In its own way, Bye, Bye Birdie, both the Charles Strouse and Lee Adams stage musical and the George Sidney film of the material, is an uneasy attempt to bridge a divide that was already becoming apparent in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It’s simultaneously an attempt to understand a coming eruption. Also, it’s a goofy comedy musical that seems like it’s trying to understand what the matter is with kids today but ultimately ends up siding with their parents. It’s like someone made a musical of the comic strip Zits. There’s nothing as mean-spirited about the work as I’m making it sound, since it’s basically just a lighthearted, gentle look at the sorts of teen frenzies over rock stars that were becoming well-known in the late ’50s, but there is at least an undercurrent of uncertainty to it. When Paul Lynde sings “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?” in the movie version, it’s a joke, yes, but there’s also a vague sense of unease, a sense that things may never again be the same. Kennedy’s in the White House, rock ’n’ roll is here to stay, and there’s a growing sense that youth is driving the conversation now instead of following it. Plus, you’ve got Ann Margaret, sensual and seductive but also somehow innocent (at least in this film). Maybe to our modern eyes, it’s possible to see how corny it all is, but at the time of its release, she must have seemed intoxicating.