Sie Sahen Beat Beat Beat
German TV's most happening 60's rock showBeat Beat Beat was a Rock and Roll music TV show on German Television in the mid/late 60's which was similar in style and content to the U.S. syndicated programs The Lloyd Thaxton Show or Shivaree. The show took its title from the slang term "Beat Music" (which is what British Invasion Rock and Roll was called on its own turf after The Beatles made it all official) and premiered on January 1966 and signed off on January 1969 (this show should not be confused with the very fine Beat Club, also on German Television).
by Sam Leighty
Beat Beat Beat was part of a history of then-burgeoning TV rock shows. In 1965 alone, Shindig, Hullabaloo American Bandstand, the aforementioned Shivaree and Lloyd Thaxton and many variety shows were broadcast coast-to-coast featuring rock and roll bands. 1966 and 1967 then brought us Action, Upbeat, Happening, The Monkees and The !!!Beat.
Around 1959, club owners in Hamburg, Germany began importing rock and roll groups from the North of England to play all night in beer halls and strip joints. Most of the bands came from Liverpool and Manchester. They played music that later became known as Merseybeat, characterized by 3 part harmonies and catchy chord progressions. Many of these bands fueled the rock craze in Germany with their club sets, which were long and grueling- the bands were given amphetamines to get through the performances.
At the beginning of 1966, the first Beat Beat Beat shows were broadcast and videotaped from out of Hamburg by a Frankfurt corporation called Hessischen Rundfunk (though the very first show was videotaped in December 1965). This was a production of Fernsehen und Horfunk. This pilot episode was downright frantic, featuring Cheri Waner and Don Storer, Kenny Lynch, the Koobas and The Kinks. The port city of Hamburg had been a proving ground for British Rock and Roll for years and now, it had become a broadcasting beacon.
Beat Beat Beat then gave an important mainland European TV platform to many then-emerging U.S. and U.K. bands. It was broadcast live from Hamburg by the Hessischen Rundfunk Corporation of Frankfurt. Beat Beat Beat had a radio simulcast on the Armed Forces Network. Mal Sondock (an American Disc Jockey on Armed Forces Radio who later got into German Radio and TV) MC'd the 1966 shows and Charlie Hickman MC'd the 1967 shows, both with their Top 40 disk jockey rapport and sweep-over haircuts. They narrated, announced and interviewed the acts alternating between fluent German and fluent English. Each show consisted of 2 or 3 British Invasion acts playing either a 10-15 minute set each or playing 3-4 songs throughout the show. There was usually a lip synching "stand up and hold the microphone" type vocalist and female singers in mini-skirts. There were also cheesy Euro-Rock acts. The house band consisted of Cheri Waner on a massive Wurlitzer Organ and Don Storer on Drums (both of whom were on the pre-Beatles early sixties U.K. rock music TV show called Oh Boy). They kept the momentum going from one segment to another with the likes of "Peter Gunn" and "Take Five." Oh yes, there was one important difference between Beat Beat Beat and most of the other Rock and Roll TV shows. In this case, the headlining acts, and they often featured 3 or 4 headliners, all performed with blistering live sets.
Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel and The Byrds never played Beat Beat Beat. If you can just imagine these legendary mid-sixties groups, you only wonder could they deliver the goods in an "in concert" context and what on Earth would that be like unless you've seen them yourself up close, with superb lighting, great sound and a dance floor full of German teenagers who don't know that the lyrics are in English. A lot of us have heard "I'm a Man," "The Mighty Quinn," The Live Kinks The Live Yardbirds, Are You Experienced, "Wild Thing," and "King Midas in Reverse" but you wonder what was it all like on stage? And all this right happened on the heels of the high-handed belief that the music of the Woodstock era was superior to the earlier Top 40, British Invasion and garage rock. I think you'll be in for some surprises, that is if you're ready for the Battle of the Bands Auf Deutsh...
