On that musical note
On November 28, 1967, the Number 1 song in the United States was “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees, a made-for-television rock band with its own zany television show.
Certainly a Number 1 song is a big deal, and television gave us much iconic music and many iconic musical performances. Here 10 such instances are listed, some famous, some less famous. Share with us some of your favorites.
Behind the camera
10. Rhythm Heritage, “Theme from S.W.A.T.,” 1976.
Upon reaching Number 1 on the U.S. music charts in February of 1976, the “Theme from S.W.A.T.” became the first television theme song to hit that lofty height. Three months later it was followed by the theme song from the television show Welcome Back Kotter. Other television theme songs to have hit Number one include the theme song from Miami Vice in 1985 and “How do you Talk to an Angel” sung by Jamie Walters in 1992 from the series The Heights. Cracked History trivia: The “Miama Vice Theme” was the last instrumental to hit Number 1 until “The Harlem Shake” in 2013.
9. The Doors, “Light My Fire,” 1967.
Ordered by host Ed Sullivan to change the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” to something less offensive, such as “Girl we couldn’t get much better,” The Doors initially agreed but once live, Jim Morrison defiantly sang the original lyrics. An enraged representative said The Doors would never be allowed to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show ever again, but they reportedly did not care as they already had their moment on the national stage.
8. Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte, “On the Path to Glory,” 1968.
While hosting a television special for NBC, Clark sang her own composition “On the Path to Glory” as a duet with Harry Belafonte. During the performance she held the black Caribbean singer’s arm. At that time in America, it was taboo for a white woman to have such close contact with a black man, and the show’s sponsor, the car maker Chrysler, insisted the song be re-taped. Clark refused, and the show was aired with the original arm-holding rendition of the anti-war song, thus crossing a line and reaching a milestone in the history of civil rights in the U.S..
7. Sinead O’Connor, “Fight the real enemy!” 1992.
While performing Bob Marley’s song “War” a capella on Saturday Night Live, the bald songstress tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul as she looked into the camera and boldly sang the word “evil.” She then urged others to “Fight the real enemy” as she threw the pieces at the camera. The shocked live audience remained silent, and NBC received thousands of phone calls denouncing the performance. A week later, musical guest Madonna also appeared on SNL and parodied O’Connor by doing the same to a photo of Joey Buttafuoco. Numerous parodies ensued, and some celebrities showed their disapproval by tearing up photos of O’Connor.
6. Roseanne Barr, National Anthem, 1990.
Continuing in the tradition established by Jose Felciano (see below) of adding one’s own touch to the National Anthem, Barr shocked and disgusted America by deliberately singing it off key in a parody-like performance and grabbing her crotch and spitting (supposedly emulating baseball players known for “adjusting” their nether regions and for chewing tobacco) during a nationally televised baseball game between the Padres and the Reds. Even President George H.W. Bush publicly expressed his disdain for her rendition. Barr said she was trying to bring “humor” to her performance. Well, what did they expect? She is a comedienne!
5. Jose Feliciano, National Anthem at the Opening Game of the 1968 World Series
This blind Puerto Rican singer shocked and angered much of the country by singing a very different, jazzed up version of “The Star Spangled Banner” during the opening ceremonies of the 1968 World Series in Detroit. A recording of his rendition of the National Anthem reached Number 50 on the Hot 100. His was the first of the “interpretive” versions of the song sung at the beginning of U.S. sporting events, and people have been complaining about the non-standard versions ever since. Feliciano later expressed his pride at having begun the trend of “personalizing” the National Anthem.
4. The Beatles, The Ed Sullivan Show, 1964.
Having arrived in the United States with tremendous hoopla only 2 days earlier, the Beatles were watched on The Ed Sullivan Show by over 73 million Americans, and just like that, the British had reconquered America. With Beatlemania, the floodgates for what became known as “The British Invasion” were opened, and fortunately for Americans, that meant an almost endless supply of good rock and roll music to be enjoyed for years and years to come.
3. Early Elvis TV Appearances, 1956.
After his first appearance on The Milton Berle Show on April 3, Elvis was back for an encore performance on June 5, this time to a wider audience and singing Hound Dog while incorporating slow, suggestive gyrations that shocked and outraged the prudes of the nation. Presley then continued his run of blockbuster television appearances with a performance on The Steve Allen Show on July 1 when he sangHound Dog to a bored looking Basset Hound. Ed Sullivan, the host of the most popular show on television at the time, had vehemently decried Elvis as unfit for television. When, however, Elvis’ appearance on the Steve Allen Show beat The Ed Sullivan Show in the ratings, Sullivan relented and contracted Elvis for 3 guest appearances on his own show. The first performance, which took place on September 9, 1956, was watched by a then record 60 million people, over 82% of the U.S. television audience.
2. The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” 1981.
This song by The Buggles is the answer to the often asked trivia question “What was the first music video played on MTV?” More than just interesting trivia, “Video Killed the Radio Star” was Number 1 in the UK in 1979 and reached Number 6 in the US in 1980 and remains popular to this very day. The TV cable station VH1 named it Number 40 in its list of Top 100 One Hit Wonders.
1. Elvis Presley, Aloha From Hawaii, 1973.
Broadcast around the world over satellite, Elvis’ Aloha From Hawaii was watched live by a billion people all over the globe. The show cost a record $2.5 million to produce and was worth every penny. Elvis had gotten into good physical and singing shape for the performance which was the first of its kind to be aired live via satellite. Singing both his old hits and covers of popular classics, this was the King at his best, a truly memorable experience. Even the soundtrack album was a huge hit, and became the last album by Elvis to reach Number 1.