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Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Hits: "Tubular Bells" Mike Oldfield (1973)



Who knew Mike Oldfield, a guy who's very name is linked to this Halloween hit is also the same guy behind this catchy Lost Pop Classic (from 1983):






North Korean TV Commercials

Check out the female voice over on them.....she sounds like your North Korean fairy godmother......

This one is for ginseng:


Here's one for a quail restaurant in Pyongyang (the fairy godmother female voice over sounds orgasmic on this one.) And a quail restaurant? In a nation where 2/3rds of it's citizens starve.....Hmmmmm......:


 Here's a North Korean beer commercial (you mean they actually HAVE beer in North Korea?):

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Terrytoons

Before there was Bugs Bunny or even Disney, there was Terrytoons.

                             

Terrytoons was a cartoon studio that made cartoons between 1916 and 1968, originally for movie theatres, later becoming the first "straight to video" company, making it's cartoons available for home film projectors in the '30s.

Terrytoons were the "cheap" cartoon studio of the '20s to '60s. Whereas Warner Brothers and Disney became famous for Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse respectively, Universal for Woody Woodpecker and Paramount for Popeye, there were few stars on Terrytoons. Most notably Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle, both didn't come out until the '40s.

And cheap Terrytoons was. Whereas most cartoons had sound by 1928, Terrytoons were still silent until 1930 and in black and white until 1942. They were syndicated to TV from the '50s to the '80s and I remember watching many Terrytoons cartoons when I was a kid. Even as a little kid, Terrytoons were pretty sucky and lame compared to the Bugs Bunny cartoons I loved.

Here's one example of how Terrytoons were in their early days. In 1930 they made this atrocity "Chop Suey", probably one of their first sound cartoons - this is a French copy in English with German sub-titles (they were STILL showing THIS on TV in the '70s!):




(Note the scene at 00:50 where the two rats approach the Chinese laundry to pick up some OPIUM to smoke from the cat inside. They get wasted, drop their pipes and then drift away on the clouds of smoke.....)

Cartoons were as racist then as America was in those days. But who ever knew they blatantly promoted drug use!

Another Terrytoon feature (and the reason WHY I hated them - Mighty Mouse.)

                                     

Speaking of Terrytoons and drugs.....:

Krazy Kat


Friday, October 26, 2012

And now, a walk down the soda aisle of yesteryear...

cheers!
      
     
     
      
     
All of the above photos and more memories @ http://www.usasoda.com/
Here's more:
MY-TE-FINE (a brand distributed by Fred Meyer stores):
My-Te-Fine root beer




















From http://www.rootbeerworld.com/ & Toby Singer.
Sunny Jim (a Washington State brand, more famous for their Peanut Butter. But they also branched out into other goods including canned foods and bread):
Sunny Jim root beer

Cragmont (a Safeway brand)::
Cragmont root beer 

You Think YOU Have A Lousy Boss?

Meet George Pullman.



Well, you really wouldn't want to. He's been dead since 1897 and even if you were given the chance, good luck getting past the eight tons of solid concrete and lead over his grave.

You heard me.

There's a reason why they put all that concrete over his grave, and by the time you're done reading this you'll understand why this man was as toxic as anything they bury in at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Dump.

Let's get into the Wayback Machine (could get crowded, so wear deodourant) and time warp back to Chicago in the 1880s.....

Chicago was a booming town. It just got over a massive fire and things were on a roll. it was one of the few major cities in America at that time where you could be black or an immigrant and still find a way to make it.

George Pullman seemed like a visionary and on paper, you'd think he was.

Pullman ran a company that made luxury railroad cars. There were few automobiles in those days and they moved with the speed of the mail. Airplanes were still science fiction. So horse and buggy was the way for people to get around the city. If you wanted to go see your Aunt Sadie in Peoria, well....you'd be going through a lot of horses too. So passenger trains were invented for that purpose and like Greyhound buses these days, they were uncomfortable, cramped, smelly and (did I mention uncomfortable?)

Anyway, enter the Pullman railroad car. This thing was to change all that. It had seats big enough for the American butt of the time (or at least larger than the butt of an average praying mantis.) It was made of the finest materials. It was the first railroad passenger car with a design and function not resembling a maximum security prison. It was even considered stylish (a word a designer of a maximum security prison would hear and grunt at.) Railroad travel really didn't have to resemble a week in the hole anymore.

