Tag Archives: Sha Na Na

Do Not Forget Sha Na Na

Simon Reynold’s article in Slate on grunge nostalgia is a good read. Especially the idea that grunge was “the last blast of rock as a force at once central in popular culture yet also running counter to mainstream show biz values.” I agree. The White Stripes might have come as close to that as anyone since then, but in the end they didn’t change much of anything.

But one thing Reynolds gets totally wrong is the idea that nostalgia is something new: “a pop culture increasingly characterized by a compulsion to revisit and reconsume its own past.” In reaction to the weird news that the Reading Festival in England will screen video of Nirvana’s 1992 Reading performance, Reynolds asks:

whether the promoters of Woodstock, or the first Lollapalooza in 1991, would have lowered a giant screen onstage and projected footage of a gig from two decades earlier? The answer is no: They were too busy confidently making history to bother with referring back to it.

Not quite. Who played the penultimate set at Woodstock in 1969? Sha Na Na. That’s right: Sha Na fucking Na, who dressed in gold lamé and covered 50s songs.

As for the first Lollapalooza, two of the nine bands were Siouxsie and the Banshees (formed in 1976) and the Violent Femmes (formed in 1980). Old.

Granted, none of that is quite as ridiculous as interrupting a festival of live music with an onstage screening of a 19 year old video. But still. Nostalgia in pop culture is as old as pop culture itself.

Video: Sha Na Na – At the Hop

Did Sha Na Na Invent the Fifties?

BowserIf you enjoy post-moderism and meta-history you’ll appreciate this. Two of the founders of the original revival band write an article for their alma mater’s journal wherein they discuss a couple of recent scholarly publications (Happy Days and Wonder Years: The Fifties and Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics by Daniel Marcus and Retro: The Culture of Revival by Elizabeth E. Guffey) that both “contain extensive studies of Sha Na Na’s ‘Fabricated Fifties'” and claim that Sha Na Na played “an unusual role in 20th century American history. More precisely, in inventing it.”

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Bowzer Fights for Original Doo Woppers

Bowzer fights against musical imposters – Sha Na Na’s Jon “Bowzer” Bauman has been lobbying states “for laws to prevent phonies and fakers from passing themselves off as authentic members of groups like the Platters, the Coasters and the Drifters. […] The law he helped enact requires that for a group to call itself by a successful name from the past it has to have at least one member of that group and be legally entitled to the name.”

Go get ’em, Bowzer! As a kid, I loved Sha Na Na. And later after I got into more “authentic” music, I remember hearing a totally badass punk rock version of “At the Hop” on college radio. It blew me away, and I remember being shocked to discover afterwards that it was Sha Na Na from the Woodstock soundtrack!