Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution

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Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution
Title card
Directed byDavid Oppenheim
Written byLeonard Bernstein, David Oppenheim
Produced byPat Jaffe, David Oppenheim
StarringLeonard Bernstein
Release date
  • 25 April 1967 (1967-04-25) (CBS)
Running time
60 mins

Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution is a 1967 American television documentary by David Oppenheim about young pop and rock musicians producing music as "a symptom and generator" of social unrest and generation gaps. Hosted by Leonard Bernstein, it was commissioned by CBS and broadcast on April 25, 1967.[1] Musicians who appeared in the documentary included singer-songwriter Janis Ian, who performed her song "Society's Child", and Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, who performed his song "Surf's Up".

Inside Pop followed other TV programs dedicated to contemporary rock, such as a 1966 ABC News special titled Anatomy of Pop,[2] but Oppenheim's documentary represented the first time that pop music had been presented on television as a genuine art form.[3] This acknowledgement coincided with a newfound appreciation, by cultural commentators and scholars, of the advances that the Beatles and other contemporary artists had made during the 1960s.[4][5]


Inside Pop host Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein, a classical composer and the director of the New York Philharmonic, was among the first American classical musicians to publicly recognize the artistic worth of the new wave of rock music led by the Beatles.[6][7] The status he held among conservative and middle-aged viewers allowed him to bridge the age and philosophical divide that separated them from the youth-centered message of this new music.[8] During the show, he described himself as "fascinated by the strange and compelling scene called 'pop music'"[9] and said that, while the majority of it was "trash", the remainder was "so exciting and vital … it claims the attention of every thinking person".[10] Bernstein also suggested that, while many parents might banish contemporary pop music from the family home, "I think this music has something terribly important to tell us adults."[11]

According to Beach Boys biographer David Leaf, Inside Pop was originally intended to be a documentary focused on the Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson, who was then in the midst of recording the album Smile.[12] Oppenheim told Beach Boys biographer Steven Gaines: "Some person in New York was very high on Brian Wilson. I was very curious about him and his music."[13][nb 1] He said that when he entered Wilson's Laurel Way home, "Brian was looking at the TV set with the volume off and just the color, detuned, and lots of vegetables around. ... It was a strange, insulated household, insulated from the world by money....A playpen of irresponsible people."[13]

An interview with Wilson was attempted, but Oppenheim said the filmmakers were unable to "get much out of him" and was told by one of Wilson's "odd" associates that "he's not verbal".[13] Other discarded sequences featured Wilson at his swimming pool[13] and recording alone and with his group at a Hollywood studio.[15][nb 2] Leaf wrote that it was later decided to expand the scope of the program due to the band's waning popularity in early 1967.[12] There were ultimately no references to Smile in the film.[18]

Program contents[edit]

Part I[edit]

Inside Pop opens with an interview between Bernstein and songwriter Tandyn Almer.[19][nb 3] Bernstein then discusses the Beatles' contribution to modern songwriting, in terms of the unexpected key and tempo changes found in their songs "Good Day Sunshine" and "She Said She Said".[20] He admires the range of musical moods evoked in contemporary pop, citing the Beatles' "Penny Lane", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Love You To" for, respectively, their trumpet solo, orchestral strings and Indian raga qualities, and the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" for its "arab café" mood.[21] Seated at a piano throughout, he compares some of the Beatles' most adventurous efforts to works by classical composers Bach and Schumann; he lauds Bob Dylan's lyrics as befitting "a bombshell of a book about social criticism".[10] Bernstein says that the poetic and subtle nature of contemporary pop lyric writing represents "one of our teenagers' strongest weapons", since: "Protected by this armor of poetry, our young lyricists can say just about anything they care to, and they do care."[22] He also expresses admiration for the Left Banke's "Pretty Ballerina" and its use of both Lydian and Mixolydian modes, and for the Monkees' "I'm a Believer".[2] Other artists mentioned include the Byrds, the Association and Tim Buckley.[9]

For the end of part one, Bernstein invited teenage folk singer Janis Ian to perform "Society's Child",[8] which she wrote about the then controversial issue of interracial romance.[3][23] Due to its subject matter, the song had been banned by many radio stations.[2][3]

Part II[edit]

The second part of the special includes footage filmed by Oppenheim in November 1966 of civil unrest in Los Angeles. Young people are shown protesting the police's enforcement of a curfew designed to limit their presence around Sunset Strip.[10] Also shown are studio interviews with Los Angeles-based musicians Frank Zappa, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, members of the bands Canned Heat,[10] the Unidentified Flying Objects, Gentle Soul, and Los Angeles Free Press reporter Paul Robbins.[24] All the interviewees expound on the power of music to effect change in the world.[10] Zappa warns of an imminent "revolution", adding: "it's going to be a sloppy one, unless something is done to get it organized in a hurry."[2][nb 4]

Singer-songwriter Bobby Jameson momentarily appears as a protester in the film, albeit uncredited.[26][nb 5] Herman's Hermits also appear,[3] as does Graham Nash of the Hollies.[2][nb 6] One of the program's final scenes is a film of Brian Wilson, on solo piano and vocals, premiering the original song "Surf's Up".[9][nb 7] In the narration accompanying his performance, Oppenheim remarks that the song holds too much to comprehend on an initial listen, and attributes a profound and elusive quality to the composition.[28]


Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution premiered on the CBS network, on April 25, 1967,[1] and represented the first time that pop music had been presented on television as a genuine art form.[3] Through Bernstein's support and her appearance on Inside Pop, Ian's "Society's Child" became a top 20 hit in the United States.[3][29] According to journalist Nick Kent, when Wilson viewed the finished documentary, he was disturbed by the praises he was afforded, thereby accelerating the collapse of the Smile album.[30] After Inside Pop, Almer spent some time as a staff songwriter for A&M Records and collaborated on a number of songs with Wilson.[19]


Listed by order of first appearance:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Band publicist Derek Taylor arranged for Wilson to appear in the film.[14]
  2. ^ Filmed on December 15, the session was dedicated to the songs "Surf's Up" and "Wonderful".[16] Wilson and Oppenheim were dissatisfied with the footage, and decided to reshoot the "Surf's Up" sequence at Wilson's home on December 17. His performance that day, executed in one take with a candelabrum placed on his grand piano, was captured by three film cameras and deemed satisfactory for use in the documentary.[17]
  3. ^ Almer wrote "Along Comes Mary" for the Association, which was a top 10 hit on the Billboard charts in 1966.[19]
  4. ^ Decades later, Zappa reflected that after the 1960s, record executives were succeeded by their "far more conservative -- and more dangerous" hippie employees. He explained that "the old guys ... were willing to take a chance on an [unusual or experimental] idea, even if [they didn't] like or understand it. The new guys don't have that spirit."[25]
  5. ^ Jameson was featured as a subject in the documentary film Mondo Hollywood, released in the same year. At the time, he was in a relationship with Gail Sloatman (later the wife of Zappa) who characterized him as "somebody who was desperately seeking to be famous or die."[26]
  6. ^ Nash was not yet part of the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.[27]
  7. ^ The song had yet to be released at the time.[9]
  8. ^ Identified through subtitle as a "manager.


  1. ^ a b Sanchez, Luis (2014). The Beach Boys' Smile. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-62356-956-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hall, Claude (May 13, 1967). "U.S. Business Reaches Teen Market Via Pop TV Shows". Billboard. pp. 1, 10. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Metzger, Richard (2012). "Leonard Bernstein Explains the Rock Revolution to Squares in 1967's 'Inside Pop' Doc". Dangerous Minds. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  4. ^ Gendron, Bernard (2002). Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 193–94. ISBN 978-0-226-28737-9.
  5. ^ Hamilton, Jack (May 24, 2017). "Sgt. Pepper's Timing Was As Good As Its Music". Slate. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  6. ^ Gendron 2002, pp. 171–72.
  7. ^ Frontani, Michael R. (2007). The Beatles: Image and the Media. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 152–53. ISBN 978-1-57806-965-1.
  8. ^ a b Marshall, Colin (March 28, 2013). "Leonard Bernstein Demystifies the Rock Revolution for Curious (if Square) Grown-Ups in 1967". Open Culture. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d Mojo staff (August 27, 2013). "Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa & Graham Nash Go Inside Pop". mojo4music. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e Sanchez 2014, p. 96.
  11. ^ Hoby, Hermione (June 17, 2012). "Are you ever too old for pop music?". The Guardian. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Leaf, David (1978). The Beach Boys and the California Myth. Grosset & Dunlap. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-448-14626-3.
  13. ^ a b c d Gaines, Steven (1986). Heroes and Villains: The True Story of The Beach Boys. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 170. ISBN 0306806479.
  14. ^ Butler, Jan (2012). "The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Musicology of Record Production". In Frith, Simon; Zagorski-Thomas, Simon (eds.). The Art of Record Production: An Introductory Reader for a New Academic Field. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-4094-0678-5.
  15. ^ Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. pp. 156–157, 167, 182. ISBN 978-0-87930-818-6.
  16. ^ Badman 2004, p. 166.
  17. ^ Badman 2004, p. 167.
  18. ^ Sanchez 2014, p. 97.
  19. ^ a b c Schudel, Matt (February 16, 2013). "Tandyn Almer, enigmatic composer of 'Along Comes Mary,' dies at 70". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ Frontani 2007, pp. 153–54.
  21. ^ Frontani 2007, p. 154.
  22. ^ Priore 2007, p. 144.
  23. ^ Priore 2007, p. 234.
  24. ^ Priore, Dominic (2007). Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock'n'Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood. London: Jawbone Press. p. 234. ISBN 978-1-906002-04-6.
  25. ^ Zappa, Frank; Occhiogrosso, Peter (1989). The Real Frank Zappa Book. Simon and Schuster. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-671-70572-5.
  26. ^ a b Thomas, Bryan (May 21, 2015). "Remembering 'Mondo Hollywood''s Bobby Jameson". Nightflight. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  27. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2014). Jingle Jangle Morning: Folk-Rock in the 1960s. BookBaby. p. 556. ISBN 978-0-9915892-1-0.
  28. ^ Sanchez 2014, p. 118.
  29. ^ Bernstein, Leonard; Simeone, Nigel (2013). The Leonard Bernstein Letters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-300-17909-5.
  30. ^ Kent, Nick (2009). "The Last Beach Movie Revisited: The Life of Brian Wilson". The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music. Da Capo Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780786730742.

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