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The evolution of the music video, part II (1950s - 1960s)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 6, 2009 01:45pm | Post a Comment
As persuasively and incontestably argued in The evolution of the music video, part I  (1890s - 1940s), the music video began not in the '80s, as is often wrongly assumed, but the '90s... the 1890s (if we accept the basic concept of videos being one stand-alone work of one song/one visual). From the humble sound experiments at the dawn of the celluloid age through the artistic flowering of Soundies, many musical promos were created of high historical and artistic importance. In the 1950s and '60s, videos moved from bars and clubs to the living room, as television became the new venue for music promotion.

Cineboxes, Scopitones and Color-Sonics
According to the Quixotic Internet Accuracy Project, the term "music video" was coined by DJ (VJ?) J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson in 1959. That year, the Cinebox hit the scene, essentially following in the footsteps of Soundies by manufacturing videos for what was essentially a jukebox with a visual component. In 1965, the Cinebox was re-branded the Colorama in the US. The following year it was again re-branded, this time as the Cinejukebox.

Cinebox Brochure  Frankie Avalon and a Cinebox Cinebox highlights









Scopitones followed Cineboxes, hitting the French market in 1960 and making their way to the US in 1964. The similar Color-sonics followed in 1966.

The Scopitone  Color-Sonic













  Singalong Jubilee

Canada was a pioneer in moving the music video from various video jukeboxes to the television. Singalong Jubilee debuted in 1961 on the CBC, 23 years before the debut of Much. In addition to featuring musicians playing in the studios, artists were also filmed on location. The show was based in Halifax. Music videos proved an ideal alternative to a punishing journey across the vast, frozen wastelands of the north just to play a song or two before returning home. Sadly, I can't find any videos from the program.

As we've now seen, music videos were around for 61 years before The Beatles got in on the act. And yet, many still insist that they invented the music video. As the Fab Four began to make studio-enhanced psychedelia that was difficult to come anywhere near re-creating on stage, they stopped touring and relied on music videos as the main way of promoting their music, perhaps giving rise to the myth of their having had a hand in the format's creation. Many of their peers followed suit, often engaging in the lighthearted shenanigans apparently so popular with English teenagers of the 1960s. The Doors, including as they did a couple of film students, were generally more dour.





































Australia, like Canada, is characterized by tiny outposts of humanity spread across an enormous, unforgiving countryside. Following the Canadians' lead, Australia did more to establish television as the venue for music videos than any other country. With the UK and US millions of miles away, the Australians ended up regularly making their own videos for songs by bands unwilling to cross the globe. By 1966, Australian bands regularly made videos for their new releases. That year, The Black Diamonds (after encountering bushfires and blizzards in their attempts to tour) became the first "country" band to sign to a major without having set foot in the capital. A year later, The Masters Apprentices made a color video, which was just showing off, because Australia successfully resisted conversion to color TV until 1975.

Relevant Tags

Australia (12), Canada (14), Cinebox (1), Scopitone (1), Color-sonic (1), Psychedelia (17), Singalong Jubilee (1), 1960s (43), 1950s (25), Music Videos (13)