Happy Days Season 2 on DVD, which is available in the U.S. + Canada tomorrow, is being released with much of its original music replaced by generic muzak. Of about 50 original songs used in that season, just five have been retained. "Rock Around the Clock" has been replaced as the theme song with "Happy Days," which they started to use beginning season 3. "Blueberry Hill" appears once but it is omitted several other times.

It was only when reading through the list of omissions when I really realized how vital pop songs were to establishing Happy Days's setting. Some of the missing cuts on the DVD are "I'm Walking" by Fats Domino, "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers, "Sh-Boom" by the Crew Cuts, "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin, and "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley. Just hearing these titles I start to see those 1970s blue checkerboard wipes from the Cunninghams' living room to the booth at Arnold's. I have probably watched more episodes of Happy Days than any other show in the history of television--I probably watched two episodes a day for about ten years--and the very idea of it missing these songs fills me with longing and regret. Releasing it without these bits of music would be like reproducing The Last Supper with a couple of Apostles missing.

As with the release of WKRP in Cincinnati on DVD, original music could have been licensed, but the distributor would have had to pay a steep price. The problem of licensing music for DVD highlights one of the excesses of copyright law. A more rational system might set a statutory rate for reuse of music in a television program released on DVD, just as radio stations pay statutory royalties to play songs. But obvs, our system wasn't designed to be maximally fair and the rights holder basically holds its content ransom. On the other hand, the distributor could charge more for the DVD and spend the extra cash on rights. But the market wouldn't support a very expensive Happy Days release. As Something Old, Nothing New notes, the first season DVD of HD did have all the orig music licensed, and it sold badly and lost money. The major media industries aren't in the business of preserving cultural heritage, alas.

No one gets rights from this video...yet, anyhow. It's "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters, performed at the Beacon Theater in New York in 1980 (followed by some super-cheesy stage shtick and then their even bigger hit, "Charlie Brown").

No comments: