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Mini-documentary on Ry Cooder made by Van Dyke Parks, 1970
04:39 pm


Van Dyke Parks
Ry Cooder

Here’s an interesting find. It’s a 14-minute promotional documentary that Warner Bros. put together for the 1970 debut album by a young performer named Ry Cooder, who was 23 at the time. What sets the movie apart is that the wonderfully eclectic singer and songwriter Van Dyke Parks, who had already released his first solo album Song Cycle, played on Tim Buckley’s first album, and contributed his considerable labors on Brian Wilson’s legendary Smile project (which eventually reached the public to great acclaim in 2004), was (quite strangely) at this time an employee of Warner Bros. tasked with overseeing the creation of promotional videos for Warner Bros. artists.

If anything, Cooder’s resume was even more impressive than Parks’ at this point, having already played on albums by the Rolling Stones and Captain Beefheart and Randy Newman. On this album Cooder actually covered Newman’s “My Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine & Dandelion Wine).”

A universally revered master of the slide guitar, Cooder would later become renowned for his work on movies starting in the 1980s, among them his collaborations with Wim Wenders, most notably the Oscar-nominated documentary Buena Vista Social Club.

Van Dyke Parks, enjoying a beverage
In 2013 Keith Connolly interviewed Van Dyke Parks in the pages of BOMB, during which the two men had following exchange about his stint at Warner Bros.:

Connolly: Let’s talk about Warner Bros in the ‘70s. Around ’71 there was an AV department you were put in charge of?

Parks: Yeah, but I wasn’t put anywhere at Warner Bros. I insinuated myself into that, I made up that audio/visual services. As a matter of fact it was a decision, a career decision, you might say, to put the audio before the visual.

Connolly: Right.

Parks: I had a department with five employees. We made 13 promotional films (and they were films), which were by nature documentary, so that they could be rented or bought by any accredited music school. They were instructive, they were entertaining, they were promotional—but they could create an income stream for musicians who were hard-pushed into tours that required drugs to sustain them.

We would spend $18,500 in the production of one film. Generally, they would be 10 minutes in length or song length. The one exception was for a Steel Band documentary, which was a 40-minute documentary about a trip through the South, a bunch of black men going through the American South. That was a fascinating, gripping adventure which I felt deserved to be presented. But having recovered the production expenses—that is, having broken even—I provided that each artist would get 25% of the net profits of the rentals or sales. It was going to be a very promising market for the artist. Warners soon tired of what I thought was a fair equation of participation in creative profits, and basically isolated me to the extent that I left.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Gary Numan’s 1978 blue jeans commercial featuring vampire robot punks
02:32 pm


Gary Numan
Lee Cooper

In 1978 Gary Numan, then still with Tubeway Army, did the vocals for a commercial for the English jeans manufacturer Lee Cooper. The commercial featured some hyper-fashionable Londoners with pasty skin and glowing green and blue eyes. In the commercial, Numan sings a song called “Don’t Be a Dummy” with the following lyrics:

Don’t be a dummy!
Move like honey
Don’t be a dummy!
Use your money
Come out proud, don’t hide in the crowd
Find the gear of love to grind
Find the gear to suit you
Mine’ll suit ya!
Lee Cooper!
Lee Cooper!

Interestingly, according to an article by Nick Robertshaw that appeared in Billboard in October 1978, music executives pushed hard for Numan to release the song as a single, but he wouldn’t do it:
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The UnCola: 7Up and the most psychedelic, LSD-friendly ad campaign of all time
11:42 am



John Alcorn’s “Uncanny in Cans” billboard seems to reference “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” from the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
7up has existed as a drink since 1929, but it wasn’t until 1936 that it was given the name 7Up. From the mid-1930s to the early 1950s, the advertising slogan for the drink was “You Like It, It Likes You.” In its incredible directness, simplicity, and dishonesty, it ranks as my favorite advertising slogan of all time.

“You Like It, It Likes You.” Oh, does it now? 1947 advertisement for 7Up
In 1967 ad execs at J. Walter Thompson Company in Chicago pitched a radical repositioning of 7Up as a way of reviving dormant sales of the drink—the idea was to capture the new hippie market for 7Up. The new nickname for the drink was to be “The Uncola” and if you’re older than about 50, you’ll have no trouble remembering that name and possibly a memorable series of TV spots starring Geoffrey Holder.

The Uncola campaign stretched from 1969 to 1975, and it used a wide variety of hyper-colorful, psychedelic posters that reminded many people of Peter Max, even though the images used in the campaign were not done by him. (Max did submit images to J. Walter Thompson, but his designs were not used.)

The Uncola campaign was perhaps advertising’s most adventurous foray into truly psychedelic imagery, even to the point of appearing to endorse LSD use as an activity fit for 7Up-consuming adults.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Psychedelic Alpha-Bits TV commercials of the early 70s
09:25 am


Jackson 5

If you weren’t quite old enough to roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour, the Enchanted Flying Boat was also hoping to take you away. In the early 1970s the D’Arcy-MacManus agency created a series of wild, psychedelic television commercials for Post Alpha-Bits where a rag-tag gang of kids decked out in kaleidoscopic hippie gear climb aboard a Pufnstuf-style sailboat in the sky. The quick, trippy editing style and bizarre off-beat humor subtlety (or not so subtlety) hint that there might by more than just alphabet-shaped oats in your breakfast.

The hippie kids (who include a very young Todd Bridges) meet some strange adults on their voyage including a cowboy with a talking horse, a construction worker (played by veteran actor Aldo Ray), a caveman, and an “old timer” panning for gold with his donkey. They subject every authority figure to ridicule by stumping them with a deliberately confusing question followed by their exciting message: eating Post Alpha-Bits makes you smarter. The “I love you Alpha-Bits wherever I go” jingle plays as the kids sail back off into the horizon.

One of the TV spots from 1972 starred The Jackson 5 (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and yes, even Michael) at the height of their popularity; soaring high in the sky singing their own recorded funky version of the Alpha-Bits jingle. A lucky few collected the limited edition run of the cereal which featured a one-sided, five track flex-disc released in conjunction with Motown Records that had to be cut out from the back of the box.

By the late 1970s combining psychedelic drug culture with children’s programming had become a bit of a phenomenon. Sid and Marty Krofft had almost a dozen shows under their belt, the “McDonaldland” characters were popular in restaurants all across the country, and 1977’s The New Mickey Mouse Club revival (which also featured a trippy flying boat!) was a far-out, technicolor drenched version of its predecessor. Any family who still had a black & white television was definitely missing out.

More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Vintage photos of space-age concept cars paired with hot chicks from the 60s and 70s
10:05 am


concept cars
car show models

Porsche Tapiro concept car, 1970.
Since let’s just say forever, pretty girls have been used to sell everything because if anything is true in this world it is that sex can sell absolutely anything.

If you’ve ever been to a car show or even seen images of car shows from the past (or present) then you know that having an attractive girl posing alongside the latest and greatest automobile at these kinds of events is as common as seeing a kid stuffing his face with a hot dog at a baseball game. Sometime in the late 1970s a woman named Margery Krevsky (who was at the time an employee of a large department store in Detroit whose many responsibilities included booking models for fashion shows across the country) got an idea after visiting the famed Detroit Auto Show for the first time.

After visiting the show Krevsky began working on her concept that the glamorous girls standing next to the cars possessed the untapped potential to engage in “shop talk” with potential customers. Krevsky formed her company Productions Plus - The Talent Shop which to date has employed nearly 500 well-versed, attractive “product specialists” (including a fair number of attractive, automobile savvy men) that work with car clients all over the world at shows. The evolution of the car model was detailed in a book by Krevsky from 2008, Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models

Now that I’ve given you your daily Dangerous Minds history lesson, let’s move on to the subject of this post—hot chicks pictured with some of the slickest concept cars from the 60s and 70s. From a 1971 Lamborghini Countach to the 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo, I’ve got tons of images of crazy looking concept cars and sexy models in various stages of attire such as animal print bikinis and gogo boots that should get your engine running.

If it doesn’t, you might want to get that checked out… 

The one-off 1969 Fiat Abarth 2000 Scorpio concept car built by Italian car design firm Pininfarina.

Mercedes Benz ‘C111’ 1969.
More space age hotrods and the ladies who love them, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The USSR’s first TV ad was a surreal stop-motion musical about corn

Right this moment, I really wish I spoke Russian, the better to understand this 1964 commercial that turned up yesterday on the wonderful Soviet Visuals Twitter feed.

Perhaps calling it a “commercial” is a misnomer—Soviet agriculture was mostly organized into a system of collective and state farms, so commerce wasn’t the objective here—there was no brand competition. The context for this ad was a big push for corn that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had undertaken in the mid-‘50s. Corn was never important to Soviet agriculture, but Khrushchev valued it as livestock feed.

”Corn—The Source of Abundance,” 1959

Corn’s failure in the USSR was one of the factors that weakened Khrushchev (the Cuban Missile Crisis was a much bigger one) and allowed for the more conservative Leonid Brezhnev to successfully conspire to depose him, but while that’s interesting, it’s not singing corn interesting. This ad is great fun, and about the only thing that could have improved it would be if it had starred Eduard “Mr. Trololo” Khil. It features animated ears and cans of corn, seemingly petitioning a singing chef to cook them. We’re then treated to a panoply of corn dishes. It’s supposed to demonstrate the grain’s culinary versatility, but every meal looks sufficiently unappetizing to have been culled from The Gallery of Regrettable Food. And I particularly love the overwrought fake smile on the woman near the ad’s end who’s eating corn on the cob as though for the first time ever in her life.

Many thanks to Beth P for this find!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Radical Schick: Jean-Luc Godard’s 1971 TV commercial for men’s aftershave
02:14 pm


Jean-Pierre Gorin
Jean-Luc Godard

During the height of his rabidly Marxist/Maoist cinematic phase (1968-1972), French film director Jean-Luc Godard formed the Dziga Vertov Group film collective with Jean-Pierre Gorin. The collective was fiercely anti-capitalist and anti-auteur, yet this didn’t stop them from producing television commercials for large multinational corporations or working for an advertising firm like Agency Dupuy-Compton (which became part of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1986).

Amusingly, in this instance Godard and Gorin took money from arch-Republican conservative capitalist Patrick Frawley, who was kind of the Koch brother of his day.

If they give, you should grab, as I like to say!

Godard and Gorin—who would collaborate on their anti-consumerist masterpiece Tout Va Bien the following year—spent Frawley’s Yankee money on a Schick aftershave commercial with a couple arguing loudly over a news broadcast about Palestine as “He” shaves.

“She” is frequent Godard actress Juliet Berto. I’m not quite sure who “He” is.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
What advertisements for Philip K. Dick’s Ubik spray might look like
11:11 am


Philip K. Dick

The marvelous cover for the first hardcover edition, 1969
For those who enjoy their realities getting fucked with, there’s no better writer for that than the great Philip K. Dick, and among his many unsettling works, his novel Ubik is held in unusually high esteem.

Ubik is about a mission to a moon base that includes Joe Chip, a technician who works for Glen Runciter’s “prudence organization,” and 10 cohorts. The mission ends in a fatal explosion, but who lived and survived that explosion is a puzzle the book never quite reveals.

It’s a bewildering mindfuck of a book, featuring routinized space travel, psychics and “anti-psychics,” a character who can alter reality by traveling to the past, and a mysterious (and mystical) product called Ubik (same root as “ubiquitous”) that comes in a spray can and serves as a slippery metaphor for God itself.

One brilliant aspect of the book is the devilishly ambiguous ending—as Dick’s wife Tessa wrote,

Many readers have puzzled over the ending of Ubik, when Glen Runciter finds a Joe Chip coin in his pocket. What does it mean? Is Runciter dead? Are Joe Chip and the others alive? Actually, this is meant to tell you that we can’t be sure of anything in the world that we call ‘reality.’ It is possible that they are all dead and in cold pac or that the half-life world can affect the full-life world. It is also possible that they are all alive and dreaming.

Ubik was selected for inclusion on Time magazine’s list (compiled in 2010) of the 100 greatest novels in the English language written after 1923. As Lev Grossman wrote in Time, “From the stuff of space opera, Dick spins a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you’ll never be sure you’ve woken up from.”

A few years ago a Deviant Art user going by the handle martinacecilia created three alluring posters advertising the benefits of Ubik, using a retro style and adapting “mostly vintage ads of Coca-cola.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Boy George ‘Karma Chameleon’ telephone is the best/worst (and saddest) thing of all time
09:05 am


Boy George
Culture Club

Culture Club and their gender-bending lead singer, Boy George, were top hitmakers in the ‘80s, selling more than 50 million records. Ten of their singles reached the Top 40 in the United States, and they dominated the early days of MTV (back when MTV still aired music videos).

Despite the fact that by the turn of the 21st Century, the ten-hit-wonder group was already practically a footnote in music history, some marketing genius in 2003 came up with this fucking thing:

This is the “Karma Chameleon” telephone, which was sold via television marketing at the “low, low price” of $69.95 (marked down from $89.95).

It’s a cheap plastic telephone in the shape of a chameleon and ladybug. When the phone “rings,” it plays the Culture Club hit “Karma Chameleon.” The animatronic lizard “sings,” while the ladybug plays the harmonica. The tacky chameleon lights up in the “red, gold, and green” from the song’s lyrics.

Boy George himself actually shows up in the commercial to hawk this item. How badly did he need the money at that point? It looks like they shot him with a VHS camcorder.

When I first saw this, it seemed so over-the-top stupid that I assumed it had to be a put-on—it’s SO “Tim & Eric”—but, no, this was a real, actual thing. Here’s a 2003 Entertainment Weekly article on it, and you can still find the phones on eBay from time to time.

I have to admit, now I kind of want one.

What it looks like in real life, after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Toys for boys: Tech Hifi catalogs of vintage stereo equipment are bizarre fun
11:48 am

Pop Culture

Tech Hifi

This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.

The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.

Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.

Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.

Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.

Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.

The cover of the 1979 catalog.

This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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