To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Rhino has re-issued four iconic Joy Division albums on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl. Each design replicates the original in painstaking detail, including the gatefold covers used for Still and Substance. The music heard on the albums was remastered in 2007 when Rhino introduced expanded versions of the albums.
Joy Division recorded two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, before singer Ian Curtis tragically took his own life in 1980. But what the Manchester quartet lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in quality. The band’s only two studio albums were groundbreaking and helped shape the sound and mood of the alternative music that followed in the band’s wake.
The compilations Still and Substance fill in the missing pieces of the band’s history with non-album singles (“Transmission” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), unreleased studio tracks (“Something Must Break” and “Ice Age”), and choice live recordings (“Disorder” and the only performance of “Ceremony.”)
Driving under the influence of alcohol has not always been so frowned upon as it is today. In fact, there was once a time when “too drunk to drive” referred to such a deficit of impairment, you pretty much had to be unconscious behind the wheel to even raise an eyebrow. It wasn’t actually until the late 1970s that the law started to take drunk driving more seriously, but even then the more stringent standards for sobriety were met with resistance; groups like MADD were perceived as a bunch of busybodies and spoilsports, and public opinion was slow to recognize that it took far less alcohol to compromise a motorist than previously thought. Obviously this made for a lot of goofy public service announcements!
In 1979, the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway and Safety Administration produced this little gem, which reworked the Star Wars cantina scene (complete with music) to promote the buddy system—“friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Of course, they weren’t able to secure any major characters, but Wookieepedia informs me that the intoxicated alien is of the Talz race, while his Durosian friend keeps him safe from harm by taking the keys(?) to his YT-1300 light freighter and driving them both home.
Hear that? That is the sound of a million nerds finding plot holes in a non-canonical space opera-themed drunk driving public service announcement!
And so it came to pass that the agency offered Gary £10,000—a non-trivial sum for 1982—for three 30-second pieces of music. The catch was the lyrics for each would be written by someone at the agency. That was a bit dodgy, but Gary still agreed to go through with it.
When the music arrived, the Americans at 7-Up were appalled—not because they didn’t like the music (although that was rumored to be true in some tellings of this tale) but because Mr. Numan failed to show up to the meeting as requested to present his new, er, pop masterpieces. Feeling snubbed, 7-Up declared that they would never, ever work with Numan again and stalked out.
Was this a case of rock star buffoonery? Actually, no. It was something quite serious.
The day Gary was supposed to present his vision for the future of 7-Up in the UK, he was on his way back from a music industry meeting in Cannes. On final approach to Southampton Airport, his single-engine Cessna 210 Centurion—one of the aircraft in his newly-founded airline, Numanair—ran out of gas and had to make an emergency crash-landing on a road in Hampshire. (Contrary to the legend, Gary was not at the controls but a passenger on this flight.) Everyone walked away from the incident but the airframe was destroyed.
All this happened as 7-Up and the agency waited for Mr. Numan to show up. Even after the crash became the lead item on the news across Britain that night, 7-Up wouldn’t revisit the situation. That’s why we never got a chance to see this commercial.
Numan, pictured here in a Numanair plane.
The uploader of the below clip of Numan’s jingles states that “when the recordings were sent to the Americans they had not heard any music like this, and they were expecting something in a punk style as that had just arrived over there. So these recordings were never used.”
However, a comment on the YouTube clip from Paul Gayter, one of the ad men responsible, clears up the real reason why Numan’s jingles were rejected:
I was the ad guy who wrote the idea/lyrics to this song (Yikes!) The true story as to why the client didn’t buy these ads is much stranger and funnier. Gary was supposed to present the music to 7-UP. He actually didn’t show up, so a truly unhappy client said “We’ll never work with him again!” The funny thing is it wasn’t until I arrived home later that night, that I discovered the true reason for the no-show…he was the MAIN news headline, for having to crash land his plane on a motorway!
So Numan’s career as a soft-drink pitchman died on that day in Hampshire, but he has remained active musically and in the world of aviation (as a pilot with many thousands of hours of flight time to his name) to this day.
Here’s Numan’s 7-Up tracks. I think these are actually really great skeletons and could have easily been fleshed out into legit songs after being rejected by the soda company brass:
These business cards come from Chicago during the 1970s and early 1980s—a charmingly distinguished touch for what was after all in most cases just a bunch of buddies who would get into rumbles every so often.
As the proprietor of We Are Supervision, the blog where most of these cards came from, says, these cards come from the days when “a gang was more of a neighborhood crew then what it is today.” These were the days of “fists, bats, and bottles” rather than AK-47s. “Most of the gangs were just about the neighborhood and hanging out together.”
If you wanted to make some cards like this for yourself, the first thing you’d have to do is make up a name for your crew—something like “Almighty Insane Freaks” will do. Then generate a little doodle of a unicorn or a skull, list the names of your members and voilà! you are instantly eligible to enter the fishbowl raffle at your local chain restaurant…...
Whenever some foodie gets snooty about Starbucks, it’s helpful to keep some historical perspective. Before the mass coffee chain invaded every strip mall in suburbia (plus half the truckstops in bumfuck), you were likely purchasing disgusting grocery store mud on your way to work. So yes, Starbucks is a homogenizing blight of cut-throat capitalist banality, but it has raised coffee standards for your average American, who otherwise would still be choking down Folgers.
Apparently during the early 80s young people stopped drinking coffee entirely. Soda was tastier and it didn’t make you feel like an old man punching in for his day at the mill. Okay, I just made that up, but still coffee had yet to hook the MTV generation!
In 1984, The National Coffee Association launched a campaign called “The Coffee Achievers”—trying sell coffee as young and hip. It’s not exactly clear who was a spokesperson for the ad, and who was just pasted in without their consent. I find it somewhat unlikely that NFL quarterback Ken Anderson, Jane Curtain or David fucking Bowie knew that footage of them was being used to promote coffee, but it looks like Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart were enthusiastically on board, literally; note the coffee mug being set down right on the expensive mixing board. Cicely Tyson was obviously a willing participant—and you will note that coffee makes her want to hit someone—but Kurt Vonnegut? Looks like it. The ELO soundtrack isn’t half bad, but I’m willing to bet Starbucks and the exporting of Seattle’s grunge culture did more for youth coffee consumption than the oh-so-hip Jeff Lynne.
Twelve-step programs have long achieved remarkable things using the simple technique of a single voice speaking with honesty and humility, and it is precisely this device that works so smashingly well in this animated short crafted by the production company Buck for Alcoholics Anonymous.
In “Doors,” the simple aural method of a multitude of voices detailing (necessarily incompletely) the abjectness of their situations is singularly effective, singularly moving, singularly powerful. The iconic and yet entirely fluid visuals in the short reminds me a great deal of the work of Eric Drooker, whose wordless novel Flood of some years ago evinced similar feelings of helplessness, dread, isolation, and desperation.
“I’m Justin H., I’m an alcoholic.” “I had no friends, I burned every single bridge, my family had cut ties from me, I was unemployable. ... All of those things because, you know, drinking was more important than anything else.” The snippets start out bleak but, inevitably, turn more hopeful as the narrative edges towards probably the planet’s most effective counter to dipsomania—Alcoholics Anonymous.
Just as AA meeting structurally resemble Moth storytelling gatherings, so too do these recorded clips remind one of This American Life—but so many right-thinking NPR addicts have become trained in empathizing with just such voices.
By the time the short had ended I was almost disappointed to see that it was, no matter how well executed, yes, a commercial for AA. But on second thought, that’s the best use for such a fine piece of work.
On Dan Harmon’s weekly podcast Harmontown earlier this week, Dan and his friend and guest actor DeMorge Brown were discussing the phenomenon of commercials targeted at the African-American audience. You know, ads directed at black people in which everyone in the ad is black. Turns out, Brown himself won the lead role in a pretty backwards-minded KFC campaign directed at black audiences but then turned down the job. The commercial required him to say the words “kitchen fresh chicken.”
Brown’s entrance on Harmontown (they start discussing the ridiculous KFC commercial pretty much right away) occurs around the 1:12:30 mark of the most recent episode.
The existence of “white” and “black” ads by the same company to sell the same products is one of the more insidious and scarcely visible markers of a racist society, far less pernicious than redlining, police murderers, or the war on drugs and yet still a depressing sign of how short a distance we’ve come. You could put a positive spin on it and say that such commercials are celebrating “difference”—but only when there’s a profit to be had. You can’t use the purchase of a Chicken McNugget to express your “heritage” or your “individuality,” after all.
The actor reminisced about watching a commercial starring his namesake James Brown for McDonald’s that might take the crown as the awesomest commercial ever directed towards a black audience—he remembered watching it in the 1980s during a broadcast of the Grammys, and he saw it only the one time. He promised would “go viral” if someone were to uncover it, but in fact it’s been available on YouTube since 2013 without spawning any undue sensation. It definitely aired more than just the one time—the date given on the YouTube page is several months after the Grammy telecast for that year.
As he and I stood outside the van in the warm night air, the speakers began blaring Brown’s unique, musical sound with his unmistakable voice boasting, “Every time I think of two, all-beef patties with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on sesame seed buns, I get on my good foot, and I do that James Brown all the way down to Mick-a-dees—Big Mac! Tastes so good!”
Brown told me that “Mick-a-dees” is what many people, at that time only in northern states, called McDonald’s, and that he had filmed a national television commercial for McDonald’s in Chicago with the commercial showing a bunch of his fans running into him in a McDonald’s restaurant.
Hey, it’s always a good time for the great taste of James Brown dancing his ass off….
The tireless archivists at Retrospace are truly doing the Lord’s work with their amazing library of vintage magazine scans—check out these ridiculous early arcade game ads! To be fair, video game graphics were so crude at that point, it probably felt impossible to entice potential players using only the pixels of the game itself. Still, they really had a hard time (heh) divining the erotic potential from those massive things. Some of them barely make sense—why is a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader (knock-off?) trying to sell Strike Zone? They aren’t even the same sport!
On some level, I appreciate the crudest ones most of all, and the Shark Attack ad comes out ahead on that one. (A disembodied ass? “Thrust and Munch?” Seriously?) On the other hand, attempts to keep it classy are even more hilarious. There’s been a little moral panic around arcade games since pinball was invented. To concerned parents, all change-devouring consoles smacked of gambling and juvenile delinquency. I assume the more wholesome—dare I sat “classier?”—ads were an effort to brand video games as harmless fun. How that translates to twins in prom dresses, I do not know, but hey, I do kind of want to play Deep Scan now!
Many more ‘sexy’ vintage video game ads after the jump…
Veterans For Peace, a UK organization of war veterans, has recently set up a website in opposition to child recruitment of soldiers. Their mission is to raise the minimum UK recruitment age from sixteen to eighteen. The site makes its point with a set of (VERY) darkly humorous parody action figures: “PTSD Action Man,” “Paralyzed Action Man,” and “Dead Action Man.”
The site also features a set of (brilliant) fake commercials detailing the realities of war casualty.
China’s air pollution is a serious issue, one that can be downright deadly, especially for small children. Predictably there is a lot of brutal Chinese environmental art out there, but this is one of the most legitimately creepy stunts I’ve ever seen—projections of wailing children and babies on columns of smog. My first impression of the spectacle was, “Oh, it must be a Chinese artist making an environmental message!” Nope, the installations and associated video are actually an advertisement for air purifiers. Yes, despite all those nifty overtures to communism, China is very much a country that runs on capitalism. The company’s statement on the ad:
Xiao Zhu wanted to stand out in a market that was almost as congested as the air. A market where half a million people, mostly children, have died due to air pollution related illnesses. So we decided to put a spotlight on air pollution’s biggest culprits—the factories—by using the actual pollution from the factories as a medium. People took notice, and the word spread.
Clear the air. Let the future breathe again.
Oh wow, I feel so hopeful about the future now that there’s a product to remedy this problem!
Remember kids, if capitalism caused the problem, you can certainly count on capitalism to solve the problem! (Right?)