By Ralph Greco, Jr.
Discounting YouTube, anything one might catch off on Netflix or any other streaming service, and certainly pining for the days of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and The Midnight Special, let’s take a look to our most recent rock & roll past, considering the best, the OK, and the not-so-great to accumulate 10 Rock & Roll TV Moments of the 21st Century. In no particular order, they are:
1) KISS plays “Rock and Roll All Nite” at the 88th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. With such an American institution supporting the parade, this was a classic holiday TV moment, if even for the brief snippet the band were featured. They might be coming up on their very last tour, but this Thanksgiving Day 2014, KISS did what only the can do right in their hometown.
2) Elton John performs “Stan” with Eminem at the 2001 Grammy Awards. In my humble opinion, it is damn hard to find a memorable Grammy performance these days. Like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I feel the Grammys has become one well-diluted institution these days. What made the marriage of Eminem and Sir Elton so memorable was the controversy over Marshall Mathers that year. Protestors outside the event were holding signs saying “Award Music, Not Hate” in opposition to some Eminem raps that seemed to attack homosexuality. Still, Elton got the point that Mathers was singing through a contrived “Slim Shady” persona when delivering his raps. So Elton played keys and sang the Dido sample from Eminem’s song “Stan,” in support of the rapper, creating one of the most interesting duets of the new century.
3) Mike Oldfield plays at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. Providing a soundtrack to Britain’s National Health Service sequence (complete with dancers dressed as nurses and patients cavorting round hospital beds) Mr. Tubular Bells played parts of “Tubular Bells” and his “In Dulci Jubilo.” The perfect coda to this performance was Oldfield rushing from his 20-minute performance to get back to his hotel to watch the rest of the opening ceremony from his TV, simply because, as he said, the show would look better on the broadcast.
4) Prince plays SNL for one long set. Surely before the turn of this century, Saturday Night Live hosted some epic music performances. In 2014, Prince jammed on its stage, in what for many was one of the most memorable SNL music moments, in this or any century. Celebrating the release of two albums — Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum (released on the same day) — the dearly departed purple one and his all-girl band bucked the trend (an iron-clad SNL rule of bands typically playing two sets on the show) by playing one long set only. It was “Clouds,” “Plectrum Electrum,” “Marz,” and “Another Love” in one eight-minute long guitar wailing melody.
5) Paul McCartney joins James Cordon “Carpool Karaoke.” One must give this late night host credit. He has managed to get some amazing musical stars into the front seat of a car to sing their hits along with him and the radio. Grabbing Sir Paul, for a spin around Liverpool no less, was thrilling. You can’t watch this longer-than-usual segment (in fact, Cordon had so much left over footage from the ride he made a prime time special out of it) of Macca being so downright humble, jumping out of Cordon’s car, mingling with fans, surprising shopkeepers, and finally giving an importune concert in a daytime pub to shocked patrons, without being brought to tears time and again.
6) “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” episode of The Simpsons. We find out that Homer has always wanted to be a rock star, so his family pays to have him attend “The Rolling Stone’s Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp,” in this hilarious episode. Although we have been treated to many a rock star or band playing on The Simpsons, what makes this particular time so fantastic is that we get a bunch of rock idols in attendance — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty and Brian Seltzer — all sending themselves up perfectly. There’s even a concert at the end.
7 & 8) The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. There have been lots of vintage rock moments across the many late night talk shows (I already mentioned James Cordon), but Jimmy Fallon gets two of my favorites here. As much for the two stars he has on (and sings with) as for how well Fallon imitates them, There is the Gov. Christia Traffic Jam, Born to Run parody with Fallon dressed as a long-hair, sleeveless Bruce Springsteen, singing right alongside the Boss himself, as a younger version of himself. The second is Fallon singing right alongside Neil Young as they both stroll through an incredibly articulate “Old Man.”
9) Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show. Decidedly this is NOT Vintage Rock, it’s not even rock, but out of all the Superbowl performances in the past 18 years one could pick from, for sheer world-stopping, shaking the foundation of our culture, rendering viewers blind, a truly rebellious moment (if indeed possibly scripted) was the 2004 halftime performance of Justin Timberlake pulling off Janet Jackson’s top, has got to rate on this list. At the very end of their set during Super Bowl XXXVIII, Timberlake reached over to grab at Jackson’s clothes in a spontaneous moment of actual choreography, but then came the ‘nip slip’ heard around the world.
10) Live 8 Though not precisely keeping to my edict of ‘broadcast TV,’ what happened at Live 8, the all-star benefit staged on July 2, 2005 ay Hyde Park in London, is a clear indication why broadcast TV, in general, lost out to streaming services. Twenty years after Live Aid, Sir Bob Geldof called upon a number of A-list acts, including U2, the Who, Madonna, Paul McCartney and the Who. The concert also marked the first time that Roger Waters, Nick Mason, David Gilmour and Richard Wright gathered together under the Pink Floyd banner to play together in nearly a quarter century. But due to some acts being taped, others broadcast live, and a whole mess of censorship concerns, MTV and VH1’s coverage was intermittent. They even broke away mid songs for commercials. Thankfully, AOL provided a full webcast. Though it would eventually come out on a multi-disc DVD set, there’s a good chance you can pull up any of the performances on YouTube these days. We did, just look below.