Don Kirshner R.I.P.

While I know through reading all about Don Kirshner’s work at the Brill Building during its glory years with King and Goffin, Mann and Weil, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and the rest, my own personal memory of the late rock promoter who died on January 17th, has nothing do with that or his work with the Monkees or in discovering Kansas. Yes, “It Takes a Woman’s Love to Make a Man” Kansas.

My memories center on that hilariously one dimensional voice that came out of those terrible one dimensional built–in speakers that all TV's in the seventies had. Kirshner was something less than dynamic as he introduced bands on his two Seventies mainstream televised concert programs. I suspect it was an In Concert episode (or it could have been from that show’s successor Don Kirshner's Rock Concert), but I distinctly recall a show by the glammed up rock cartoon that was Slade. Yes, Noddy Holder, the shiny silver platform boots, “Gudbuy T’Jane” and all the rest. I can also vividly remember performances by Alice Cooper, the James Gang, Montrose, Cat Stevens, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band(“Giddy–Up–Giddy–Up–A–Ding–Dong”), Ohio Players (“Rolly Coaster…Say What!”), The guitar heav pre– Michael McDonald Doobies (“Back in the Days When Love Was So Easy…”) and Uriah Heep (“So spoke the wizard in his mountain home…”). For those of us marooned in the provinces—as opposed to say a major concert market—seeing those bands play live, really live, without the then TV standard lip–synching, was a revelation. Also some of the British acts on those shows rarely toured the U.S. anyway, and even when they were here, there were only so many trips to the city, with my teenaged self driving, that my parents would allow.

Many of Kirshner’s TV rock shows were also the first times that the symbiotic relationship between listening to the records and seeing the same music played live became clear to me. Often one does not work without the other. At times, records do not make sense until you see the same music performed live and visa versa. Although you couldn't actually smell the pot smoke, Don Kirshner's pioneering televised rock concerts also gave you a hefty taste of what being at a rock concert was all about.

Jon Iverson's picture
You've nailed it RB - it was our window into the greater rock world. I still remember my jaw hanging open when sometime in the early seventies, he introduced the Mahavishnu Orchestra in all of their blazing glory. And that was in a show that included The Isley Brothers, Poco, and Billy Joel. Crazy.