Saturday, July 23, 2005

It was the greatest show on television

Night Music (1988-1990)

Stereophonics' latest release (Superman EP) has a great version of The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and it got me thinking about all the great versions of that song over the years... which reminded me of one of television's great moments. Does anyone else remember a television program called Night Music with David Sanborn? The show was put together by Hal Wilner and featured such a great eclectic group of artists who, as a highlight, would often jam together for a song. The highlight had to be Sonic Youth, The Indigo Girls, Daniel Lanois and David Sanborn playing the aforementioned "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Other truly great (and surreal) moments include:

- Sonny Rollins sitting in with Leonard Cohen and Was (Not Was) doing "Who By Fire"
- Nick Cave, Charlie Haden, and Toots Thielemans getting together to play "Hey Joe."
- John Cale, Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin trading verses on Cale's dolorous version of "Heartbreak Hotel" with BJ Cole on pedal steel and Sanborn on sax
- Todd Rundgren, Ellen Foley and Taj Mahal performing a scene from 'HMS Pinafore,' with Sanborn, Pat Metheny, Christian Marclay and the Night Music band all dressed as sailors behind them.
- Conway Twitty singing "It's Only Make Believe" with The Residents dancing behind him in eyeballs.

Someone needs to pull Lorne Michaels (SNL, Broadway Video) ear and get him to release these on DVD... it's time has come.

Episode listings here, w/ songs performed (the ones I could remember/confirm.)

More about Night Music:
Was originally called Sunday Night... then became Michelob presents... Night Music
Ran for two seasons - 1st season on NBC ('88-'89,) 2nd Season in syndication ('89-'90)
Squeeze co-founder Jools Holland co-hosted the first season and went on to do his own late night music show for the BBC2 (Later with Jools Holland.)

Night Music references:
Sonic Youth's performance can be found on their video Screaming Fields of Sonic Love
Discussion of the series on
Referenced in this Austin City Limits piece (Cincinnati CityBeat)
John Hiatt's performance referenced here

tags: , , , , , ,


Shawn Anderson said...

The playlist includes songs that I could remember/confirm being played:

Night Music ('88-'89, '89-'90)

* "Silver Rocket" - Sonic Youth
* "Pusherman" - Curtis Mayfield
* "Who By Fire" - Leonard Cohen (performed with Sonny Rollins and Was [Not Was] on the program)
* "Tutu" - Miles Davis
* "Monkey Gone To Heaven" - The Pixies
* "It's Only Make Believe" - Conway Twitty (performed it live on the program with The Residents singing backup)
* "Closer To Fine" - Indigo Girls
* "Snagglepuss" - John Zorn
* "Asimbonanga (Mandela)" - Johnny Clegg
* "Dirty Boulevard" - Lou Reed
* "Tight" - Betty Carter
* "Space Is The Place" - Sun Ra & His Arkestra (Al Green played some percussion live on the program)
* "Old Love" - Eric Clapton (performed it live on the program with Robert Cray)
* "Can't Stop Running" - Todd Rundgren
* "Drive South" - John Hiatt

Shawn Anderson said...

Episodes (w/ songs listed where I could remember/confirm)

Show 101
Ruth Brown
Ivan Neville
George Duke

Show 102
James Taylor
Milton Nascimento
Nana Vasconcelos
Don Grolnick
Lani Groves
Dennis Collins

Show 103
Eddie Palmieri
Nelson Gonzales
Phoebe Snow
Yomo Toro

Show 104
Dr. John
Mavis Staples
Jeff Healey

Show 105
Dizzy Gillespie
Diane Reeves
David Peaston
Onaje Allan Gumbs

Show 106
Slim Gaillard
Mark Knopfler
Randy Newman
Take Six

Show 107
Marianne Faithfull
John Zorn ("Snagglepuss")
Aaron Neville
Rob Wasserman
John Sebastian

Show 108
Jack Bruce
Joe Walsh
Al Green
Highway 101
Nat Hentoff

Show 109
Boz Scaggs
Anson Funderburgh
Betty Wright
The Trio Bulgarka
Dave Bargeron
Randy Brecker
Ronnie Cuber
Lou Marini

Show 110
Al Jarreau
Darlene Love
Bashiri Johnson
Johnny Clegg & Savuka ("Asimbonanga [Mandela]")
Brenda White
Lani Groves
Dennis Collins

