Top 5 Musical Ed Sullivan Show Controversies
To the right-wing conservatives, religious groups, and self-proclaimed family organizations raising hell over Chaz Bono's "assault on family values" as the first transgender contestant on Dancing With the Stars, Rocks Off asks the question: Would you rather expose your kids to Keith Richards? How about Jim Morrison? Because that's who they were watching 45 years ago, as just a few of many groundbreaking musical acts featured on The Ed Sullivan Show.
On October 4, SOFA Entertainment will release The Ed Sullivan Show Starring The Rolling Stones, a 2-DVD set that includes four episodes. A deluxe edition follows on November 1, featuring all six Stones appearances on the legendary Sunday night variety show - including their legendary performance on January 15, 1967.
The 1967 show was not only significant because it was the band's last with founding member Brian Jones, but also for the now-historic rendition of "Let's Spend the Night Together," the title line delivered as "Let's spend some time together" as Jagger looks directly into the camera and sarcastically rolls his eyes.
The Stones may have adhered to the wishes of Sullivan and CBS's standards and practices union, but many others did not, resulting in offstage blowouts, "technical difficulties", walkouts, and even a couple great live performances. We've listed five of our favorite Ed Sullivan controversies below, in the order they occurred.
5. Bo Diddley Doesn't Give a Shit (Nov. 20, 1955):
Diddley was instructed to perform Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons", but instead launched into his no. 1 hit "Bo Diddley", exposing the American public to rock and roll, a wicked new sound that would soon become a national obsession. According to Diddley's biography Living Legend, Sullivan was furious, telling the young musician, "You are the first black boy to ever double-cross me."
Diddley felt the inflection placed on the word "black" was just as bad as the "n word", and when his manager said, "That's Mr. Sullivan!", Diddley snapped back, "I don't give a shit about Mr. Sullivan, he don't talk to me like that!", and was banned from any future appearances on the show.
Elvis, with Leny Eversong and Sullivan, after rehearsing for his final appearance in 1957.
4. Elvis is Hung Like a Soft Drink Can (Jan. 6, 1957):
There was some speculation that Elvis Presley had a small soda bottle hanging from the inside groin of his pants that would create the illusion of a large, swinging, er, "endowment" whenever he danced around, and Sullivan wasn't taking any chances. Rumor or not, the host felt Presley's moves were far too salacious for decent, god-fearing American families, and on Presley's third and final appearance on the show Sullivan insisted that the camera shoot above the waist any time The King's legs got going.
Buddy "Hollard" and the Crickets (Jan. 26, 1958):
Sullivan's mispronunciation of the Lubbock singer's name was no accident, and neither was cutting the microphone on Holly's guitar. The group had insisted on performing "Oh Boy" despite the host's insistence that it was too rowdy for television, but Sullivan didn't really lose it until the backup band no-showed at an afternoon rehearsal.
He allegedly made a comment about the The Crickets' lack of enthusiasm to appear on the show, to which Holly replied, "I hope they're damn more excited than I am." Holly declined a subsequent invitation to perform, saying Sullivan couldn't pay him enough money to come back.
2. Bob Dylan Isn't There (May 12, 1963):
You won't find any video footage of the beatnik bard's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show because it never actually happened. Dylan set out to mock the rising anti-communist hysteria of the time with "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," a satirization of the infamous red-hunting John Birch Society, but CBS officials deemed it "inappropriate" during afternoon rehearsal and asked that he choose something else. Dylan told them he'd just rather not play at all and walked out.
Great moments in pothead stage design: "Dude, The Doors should totally play in front of a wall of DOORS, man!"
1. The Doors Get Higher (Sept. 17, 1967):
"Girl I wanna wear a wire," "The situation's not that dire," "I need to find a new supplier" - all incredibly moronic substitutions for The Doors' "Light My Fire" verse, and yet somehow still better than the line CBS censorship officials instructed Morrison to sing instead: "Girl we couldn't get much better." Morrison wasn't too fond of the edit either, and defiantly sang "Girl we couldn't get much higher" despite agreeing to a family-friendly version of the song during rehearsal.
This, of course, infuriated Sullivan, who forbade the band from ever returning to the show.
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