Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don Kirshner, 1934-2011

Don Kirshner, who died on Monday, was most famous to people of my generation as the guy with the bad toup doing the horribly stilted and name-droppy introductions of acts on his eponymous Rock Concert, which was syndicated from 1973 to 1981. But a generation before that, he was instrumental in the development of the Brill Building sound. His Aldon Music signed such songwriting talents as Goffin & King, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. He also oversaw the music for the Monkees.

Kirshner is a great example of the kind of person who loves pop music and wants to break into the business any way he can but is held back by his lack of any musical talent whatsoever. I'm sure you can think of others.

Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, like its competitor The Midnight Special, had 90 minutes to fill every week, which meant the show was forced to present a lot of crapola - Black Oak Arkansas was on just about every other week - but also meant he was willing to take some chances on lesser-known acts. In 1977, the Ramones were given seven minutes to fill, and managed to work in four songs, shortly after Kirshner hailed their label execs:

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