Show 111
Earl Klugh
Patti Austin
Joe Sample
Donald Fagen
Sister Carol
Kasey Cisyk
Lani Groves
Vaneese Thomas
Vivian Cherry
Bashiri Johnson

Show 112
Judy Mowatt
Joe Cocker
David "Fathead" Newman
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Annicia Banks
Vaneese Thomas
Kasey Cisyk
Lani Groves

Show 113
Curtis Mayfield ("Pusherman")
Taylor Dayne
David Lindley
Jorge Cameron
George Duke

Show 114
Sam Moore
Stanley Turrentine
Ashford and Simpson
Joseph Joubert
Steve Thornton
George Duke

Show 115
Youssou N'Dour
Theo Diarra
Mar Gueye
Habib Faye
Philip Bailey
Lani Groves
Marcus Roberts
Ambitious Lovers
George Duke

Show 116
Carlos Santana
Lyle Lovett
Chester Thompson
Armando Peraza
Chepito Area
Wayne Shorter
Fontella Bass
George Duke

Show 117
Betty Carter ("Tight")
Branford Marsalis
Willie Dixon
John Sebastian
George Duke

Show 118
Take Six
Rev. Claude Jeter
Rev. Shirley Caesar
Ann Caesar Price
Bernard Sterling
Michael Mathis
The Dixie Hummingbirds

Show 119
Sonny Rollins
Leonard Cohen ("Who By Fire")
Ken Nordine
Perla Batalla
Was (Not Was)
Julie Christensen
George Duke

Show 120
Harry Connick, jr.
Lou Reed
Katie Webster
John Cale
Hiram Bullock
Paul Shaffer

Show 121
Robert Cray
John Hiatt ("Drive South")
Tracy Chapman
World Saxophone Quartet

Show 122
John Lurie & The Lounge Lizards
The Roches
Little Milton Campbell
Marcus Miller

Show 201
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Pharoah Sanders
Van Dyke Parks
Maria McKee

Show 202
Phillip Glass
Debby Harry
Loudon Wainwright III
Pere Ubu ("Waiting For Mary")

Show 203
Nona Hendryx
Pops Staples
Ivo Papasov
Adrian Belew
Elliot Sharp

Show 204
Bootsy Collins
Pretty Fat
Carla Bley
Steve Swallow
Allen Toussaint
Karen Mantler & Band

Show 205
Todd Rundgren ("Can't Stop Running")
Pat Metheny
Taj Mahal
Nanci Griffiths
Christian Marclay

Show 206
L.L. Cool J
Jean-Luc Ponty
Ray Manzarek
Elliot Sharp

Show 207
The Pixies ("Monkey Gone to Heaven")
Sun Ra ("Retrospect" "Face the Music" "Space Is the Place")
Syd Straw
Arthur Baker
Al Green
Sister Carol

Show 208
Sting & Fareed Haque
Carla & Rufus Thomas
Bill Frisell & Band
Mary Margaret O'Hara

Show 209
Miles Davis ("Tutu")
Hank Ballard & The Three Midnighters
Marcus Miller

Show 210
Sonic Youth ("Silver Rocket")
Indigo Girls
Daniel Lanois
Evan Lurie & His Tango Band
Diamanda Galas

Show 211
Eric Clapton
Robert Cray
Julee Cruise
Papa Wemba
Dan Hicks & The Acoustic Warriors

Show 212
Conway Twitty ("It's Only Make Believe")
The Residents
The Kronos Quartet
Aster Aweke

Show 213
Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Subway to Venus")
Toots Thielemans
Charlie Haden & his Liberation Orchestra
Nick Cave & Mick Harvey ("The Mercy Seat")
Sister Carol

Show 214
Graham Parker
Abbey Lincoln
Phil Woods
Shabazz and his D.J.
C.E. Just
Steve Turre and his Sea Shells

Show 215
Bob Weir
Rob Wasserman
Warren Zevon
Artis (Spoon Man)
John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards
Nana Vasconcelos
Modern Jazz Quartet

Show 216
Richard Thompson
Tim Berne ("Hong Kong Sad Song / More Coffee")
Jo-el Sonnier
John Cale & B.J. Cole
Shawn Colvin
Howard Johnson
Sister Carol
Hank Crawford

Show 217
Miles Davis
Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Sexy Mexican Maid")
Hank Crawford
Abbey Lincoln
The Kronos Quartet

