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Super-sexy-mini-flower-pop: The surreal & futuristic Afri-Cola ads of the late ‘60s
10:09 am



In the 1960s, German soft drink Afri-Cola (which first hit the shelves in 1931) was quickly losing to its competitors Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In 1968, the brand started searching for a new marketing campaign in an attempt to regain their image. They hired prolific commercial designer and photographer Charles Wilp from Düsseldorf. The wildly eccentric 36-year-old was rarely seen not wearing his trademark canary yellow jumpsuit and his provocative ideas that knew no creative limits would soon elevate him to a pop star level. 
While visiting the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Wilp looked into the “Cryo Chamber,” (a tent where rockets are inspected at below zero temperatures), and through various iced plastic films saw a folding door with the image of a pin-up girl. He began envisioning the playmate floating around the room as if she were a ghost, and this gave birth to his groundbreaking ad concept.

Approximately 20 deliberately taboo TV spots and print ads with surreal-futuristic images began running all over Germany. These bizarre visuals included attractive nuns wearing makeup and eyeliner, lascivious stewardesses administering transfusions with cola instead of blood, an American soldier with a dove of peace, and a nude mustachioed male (the very first nudity in advertising history) weightlifting a soft drink bottle. Wilp’s risque ads, aimed to make viewers feel intoxicated without the use of drugs, were met with furious protest from ecclesiastical moralists who unintentionally helped the brand achieve exactly what they wanted: Afri-Cola became the cult drink of the flower power generation overnight and sales increased by a remarkable 30 percent.
Charles Wilp achieved this success by rejecting ad agency tools such as market research and media planning. Instead, he moved forward with his own strategy based on reversing visual perception. “If, for example, the market researchers say Afri-Cola is for young people, smiling young people should appear on the display. And if the media planners say Afri-Cola is a drink for hot days, then the ad should be in the magazines in the summer. I do the opposite: I photograph Afri-Cola with nuns and connect that with intoxication. I do not take a man with two girls, which would be common, but a girl with two men.” The breakthrough ads featured representatives of all different races, sexes, and levels of social strata.

Originally, Charles Wilp hired German-based American garage rock band The Monks to record a jingle, he thought their experimental sound and blasphemous image that mimicked the Catholic church would be a perfect fit for the controversial advertising campaign. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t work out. “The musicologists and the CEO couldn’t agree with me and the whole thing failed.” Charles Wilp explained in the 2008 Monks documentary The Transatlanic Feedback. “I performed my Afri-Cola music with 48 strings, 2 oboes, 2 harps, 4 timpani, classical instruments. And I created this ‘unreal’ sound which I always wanted to do and which I could have achieved faster with The Monks. Then I didn’t have to deal with the burden of conventions.” Wilp’s orchestrated Afri-Cola score was released on vinyl as a “super single.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
You won’t be able to unsee this hideous bad taste underwear from the 1970s
10:36 am



Everyone’s done shit they are embarrassed by. You know the kinda of stuff—that late night drunken text that you thought was oh so witty—but only got you a restraining order. Or maybe the time you turned up as Hitler at the fancy dress party for Hymie’s bar mitzvah. Or, that Christmas party when you woke up in bed with your girlfriend’s mother. No? Maybe that was just me then….?


That embarrassing shit we’ve all done—that we’re still so sickeningly ashamed about—well, that was the seventies… Except the seventies didn’t give a fuck. The seventies wore all that bad taste stuff out in public like it was the Nobel-fucking-Peace Prize for ending war, starvation and world poverty.

And you know something—I gotta be honest—I kinda respect that attitude of not giving a fuck about what anyone else thinks. Just enough to tip the hat to the boys and girls who were brave enough to wear these cheesy (maybe not the right word to use here…), shockingly bad taste underwear.

British Bulldog produced a range of seventies underwear that was “funtawear.” There was no subtlety here. Just saucy innuendo with straplines like “Slippery when wet,” “The Big One,” “Rub Here,” and “No Shortage….”  Someone, somewhere obviously thought such humor would be a big turn on when stripping off in front of a hot date.

And why the hell not.
Have a peek at more saucy underpants, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Aleister & Adolf’: Douglas Rushkoff on his new graphic novel, Crowley and magical warfare
10:46 am



Aleister & Adolf is a new graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics, the product of the creative pairing of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff—Professor of Media Studies at Queens College in New York—and and award-winning illustrator Michael Avon Oeming.

In Aleister & Adolf the reader is taken behind the scenes of the capitalist spectacle and inside the boardrooms where corporate-occult marketing departments employ fascist sigil magick developed by the Nazis during WWII in today’s advertising logos. A place where the war for men’s minds is waged with symbols and catchy slogans. It’s a fun smart read and you’ll be much smarter after you’ve read it, trust me. And Oeming’s crisp B&W artwork is perfectly suited for getting across some often difficult and tricky philosophical concepts. He’s a unique talent indeed.

Rushkoff recently told AV Club:

“Swastikas and other sigil logos become the corporate logos of our world. And given that we’re living in a moment where those logos are migrating online where they can move on their own, it’s kind of important that we consider the origins and power of these icons.”

Grant Morrison even wrote the introduction to Aleister & Adolf. I mean, how can you lose with something like this?

I asked Douglas Rushkoff a few questions via email:

Dangerous Minds: Where did you find the inspiration for Aleister & Adolf?

Douglas Rushkoff: It’s almost easier to ask where didn’t I find inspiration for Aleister & Adolf. The moment it occurred to me was when I was in an editorial meeting at DC/Vertigo about my comic book Testament, back in 2005. The editor warned me that there was an arcane house rule against having Jesus Christ and a Superhero in the same panel. Not that I was going to get to Jesus in my story, but the rule got me thinking about other potentially blasphemous superhero/supervillain pairings. And that’s when I first got to wondering about Aleister Crowley vs. Adolf Hitler.

But as I considered the possibility, it occurred to me that they were practicing competing forms of magic at the same time. And then I began to do the research, and learned that the premise of my story was true: Aleister Crowley performed counter-sigils to Hitler’s. Crowley came up with the V for Victory sigil that Churchill used to flash—and got it to him through Ian Fleming (the James Bond author) who was MI5 at the time.

I’ve always wanted to do something about Crowley, but I’ve been afraid for a bunch of reasons. Making him something of a war hero, and contrasting him with a true villain like Hitler, became a way to depict him as something more dimensional than “the Beast.”

Did you think of the ending first? It’s a bit like a punchline, isn’t it?

Douglas Rushkoff: I didn’t think of the ending first. The first thing I thought of was to have a young American military photographer get sent to enlist Crowley in the magical effort. I wanted us to see the story through someone like us—someone more cynical, perhaps—and then get to have the vicarious thrill of being drawn into Crowley’s world.

Then, I decided I needed a framing story - just to show how relevant all this creation of sigils is to our world today. So I created a prologue for the story, that takes place in a modern advertising agency: the place where the equivalent of sigil magic is practiced today. I wanted to set the telling of the story within the frame of how corporate sigils are taking life on the Internet today. So the outer frame takes place in the mid-90’s, when the net was being turned over to marketers. The ending is pretty well broadcast up front.

Aleister & Adolph reminds me a lot of Robert Anton Wilson’s Masks of the Illuminatus—which I think is his best book—because it sort of forces its ideas into the reader’s head like an earworm that you can’t resist. Also Crowley is a character in that book, too, of course. Do you see it as a bit of a RAW homage?

Douglas Rushkoff: It’s a RAW homage in that the story has verisimilitude—it is told in a way where it’s absolutely possible for this all to happen. There’s no supernatural magic here; it’s just the magick of Will. There’s the black magic of the Nazis. But however extreme the Nazis, it was real. It’s got the reality quotient of Eyes Wide Shut or Apocalypse Now.

And that’s the understanding of sigil magic I got from Bob. It’s all very normal. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just that you have to participate in its perception. It’s just a different way of understanding the connections. So while the protagonist of the story starts off as a disillusioned atheist and ends up believing in magick as Magic, even Crowley (at least my Crowley) tries to convince him not to take it so literally.

I wouldn’t understand magick that way if it weren’t for Bob. It’s embedded in the fabric of reality. It doesn’t need to break the rules of reality to work. 

Are you aware of a recent trend among some alt-right types to organize acts of group 4Chan “meme magick”? Some of it’s just blatant harassment and bullying over Twitter, but there’s actually a sophisticated intent behind some of it. Pepe the Frog has become a hypersigil. I’m not being admiring of it—the idea that certain reichwingers would want start a magical war via social media is alarming to say the least—but the concept is a sound one magically speaking: They’ve figured out how to amplify their signal’s strength like a radio transmitter.

Douglas Rushkoff: There’s a real crossover between the alt-right and the occult. I knew a guy writing a book about it, in fact. And remember, it was one of Bush’s advisors who once explained that the future is something you create. And there’s an any-means-necessary quality to libertarianism that is consonant with chaos magic.

Plus, you’re talking about homespun propagandists inhabiting the comments sections of blogs and things. They’re not reading Bernays and Lippman. They’re waging hand-to-hand battle in the ideological trenches. A bit of NLP, rhetoric, and magic are what you turn to.

The interesting thing here is why the left does not use these techniques. It goes against our sense of what is fair. We know we’re “right” and so we want to win with the fact. Sigil magic feels like cheating on some level. So we have to ask ourselves, isn’t the full expression of our Will something we want to unleash? If not, why not?

This isn’t the freethinking/pansexual “Generation Hex” types who seemed to be on the horizon a few years ago, but rather like an evil skinheads contingent at Hogwart’s.

Douglas Rushkoff: Alas it is not. That’s partly because the freethinking pansexuals got a bit distracted by other things. And most of them worked alone. I don’t think there were nearly as many, either. That’s pretty rarified air. Back in the 80’s, there were more kids taking acid in the parking lot at AC/DC concerts than there were in the dorms of Reid College. And likewise - as a result of economics as much as anything - there’s more gamergaters throwing sigils online than Bernie Sanders supporters. Sometimes magic gets in the hands of people you’d rather not find it.

Photo of Douglas Rushkoff by Jeff Newelt

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
A Carrot Up the Butt: The Joy of Subverting Ads into ‘Accidental Porn’
09:24 am



Got Milk?
Mortierbrigade is an independent and integrated communications agency based in Brussels. Their motto is “confuse and conquer” which probably explains why their best work subverts the ordinary to make it interesting and original—which in turn explains why they have won over 250 industry awards. (They also run a hotel for trainees too—but that’s another story.) So not your ordinary run-of-the-mill bunch of creatives.

Recently Mortierbrigade linked up with Belgian humor magazine Humo (see what they did there?) to create an eye-catching and off-the-wall advertizing campaign that juxtaposed two seemingly innocent adverts into something far more saucy and subversive. Let’s call it “accidental porn”—where two incongruous images create…well...see for yourself….

Mortierbrigade and Humo clearly managed to convince their leading advertisers—such as Lidl, the Lotto, etc.—to play along.
More accidental porn, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Comedy gold: The Beastie Boys’ hilarious ‘Hello Nasty’ late-night infomercial
04:38 pm



Ad-Rock as John, the over enthusiastic audience member at a juice extractor demonstration.
I was up late one San Fernando valley evening in 1998, channel surfing through cable television when I happened upon a very bizarre infomercial advertising a product called “Sure Shine.” It caught my attention and I immediately stopped flipping: the commercial boasted that this multi-use product could wash your hair, polish your car, clean your kitchen counter, AND be used in the bedroom, as a spermicide. The number to call on the screen was 1-888-711-BSTE. This had to be some kind of hoax! It wasn’t exactly a hoax, rather, an ingenious marketing tactic used to promote the Beastie Boys highly anticipated Hello Nasty album on the hip hop groups’ own record label Grand Royal.

Calling the 1-888 number that flashed on the screen throughout the half-hour parody led viewers to where they could pre-order Hello Nasty and have it delivered to their doorstep on July 14, the ad also included the URL for Grand Royal’s newly launched website. The low-budget infomercial was directed by none other than Tamra Davis, wife of Beastie Boy Mike D, whose impressive credits include music videos for N.W.A., Sonic Youth, as well as major Hollywood studio films like CB4 and Billy Madison. It ran for several weeks on cable stations in Northern New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Manhattan, N.Y., Cleveland, Portland, Philadelphia, Houston, and Washington, D.C.

A disclaimer scrolled over the fake products that read “If you order NOW, you will not receive any car care products, but you can order the record, CD, or cassette of the new Beastie Boys album ‘Hello Nasty’”
This incredibly amusing advertising concept starred the Beastie Boys themselves: Mike D (a.k.a. Mike Diamond), MCA (a.k.a. Adam Yauch) Ad-Rock (a.k.a. Adam Horovitz), who, in the name of sketch comedy, slapped on fake wigs, phony moustaches, ponytails, and took on various roles to sell fake get-rich-quick scams, psychic hotlines, and even a food processor that played beats from Hello Nasty. The Beasties comedy chops hold up strong, with a parody style well ahead of its time pre-dating Adult Swim, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and so many others who a decade later would become popular parodying public-access television with bizarre faux-infomercials in a very similar fashion.

Director Tamra Davis spoke with me about how using a Home Shopping Network style approach to sell Hello Nasty came about: “Ian Rodgers (Grand Royal’s president of new media) was working with the Beasties on how to direct sell and market using the internet. This was all super new and I definitely remember us all thinking about how crazy it would be if you were at home watching TV in the middle of the night and this came on. We thought it would be hilarious.” This wasn’t Ian Rodgers’ first innovative approach to marketing in new media. After he wowed the Beastie Boys by giving a demonstration of the internet in 1994 (they hadn’t heard of it yet!) he created an (unreleased) CD-ROM entitled Don’t Mosh in the Ramen Shop, and in 1998 became one of the very first people to use MP3 technology to upload live recordings to the net while on the road with the group during the Hello Nasty tour.

The late-night infomercial was incredibly effective, with phone lines lighting up and pre-orders filing in whenever and wherever it aired. A Grand Royal telephone operator explained that a few viewers called in just to ask if the ad was real or not. “Some people have been like ‘Are you just going to go out and charge up my credit card?’ And I’ve just been telling them, ‘No, this is legit.’” Greg Pond, a cable programming coordinator at TCI San Francisco said, “This isn’t the first time that our cable systems local-access channels have been used to promote a well-known group of musicians. We aired half-hour spots for Tricky and Pulp, but those were just videos and information about the artists. They were nothing like the infomercial the Beastie Boys produced.”

Beastie Boys fans will be thrilled to see Ad-Rock as John, the over enthusiastic audience member in a juice extractor demonstration. Mike D as exercise guru Jack Freeweather in the “8 Minute Workout” that promises amazing results. “Whatever you’ve been doing in the past, you’ve been doing it wrong. Let Jack make it right.” Mike D returns later as thick-accented “Miklious Toukas” of CEO GR International. In my favorite segment, MCA plays a get-rich-quick character named Bill Swenson, a.k.a. “The Money Man.” A perfectly straight-faced MCA wearing thick, dark-rimmed glasses and a pink sweater around his neck expresses: “Money makes you feel good, money is so underestimated in our society, money is the thing that everyone needs to feel great and be who they are.” Tamra explains there was never a script for the infomercial, “We had all the ideas of the characters and what would happen but it was all improvised as far as what they said or what the guests would say. Some things they did were such inside jokes that if only five of us got it, it was worth it.”

MCA as Bill Swenson, a.k.a. “The Money Man.”

Mike D as thick-accented “Mikilous Toukas” of CEO GR International.
Extras casting helped fill out the traditional studio audience when they taped the ad in New York City, as well as friends, family, fellow Grand Royal labelmates, and even some real people like the Beasties stylist Tara Chaney and Tamra and Mike D’s doorman Joe. E.Z. Mike (a.k.a. Michael Simpson) from the Dust Brothers can be seen in the crowd applauding next to none other than record producer and studio engineer legend Mario Caldato Jr. Any Beastie Boys fan knows him as Mario C. by his frequent shout-outs in lyrics such as “That’s a record ‘cause of Mario” on the song “Root Down” and “Mario C likes to keep it clean!” on “Intergalactic.” Matthew Horovitz (Ad-Rock’s brother) plays Kenny Star of “Hollywood Psychics,” and Ad-Rock’s best friend from elementary school, working actress Nadia Dajani, plays Peg of “The Juice Ladies.” Actor Russell Steinberg (son-in-law of Diane von Fürstenberg) and DJ Frankie Inglese appear as Mike Lathers and Graham Noodledish of “Fantastic Finds,” showing off a miracle cleaning product that can only be applied using a compact disc.
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Hair-metal hot dogs: A Cinderella story
08:38 am



Never mind prog, hair metal is the most reviled rock genre, period. And it probably should be, because most of it fucking blows like nothing else on Earth. (Show up at my door with a copy of Open Up and Say… Ahh! and a gun, and that gun had better be loaded.) But it shouldn’t have sucked—at its most basic, the genre combined the grit of ‘70s hard rock (awesome), the decadent swagger of glam (awesome), and the gleeful sneer of punk (awesome), but by some unholy and counterintuitive rock math, “awesome plus awesome plus awesome” equalled stomach-churningly shitty.

Before grunge tanked the genre in the early ‘90s, hair metal was already in decline anyway, due to the samey cartoonishness of its sartorial norms, the tediousness of its de rigueur power-ballads, and the body-blow of Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, which aimed an array of klieg lights on the jaw-droppingly pathetic delusions of also-ran hair metal musicians. (If you have a Roku or similar device, The Shout Factory streaming channel has that doc, FYI. It’s a must-see.) But before the curtain fell, a band from Philly called Cinderella scored a huge hit with a power ballad (of course) called “Nobody’s Fool” and a triple-platinum album called Night Songs. The band was less party-oriented than much hair metal, ultimately moving away from the style towards a more straightforward bluesy hard rock approach, and they were gifted with a singer, Tom Keifer, who at his best approached the expressiveness of Ronnie James Dio. In his lesser moments, well, see how much of this you can make it through.

While “Nobody’s Fool” is arguably the song most closely associated with the band, I feel like the video below captures a way more appealing vibe. It’s a 30-second commercial the pre-fame band shot for a hot dog stand called Pat’s. (Located on ROUTE 420! COME ON!) To be clear, I am in no way knocking them for writing a hot dog commercial. There have existed a couple of hot dog places I would gladly honor in song, myself, should the occasion arise. I genuinely like this ad—for one thing, the footage of the rough-around-the-edges early band contrasts edifyingly against the blow dried, pampered-poodle corporate glam of their official videos, and watching them stuff their faces with dirty water hot dogs is about the least pretentious thing ever in a genre where affectation was job one.

In a great video made a few years ago for Loudwire, Keifer related the tale of how Cinderella came to make the ad.

In recent years, the commercial “Pat’s Chili Dogs” I did with my band Cinderella years ago has been surfacing on the internet quite a bit lately. And the way that came about was, that was right when early ‘80s MTV was just starting to take off, and we were a young baby band kicking around in the clubs in the Philadelphia/Jersey area, and we wanted to be on MTV, and we sent our video, which was horrible, to like Basement Tapes or something like that. They wouldn’t play it, they wouldn’t touch us. So a local proprietor who owned a chili dog stand asked us to sing. He saw us in a club and he liked us. He said “would you do a rock ’n’ roll commercial for my place?” And he said “We’re gonna buy local TV advertising on MTV,” and the light went off, we were like “Well, we’ll be on MTV, then!” [laughs] Only locally, but that’s what it felt like to us, so we said “Sure, we’ll do it.” Plus we got free chili dogs any time we wanted.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Leon Russell’s groovy Terry Gilliam-esque animated promo for ‘Roll Away the Stone’
12:01 pm



It’s been widely noted that 2016 has been an especially rough year for legendary musicians. Sunday brought news of the passing of the great and prolific troubadour Leon Russell at the age of 74. Russell routinely put out gold albums in the 1970s and was a profound influence on singers as varied as Elvis Costello and Frank Black.

A bit surprisingly, Russell never had a top 10 album or song until The Union, his 2010 album wth Elton John. His early composition “A Song for You” was covered by countless musicians, most notably the Carpenters, but his highest-charting track was actually “Tight Rope,” which appeared on 1972’s Carney.

It’s amusing to notice the high-powered talent that he attracted for his first album, which came out in 1970. Credited are three Stones (Jagger, Wyman, Watts), two Beatles (Starr and Harrison), plus Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, and Klaus Voormann.

The first single he ever released was “Roll Away the Stone,” and his label Shelter put together what can only be called a “music video” but everyone insists on calling a “promo.”

The animation was by Brian Zick, a graphic artist from southern California who is known for his striking pop art illustrations. You can see the influence of Yellow Submarine but it’s also a lot like the brilliant cut-out animations of Terry Gilliam for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which are more or less contemporaneous—I’d reckon Zick had never seen them. Zick did a bunch of album covers in the 1970s and 1980s.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon trolls Humphrey with the most avant-garde political TV ad ever produced, 1968
01:14 pm



In the presidential election this year, Donald Trump has been happy to paint himself as the “law and order” candidate with much talk of American inner cities as war zones consisting of little other than misery, violence, and chaos. As many have noted, “law and order” is code to racist whites about the dangers of unbridled African-American actually using their constitutional freedoms and electoral clout.

It’s actually a very old trope. Richard Nixon was its originator, the first national candidate to realize that racial panic could be used to wrest the South from the control of the Democrats. It’s said that President Lyndon B. Johnson understood that his signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act meant that the Democrats had “lost the South for a generation,” in a line often attributed to him. Nixon was the first national Republican politician to exploit these divisions, and exploit them he did, albeit not quite as overtly as Donald Trump has…

The bloody year of 1968 gave Nixon a lot to work with, what with the assassinations of RFK and MLK as well as the most violent political convention in American history. Nixon was able to use the tensions within the Democratic Party to color Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the party’s candidate, as ineffectual.

Eight days before the election, during an episode of Laugh-In, Nixon’s team ran a formally daring campaign commercial directed by documentary filmmaker Eugene Jones called “Convention.” The commercial used stills of Vietnam and the Democratic Convention in Chicago with jarring audio effects to send the unmistakable message that a Humphrey presidency would be a baaaaad trip, maaaan.

Interestingly, the familiar campaign music is called “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” and the commercial definitely plays with both positive and negative connotations of the phrase. This plays like an underground film of the era much more than it does a TV commercial.

Watch after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Corporate sales video for Prince’s Paisley Park Studio from the early 1990s
03:04 pm



As with any creative superstar, Prince’s career had several distinct phases—the video that makes up the subject of this post comes from an ill-defined stretch that is bracketed by his astounding successes of the early and mid-1980s (ending around Sign o’ the Times, perhaps) and his feud with Warners, which started in 1993. That period is marked by The Black Album, Lovesexy, the Batman soundtrack, his work on Madonna’s album Like a Prayer, and the Graffiti Bridge movie and album, among many other things. It is also the period in which Paisley Park Studios was constructed and launched as an ambitious hub for music production—which is not the identity it had for Prince’s fans in the years to follow.

This corporate sales video touting the virtues of Paisley Park as a location for a wide variety of audio and video production uses probably dates from 1991. It can’t be much earlier, as it incorporates footage from Prince’s 1990 appearance at the American Music Award and features plentiful shots of Paula Abdul and MC Hammer, both of whom were topping the pop charts around that time. And it can’t be much later, because it wouldn’t be long before Prince became obsessed with his grievances with Warners.

Paisley Park was completed in the town of Chanhassen, Minnesota, in 1988. Today we think of Paisley Park as somehting almost analogous to Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu in Citizen Kane, a thoroughly private and whimsical domain overseen by a single eccentric genius, but for those of you who think of Paisley Park in those terms, this video is startling indeed—as it comes from a time when Prince wanted to fashion the music production complex as an authentic commercial rival to Nashville and Los Angeles.

Prince in 1991
The video, which lasts seven minutes, is as bland as any other corporate video you’ve ever seen. This is a document intended not to ruffle any feathers, unmistakably designed to appeal to the dollars-and-cents mentality of music production professionals across the nation. Barry Gibb is on hand to murmur a few words about Prince’s extraordinary music production standards, and the video ends with a cheesy shout-out to one of Prince’s most enduring hits: “Paisley Park Enterprises, the model for the next century—or at least ‘1999’! It can be in your hands today!”

The ambition implied by the video would founder just a couple years later on his feud with Warners, which had a distribution deal with Prince’s Paisley Park label. Prince would change his name to an unpronounceable glyph and take to scrawling the word “SLAVE” on his cheek. While Prince’s tactics may have won him some autonomy from his corporate overlords, they also exacted a cost on his ambitions to create a new hub for music production. As Stan Hawkins and ‎Sarah Niblock write in Prince: The Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon, “In 1994, Warner Bros. ended its distribution deal with Paisley Park, effectively closing it down.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
DEVO shills for Pioneer’s futuristic new LaserDisc format, 1984
02:16 pm



The early 1980s were such a heady time for personal entertainment technology. The Sony Walkman was introduced in the U.S. in 1980, the same time that VHS and Betamax found themselves embroiled in the canonical “format war” to determine control of the videotape market. Meanwhile, CDs were giving a geneation of Boomers a reason to buy Electric Ladyland a second time, and laserdiscs represented that slightly unwieldy and expensive format that was a “cut above” to signal the affluence and distinction of the serious cinephile.

Pioneer Electronics, having purchased a majority stake in the format, had ample reason to push the devices as well as the brand name LaserDisc. To that end, in 1984 Pioneer hired Ohio’s staunchest believers in “devolution,” known to all of course as DEVO, to appear in a 12-minute in-store demo disc touting the innumerable advantages of the laserdisc format.

The band appears wearing tuxedos in a variety of colors and matching fright wigs, each creatively adorned with a single large googly eye and painted eyebrows guaranteeing a quizzical expression. (Surely DEVO is in the Fright Wig Hall of Fame by now?) After introducing themselves, DEVO quickly cedes the floor to Ray Charles, who testifies that the format certainly sounds good and (so he is assured) looks good as well. Blind pianist George Shearing joins him to double down on the gag.

Ray Charles, video entertainment expert
It’s a little depressing to hear, after Ray Charles delivers his spiel, Mark Mothersbaugh (of all people) intone the following copy: “Was that just advertising hype? Listen a minute, and let your own ears decide.” Sigh. Let’s hope they were all paid well for this.

The rest of the video consists mainly of clips pimping Pioneer’s laserdisc catalogue of that moment, including WarGames, Tootsie, Flashdance, Sophie’s Choice, The Wiz, Carlin at Carnegie, and so forth. Pioneer was proud of laserdisc’s improved audio playback, so popular music artists were a big part of the pitch—it’s a little funny to hear DEVO touting the virtues of Duran Duran and Sheena Easton, but am I imagining it or does Mothersbaugh give the phrase “the heat of Fleetwood Mac” extra ironic oomph?

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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