon Music, and put together one of the most impressive collections of songwriting talent imaginable, all working out of the Brill Building in New York City: King, Diamond, Carole Bayer Sager, Neil Sedaka, Gerry Goffin Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart ... the list goes on and on and on.

He was the music supervisor for the Monkees project, and eventually, his creation became bigger than he was. On the first two Monkees albums--which both hit No. 1 on the charts on the newly christened Colgems record label and spawned numerous hit singles--the Monkees played, instrumentally, very little of the music on these albums.

Led by Michael Nesmith, the Monkees challenged Kirshner, saying that they wanted full autonomy on their future releases. Kirshner balked, and released the single, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" backed with "She Hangs Out", but it was immediately pulled when Kirshner was either fired or walked out on the project. A new single, keeping the A side and adding "The Girl I Knew Somewhere"--a Nesmith composition featuring the band actually playing on the record--was released, became a hit, and Kirshner nearly became simply a footnote to the whole Monkees' phenomenon.

However, Kirshner was far from done. Sensing that he didn't want to go through the Monkees process again with another actual group of actors/musicians, Kirshner created the Archies, a fictitious band led by more of his talented crew, namely Ron Dante and Toni Wine. He had his own record label, Kirshner, distribute the records, which were tied into the Saturday morning TV show starring Archie, Jughead and the gang.

Once again, his magic touch worked, as the Archies had several hits, including "Sugar Sugar," under his purview.

When this projected petered out, Kirshner once again reinvented himself. He discovered Kansas, one of the biggest FM rock bands of the mid 1970s which had hits like "Dust in the Wind."

And, of course, he became even more visible as the host of "Rock Concert," ironically, based on his Monkees experience, being one of the first shows to allow rock artists to sing and perform their songs live.

He featured many acts on this show, including the Rolling Stones and Sly and the Family Stone (in video below), and even made up with two of the former Monkees, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, and had them on as part of their quasi-Monkees Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart grouping.

When that show went off the air, Kirshner pretty much faded from view.

However, the success that the likes of Diamond and King had as songwriters for the Monkees gave them the impetus to branch out into successful solo careers of their own, and their music is still resonating with audiences to this day.

And the hits he had with numerous bands continue to get airplay, from the Monkees to the Archies to Kansas to many others.

Just turn on your radio, and you will hear his influence.

He wasn't a musician, per se, but he had that golden ear.


  1. Don Kirshner didn't create the Monkees - Bob Rafelson and Bert Schnieder created the Monkees and hired Kirshner to provide the music. Kirshner was a vital element in their initial success but he always tried to claim more credit than was due him, and that's what got him yanked from the project. Anyone who's ever read any of the behind-the-scenes info on the Monkees project written by anyone other than Kirshner or his cronies knows this. Kirshner was obviously a talented man and probably had more to due with the Monkees' initial success than anyone, but if he had kept in mind that he was as much a hired hand as the four group members themselves that success might have been even greater than it was.

    This wasn't intended to be an anti-Kirschner rant; he was a great talent and deserves credit for that. I actually am a fan of his; I just wish people would get that part of the story right. And for what it's worth, I'm almost 50 years old and I STILL enjoy my Archies albums!

  2. When I said "creation," I really should have said "the Monkees sound," because that is what he created. He knew what he was doing,but the Monkees were successful without him, too. And yes, I still listen to my Monkees and Archies records.



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