Show 218
Eric Clapton and Robert Cray ("Old Love")
Warren Zevon
Modern Jazz Quartet
Charlie Haden & his Liberation Orchestra
Dan Hicks & The Acoustic Warriors
Sister Carol
Steve Turre and his Sea Shells

Compilation Episodes:

Compilation 1 (Season 1)
Joe Cocker
Boz Scaggs
Dizzy Gillespie
Aaron Neville
Slim Gaillard
Louis Jordan
Yomo Toro
Al Green

Compilation 2 (Season 1)
Fontella Bass
Youssous N'Dour
Robert Cray & John Hiatt
David Lindley
Leonard Cohen
Sonny Rollins
Betty Carter
Branford Marsalis
Rev. Claude Jeter
Ambitious Lovers

Compilation 3 (Season 2)
Eric Clapton and
Robert Cray
Debby Harry
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Al Green
The Pixies
Miles Davis

Compilation 4 (Season 2)
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Mary Margaret O'Hara
Abbey Lincoln
Ivo Papasov and his Wedding Band
Pharoah Sanders

Anonymous said...

In my tenndom, I stayed up late for : Midnight Special, Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, The Kenny Everett Show, and a raft of forgotten one-two-and-threeshots.

One I recall fondly, that I think made it to two installments, although maybe it was one, was "The Flo and Eddie Show" starring Flo and Eddie (ex-Turtles, Mothers).

Gregg Allman was the guest; they made a big deal of his autographing the door he walked through, and they said they anticipated the day when the door would be full of autographs.

I still wonder where the "Gregg Allman" door is.

One good show I caught, and would love to find a video of was Ian Hunter on Midnight Special in 1981, doing stuff from Short, Bank 'n' Sides.

Anonymous said...

I meant "teendom" and "Short Back 'n' Sides..."

Shawn Anderson said...

I remember the Don Kirschner shows in it's later days. It seems pretty safe now, but then there was nothing else going on.

Night Music, however, just blew my mind. Almost every act that appeared were making their network television debut. Pere Ubu? The Residents? Sun Ra & his Arkestra? I'd never heard such stuff before... and to see it on network tv?

It made me appreciate our local arts festival, Bumbershoot, even more, as many of these (and other eclectic avantgarde acts) appeared there yearly.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone recall an act on Sanborn's show that consisted of some guy in a low gravely voice singing Get Along Little Doggies while cactus with flashlight eyes and huge cowboy hats bowed in sync with the beat?

Shawn Anderson said...

Someone compiled a bunch of YouTube videos featuring performances from the show here.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED this show, and taped many of the episodes from the second season.

As for favorite moments, you forgot the performance of "Figure of Fun," with Loudon Wainwright III mugging w/David Thomas of Pere Ubu; truly hilarious stuff.

I've spoken w/Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Don Fleming, their "manager" who performed flute on "I Wanna Be Your Dog," w/Sanborn playing actual skronk on his sax, and Daniel Lanois playing acoustic guitar. One of those tall, crazy blonde goofballs apparently atacked Lanois' guitar w/garden clippers, and cut all the strings, after the cameras cut away.

>"Get Along Little Dogies" while >cactus with flashlight eyes and >huge cowboy hats bowed in sync >with the beat?

must have been the Residents. I made a Residents eyeball after seeing the Mole Show, and put on my tux for a very memorable Halloween 1983.


DJ Tommy B

Dennis Hendricksen said...

It remains my favorite music show of all time. Sure wish it was on DVD or something. I loved Jools Holland's wacky humour, I loved the unique combination of musicians, and mostly I loved the great music that was featured week after week. It's where I first saw Take 6, a group I still am a big fan of. Too bad there is nothing like this on TV anymore - even with a million cable channels! said...

This show blew my mind with astonishing regularity. Why oh why did did the person who allegedly had posted the shows on YouTube restrict access.

Unknown said...

This show was consistently amazing! Seeing such an eclectic mix of artists working together to create something new was the definition of genius. I assume the licensing would be impossible, but I would love it if someone could figure out how to release this on DVD.

Jon said...

I have been thinking about this show for years, and before seeing this post found the Wikipedia with the episodes listed. I recall with such clarity the Richard Thompson, Sun Ra and Miles Davis shows - amazing. I have been long telling anyone who will listen that it was the best music show ever on tv, and David Sanborn's finest achievement. Painfully short-lived. Thanks for sharing in the groove.