This was the Gilded Age, and it was luxury over sanity, flamboyant style over basic safety features. It was a brave new world and George Pullman was going to milk every drop of it.

He constructed a company town for his employees called (what else?) Pullman in Chicago. Pullman had everything you could ever want in 1880. It was totally off the grid from the rest of Chicago, it had it's own sewer and water towers, it's own electricity plant, phone system The very first shopping mall in history called "The Arcade". It had a theater, several shops, a public library and a post office. A public school, a grand hotel, several parks, it's own newspaper and a church. Several streets lined with nice little rowhouses for his employees. There was no litter in the strrets, lawns were well manicured. Everything was as neat and tidy as Martha Stewart on speed. There was NO crime, NOTHING could go wrong, right?

Something did go wrong. Like any travel brochure to paradise, you have to read between the lines. You see, when you work for, rent from, get all your stuff from, you kids educated by and live under the same rules by the same guy, there's gonna be a problem.

First, everything was basically on loan. You were not allowed to own your own little rowhouse. Second, FORGET starting any "alternative" to Pullman's status-quo businesses. Your kids were educated in the Pullman way, all books in the public library were carefully selected by Pullman himself, what you saw in that theater - yep, he picked that too. And the church? Well.....NOBODY used the church, as one church and a zillion denominations of Christianity (we haven't even begun to talk about the non-Christian religions) are just too much for one building.

And everybody's house was so spotlessly clean in these rowhouses that looked perfectly alike. That happens when you can be evicted with only 10 days notice for so much as a dirty dish in the sink. Pullman sent goons out to inspect every house to make sure everything conformed....or else.

Now, if you thought things really fell apart right there, just remember his employees were paid not in solid American cash, but in Pullman's own currency. Meaning once you got outside of Pullman and into Chicago itself - SURPRISE! You're worthless. And when in Pullman, watch out for company spies. They were all over the place. They could be your next door neighbour, the nice guy at the grocery store. And if everyone could settle on a religion, the priest would probably be forced to report back to company headquarters with your juiciest confessions. There was no independent press, no town meetings, no public discussion. Nothing.

Naturally, people began having a problem with all that. But you kept your big mouth shut tight....if you knew what was good for you......

In 1894, Pullman began losing business. Things were rough all over as the American economy was in a mini-depression. But Pullman thought he knew which side his bread was buttered on. So jobs and wages were cut. But rent, utilities and everything else in Pullman stayed at the same prices. And things REALLY went to hell. People went on strike - 90% of Pullman's workforce went on strike. And then it really got ugly. Pullman got in touch with a political buddy, one President Grover Cleveland to send in federal troops to squash all dissent. 

However, once the smoke cleared, it was revealed Pullman had too much control over everything and he was forced to relinquish his control over Pullman. Chicago quickly annexed it.

He died in 1897. And just to make sure nobody dug up his grave and beat the crap out of his corpse (like anyone would), he asked for all that cement and a lead lined coffin to be buried in, per his burial arrangements. Actually, it was a good thing. At least he'll never rise again with another STUPID idea.

That's why right wing company towns and gated communities work as badly as the most liberal hippie communes. Social engineering is a public matter, not a private one.

And that's how we should leave it.

Halloween Hits: "The Ghost In You" The Psychedelic Furs (1984)












                                         





                                                                          

The Girl With The Three Blue Eyes


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scream Gems




When you were a kid, did the Screen Gems logo at the end of several popular TV shows of the late '60s/early '70s ever freak you out?

I actually liked it, but I'll admit - it was a bit....well, ummm.....creepy......

But believe it or not, there actually a movie out now that documents cases of kids who were actually TERRIFIED by this thing, called "The S From Hell"


But you know what REALLY freaked me out when I was a kid - The old PBS logo at the end of Sesame Street:


At least Screen Gems was thoughtful enough to not include a DISEMBODIED HEAD as part of it's logo.....

Before There Was American Idol......

....there was The Gong Show.

And I'd STILL take Chuck Barris anyday over Ryan Seacrest. The Gong Show wasn't about sappy wannabes singing lame Whitney Houston or John Mayer covers, The Gong Show had talent....and REAL (future) stars. Like this little unknown act called The Mystic Knights of The Oingo Boingo.

And if you're any fan of classic alternative rock.....well, you knew who this group became:


This was from 1976, LONG before Oingo Boingo went New Wave, they were a performance artist troupe from L.A......

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lena Zavaroni

I'm no fan of child recording stars in any way. I just can't handle the high, shrill frequencies that leave me screaming for a Fiona Apple tune. But this record bears a special horror to me, as my mom once owned a copy of this album.

If you're not familiar with the name Lena Zavaroni, you probably weren't around in 1974. Because for most of that year, this Scottish girl was "The Next Big Thing", appearing on American variety shows and telethons and scoring a debut album at the tender age of 10 with Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me.

But beyond who this girl who seemed to come out of nowhere was, it was the impact it had on an American R&B institution.

This album was most shockingly released in America in 1974 on Stax Records, the once mighty home of powerhouse soul like Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MGs, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Issac Hayes, etc, etc, etc.

But by this time, all of Stax's biggest artists from the '60s had been stolen by Stax's former distributor, Atlantic Records by 1968 and Stax was left with only a handful of lesser soul acts on the label. Even the original master tapes of Stax's most successful '60s hits were taken. The label virtually had to start all over again from the beginning.


How do you recreate such a massive institution Stax was?

After 1968, Stax had floundered so badly in a lopsided distribution agreement with CBS Records that in a Faustian deal (it's the only way I can describe it) Stax quickly signed this girl for American distribution (I'm not sure whether it was Stax themselves that signed her as a last ditch attempt to bring their sorry financial house back in order or CBS that forced them into it in the hopes of killing off a potential rival to CBS's own home roster of R&B acts - the story varies.) But thanks to the crappy CBS distribution deal, the only way they could promote this album was through a massive TV campaign of commercials for the album (which my mom succumbed to), and other TV appearances because most record stores had trouble even getting Stax's regular R&B output.

Stax was also considered the bratty stepchild within the CBS household and with the exception of a few token spins of her only charting single (the album's title track) American radio simply would not play her songs. (10 year olds singing songs that only grandmothers liked has a way of doing that.)


And even more embarrassing for Stax, which was once one of the biggest and most respected R&B record labels in America were some of the blackface Al Jolson songs this little 10 year old white girl sang on this album, including "Mammy" and "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)"


The gambit failed - HORRIBLY. Stax suffered a massive backlash from it's loyal base of hardcore R&B fans over this album and Stax went bankrupt in 1975. It's name and remaining assets were picked up by Fantasy Records and aside a few releases every so often, was mostly dormant until the 2000s.

But she disappeared as quickly as she came in America.

She maintained a small cult following in Europe (where she became more or less the Connie Francis of the '80s, still singing pop standards at a time when most young women her age were singing far more edgier rock material.) While considered a throwback in the '80s, she would probably seem very mainstream today.


She had a variety show in the UK (where the variety TV show format survived well into the '80s.)


However, she suffered from anorexia. Her weight dropped to a deadly 70 lbs. On top of struggling to maintain a fading career. At the end of her life, she was living on UK government benefits. She also suffered from chronic depression, at one point begging for doctors to operate on her brain so she wouldn't have to suffer anymore (This was before the days of newer medications and treatment programs.) 

The eternal tragedy of the former child star. Perhaps the most Faustian deal there is.

She died in October 1999 at 35.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Hits: “The Martian Hop” The Ran-Dells (1963)



The Ran-Dells were a doo-wop group from New Jersey. They scored a #27 hit in 1963 with this song. But they would be a one hit wonder, as their further singles didn't chart..... 

The Ray Conniff Singers vs. Richard Nixon

Well, not really. But one of the female singers had a surprise for Tricky Dick


(UPDATE 8/5/13 Here's the full performance of the song with ending.)



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Classic Ghetto Blasters of The '80s


The Queen Mother of ALL Ghetto Blasters, the Lasonic TRC-931 was a wall - literally. WITH all 10 "D" size batteries it required, it weighed a good 30 pounds. It had a dual cassette deck and not just any dual cassette deck. This thing was so badass, the Play deck was side-loading (like in a car stereo), just to make room for the massive 12" inch woofers. The radio had not one, but TWO telescopic antennas, AM/FM and two Shortwave bands. A full 5 band graphic equalizer, auxiliary inputs (earliest models included a PHONO input for your turntable!) stereo enhancement and pumped out a generous 50 watts per channel. And where where you most likely to buy one? Try WOOLWORTH! 
No photo does justice to this one - this one is, to this day the BIGGEST ghetto blaster ever made. It sported an AM/FM/Shortwave radio, which was a strange feature on many portable stereos in the '80s.

No American teenager actively listened to shortwave radio back then - in spite of stations like the English transmissions of Radio Moscow (which broadcasted Western rock music that would get any Soviet teenager sent straight to the gulags if they were ever caught listening to it. With a healthy dose of anti-American propaganda in spite of the fact many of the Western rock acts they did play were AMERICAN.)

Secondly, the low-fi, wildly fluctuating unevenness and irregularity of the shortwave radio signal made music listening on it an endurance test. My guess was the manufacturers were thinking of some phantom jet-set people who wanted to take a radio with them that could allow them to pick up The Voice Of America or the BBC World Service should they wind up in say, Nairobi. But the size of this ghetto blaster (the actual size of a suitcase), to say nothing of the weight (30 lbs. - with the 10 - yes, I said 10 - "D" cell batteries required to feed this thing off of the AC power grid) and weight (did I mention the $200 - about $400 in 2012 dollars) price tag?) guaranteed this radio was STAYING in America.

It had a dual cassette (one deck was a player that you inserted a cassette into it like a car stereo) while the other was a typical ghetto blaster player/recorder for dubbing your Iron Maiden tapes (for your friends in Nairobi) both with auto-reverse, a 5 band graphic equalizer, a Loudness button (for extra punchy bass) through the 12" speakers and countless other buttons as well as a light show in itself just to make this work.

Lasonic went ass over tea kettle (whatever that means) on this product. But even though Lasonic (who?) weren't a very well known electronics name like Sony, Panasonic or Aiwa, this radio became so influential on the TRUE ghetto blaster folks (early rap stars), that Lasonic reissued the TRC-931 in 2007, with iPod connections replacing the often faulty dual cassette system. I really think, why not just BUILD an MP3 player/recorder into it, using thumb/flash drives (the cassettes of today?)

Portable stereos in the early '80s were HUGE things only for the most headstrong music fan when a simple Walkman won't do.

I once knew a kid named Glenn who owned one of these General Electric babies. When he blasted his Judas Priest tapes out of this thing, every moose in Canada could hear it. The FM and AM reception was STUNNING. I ALWAYS wanted one.... 
But by the mid '80s, they started getting smaller...and smaller.

I'm not sure if it was the lawyers were getting on them for the hernia problems these huge radio/tape decks were potentially causing for kids at school (I mean with 30 lbs. of boombox and cassette tapes on one arm and another 30 lbs. of Trapper Keeper and books on the other.). But the rockin' out sure took a hit.

Then it really got colourful:

The Sharp QT-50
 Then these things started showing up. The Sharp QT-50 from 1985. A sort of retro-trip in pastel colours (pink, lavender, peach, seafoam green, banana yellow, powder puff blue and even beige) that even the girliest of girls and gayest of guys get nervous at today just looking at this thing. But 1985 was also the year of guys wearing pink polo shirts and Miami Vice.

There were 8-track capable sets


This was Montgomery Ward's 1983 offering. Montgomery Ward, Radio Shack and the RCA Music Service were the final outposts for the hardened 8-track tape lover in the '80s as Montgomery Ward still made players by the end of 1984, Radio Shack still sold blank 8-tracks, tape head cleaners and cases and the RCA Music Service still made and offered a slowly decreasing, selection of new 8-track tapes well into 1988.

...and those with TVs



Some even had turntables (for warping and scratching your records while playing volleyball on the beach.)




Sadly...by 1990, the portable stereo had become, seen-one, you seen 'em, all black things in weird shapes with CD players. They brought the colours back too more recently, but I still wish they made them like those BIG powerhouses from back in the day....