Music television predates MTV — it even predates the Ed Sullivan Show — and as a kid I would watch any show with a special guest appearance. From Bobby Sherman on The Partridge Family through Perry Farrell on Rock Star Wives, I’ve seen a million weird television musical appearances and I’ve rocked them all. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Elvis sings to an actual hound dog. The original “oh my God what do I have to do to whore myself” television appearance. Elvis set the standard back on July 1, 1956 by singing “Hound Dog” to a basset hound in a top hat. All things considered it’s amazing that it took another twenty-one years of indignities to kill him.
2. Gene Simmons visits with Totie Fields. The Mike Douglas Show was a daytime talk show of the safe and schlocky variety — the kind of show where Bert Convy might cook meatloaf with Bill Bixby. Watch this first ever television interview with the God of Thunder if for no other reason than to hear Totie Fields’s 100% accurate assessment of what’s under the makeup. Runner up: KISS appearing on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
3. Alice Cooper goes fake crazy. The setting: The 1976 American Music Awards. Alice Cooper does his freaky Alice Cooper bit on Diana Ross and then goes Bob Fosse. Maybe a little less embarrassing than singing to a hound dog, but not much. Jazz hands!
4. Joe Cocker meets John Belushi. Imagine that you are the most spastic singer of your generation. You have the worst air guitar face ever, and you dress funny. Now imagine that in order to promote your new track on the hottest show on television you have to smile while being clowned. Well, at least you’re being parodied by John Belushi and not Frank Caliendo. Unfortunately I can’t embed this one, but it’s well worth a mouse click.
5. Buh-Buh-Buh Bowie Meets Buh-Buh-Buh Bing. I’m not going to lie , I love this cut. But the sight of a coked out David Bowie rum-pum-pum-pumming with an old school wife beater on a Christmas special has to be one of the weirdest musical television moments ever. Do yourself a favor: Go find the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly parody of this clip.
6. Sir Elton meets The Muppets. This one isn’t really that odd, but I had to work in at least one Muppet Show clip. Besides, Seventies Elton was pretty much a Muppet anyway.
7. John Cougar (Not Yet Mellencamp) goes Grimley. Oh, the things little Johnny Cougar did to make it to the top. Fast forward to 4:00 in this classic SCTV clip for a legendary Mellencamp moment, or even better – watch the whole thing. One of my all-time favorite SCTV bits.
8. Ozzy putting rhythm in your soul. Solid Gold was a horrible piece of crap ’80s music show hosted by the likes of Andy Gibb, Marilyn McCoo, and Dionne Warwick. The big feature was the Solid Gold Dancers, who brought the week’s hits to life through the magic of Fosse-like dance moves that usually ended with a belly slide and a seductive gaze into the camera. I know what you’re thinking: That’s the perfect format for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon.”
9. Katy Perry tries to transform Elmo. Honestly the only thing strange about this pairing is that Katy Perry’s whole schtick is the cute-slutty thing. Keep an eye on Elmo here — I’m pretty sure he’s looking for a downblouse.
10. Everything Justin Timberlake has ever done on SNL. Not a fan of his music, but every SNL appearance is must-see TV. Nothing weird or embarrassing here, just pure funny.
Related “Why It Matters” pieces:
– Impact of Saturday Night Live: http://jamesostafford.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/43-a-one-way-ticket-only-one-way-to-go/
– When Bowie/Bing originally aired: http://jamesostafford.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/just-for-one-day/