For the uninitiated, NBC's Hullabaloo was the second of two teen-oriented pop-rock showcases to make it to network television in the mid-'60s, in the wake of the British invasion and exploding record sales. The first, and more fondly remembered of the two, was ABC's Shindig, which was created by British music impresario Jack Good and was noted for getting most of its guests to sing live, rather than lip-sync to their current records. The two shows, which debuted five months apart, were strongly supported by sponsors selling teen-oriented products; each usually featured hosts who had strong teen appeal, as well as a bevy of beautiful female dancers.
The musical guests were more uneven than most of us remember them, although the Rolling Stones struck a major blow for the blues on Shindig by insisting on having Howlin' Wolf as their special guest -- the six foot four inch, 250-pound Wolf must've been a shock to some viewers, but it also told them just how far the Rolling Stones were from the likes of Herman's Hermits. Some of the shows were very pop-oriented -- on show number three of side two, the Mamas & the Papas are interspersed with Gary Lewis & the Playboys and Noel Harrison, the latter miming to his version of "It's All Over, Baby Blue." Most of the hosts are an embarrassment today -- Michael Landon, Trini Lopez, and Sammy Davis Jr. probably come off the best, and Landon's show will be a special delight to veteran video collectors; long available in black-and-white from various bootleg sources, it turns up here in amazingly good color, including excellent footage of the Byrds (doing a better version of "The Times They Are a-Changin' " than their officially released rendition) and Jackie DeShannon. Some of the dorkier acts do get a chance to perform the unexpected, such as Gary Lewis & the Playboys running through a surprisingly spirited version of the Beatles' "Run For Your Life," or the Mamas & the Papas harmonizing beautifully on a section of "Nowhere Man."
The latter is part of the show's weekly rundown of the charts, where the guests perform a joint medley of the current hits that week (like the Byrds singing a verse or two of "Daydream"). On the other hand, when the show had acts who were just a little too intense to deal with easily, it could waste a lot of talent -- the Yardbirds lip-sync to "I'm a Man" surrounded by so many dancers and squeezed onto a stage so small that it's hard to see Chris Dreja, while Jeff Beck and Keith Relf are practically on top of each other; the girl dancers go into a quasi-orgasmic frenzy during the guitar break that ends the song. Many of the clips are just plain stupid in their design, but a few are so strange that they rate repeated watching -- the Sir Douglas Quintet doing "She's About a Mover" in a medieval castle setting, surrounded by women in suits of armor; Chuck Berry doing a raw, raunchy, live version of "Johnny B. Goode" in the midst of a program featuring Herman's Hermits and Freddie & the Dreamers, then dueting with Trini Lopez on "Memphis"; the Four Seasons in a live medley of their hits from the same show, which contains a reminder that they played more of their instruments themselves; the Lovin' Spoonful miming to "Do You Believe in Magic" while seated in a prop antique car; the Supremes with Florence Ballard introduced first (worth seeing for an era that would soon end); the Strangeloves thumping their way through "I Want Candy" on the same show; Gary Lewis and Jerry Lewis dueting on "Help!"; Joanie Sommers desperately trying for a Petula Clark-type sound on "Before And After"; Barry McGuire singing "Eve of Destruction" in a junkyard set; and Gary Lewis & the Playboys covering "It Ain't Me, Babe."
Some of the clips are also surprisingly entertaining and informative -- one discovers, for example, that Tom Dawes of the Cyrkle used a double-necked guitar/bass combination. And some are bizarre, such as the Serendipity Singers using "How Sweet It Is" to introduce Marvin Gaye doing "Ain't That Peculiar", in a beautifully (and unintentionally funny) choreographed sequence, and using the melody of "Greensleeves" to introduce Dusty Springfield doing the slow, soulful "Some of Your Lovin' ". Alan King introduces the Rascals doing "Good Lovin' " in a very hot performance clip. Strangely enough, the best choreographed clip on the entire disc, "Goin' to a Go-Go" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, is part of the bonus track selection on side two. The Turtles' "You Baby" is a surprisingly straightforward performance clip, except for efforts to have some visual fun based on the group's name (a shot through a fish tank, etc.). The Bobby Fuller Four doing "I Fought the Law" just a few months before Fuller's murder is a haunting addition as well; one only wishes the clip focused more on the band and less on the dancers and the set (a jailhouse of course). And the original Moody Blues do a powerful live rendition of "Go Now," heavy on the rhythm guitar and with very full backing vocals, which may actually sound better than most of the digital remasterings that the official version of the song has received.
The DVD is spread onto two sides, with menus that come up automatically after the start. The menus themselves are straightforward but somewhat limited -- complete shows are indexed, but not the specific clips devoted to each performer (although each song gets its own chapter marker). Each artist featured in the bonus tracks is listed in the onscreen menu along with their songs. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide