Many baby boomers fondly remember ringing in childhood New Year’s Eves with our families by listening to the music of American-Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.
Tuning into the broadcasts was as much a part of New Year’s Eve for our World War II- or Korean War-era parents and grandparents — and us kids, of course — as party hats and noisemakers. By the time we boomers were preteens, however, just the mention of the broadcast elicited eye rolls, heavy sighs and despondency.
Radio, and then television, broadcast Mr. Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve performances for almost 50 years, but by the time of his 1977 death at age 75, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was the cool show to watch. One reason might be that Mr. Lombardo’s show seemingly never varied. From the time Mr. Clark’s show premiered in 1974, though, he consistently included popular, even edgy, performers like Three Dog Night, Linda Ronstadt and comedian George Carlin.
The good news is that “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” is still thriving, with Ryan Seacrest as host. There is bad news, however. Even though ABC, which hosts the show, consistently wins the New Year’s Eve ratings race, TV viewership continues to fall. (Earlier this month, Nielsen reported TV viewership was down 4 percent overall from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2014.)
Now for the irony: We boomers, who threw our parents’ cherished Guy Lombardo show aside without a look back, are as sad to see our Dick Clark New Year’s Eve television tradition fade.
But we’re not letting Dick Clark’s show — or his medium — go without a fight. Consider these five reasons you and yours should tune into Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:
1. Cultural icons. Would you think it was cool if you’d seen Linda Ronstadt, Debbie Harry, Boyz II Men and others when they first burst into stardom? Those who watched the show in the 1970s saw them. Tune in this year and you’ll see Taylor Swift, Elton John, Brantley Gilbert, Nick Jonas, Train, One Direction, Pentatonix, Gavin DeGraw, Lady Antebellum and plenty of other icons. And don’t forget host Ryan Seacrest, who also hosts “American Idol,” a morning radio show in Los Angeles and other high-profile programming. You can brag about that later.
2. Landmark events. The owner of the Times Square building that houses the famous ball that drops planned to close the building in 1980 in protest of the Iranian hostage crisis. Clark personally persuaded the owner to keep the building open, allow the ball to drop and let the celebration continue. What a great piece of history to experience, even virtually.
Past New Year’s Eve broadcasts featured hilarious moments too. Although the exact year is lost to history, many recall when Clark’s Times Square perch gave him a view of 30 nude celebrants in a nearby hotel. (No, they weren’t caught on camera.)
Who knows what memorable news moments this and future New Year’s Eves will hold? Don’t miss out.
3. Conversation starters. Not only does the show offer plenty of chatter fodder for your New Year’s Eve celebration — and after a month of holiday celebrations, we all need to work some new topics into our repertoires — but perhaps for months afterward, depending on wardrobe malfunctions and off-the-cuff chatter gone wrong of both celebrity and noncelebrity participants. And who knows when more nude celebrants may inadvertently make appearances?
4. Dick Clark. Clark died in 2012, but the music-and-dance show he started in Philadelphia in 1952 and produced and hosted on national television from 1957 to 1989 changed the American music scene forever. Clark not only established rock but helped end the practice of keeping black musicians off television. Chuck Berry and Chubby Checker made their television debuts on American Bandstand.
Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Doors, Kiss and Prince were among the many other icons that appeared on the show.
5. Embrace your history. The 8-track tape player. Cassette tape collections. The 45-RPM records. Music videos aired continuously on MTV. As difficult as this may be to believe, many who experienced those formats and media sorely miss them. Watch while you can.