New Year's Rockin' Eve has been on since 1972 with this formula: prerecorded performances cut in with (usually) Dick Clark doing the countdown in Times Square. Uploaded by dip-ld.com.
If you’re old enough to remember New Year’s celebrations prior to 1972, then you remember the hideous music of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Lombardo was a long-time New Year’s Eve institution, dating back to his first NYE radio broadcast in 1928. Fortunately, Dick Clark (Great American Things, December 14, 2010) had a better idea, and put the word “Rockin'” in his show’s title so a younger generation would know there was a new kid on the block.
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New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been a fixture since then, with the exception of December 31, 1999, when the networks were anticipating that computers would go kerflooey and airplanes would start falling from the sky due to the Y2K bug. The first couple of years found the show on NBC, but it then moved to ABC where it’s thrived ever since. That first year, the musical guests were Blood, Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, Helen Reddy, and Al Green. Just as now, much of the music and the studio celebration was prerecorded, cut in with the live festivities and countdown in Times Square (Great American Things, December 31, 2009).
The show hasn’t quite been the same since the unflappable Dick Clark had his stroke in 2004. Regis Philbin took host duties for a couple of years, but now Ryan Seacrest is the show’s executive producer and co-host. He does a fine job, and in time the show will feel like it belongs to him. In the meantime, whether you like the musical guests or not, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is the place to see the new year arrive in New York City – and regardless of what they show in Sydney or Paris or wherever, it’s not the new year until it comes to Times Square.
Bobby Darin's version of this song, called the ultimate by no less an authority than Frank Sinatra, made it to number 3 in Billboard's All-Time Top 100. Uploaded to Flickr by MarcelaL SD.
It’s Bobby Darin’s signature recording that we recognize as a Great American Thing. “Mack the Knife” is a song from The Threepenny Opera (1928), composed in Berlin by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertold Brecht.
Louis Armstrong (Great American Things, May 11, 2009) performed the first popular recording in America in 1956, four years before Bobby Darin (Great American Things, January 2, 2010) did his version. Dick Clark advised Darin against recording the song, thinking that the rock and roll audience wouldn’t go for a song that originated in an opera. Clark didn’t make many mistakes during his career, but he cheerfully acknowledges this one.
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“Mack the Knife” became the biggest hit of Bobby Darin’s career. It went to number one on the charts, and stayed there for nine weeks. It not only won the Grammy for Song of the Year, it’s since been honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame award. Darin’s version is number 3 on Billboard’s All-Time Top 100, and was number 251 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Oh, and on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, some British guy named Simon Cowell called “Mack the Knife” the best song ever written…
Times Square on New Year's Eve. Here's a good one - drinking isn't permitted at this event. Right. Uploaded by timessquarenyc.org.
Some one million people squeeze into New York’s Times Square each New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop, signifying the start of a new year. It’s a scene watched by millions more on live television, and it’s now in its 106th year.
When the New York Times moved to the square in 1904, it convinced the city to name the triangular intersection after the paper. To celebrate, a huge event was held in the new “Times Square” on New Year’s Eve that drew about 200,000 people and started a tradition.
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The ball came three years later, lowered from a flagpole atop One Times Square. Over the years, it’s gone from being constructed of iron and wood to pure iron, to aluminum, and is now composed of 2,688 Waterford crystals. For 2009, the ball is twice the size as 2008, and has three times more LED fixtures. They even had to rebuild the flagpole to accommodate this thing. It’s now capable of putting on a fabulous light show all by itself, and will remain lit in Times Square all year long.
For many years, Guy Lombardo’s orchestra was synonymous with New Year’s Eve, and would play Auld Lang Syne from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel while images of Times Square were broadcast on CBS. More recently, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been the broadcast standard, hosted for many years by the venerable Dick Clark, and now by the Dick Clark of a new generation, Ryan Seacrest.