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August 4, 2020 2:06 pm  #1

Was This The Very First Real Rock Music Video?

It’s hard to know who can actually lay claim to creating the very first real rock music video. Some give it to MTV in the U.S. Others credit the Monkees or the Beatles for doing some of the originals in movies and television. But I kind of like Scopitones, a video jukebox company that came out of Italy and featured dozens of early rock and roll types mostly lip synching their songs in a colourful set in the early 60s. (You may remember them being featured occasionally on Channel 47's "All Night Show" with Chuck The Security Guard.)
Each of these videos had one thing in common – scantily clad females seemed to be in all of them, regardless of the topic. Some, like Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl,” were big hits. Others featured famous stars (like Bobby Vee) performing songs that never made the charts.
Mostly they were just stars singing in front of a camera with no real point other than to do their tune and get whoever wanted to watch it to pay for the privilege. So it’s fair to call them some of the earliest rock videos.
But then there’s this one, and I well remember seeing it for the first time in 1968 on The Smothers Brothers summer replacement show. Mason Williams was not only a writer for the variety program but a talented musician, and his "Classical Gas" was one of those instrumentals that made it to the upper reaches of the charts.
In the summer of that year, he got the rights to a video that originally featured Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He recorded his song over the visuals, which claimed to show 3,000 years of great art in only about 3:11. No one had ever seen anything like it before and it was such a hit, it wound up being shown several times on the Smothers’ show.
On his YouTube page, Williams admits he had no idea if it would be accepted by a large audience. “The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer's mind could absorb this intense level of visual input.  It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes!  It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc…
“I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ's would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV.”
That’s why I nominate this as the first of the great music videos as we know them today, and why I was so delighted when I recently rediscovered it on the web. There have been tons of better videos made since, but for that early in the process, it remains an amazing achievement.