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Category Archives: Video

Happy 4th of July

Dear readers: be safe and try to resist having the oversized dolls from Disney’s America on Parade (1976) haunt your dreams.

“I Ate Him.”

Today’s video is something that I uploaded to my own YouTube channel, the result of downloading and watching about 200 old commercials for Alpha-Bits cereal from the ’60s and ’70s. Alpha-Bits was and still is my favorite cereal. You might think watching a bunch of old ads would be boring, but au contrere mon frere — seeing how Post changed its approach to selling this simple food over a short time was an eye-opener. From ’60s straightforward to animated through psychedelic and health-nut ’70s, the shilling ran the gamut in uneven but entertaining fashion. It gives one the distinct feeling that Post’s ad agency during those years had a revolving door of executives.

Starting around 1969, Post started including extras with each cereal box. This started with bubblegum rock records actually printed on the box back, then moved towards assorted small toys mid-decade. This particular commercial was picked because it has one of my favorites, a plastic mini-terrarium. After emptying the included seed packet onto a tiny sponge, with regular watering a plant would grow (“in about 8 days!”). Groovy.

Post’s website says that they are still making Alpha-Bits, although it’s been years since I’ve seen a box. It was good, not horribly sweet like many other products currently clogging the supermarket cereal aisle.

One Less Bell to Answer

Dept. Of Something I Never Noticed Before: AT&T has uploaded a bunch of older promo videos to their own YouTube channel. One such piece is this faux news segment chronicling the opening of Disney’s EPCOT Center in 1982. Being a corporate piece, it focuses mainly on the Bell-sponsored Spaceship Earth and CommuniCore attractions. The AT&T suits were apparently happy enough with the project, but the tourists look a bit disappointed by the educational slant on display there. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I prefer the early, clunky, educational EPCOT over the current, touristy edition.

Later on tonight, we’re going to check out Saul Bass’ 1969 film heralding his redesign of the Bell logo. In our house, that is considered entertainment!

The Lost Garden of Forgotten ’80s Hits

“Kiss You (When It’s Dangerous)” by Canadian group Eight Seconds is the latest in my efforts to catch up with all of the tunes that charted in the Hot 100 but didn’t make it into Billboard‘s Top 40 in the 1980s (I’m working my way through alphabetically and have thus reached the “E” artists – having just completed an avalanche of non-hits from Earth, Wind & Fire and Sheena Easton). I chose to spotlight it here because it’s typical of the kind of mid-level, vaguely enjoyable but generally forgettable stuff that has come as part of this project. This particular tune, a knock-off of the mellower side of The Fixx, peaked at #72 in early 1987. Considering that I was all over pop music both famous and obscure in 1985-87, it came as something of a shock that I don’t remember this one (that’s happened often, actually).

Collecting these songs has become quite the learning experience. Generally speaking, about 80% of ’80s pop music is still in print and easily obtainable either through iTunes, Amazon, eMusic or – for the cheapskates among us – via bittorrent/illegal downloading. Another 15% is rare and out of print, but decent quality mp3s of those can be obtained through sites like mp3skull or 4shared. If the song by itself can’t be found, I can usually uncover the album it came from with keen detective work. The remaining 5% are the real buggers – usually one-hit-wonders or last charting songs by older artists from the ’60s and ’70s. One godsend that I came across last year in this regard was a massive bittorrent file containing the top 500 singles from the year 1980, which contains many of these extreme rarities (The Doolittle Band’s “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of”, anyone?). The weblog Grumpy’s Golden Oldies also contains a lot of obscurities from 1980-83, although the sound quality varies. Strangely enough, the tunes that are the hardest to find (for free, that is) belong to soft-rockers like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Diamond – guess the kiddies aren’t trading up on the old fogey music these days! In very rare instances (maybe 8 or 9 songs out of hundreds), I’ve recorded the song off YouTube with yucky sound.

In a nutshell, that’s part of what I’ve been up to – unearthing sometimes cool, sometimes embarrassing but never uninteresting lost tunes from the ’80s.

Shazzan and Stupidstitious

The ’60s Hanna Barbera cartoons have a certain hypnotic quality, don’t they? This came to mind while watching a highlight reel from Shazzan (1967). This was a show about a teen boy and girl who find magic rings that, when joined, conjure up a giant genie who takes them back to the days of the Arabian Nights. Since I picked Warner Archive‘s complete series DVD from the DVD Talk pool, I thought I’d get acquainted. Looks real trippy:

Speaking of animation on DVD… The Stupidstitious Cat (1946) is one of twenty vintage ’40s-50s Paramount cartoons included on an intriguing recent set from cartoon distributor Thunderbean called Noveltoons Original Classics. As soon as I stop feeling poor, I’m gonna get this!

Jingle All The Way

When I was a wee tyke, I loved TV commercial jingles (still love them, don’t kill me). This fact came to mind recently when I was listening to a internet radio station for vintage music and Eddie Cantor singing “Charley My Boy” came on. Although the song was originally recorded in the 1920s, Phoenix residents may recall that it was constantly used as the jingle for a series of cheeseball ads from local tire merchant Charlie Case in the ’70s. The ads I recall employed a male barbershop quartet, but the one below has a lady quartet introducing Charlie. Dig those lush production values, one small step higher than a Tex & Edna Boil SCTV skit:

Watching TV commercials must have warped my brain. Entire conversations I’ve had are lost to me, but I could easily sing all of the local car lot jingles from ’70s-’80s Phoenix. That includes Bell Ford, which if I’m not mistaken is still in use to this day:

Speaking of jingles, the one used at the end of Sun Valley Waterbed was nearly forgotten by me, especially considering that their ads with the perky “Carolyn” were on locally all the time. Blonde Carolyn looked a lot like local newscaster Mary Jo West, so in the back of my kiddie mind I imagined that the two were friends. Whether that was true or not is open to speculation, but I did just learn that Carolyn was once the keyboard player in The Brooklyn Bridge (“The Worst That Could Happen”). I guess tickling the ivories didn’t bring in the same cash that waterbeds later did. All three of these ads come from YouTube user DaddySinister.