With the ever-growing popularity of rock and roll in the 1960s, it was only a matter of time before the top-rated sitcoms and dramas of the day began to cash in on the trend. Whether the intent was to attract a younger audience, or to simply make fun of youth culture for the amusement of the older demographic, many primetime programs started to invite hip, happening bands onto their sets, sometimes without even bothering to worry about how well the performance fit into the episode. Yet, one way or another, these musical segments always managed to be entertaining. In honor of these groups and their fifteen minutes of small-screen fame, let’s take a look back at some noteworthy band cameos of 1960s television.
1) Davie Allan & the Arrows on Get Smart (12/31/66)
Davie Allan & the Arrows were an instrumental surf-rock band who accrued their only hit with “Blue’s Theme,” a song recorded for the Wild Angels soundtrack in 1966. Although the Arrows appear only briefly in this episode of Get Smart, I have included them first because their cameo serves as a perfect introductory example of a band used for background music while the main action goes on in the foreground. It also seems that the Arrows are miming over a pre-recorded track, which was not uncommon for bands to do on TV at the time. In fact, most of the groups you will see on this list only pretended to play during their television appearances, usually because it was much cheaper and easier to dub a studio recording over a scene than try to recreate it on a set that wasn’t specifically built for recording music. Plus, playing the original recording doubled as advertisement for the record itself.
On a side note, Davie Allan & the Arrows also appeared on an episode of The Invaders, playing essentially the same role as the backing band. I couldn’t find a clip of that performance, but according to Allan, the group was “pick-synced to an awful pre-recorded track,” so we’re probably better off not hearing it anyway.
2) The Beau Brummels on The Flintstones (12/02/65)
“The Beau Brummelstones’” cameo was the first non sequitur band appearance I ever had the pleasure of being totally confused by. Although cartoon bands like Josie & the Pussycats and the Archies would come to be a regular thing in the following years, I still find it still somewhat jarring to see these cheaply animated cave-teens poorly synced to the hit studio recording of “Laugh, Laugh,” probably because the real, three-dimensional Beau Brummels are the actual performers. Honestly, this whole thing was probably just a strange publicity move by the Beau Brummels’ people.
At any rate, the Beau Brummelstones play somewhat of a significant role in the episode as Betty and Wilma’s favorite band. We first see them perform on a musical variety program called Shinrock, hosted by a slightly creepy caricature of real-life Shindig! emcee Jimmy O’Neill. The character is actually voiced by the man himself, though his name is changed to — you guessed it — Jimmy O’Neillstone.
As for the Brummelstones’ final performance at the night club, it’s really just the second half of the same song, though the band’s ability to play that harmonica line without a harmonica is rather remarkable, although I’m honestly more impressed with Betty and Wilma’s hip taste in music. Whoever said the older generation didn’t get it?
3) Boyce & Hart on I Dream of Jeannie (10/17/67), Bewitched (02/19/70), & The Flying Nun (03/20/70)
Dynamic songwriting duo Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart had more than their fair share of guest roles on sitcoms in the 1960s. This was probably because of their association with Screen Gems and The Monkees, for which they wrote such classics as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” and even The Monkees‘ theme song.
What’s more, Boyce & Hart were given significant speaking roles in all three of their appearances, which was not the norm for guest acts. In I Dream of Jeannie, they star as members of a talentless band that Jeannie magically turns into a musical sensation. Once they’ve been transformed, they play two groovy tunes: “Girl I’m Out to Get You” and “Out and About.”
Since Barbara Eden’s mimed drumming in “Out and About” is about as convincing as the impromptu string solo, it’s safe to assume that these were not recorded on set. But the songs are extremely catchy (“Out and About” is a personal favorite of mine), and the visual segments make for some fun proto music videos, especially when Jeannie joins in, in her adorable mod outfit. And yes, that is actually Phil Spector playing the record label executive.
On the other hand, Boyce & Hart’s appearances on Flying Nun and Bewitched are much goofier, maybe because they technically aired in 1970, when we were getting more into the Brady Bunch Era of Maximum Cheese.
Both episodes feature Boyce & Hart as stereotypical hippie musicians, and, in turn, there are plenty of corny hippie jokes to go around. In The Flying Nun, the guys have to deal with some bad, anti-hippie press after getting into a car accident with Sister Bertille, but they go on to perform “Lonesome All the Time” (10:51) and a cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” (18:46). The music is all right, but this episode is really most notable for Tommy Boyce’s awkward line delivery and Bobby Hart’s laughable faux facial hair.
However, Bewitched’s plotline is by far the most contrived of the three. Basically, Serena uses her magic to make Boyce & Hart unpopular so that they will be available to perform her song, “I’ll Blow You a Kiss in the Wind” at the Cosmos Club. The moral of the episode is that Boyce and Hart are really bad dancers.
As amusing as the performance itself is, my favorite part is definitely the corny drug reference right before it. “A trip? On What?” Aww, indeed.
4) Buffalo Springfield on MANNIX (10/28/67)
As I alluded to before, many of these bands were featured in episodes specifically centered on the phenomenon that was 1960s youth culture. MANNIX was clearly struggling to figure out exactly what that culture looked like, but thanks to the show’s somewhat questionable portrayal of “Hippie Land,” we are left with what seems to be a rare, live on-set performance by Buffalo Springfield. See “Bluebird” at 8:32 and “For What It’s Worth” at 44:39.
I’m not sure why MANNIX opted for a live, or at least re-recorded, cut, but I’m certainly happy they did. It’s really a treat to see the group at their peak, although they are unfortunately a little hard to hear over the main characters’ much less interesting conversations. Why Buffalo Springfield didn’t draw a bigger crowd than the one we see here is a bit beyond me.
On a completely tangential note, I seriously wonder if that go-go dancer in the red shirt ever stopped dancing between scenes. It looks like someone eventually threw a blanket over her, James Brown-style, to try to get her to take a break. But I can’t fault her for gettin’ down to some quality music.
5) The Castaways on Never Too Young (09/27/65)
For this list, I tried to stick to the most popular TV shows of the time, but decided to go a little off the beaten path for the sake of a few cameos. One of these is “Liar, Liar,” a fabulous little Nugget by one hit wonders, the Castaways.
Unlike MANNIX, the daytime soap Never Too Young was targeted directly at teens, and it seems that the kids in the crowd here are just regular teenagers, dancing how they would normally dance, which is kind of neat to see in retrospect. Thankfully, the music isn’t diluted by any dialogue, probably because the director knew what the teen audience really cared about. This means we get to hear the whole song over some nice shots of the band, interspersed with vague snippets of whatever the drama was on this particular episode. The sad teenagers don’t really fit the mood of the music, but I’m guessing that one of them probably lied to somebody.
6) Every Mother’s Son on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (04/07/67)
“Come on Down to My Boat” was another one-hit gem that really deserved better than this barely audible cameo. It’s a true mystery why the director thought this scene needed musical accompaniment, but I do love how the band resumes playing with so little urging and doesn’t even miss a beat after the interruption, despite the fact that a guitar neck gets snapped off at 2:47. With the level of stamina shown here, I’m surprised that Every Mother’s Son never morphed into a punk band to play at raging underground clubs in the ’70s and ’80s. I’m willing to bet nothing quite this crazy ever happened at CBGB.
7) Paul Revere & the Raiders on Batman (11/02/66)
On last week’s episode, the Penguin booked his favorite band, Paul Revere & the Raiders, to musically accompany his personal belly dancer as part of an ingenious political campaign. Now it’s up to Batman to stop this crazy party. But can the Caped Crusader resist the charms of Mark Lindsay’s saxophone? Tune in to find out!
Despite the overall weirdness of this entire scene, the oddest thing to me is that we don’t get to hear the Raiders’ play (or pretend to play) any of their hits, let alone anything that resembles a pop song. I don’t see why they specifically called in a popular group for a role that any generic band of session musicians could have filled. It’s obvious it was a publicity ploy for the band, although I’m not going to complain about it. This wonderfully bizarre little sequence is the sort of thing that could have only happened on the original Batman. Really, it’s a bit difficult to imagine how Batman ever got from Paul Revere & the Raiders playing “Yankoo Doodle” to the dark Christopher Nolan films we have today. Maybe I have no taste, but I kind of prefer this version of Gotham City.
8) The Standells on The Munsters (03/18/65)
(Note: The only version I could find was in Spanish.)
If you can’t get the Beatles to come on your show, your next best option is always a garage band known for a raunchy number that is the complete opposite of the innocent song you want them to play.
To be fair, this actually aired a year before “Dirty Water” was released, but the scene is no less ironic for it. The cringe-worthy cover of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” does not do the Standells justice, but that’s probably just because it’s simply not their kind of material. In truth, it really is a shame that the Standells didn’t do a garage rock number on a show with a theme song played by every garage band in America. Something tells me that if they had, the Munsters would have been way more into that performance.
Also worth noting are the poetry-spouting Beatniks in this episode. Considering this came out in 1965, it’s interesting to realize that this was probably the last time that any ’60s show would ever make such a reference. The new youth counterculture was already on its way in.
9) The Sundowners on The Flying Nun (09/26/68)
This is probably the most psychedelic that any mainstream 1960s sitcom ever got, aside from The Monkees. In fact, the Sundowners’ main claim to fame was actually opening for the Monkees on their 1967 tour and playing on some of the band’s studio albums. They also starred in an episode of It Takes A Thief as the Raspberry Wristwatch, which I like to think was an intentional reference to garage groups like Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Chocolate Watch Band.
On this episode of The Flying Nun, the Sundowners bring an acid-tinged edge to the normally lighthearted comedy, including a strobe light show and go-go dancers to accompany their heavy psych rock cover of Sister Bertrille’s self-penned “A Whole New World.” For some reason, Bertrille does not appreciate the improvements that the Sundowners made on her sickeningly sweet song, and the implication is that we’re supposed to prefer her boring version (seen at 21:48 in the video below), even though the Sundowners clearly did it better. I mean, who doesn’t dig hip phrases like “Higher Than High!” and “Magic Mushrooms”? Oh, those flower children. They totally said those things… didn’t they?
10) The Seeds on The Mothers-In-Law (04/28/68)
Believe it or not, this kid is actually supposed to be the Seeds’ manager in this episode, and to make matters even more uncool, the band has been redubbed “the Warts.” Maybe their appearance on this poorly written show was the real reason the Seeds’ career went downhill in 1968.
Because I can’t find more than this short clip and a one sentence IMDB summary, I have no idea what led the Seeds to spontaneously perform their garage classic “Pushin’ Too Hard” in the middle of this lame family’s living room. The folks on the couch seem to be smiling through their confusion, while the blonde girl takes on the role of obligatory go-go dancer.
You can’t fault the Seeds for not trying though. The performance may not be live, but they’re making a great show of faking it, or at least Sky Saxon is with his stylin’ wizard cape and erratic moves. In fact, the band’s mere presence brings up this show’s coolness rating by a solid 30%. That takes some true talent.
BONUS! The Lewis & Clarke Expedition on I Dream of Jeannie (12/30/68)
We clearly haven’t made enough fun of hippies yet, so let’s top off our list with the rock and roll orgy on I Dream of Jeannie, hosted by none other than the Lewis & Clarke Expedition.
Although they only ever released one self-titled album in 1967, the members of this group were friends of Michael Nesmith and regularly featured as songwriters and stand-ins on The Monkees. Considering this connection, it’s not surprising that they made their way onto the set of Jeannie, a fellow Screen Gems production.
This nutty scene where General Schaeffer’s daughter invites a band of hippies into the house is the perfect opportunity for a little game I like to call Spot the 60s Stereotypes! Face-painted hippie chick? Check. White sitar player? Check. Zoned-out long-haired weirdo? Triple check. Plus, it’s all backed by Lewis & Clarke’s rockin’ track “Bring On the Sundown.” If I were Major Nelson, I wouldn’t kick the band out. I’d be paying them to stay and play a longer set.
All in all, this musical sequence just goes to show what every one of these episodes have already proven with their varying degrees of beautiful strangeness: that the 1960s were a truly unique time in both music and television history, the likes of which we will probably never see again. And that’s really kind of a shame because, in my humble opinion, we could all use a little more belly dancing to Paul Revere & the Raiders in our lives.