While a high degree of artistic experimentation and daring had existed within the underground of the world’s great cities long before 1956 (the Belle Epoque, Dada, futurism, surrealism, erotica, etc.), nothing had prepared the puritanical forces of America for Elvis Presley‘s performance on the Milton Berle Show.
Elvis, cresting at the time, adored by girls and emulated by boys, debuted his cover of the song “Hound Dog” on the program without his guitar. Instead, Presley brought his suggestive hip gyrations to the masses, which scandalized the studio audience and the nation. Presley, as influential as he was in fusing black and white forms of music together and bringing it to the world, was no Alfred Jarry, Marcel Duchamp or Comte de Lautreamont, but his hip gyrations and the nature of the song (written by Leiber and Stoller) were an incredibly revolutionary moment in pop culture.
The collective gasp of American puritans must have been something to see if it could have been witnessed in its totality simultaneously. And what magic it must have been to see the “Leave It To Beaver” of the 1950s world disintegrate and the forces of progress advance.
Below is the video of Elvis debuting “Hound Dog.” Dig it.