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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
Let it snow: Shameless cocaine ads of the 1970s
11:45 am



Ah the 1970s, when disco dust was plentiful and there were cocaine paraphernalia ads galore in head magazines. Dig the Hoover-themed coke spoons! Or the “what the hell were they thinking” handmade ivory straws. And if your nose is a little clogged from too much coke, why not try “Noze: the nose wash”?

So as the majority of the taglines in these magazine clippings say, “Let it snow!”


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Creature feature: See H.R. Giger’s wild Japanese ads for the Pioneer Corporation
09:10 am


H.R. Giger

In 1985 the Japanese electronics company Pioneer hired visionary Swiss artist H.R. Giger for an advertising campaign to promote the company’s new Zone system. A television commercial was made featuring one of Giger’s unmistakable creatures, and Giger generated two print advertisements as well.

Aylmer at the Unflinching Eye blog points out that Giger was likely repurposing some of the labor that went into Jodorowsky’s never-to-be-completed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune:

It would appear that in 1984/85 H.R. Giger quietly recycled some of his iconic production artwork for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealised Dune adaptation. Not for use in another movie, but a Japanese ad campaign for Pioneer’s ZONE home entertainment system.

This brief glimpse of Giger’s dark vision for planet Arrakis makes me lament the death of this project more than ever. The combination of Giger’s nightmarish design and Jodorowsky’s unconventional and surreal approach would surely have resulted in a cult SF film quite unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen Frank Pavich’s 2014 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, it’s a must-see!

This is not the only instance of Japan expressing admiration for Giger’s work. In 2014 we noted that Shirokanedai, Tokyo, was one of the four locations to host one of the distinctive and immersive bars created in the Giger style, but Giger grew irritated by the limitations imposed by the Japanese building codes, and disowned the Tokyo Giger Bar.

Here are the two print advertisements Giger created for Pioneer (click on the images for a larger view):


After the jump, Giger’s TV commercial for Pioneer…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Nicolas Winding Refn’s trippy booze commercial contains more LSD than alcohol
04:24 pm


Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn directs films that really can be called visionary. From the Pusher Trilogy through Bronson to Valhalla and Drive, Refn’s trippy visuals blended with violence, sex, and mysticism recall outlaw filmmakers like Kubrick, Anger and Tarantino. His artful exploitation films are B-movies from another dimension. For instance, take this commercial that Refn directed for Hennessy. In a conversation I had with Refn he told me he’s never taken acid. I guess he doesn’t need to because there’s a point of view in his work that is already definitely psychedelic.

The product is Hennessy X.O - Odyssey. Refn took the word odyssey and ran with it.

The awesome music is by former Red Hot Chili Pepper Cliff Martinez.

Hennessy X.O - Odyssey (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) from Stinkdigital on Vimeo.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Old-school ads for albums from The Clash, Buzzcocks, Blondie, T.Rex, The Jam and more

Promo ad for Blondie's Plastic Records, 1978
Promo ad for Blondie’s ‘Plastic Letters,’ 1978. This might even be an in-store stand-up, hard to tell

If you are of a certain age, you will remember what it was like to get pretty much all your rock and roll knowledge from magazines. Wanted to become a part of the The Cramps Fan Club (and who didn’t), you filled out a request from a magazine or perhaps signed up for the band’s “mailing list” at a live show. If there was a new record on the way, you probably saw it on the pages of CREEM (my all-time favorite), Trouser Press or Billboard. If you were aspiring young punk in the UK, you learned likely learned about the latest record from The Jam by reading mags like Zig Zag, Sounds, and Smash Hits.
New York Dolls ad for Too Much Too Soon, 1974
New York Dolls ad for their 1974 album, ‘Too Much Too Soon’
Mick Ronson Slaughter on 10th Avenue ad, 1974
An ad for Mick Ronson’s first solo record, ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue,’ 1974
Japanese ad for T-Rex records, 1974
Japanese ad for T.Rex records, 1974
Check them all out after the jump!

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Gary Numan is a fashionable android in this vintage Japanese TV commercial
10:57 am


Gary Numan
Kazumi Kurigami

Kazumi Kurigami is one of Japan’s leading commercial photographers and TV commercial directors. He’s been working since the 1960s and in 2009 he made the feature film Gelatin Silver, Love. He’s worked with major clients like Nissan, Sony and Suntory. For the trendy Parco department store Kurigami-san shot slowly moving Warhol-esque portraits of glamorous western celebrities like Faye Dunaway, Margaux Hemingway, Dominique Sanda and… Gary Numan.

The New Wave superstar is seen peering into what we moderns might think is a super slim futuristic iPad, but that is revealed ultimately to simply be a mirror. That Gary!

The English translation of the voiceover is:

“I am an android. I look exactly like a human. PARCO.”

