The last episode of the British TV series “The Avengers” was broadcast on May 21, 1969.

 

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Forty-eight years ago, the last episode of the British TV series “The Avengers” was broadcast.

The mid-sixties brought the spy-genre into prominence with James Bond-type shows. The Avengers entered the game in 1966. The show came to our shores from England (where it had already been broadcast a few years) dripping of coolness and just enough quirkiness to hook us in.

There was Jonathan Steed, a smiling and chic British secret agent with his bowler hat and his multi-useful umbrella. Each show’s storyline followed him as he kept the British shores protected with the help of an attractive female agent. By the time we saw it on ABC in 1966, Steed was on his third partner, named Emma Peel.

Mrs. Peel looked impressive in a jumpsuit, but her appeal was not based on looks alone. She was intelligent and resourceful, and a worthy partner for Steed. Steed treated her with respect and regarded her as an equal. The two characters were friendly (“Mrs. Peel, we’re needed!” was the buzz phrase), but never became romantically involved (contrasting almost every Bond film).

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The show had a set formula: events happened, Steed and Peel investigated, there was action, and Steed and Peel drove off after saving the day (bad-guys and gadgets a-plenty). Familiar names started popping up on the series like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Donald Sutherland.

The show was an instant hit. Mrs. Peel was a draw thanks to her appeal, (Alun Hughes invented the “Emmapeeler,” the slinky crêpe catsuits first seen when the series went to color) but a more important key to the show’s success was the interplay between Steed and Peel. The two always traded a reliable stream of witty banter no matter how intense the action got. The show’s actors, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, were given the liberty to improvise a large part of their dialogue on their own.

Rigg exited the show in 1968, so the writers weaved a story about her character reuniting with her long-thought-dead. Mrs. Peel was replaced with the character Tara King. The show continued for another year but canceled after running for over four seasons in the U.S. and even longer internationally.

The biggest problem was the producers relied heavily on ABC-TV in the US for money-stream. In America, the Tara King season ran opposite the very popular Laugh-In TV series. Laugh-In killed The Avengers in the TV ratings, so ABC declined to order another season which forced the studio to close.

It is still popular in reruns, and the show was revived briefly with a different cast in 1976 as The New Avengers. Twenty-two years after that a feature film would bring an updated version of the show to the big screen with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes in the lead roles. Rigg (in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and Macnee (in A View To A Kill) appeared later in separate James Bond films.

Macnee died in 2015 but Game of Thrones watchers…yes, Lady Olenna Tyrell is played by Diana Rigg. Mrs. Peel, witty banter and all, is still at it!

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“The Avengers: Old memories.” 1990. Web. 10 January 2017.
http://www.skooldays.com/categories/primetime/pt1155.htm
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The Avengers Forever website. Web. 16 May 2017. Copyright © 1996-2017 David K. Smith. http://theavengers.tv/forever/.
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Image at: http://www.anglonautes.eu/arts/arts_tv/art_tv_series_actors_20_uk_macnee_patrick_1922_2015/art_tv_series_actors_20_uk_macnee_patrick_1922_2015_pic_macnee_and_rigg_1968_g_26jun2015.jpg
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Image at: http://www.miamigo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/the-avengers-tv-series-1965.jpg

History’s First Major Rock ‘n Roll Concert

A night that changed the course of history. The promotion on the local radio station was never ending. The tickets sold out in one day. Thousands of teenagers, hours before show time, were lined up outside the biggest venue in town.  When was this night of historical proportion?  1952????

The scene outside the Cleveland Arena on a cold Friday night in March more than 50 years ago would look quite familiar to anyone who has ever attended a major rock concert. But no one on this particular night had ever even heard of a “rock concert.” This, after all, was the night of an event now recognized as history’s first major rock-and-roll show: The Moondog Coronation Ball, held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952.

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Who or what was “Moondog”? Well that would be legendary disk jockey Alan Freed, the self-styled “father of rock and roll” who was then the host of the enormously popular “Moondog Show” on Cleveland AM radio station WJW. Freed had joined WJW in 1951 as the host of a classical-music program, but he took up a different kind of music at the suggestion of Cleveland record-store owner Leo Mintz, who told Freed of the growing interest from young customers and shoppers of all races in rhythm and blues music in his store.

Mintz decided to sponsor three hours of late-night programming on WJW to showcase rhythm-and-blues music, and Alan Freed was given the job as host. Freed quickly took to the task, adopting a new, hip persona and vocabulary that included liberal use of the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the music he was now promoting. The Mintz-sponsored show was known as the Moon Dog House Party, taking its name from a blues record by the group the Vees.

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As the program grew in popularity over the following eight months, Mintz and Freed decided to do something that had never been done: they would hold a live dance event featuring some of the artists whose records were being played on the Moon Dog House Party

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Dubbed “The Moondog Coronation Ball,” the event was to feature headliners Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers and Tiny Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders (a black instrumental group that performed in Scottish kilts). Also on the bill were the Dominoes, Varetta Dillard and Danny Cobb. In the end, however, the incredible popular demand for tickets proved to be the event’s undoing.

Tickets to the 10,000-seat arena sold out within a day. Helped along by massive ticket counterfeiting, a printing error, and possibly by overbooking on the part of the event’s sponsors, an estimated 20,000-25,000 fans turned out for an event. Less than an hour into the show, the massive overflow crowd broke through the gates that were keeping them outside, and police quickly moved in to stop the show after the first and only song by opening act Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams ended.

1952 - Alan Freed no palco

On the radio the very next evening, Alan Freed offered an apology to listeners who had tried to attend the canceled event. By way of explanation, Freed said: “If anyone…had told us that some 20 or 25,000 people would try to get into a dance—I suppose you would have been just like me. You would have laughed and said they were crazy.”

So while the world’s first rock ‘n’ roll concert was a resounding success in terms of attendance but not so much in terms of content, it unquestionably changed the course of history.

 

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The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Concert

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/first-rock-concert/

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Moondog Coronation Ball. (2017, January 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:42, January 27, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Moondog_Coronation_Ball&oldid=761358196

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The Moondog Coronation Ball is history’s first rock concert

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-moondog-coronation-ball-is-historys-first-rock-concert

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Freed apology excerpt:

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-17441166

This Beatles’ clip sums it up

I tell students in my Beatles’ class that the clip of the band performing ‘She Loves You’ from the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” sums up many aspects of their career.  I give them my thoughts on that piece of movie/music history:

1) The song itself…many songs start slow, drift into your cells, slowly work their way into your subconscious.  Not this one.  It jumps from the speakers during the opening, rattling you into an immediate revelation that this is fresh, this is new, this is to take note of, this is to never turn the sound down on.  The lads don’t lull you to sleep or that their time getting your attention, they rip open any semblance of calmness you had and bring you to sudden responsiveness.  You know right away that this is fab, this is gear, this is cool!

2) The crowd – yes, the screams, yes, the noise…but look at the faces.  The pure unrehearsed excitement that the band brought to the crowd is amazing.  My favorite shot is at the 2:18 mark…you just can’t script, write, or practice this type of joy that the band brought to fans.  As she slowly mouths “George!”, we feel every emotion she does.

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3) The zaniness – even though the actor popping up on-stage is scripted into the story line, we know that these things are exactly what was going on in the Beatles’ lives at this moment.  And we wished we were a part of it.

4) The band itself…around the :50 second mark we see John, in all of his bandleader glory, proudly leading on with the song while chaos and insanity surrounded all of them.  It was like he was re-affirming that even though the world had gone ‘bonkers’, in the eye of the storm, the band members were still doing what they do best.

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5) The live concert – look at the shot of the TV show’s producer.  That probably sums up 99.99% of what every real producer, promoter, etc. of the real shows felt once a Beatles show (from about 1963 on) was over.  The tension, frustration, excitement, anticipation, and dealings of every show they performed must have brought on this total release of emotion during and after the show and the band had left the building.

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5) extra details…knowing that a young Phil Collins (of Genesis, etc.) was an extra in the audience in that sequence and that it would have such a lasting effect on the future musician…knowing that a young group of lads in the US watched the film over and over to see every movement, every mannerism, and every instrument (especially George’s 12-string guitar) to later help morph themselves into an important band of their own, the Byrds.

  

Maybe not a better 2:35 of rock and roll history.

Enjoy the clip here!