The role call of bands that appeared on Beat Beat Beat is a staggering list of mid-60's talent. Some of these headliners included: The Easybeats, The Searchers, The Sputniks, Tom Jones, The Rokes, Julie Felix, Joy Fleming and The Hitkids, Helen Shapiro, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, the Smoke, The Troggs, P.P.Arnold, The Sorrows, Ebony Keyes, The Creation, the Small Faces, Jeff "Cat Stevens" Stephanopoulus, The Mersey Counts, The Hollies, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound, The Equals, Paul Jones, Dave Davies, Whistling Jack Smith, Arther Conley, Lee Dorsey, Emme Rede, Freddie and the Dreamers, Los Bravos, The Untamed, Alan Price, Georgie Fame, Sandie Shaw, Tony Sheridan, The Warriors, David Garrick, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Spencer Davis Group, Sam and Dave, Knut Kiesewetter, The Hepstars, Vanity Fair, P.J.Proby, Paul and Barry Ryan, the Kentuckys, Peter and Gordon, Terry Reid, Adam and Eve, Geno Washington and the Ramjam Band, The Tremelos, the Foundations, The Rainbows, Jack Hammer, Julie Driscol with Brian Auger and The Trinity, The Move, the Liverbirds, The Rattles, the Mindbenders, Herman's Hermits, Casey Jones and The Governers, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Ellen Price, the Tages, Lee Curtis, Gene Williams, Chris Farlowe, Graham Bonney, Eric Burdon and the New Animals, Vic Dana, Carol Friday, Don and Dottie, The Shamrocks, the Oberlanders, the Monks, the Yardbirds, The Koobas, Kenny Lynch, The Poor Things, Sue and Sunny, The Thoughts, Elisabeth List, Madeline Bell, Regimes, New Keys, Shapes, Red Squares, The Fingers, Linda Carr, Neil Christian, the Lords, Neil Ferrrer, Flirtations, Chris Andrews, Dave Berry, Barry Monroe, Jess and James, Sound Constellation, Episode Six, Karlins, Sounds Incorporated. This isn't a complete discography list by any means but I will swear that it's accurate for the acts that are listed. And it was dynamite.
For increments of 45 minutes to 55 minutes, it was all broadcast live in excellent black and white in a studio that probably accommodated 1200 people. There was bleacher-like seating with a dance floor. The audience seemed to consist of German teenagers ranging from 14 to 18 years old. In the later shows, they appear to be a little older (about 19-20 years old). I'd like to point out that although Beat Beat Beat was never broadcast or taped in color, the picture and also the sound were first rate and these shows came off with no snafus or glitches other than the barely noticeable things. Many of us remember 1966 and 1967. Yes, those hallmark years of Dean Martin, Don Martin, Rowan and Martin, William Frauley and William Demarest. Let's not forget Jay North and Sajid Kahn. Not to mention Twiggy, Elizabeth Montgomery, Barbara Feldon, Joanne Worley, Julie Newmar, Ann Margaret, Phyllis Diller, Donna Douglas, Dusty Springfield, Goldie Hawn, Tina Louise and Marlo Thomas. Anyway, by 1968 the 45 RPM record or "hit single" was being supplanted by the vinyl 33.3 album.
In particular, one complete Beat Beat Beat show has made the rounds of collectors in the past 10 years. It features the Warriors, the Move, the Creation, Don and Dottie, Graham Bonney and the house band of Waner and Storer. As far as I know this was broadcast and videotaped in August 1967. How would you like to go to a Rock Festival in dread of 95 minute drum solos and you find out from a discarded program that somebody left in the port-a-potty that this is the night's entertainment. I tell you what. You'd faint and fall in it. You'd be overjoyed.
So let's go back to 1967 and take an exciting look at a typical portion of Beat Beat Beat. The show had its own credit graphics and theme music which consisted of a Farfisa Organ and Vibrato Tailpeice Guitar dominated version of "Money (That's What I Want)." England's Graham Bonney lip-synched to his own excellent cover versions of Bruce Johnston's "Thank You Baby" and The Turtle's "Happy Together." Bonney held the microphone like Mick Jagger did during the Got Live If You Want It and Between The Buttons era while extending his pinkies and showing off his rings. Don and Dottie turned in an energetic rendition of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood's "Summer Wine." They were good singers. Dottie was gorgeous in a Blonde wig and a mini-dress. Cheri and Don tore the place up with a long and jazzy "Lara's Theme."
The Warriors from Manchester performed the quasi-psychedelic "Mister Nobody Nothing" and The Rolling Stones-ish "Tango." By the standards of the mid-sixties, their hair was pretty long. The drummer was a dead ringer for the MC5's Rob Tyner. The organist and the bass player wore gaucho hats and capes. The lead guitarist wore what looked like a marching band hat. The lead singer had Roger McGuinn glasses and an Iron Cross Medallion. They had a very cool comportment and went over well with the audience. Their harmonies were good and they were loud too. And remember that this was all live.
Now here we go... Charlie Hickman says a few words in English. Then he goes into this long discourse in German about the music scene in England and "5000 Grupen." Then he finally gets to "ein compositions "Walk Upon The Water" und "I Can Hear The Grass Grow"... Aus London, The Move!" The camera focuses in on the band as they quickly go into "Walk Upon The Water." The drummer (Bev Bevan) and the bass player (Chris Kefford) are very loud and there's the double crunch of a Stratocaster and a 12 string. Guitarist/leader Roy Wood sported a big Peg Bundy (Married with Children) top knot while the lead singer (Carl Wayne) is tipping and tilting the mike stand and Bevan does super loud Keith Moon rolls and fills. Later in the show, they'd come back for a riveting version of "Night of Fear."
The Creation had been featured once before on Beat Beat Beat in September 1966 when they performed searing versions of "I'm a Man," "That's How Strong My Love Is" and "Making Time." Germany was a big market for them. The Creation were madmen on stage with Lead Singer Kenny Pickett making aerosol canvases and setting them on fire while lead guitarist Eddie Phillips indulged in feedback histrionics and wrenched extraterrestrial sounds out of his guitar with a violin bow. In this 1967 appearance, Pickett has been replaced by Bob Garner on lead vocals with Eddie Phillips on guitar, Tony Gardner on bass and Jack Jones on drums making up the rest of the group. This time out, the songs are a bit more verse-chorus-verse and the band members are done up in stage makeup, permed hair and Nehru shirts. Eddie Phillips 'power chords and the band's awesome soaring style that reminds you of The Who meets The Yardbirds meets The Kinks comes right through with Beatle-ish oohs and ahs and Motown influenced chord progressions. They played "Try and Stop Me," "If I Stay Too Long" and "Painter Man." The whole show climaxed while Eddie Phillips played his guitar with a violin bow. The camera panned to Charlie, Don, Dottie, Graham, Cheri and Don standing on a podium while waving bye and saying 'See you next week' in German. The Creation keep right on playing as the credits roll and the show ends.
Actually both Charlie Hickman and Mal Sondock had their individual styles that anybody who grew up with AM radio in the sixties along with magazines like Datebook and 16 could easily relate to. Mal did a lot of outstanding bloopers such as "Herman and His Hermits" or better yet, "Semi-detached Suburban Mr.Jones." Charlie would interview a Julie Driscol or a Sandie Shaw while maintaining a very close body distance. Beat Beat Beat did have another host that I know of other than Charlie and Mal. Ray Billings MC'd during the show's acoustic folk-rock period circa 1968. I don't have much info on this. I have noticed from what few clips I've seen that there was this sneaky switcharoo to a kind of "hip coffeehouse" format in '68. The "kids" are all 19 and 20-ish.
