American Bandstand - 10 Great Performances

Whether it was rock and roll in the 1950s, psychedelic rock in the 1960s, disco in the 1970s, or new wave in the 1980s, American Bandstand embraced it and presented it to US TV audiences. Here are 10 great memories from Dick Clark's legendary show.

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1957 - Jerry Lee Lewis - "Great Balls Of Fire"

Jerry Lee Lewis on American Bandstand
Jerry Lee Lewis on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

American Bandstand was still in its early days in 1957, but it quickly became a national institution. At that time the show was broadcast from Philadelphia every afternoon for an hour and a half as well as having primetime specials in the evening. Approximately 200 performers appeared in the show's first five month season. From the beginning American Bandstand did not steer away from controversial performers. Jerry Lee Lewis drew ire for the sexual suggestiveness of his music. Despite that "Great Balls Of Fire" hit #2 on the pop chart and topped both the country and R&B charts.

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1964 - The Beach Boys - "Don't Worry, Baby"

Beach Boys on American Bandstand
Beach Boys on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

The Beach Boys were already the kings of surf pop by their first appearance on American Bandstand in 1964. They had four top 10 pop hits and "Don't Worry, Baby" was the B-side to their first #1 "I Get Around." They look just a little uncomfortable all standing in place singing with no instruments. Mike Love talks about Australia not being as "modernized" as the US.

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1967 - Jefferson Airplane - "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love"

Jefferson Airplane on American Bandstand
Jefferson Airplane on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

In 1967 psychedelic rock was exploding out of San Francisco and the Jefferson Airplane were at the forefront. They appeared on American Bandstand to perform the top 10 pop hits "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" from their seminal Surrealistic Pillow album. The camera efforts to make the performance look somewhat psychedelic are amusing today. However, the songs retain all of their compelling power. Dick Clark asks Paul Kantner if parents have anything to worry about. His answer, "I think so. Their children are doing things they didn't do and they don't understand."

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1970 - Jackson 5 - "I Want You Back"

Jackson 5 on American Bandstand
Jackson 5 on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

It was 1970 and a new family group had just sold two million copies of their debut single "I Want You Back." The Jackson 5 appeared on American Bandstand led by 11 year old Michael Jackson. The performance was simply stunning.

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1975 - ABBA - "SOS"

ABBA on American Bandstand
ABBA on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

In 1975 ABBA were still seen as somewhat of an exotic Swedish import. They had hit the top 10 with "Waterloo" and followed it with the minor hit "Honey, Honey." ABBA took the American Bandstand stage to perform "SOS." Despite astonishingly bad clothing choices, ABBA remains a gold standard for pop music. These were the happy days for the group when Bjorn and Agnetha were married and Benny was engaged to Anni-Frid.

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1976 - John Travolta - "Let Her In"

John Travolta on American Bandstand
John Travolta on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

In 1976 John Travolta's star was rising quickly. He was a key part of the success of the hit TV series Welcome Back, Kotter and his music career was taking off with the single "Let Her In." John Travolta's forte was clearly not pop music, but the song went to #10 on the pop chart anyway. It is fun to listen to him talk about performing on stage in Grease, his first dramatic film work in Carrie, and pre-Saturday Night Fever dancing at a disco.

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1979 - Gloria Gaynor - "I Will Survive"

Gloria Gaynor on American Bandstand
Gloria Gaynor on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

With its focus on dancing, American Bandstand was strongly impacted by the late 1970s disco revolution. Gloria Gaynor released "I Will Survive," one of the biggest disco hits of all time and performed it on the American Bandstand stage. 

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1981 - Kim Carnes - "Bette Davis Eyes"

Kim Carnes on American Bandstand
Kim Carnes on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

It is unlikely anyone had a real inkling what a sensation the song "Bette Davis Eyes" would become when Kim Carnes appeared to perform it on American Bandstand. It spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 which made it one of the biggest hit singles of all time. It also topped pop singles charts all around the world. The performance by Kim Carnes is filled with signature moves she created for the song such as the one-handed slap in the air and pulling her hand across her eyes.

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1984 - Cyndi Lauper - "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and "Time After Time"

Cyndi Lauper on American Bandstand
Cyndi Lauper on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

Cyndi Lauper re-worked the song "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" with lyrics she felt were more uplifting for women. It was successful and became her first smash hit as a solo artist. She brought her idiosyncratic stage performance to American Bandstand

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1986 - Falco - "Rock Me Amadeus" and "Vienna Calling"

Falco on American Bandstand
Falco on American Bandstand. Courtesy American Bandstand

The biggest left-field pop hit of 1986 came via Austrian pop singer Falco. Inspired by the award-winning movie Amadeus, "Rock Me Amadeus" was a #1 hit around the world. Falco waxes philosophical about what happens when a musician's popularity wanes.

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