12 Memorable ‘American Bandstand’ Moments

Long before there was such a thing as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Dick Clark was the real-time curator, bringing future inductees into America's living rooms right as they first hit the scene. The Beach Boys? Doors? Creedence? Madonna? The Beastie Boys? From 1957 right on up to the advent of the MTV era in the '80s, teenagers (and eternal teenagers) usually caught their first glimpse of whichever stars were just getting their radio breakthroughs on American Bandstand.

Take a look back through the decades at a dozen typical (or, in the case of Johnny Rotten, not-so-typical) Bandstand moments:


Bandstand was known for usually having its guests lip-synch, but in this archival moment from 1958, the Killer was most assuredly killing it live.


"It's got a good beat and you can dance to it" continues to be a running joke decades after the demise of Bandstand's famous "rate-a-record" feature, in which Clark would ask a boy and girl to grade up-and-coming hits on a scale of 35 to 98. Sure enough, this segment's young lady says of the first record, "I thought the tambourine came out real good, and you can dance to it. It has a nice beat to it." But you may bust a gut as the Bandstand dancers attempt, in vain, to get a boogie going to Frankie Laine's Western-themed "Rango."


The Crystals couldn't make it for this particular episode, but that offers 21st century viewers an even more revealing look back at the dance customs coming across the then very small screen in the early '60s.


In the early days of the show, teen guests might ask questions of artists who couldn't make it to the studio via the phone—as this unwitting girl did of future rock avant-garde figure Captain Beefheart.


Prog-rock started making its way into American living rooms via Bandstand in 1967. Clark wasn't always the most penetrating interviewer, but at least he did manage to avoid asking "Which one's Pink?" when Syd Barrett and company came onto the show. David Gilmour had not yet joined the band, so it was up to bassist Roger Waters to be the chatty one by sharing the info that the fledgling Floyd had just enjoyed their first American cheeseburgers.


Clark clearly loved the Jacksons, and he recognized a fellow microphone hog when he found one in 9-year-old Michael, as the group premiered "ABC."


The advent of a new kind of dance music in the mid-'70s was perfect for Bandstand, which always devoted a lot of time just to its in-house amateur dancers in-between celebrity appearances.


In possibly the most famous Bandstand episode of all time, John Lydon proved that he wasn't so past his days as the Sex Pistols' provocateur, as he led the audience onto the stage and made a mockery of the whole lip-synching process. Buffs still disagree over whether Clark was upset by Lydon's behavior or in on the whole thing. On screen, at least, he never let us see him sweat.


It may have been 1980, but Prince was still working a 1970s Farrah haircut when he first went on Bandstand. Trying to get more than a monosyllable out of Prince was as tough when he was a 19-year-old nobody as it was after he was a star. "You're very shy," Clark tells him, not letting any frustration at the youngster's indifference to conversation show through.

Prince American Bandstand Debut from AbzPunkPhoto on Vimeo.


Genuinely shy: Janet as a 16-year-old, in no danger whatsoever of an afternoon-TV wardrobe malfunction. Clark had long asked the brothers why none of the girls in the family got into the business, but he finally bagged one, surely little suspecting he was introducing one of the biggest stars of the '80s and '90s.


"Is she hot!" exclaimed Clark, after Madonna sang what was already her first hit, "Holiday," at the beginning of 1984. And she sure knew it, too. Asked if anything about her burgeoning success was making her nervous, Madonna answered, "Not really. I think I've always had a lot of confidence in myself." And in perhaps the most-quoted line ever to come out of Bandstand, she casually declared her intentions on the spot: "To rule the world."


A microphone came to a bad end in the Boys' frenetic debut, but it wasn't a terrible loss, given that most of the performances were lip-synched anyway. Clark's reaction to the mayhem? Matter-of-fact and gently bemused, as always.