It’s 15 seconds long, I can’t think of anything else to write about it. It’s Numan bein’ Numan. That’s all I got for ya.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch David Bowie’s Japanese TV commercial for sake from 1980
08:56 am


David Bowie

David Bowie ad
For decades, American and British celebrities have appeared in television advertisements that air exclusively in foreign markets. Though popular opinion has swayed in recent years, there was a time when a star—especially from the film or music industry—was considered a has-been or a sell-out if seen in an ad. If nothing else, it was considered tacky behavior for an A-lister or a rock star. But there’s big money to be made in non-English speaking countries like Japan, and with contracts specifying the spot only air in that country, for many it’s too good of an offer to pass up—especially those fading from the spotlight or hard-up for cash. This type of arrangement was famously fictionalized by writer/director Sofia Coppola in her 2003 film, Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray’s character—down on his luck American actor Bob Harris—goes to Japan to shoot a series of commercials for Suntory brand whiskey. Sofia Coppola’s father, director Francis Ford Coppola, partially inspired the premise, as he had shown up in Suntory ads with Akira Kurosawa in 1980. That same year, David Bowie—who, like Coppola, was far from washed up—was seen in his own Japanese television commercials promoting an alcoholic beverage.
Crystal Japan
Bowie’s 1980 sake ads for Crystal Jun Rock were the first TV commercials he ever appeared in (not counting this pre-fame clip or those touting whatever his latest album happened to be). The spots feature his eerie synthesizer instrumental, “Crystal Japan,” recorded during the sessions for Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

At the time, Bowie gave an interview explaining why he did the ads:

There are three reasons. The first one being that no one has ever asked me to do it before. And the money is a very useful thing. And the third, I think it’s very effective that my music is on television twenty times a day. I think my music isn’t for radio.

He also provided details regarding the music, noting that it differed from all his previous works:

I didn’t use bass or drums so it’s very different from anything I have done before. It will be included in my next album.

Ultimately, “Crystal Japan” was left off of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (in the original running order it was meant to be the last track), though the song was released as the A-side of a 45 in Japan. A promotional version of the single included inserts related to the ad campaign.
inserts montage
In other countries, “Crystal Japan” was the B-side of “Up the Hill Backwards”, and was included on the Bowie Rare compilation in 1982, as well as Rykodisc’s reissue of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), though those releases are now out of print. The song is currently available on the Bowie collection of instrumentals, All Saints.
Crystal Japan 45
One of the commercials Bowie did for Crystal Jun Rock can be seen below. The ad is dramatic and mysterious—what else would you expect?

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘I’ve got what you want!’: Vintage ads for mail order smut
10:49 am


porn books
porn ads

This is how it was back in the sixties and seventies. No Pornhub. No XVideo. No HD stuff. No downloadable porn just a keystroke away. If you wanted to watch a porno flick in Moosefart, Montana, or keep a stash of uncensored 8x10s in your bedroom closet, well you had to check the small ad pages in adult magazines like Follies, Frolic, Nugget, Dude, Rogue, Gent, Knight, Bachelor and Adam. This is how horny young Americans—like your dear old dad and granddad—entertained themselves before the tsunami of free digital pornography starting getting piped into the home like a utility.

Being born, raised and still living in Scotland, my knowledge of yon Americana is informed by what I’ve read in books, histories and what have you. Of course, over here there is obviously a similarity of experience. One man who built his porn empire on mail order adult entertainment is David Sullivan.

Sullivan is an economics graduate who started his adult entertainment empire by selling glossy pix thru the mail. He then moved on to mail order home movies and “marital aids.” Sullivan was so successful that he ended up running 80% of the UK’s adult mail order market. He also owned several sex shops, a line of hardcore magazines (up to 50% of the UK market), successfully produced several pornos and soft core movies—the latter best known for starring the legendary Mary Millington and a host of British comedy talent.  He diversified into newspapers (Sunday Sport) before becoming the largest shareholder in two soccer clubs—first Birmingham, now West Ham.

When working in the adult entertainment business, Sullivan thought of himself as a “freedom fighter.” He was once tried and sentenced to 71 days imprisonment for living off immoral earnings—which is a kind of catchall charge to punish pornographers. He has no “embarrassment” over his time in jail telling the London Evening Standard in 2010:

“I’ve made a lot of people happy,” he says. “If I was an arms manufacturer or a cigarette manufacturer, and my products killed millions of my clients, I’d have a bit of doubt about the whole thing. I was a freedom fighter. I believe in the right of adults to make their own decisions.”

The 1970s were a boom time for adult mail order entertainment. When I was a student at the University of Glasgow back in the 1980s, the campus was split between the men’s union—the Glasgow University Union—and the women’s union—the Queen Margaret Union. While the QMU opened its doors to both male and female students, the men’s union remained until the early eighties, a bastion of male chauvinism. At the time, the “men’s union” was best known for its world champion debaters and for screening something called the “Freds.”

The “Freds” were the Tom and Jerry cartoons produced by Fred Quimby. A couple of these classic animations provided the intermission entertainment between two mail order blue movies screened for the edification and enjoyment of a select band of GUU students. The “Freds” supposedly stopped after the union opened its doors to women, but it was always rumored the “Freds” were still be screening by a group of recalcitrant students somewhere within the walls of this famous baronial building. Fans of the “Freds” went onto become politicians, lawyers, bankers, successful CEOs and apparently even a priest. But with the arrival of video home systems (VHS) the end was nigh for the boom in mail order adult entertainment. And today with the Internet, even magazines like Playboy have stopped bother to publish nude pictures in its pages. So for those too young to remember, and for those who do remember and perhaps did partake, is a small selection of classic adult entertainment ads from the sixties and seventies.
“Privately” printed mags? Oh my, this is not the kinda smut grandpa wanted you to find in that locked box in his basement after he died.
Bernard of Hollywood must have been the place to go for “Authentic, unretouched stags of well known gals before they reached the top. Rare thrillers all.” Sounds like something out of a James Ellroy novel…and the WTF ad with sweaty, wide-eyed hepped-up pervo freak? Looks kinda rapey.
More vintage adult ads, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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