To be truthful, there were certain groups and artists who would've fit into Beat Beat Beat's motif perfectly but they were probably connected with other German music TV shows such as The Radio Bremen Corporation's Beat Club. some of these would've included The Who, Them, The Pretty Things, Dusty Springfeild, Cilla Black, The Nashville Teens, The Moody Blues, Lulu, Marrianne Faithful, The Zombies and The Walker Brothers. Still, there are a lot of people who would gladly pay the ticket price for the February 1967 show with Paul Jones, Carol Friday, The Hollies, The Thoughts and The Easybeats. Or how about the September 1966 show with The Mindbenders, The Creation, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Adam and Eve (a hilarious and talented German Sonny and Cher takeoff)?! January 1967 brought The Troggs, Eric Burdon and The New Animals, The Shamrocks, Chris Andrews, Graham Bonney. December 1966 had the Lords, Herman's Hermits, the Hepstars and Neil Christian. A year later in December 1967 came a piece d'resistance show with Sam and Dave, Lee Dorsey and Arther Conley.
In retrospect, Beat Beat Beat seems a little too good to be true. The October 1966 show with The Small Faces for example, MC'd by Mal Sondock, featured The Untamed, Los Bravos, Tony Sheridan and The Small Faces. Yes, it's the same Tony Sheridan who was a "guest" lead singer on those early "Stu and Pete" Beatles songs recorded in Hamburg. Sheridan lip-synched to a couple of Roy Orbison and Isley Brothers-sounding songs for the show but he was actually a very good Rock and Roll singer (who also played rhythm guitar) and these televised appearances show him in good form. As with the Creation, Germany was a big market for him.
"Los Bravos" is Spanish for The Rangers. The Rangers were an import from Spain where rock and roll was kept under much constraint and censorship. They played their worldwide hit "Black is Black" on this show. The song was stripped down without horns but there was awesome concert hall echo. The bass player and drummer were real loud, to exhilarating effect. The band brought out a friend who sang lead on 1 or 2 songs and sounded a lot like John Lennon. Also on the show were the Untamed, who were from the U.K. and played several songs by Ray Charles and James Brown. Hey, these guys were monsters! The guitarist played a lot like Barry Tashian (of the Remains) and sang a lot like Eric Burdon.
Then, the original Small Faces performed four ball-busting versions of their early songs with cheesy spot announcements by Mal. There is even a kind of "Q and A" section with the audience where Mal asks in German if someone from the crowd would like to ask the band any questions. An English speaking 14-year-old girl comes up and asks Steve Marriot how long has the band been together and where did they meet. Steve answered politely "We got together a year ago in a pub." The Small Faces then did lambasting versions of "All Or Nothing," "Girl," "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" and the anthem "Sha La La La Lee."
(I may seem a bit critical of Mal, Charlie and Ray. They are left out of most of the DVD and VHS compiles that you can buy. The shows with them left intact along with all of the cheesy in-between song banter is much better- the momentum of the shows builds up better with a lot of "and now here they are" and "we know you've been waiting," etc.)
Another outstanding show is the one from May 1967 show with Sandie Shaw, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound. As with each portion of Beat Beat Beat, Waner and Storer are featured and this time out they contribute a very nice "Canadian Sunset." Sandie Shaw is, as usual, just lovely both visually and musically (they say that she is very tall and striking in person). She's done up in a lot of those Yardley cosmetics and she's wearing a dress that is very, very short. She has kind of a topknot pageboy bouffant on this show. She prefers to perform barefoot and as far as I know she still does in her more recent concerts and TV shows. She does three songs which were more or less concocted by male writers and producers. Of the three, I like "Had a Dream Last Night" the best. Somewhere on this show, Charlie Hickman presented Sandie with a "Madame of Beat" award. This bit of business only takes up a moment in the show and Sandie was graceful and dignified throughout. Although she was polite on camera, you always had the feeling that she was not a member of the charm school of cold-war era girl singers- she's been called "Dark and Mysterious." She has continued to perform and record over the years and she's even better in concert than she was in the mid-sixties.
Remember, this is May 1967. That's the slightly pre-Sgt.Pepper part of that year and your about to have your first look at ex-Animals Chas Chandler's discovery of lightning-fast-fingers Jimi Hendrix who's been knocking 'em dead in The U.K. along with his outrageous backing band the Experience since the closing weeks of 1966. To give you a rough idea of what you're about to see and hear, if they'd have sold an accompanying DVD with the Are You Experienced album in 1967, this is it. Charlie Hickman points to the stage and shouts into the microphone "The Jimi Hendrix Experience!" The guys go quickly into a sinister version of "Stone Free," which was a hit for The Experience in 1967. The song starts out and builds up, then the feedback and weird stuff happens. "Stone Free" must've sounded really slick on pirate radio back in those days. Jimi, Mitch and Noel are decked out in strange clothes and very big afros. They come back later for excellent versions of "Purple Haze" and "Hey Joe." It's a riot to watch those kids on the dance floor- they don't know whether to dance, sit down or stand there! But Jimi's feedback passages win them over and they let loose with cheers and wild applause.
Simon Dupree and The Big Sound were six guys who were a U.K. equivalent of Howard Kaylan/Mark Volman/Flo and Eddie/The Turtles. Their setup which consisted of lead singer Dupree and a sidekick who did "ba-ba-bas" in the background and played everything from French horn to kettle drums. They covered a lot of garage rock songs and then current hits and on this TV appearance, they really burn rubber with a majestic version of Manfred Mann's "Each and Every Day." Believe it or not, they would later regroup and become 70's art-rock legends Gentle Giant. Dupree and friends would appear on Beat Beat Beat once more in 1968, during the show's late lamented hip coffeehouse phase.
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were very famous in Great Britain and Europe in 1966 and 1967. They were superb musicians and especially superb singers, or at least they were good at creating their hit singles and reproducing the sound on stage (like The Dave Clark Five you could say). They affected a pretty boy look with each member choosing his own stage clothes and they had sort of an electric banana delicacy in their vocal harmonies, which were unapologetically commercial. By the way, their lead guitarist was one of the first guys in a Beat Group to own a fuzz tone. They'd been on the show once before in 1966 and he best song on this 1967 show was called "Bend It" where the guitarist played a balalaika or a lute on the song (sounding like they were trying for a sound like on The Rolling Stones "Cool, Calm and Collected").
It's no secret that bootleg lists have been bulging with Beat Beat Beat audio and video items for years. Fragments of the shows have been broadcast on German TV and throughout Europe in the '80's and the '90's in half-hour specials. Complete episodes are brought back and aired from time to time in Germany and other countries. In 1997, VH1's U.K. subsidiary bought the rights and aired a very nice mini-series featuring many of Beat Beat Beat's best and most exciting moments and also highlighted the show in its sometimes cheesier dimensions- this was hosted knowledgeably and thoughtfully by Mark Ellen. There are plenty of VHS, DVD and audio cassette compilations out there that aren't of bad quality altogether.
Or you can search the Internet for "Beat Beat Beat rock music TV show" and you'll find a couple of websites with legal complete shows. An outfit that calls itself TV.com offers about 5 or 6 prime shows for downloading on your PC to be reviewed on their website journal. The show that is definitely out there dates from May 1967 and it features The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sandie Shaw, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (which I described above). Videobeat.com offers 10 or 15 killer shows all from 1966 and 1967- they are 2 shows on one DVD or VHS tape with bonus items. Don't be too choosy over some of the shows that haven't got super-duper big name headliners- these still give you an interesting look at English and German garage rock. Of course, collectors won't want to pass up The Kinks in January 1966, The Small Faces in October 1966 or The Yardbirds in the spring of 1967. There are all kinds of single Beat Beat Beat clips on You Tube also. You could say it was a Rickenbacker and Vox rite of passage.
As much as I love the web, cable TV is interesting in its almost analog transistor radio klunkiness. And so, it was that the age of Sullivan gave way to the age of Sondock, Hickman and Billings. This is the one you've been waiting for ever since you "borrowed" your cousin's Mindbenders and Troggs albums and wore them out on a bad record player needle. Knock yourself out. Maybe the cable TV music networks would be cool and show these again, but I doubt it. Until that time, in the immortal words of Charlie Hickman: "To our Deutsh viewers and our AFN listeners, stay tuned for 55 minutes of swinging music, sounds just for you." "Sie Sahen Beat Beat Beat."
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