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Rock Concert

January 22, 2011

Don Kirshner died.

Yet Kirshner was about to score his biggest commercial triumphs by masterminding prefabricated pop acts singing songs created by backroom professional writers. Kirshner negotiated for himself a third of all musical profits from the Monkees, Columbia’s made-for-TV pop group, and commissioned hit songs for them from Diamond (I’m a Believer) and Goffin and King (Pleasant Valley Sunday).

The Monkees scored two chart-topping LPs, but discord set in when band members began to demand creative autonomy. The drummer Micky Dolenz recalled: “I was 20 years old, making money, but Mike Nesmith led this revolt and, out of camaraderie, we all went along.” Kirshner’s kudos as the Monkees’ svengali was irritating both the band and Screen Gems. The upshot was his sacking, though he won a hefty out-of-court settlement for breach of contract.

Undeterred, he went on to another synthetic-pop project, the Archies, a cartoon group from TV’s The Archie Show. “I said ‘screw the Monkees, I want a band that won’t talk back’,” Kirshner commented. The Archies’ Sugar, Sugar, which the Monkees had refused to record, was performed by session musicians, and became one of the biggest hits of 1969, selling more than 6m copies. The Archies notched up several more top 40 hits and bestselling albums.

Kirshner’s career became increasingly TV-orientated. He acted as music supervisor for the hit series Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, and in 1972 he took up the post of executive producer on ABC’s live music show, In Concert.In September the following year he appeared as host of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, made by his own production company. This made an auspicious debut by featuring the Rolling Stones, performing in London, and in its 180-show run hosted performances by Rush, the Eagles, David Bowie, the Ramones and the Allman Brothers. Yet Kirshner never thrived in front of the camera, and his flat, monotonous presenting style was frequently parodied by the comic Paul Shaffer on Saturday Night Live.

Where else could you hear ABBA and The Ramones? R.I.P.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2011 1:52 pm

    I always loved his intros, like this one, pronouncing Linda Ronstadt as “a special girl, who everyone predicts will be the top girl vocalist in the business.” Ha ha ha! R.I.P. Don Kirshner.

    • Fat Al permalink*
      January 23, 2011 10:00 am

      That’s awesome. And the deadpan delivery is the best. Quaalude anyone?

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