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"The Wages of Spin"

"The Wages of Spin" Synopsis

The Wages of Spin chronicles the Philadelphia music scene from 1952-1963. The documentary is the first honest, comprehensive look at the Philadelphia music industry, centering on the creation, growth and popularity of Bandstand. It looks behind the curtain at the inner workings of the music industry in Philadelphia during this time period. The narrative is propelled principally through interviews and histories from the people who lived it, performers, dancers and those waiting in the wings.

Created in Philadelphia by Triangle Productions, Bandstand was a radio program that was adapted for television. Originally hosted by Bob Horn the show captured the attention of the youth in the Delaware Valley. Horn’s career was short-lived, however. He soon ran into legal problems, including an arrest under the influence of alcohol as well as accusations of improper conduct with a teenager on the show. A young booth announcer, Dick Clark, was given command of the show that would influence teens, and the music industry for decades to come.

The music industry was by no means a paragon of American business ethics. Underhanded practices, rife with conflicts of interest, were the standard for the day. Payola! As the dirty business of making hits and selling records went on everyone had their hands out. Clark emerged at a unique time in American cultural and economic history, saw an unprecedented opportunity and exploited it. Talent was a secondary consideration in the system of graft and legalized corruption that prevailed at the time.

The Payola Hearings on Capitol Hill attempted to shed light on the shady dealings of the music industry. The complex web of integrated business enterprises that Clark and his colleagues spun in order to maximize their own wealth at the expense of young talent was exposed for the first time. Despite revelations of kick-backs and pay-offs throughout the industry, Clark emerged from the situation unscathed.

Was it legal? Was it ethical? Was it moral? Watch the whole story, and then you decide.


The Story is About...

  • "All is never as it seems. In 1960, Rock and Roll was not the teenage menace that parents feared. And Dick Clark was not the nice young man that teenagers believed. Wages of Spin tells the tale that young musicians featured on Bandstand wouldn't dare share, until now. This documentary is a compelling start to a long overdue correction of history. Prepare to have your illusions shattered." ~Rollye James, Radio Personality
  • "It was Dorothy and her Trio of friends who pulled back the curtain and laid bare to us the man pulling the strings in the make-believe land of 'Oz.' Now film director Shawn Swords has done likewise. Swords' The Wages of Spin is a revealing chronicle of who actually pulled the strings in a latter-day 'Oz'—the city of Philadelphia, when it, thanks to Dick Clark’s 'American Bandstand,' rocked and rolled as the fabulous hub of America’s pop music industry. Kudos to Swords for setting the record straight after all these years, and a warning to those who idolize Mr. Clark: viewing The Wages of Spin may be hazardous to your blithe recollections of that era.” ~John A. Jackson, Author
  • "I lived through it, this documentary is right on the money. Finally the truth comes out." ~Lee Douglas, Oldtime Rock 'n' Roll
  • "…a brilliant piece of storytelling. You have capsulated an important segment of the music business and developing years of television in an entertaining and fascinating manner." ~John Toutkaldjian, Bandstand Director
  • Reuters' Coverage of The Wages of Spin