Happy New Year!

I wish everyone a Happy New Year! 2009 was a great year for Retrospace - the numbers of readers has grown significantly and I've learned a lot as well.

Somehow, I've managed to post nearly every single day for the past year. Some might marvel at this, and wonder if I have any sort of life whatsoever. Actually, I have a great life with four kids, a wonderful wife and a pretty good 8-5 job in a laboratory. Blogging doesn't take as much time as you might think. I typically don't start until after 9 PM and have settled into a routine of working on a post for an hour or two. It's actually very relaxing, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

So, I hope the next year is good to all of you. Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you'll continue to pop in throughout the new year. Cheers!

While you're here, take a minute to enjoy a few vintage New Years images...

The Decade of Decadence #1: The Sexual Revolution

"A new, sexualized popular culture pervaded American life in the 1970s, and it seemed that everyone wanted to be part of it. Watching a porn film at the local theater, flipping through a sex advice manual in line at the grocery store, dancing the hustle at a glittery discotheque—all were markers of sexual sophistication." [source]
As a die hard enthusiast of the 1970's (I've lived through it, I've been obsessed with it for the past twenty years, and now I write about it nearly every day), the one thing that stands out more than any other is the sexual revolution.  It's not that I have a one-track mind focused on sex- the fact that this blog is rated PG demonstrates that I don't focus on heavy sexual material.... but if you're being an honest historian, you've got to spend a good deal of time on the defining trend of the decade. The stark contrast from the decade prior and the decade after is unbelievable.  Digging through old magazines and newspapers as I do almost every day, it becomes abundantly clear that if you had to use one word to describe the decade it could only be S-E-X.


Album Covers #11: When Rock Went Rustic

When Baby Boomers were kids they were fed the futuristic Utopia spiel on a daily basis - that scientific advancements and industry would make the world just like the Jetsons. The World of Tomorrow would be full of jetpacks, space-age kittens in mini-skirts, and home appliances that would do all the work for you. Heck, you may even have a robot to do your bidding - the possibilities were endless!

By the end of the 1960's, it was readily apparent that this was all a bunch of B.S. The President had been shot in the head, thousands were being shipped from Vietnam in body bags, inner cities were turning into vast ghettos, the Manson Family were making headlines... and not a hovercraft or robot slave in sight! Is it any wonder the counterculture began rebelling against technological and industrial "progress"? They'd been promised futuristic bliss, but got war, a bad economy, and urban sprawl instead. When Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin to get into "plastics" in The Graduate, this line resonated with a young generation who'd been fed synthetic dreams since childhood, but were now seeing the folly in this philosophy.

Naturally, the rustic or bucolic movement was reflected in the music industry. If you were in a rock band or a singer/songwriter - odds were you had an album with lots of songs about going to the country, enjoying the simple life, and your album cover pictured you among lots of trees and tall grass. I don't mean these were necessarily environmentalst albums - they were much more than that. They were a rejection of scientific/industrial advancement. Just me and you and dog named Boo, livin' off the land, baby.

image source

Lyrics from the Jethro Tull song "Jack-In-The-Green":

It's no fun being Jack-In-The-Green
no place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier
carries the green flag all the winter long.
Jack, do you never sleep
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, powerlines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don't think so
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today...
From the U.K. sprang a whole folk rock movement which embraced the pre-Industrial Revolution days. These were songs for the maypole. These were songs about faeries and witches, of sailors and miners from long ago. Perhaps the greatest album produced during this period was Fairport Convention's Leige and Lief. With songs about Halloween, werefoxes, and faerie curses, it makes me want to go get a flagon of ale and dance around a maypole!

And this trend was not limited to lesser known bands (at least, they were lesser known in the States). For instance, Led Zeppelin was a big adherant to this movement - "Ramble On" and "Stairway to Heaven" reference Lord of the Rings and describe England's pastoral days with bucolic flair. Take another listen to their 4th album - "The Battle for Evermore" with its mandolin and vocalist Sandy Denny (from Fairport Convention), you can hardly tell it apart from a Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span or Pentangle track!  The Kinks, The Incredible String Band and Jethro Tull also sung of a return to the simpler life. (Not surprisingly, the Stones wanted nothing to do with this stuff.)

In the U.S. it was less centered on a Tolkein-esque vision. Instead, bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Canned Heat, and The Allman Brothers took us back to the country. The whole Laurel Canyon crowd was singin' about the trees and getting away from the city. John Denver was ridiculed by both country stars and pop stars because he was a little bit of both, but his music was pure exultation towards nature. If you really think about it, the hippie culture really had its roots in a yearning to get the back-to-nature spiritual life of their ancestors.

But enough of the history lesson (you knew all this anyway, right?). Let me show you some examples of album covers demonstrating the bucolic movement. Get ready for lots of images of hippie folks amid lush greenery.  Each person pictured on these album covers seems to say: "I'm all about bein' rustic. Check out all the trees, bushes and shit." Enjoy.


Sex Sells #10: Where You Least Expect It

What type of products would you consider the primary offenders of the "sex sells" philosophy of advertising? Magazines are probably the top users of sexual imagery, which is not surprising considering their sales are defined by their cover image.  Record albums operated on the same principle, and were just as guilty of using cheesecake to boost sales. Can you blame them? It worked.

I'd also have to say automobile, fashion, cologne, cigarettes and alcohol advertising are frequent offenders.

However, what continually gives me great delight (don't ask me why) is to find the "sex sells" principle in a vintage advertisement or promotional material where you'd least expect it. I've shown you sexual imagery used for marketing denture cream, rice, batteries, and crackers in previous posts. Well, let's look a few more unexpected examples of "sex sells" in action.

Here's a new one for you - time delay relays! WTF? Is this the sort of product that can influence its customers using female anatomy? Seems like you either need a time delay relay, or you don't. I'm just sayin'.

Here's 10 more unexpected vintage examples of  "sex sells" in action...

Mini Skirt Monday #30: The 1980s

The heyday of the miniskirt was without question the late sixties to the early seventies.  But let us not forget that minis had an all too brief comeback in the eighties as well.  It was to a much lesser extent and short lived - but who's complaining? Let's take a look at some images from when mini skirts were rad.


Twisted Impressions #2: Laverne on Shirley

Get your mind out of the gutter - it's not what you're thinking. I know there's always been a subtle sexual tension between Laverne and Shirley, but that's no reason to jump to conclusions. There's probably a rational explanation for all this.... please, God, tell me DeFazio and Feeney aren't going at it!

Good Lord. Everybody just stay calm.  Laverne & Shirley was only a porno in your mind - nothing ever really happened between the two roommates.... right? (ahem) Well, now that I think about it....

In one episode where they think they're going to die in a plane crash, Shirley grabs Laverne and plants a passionate kiss on her, full on the mouth.

And I always just assumed the big "L" on all of Laverne's clothing stood for "Laverne" - it very well could've stood for "Lesbian"..... I'm just thinking out loud here, folks.

....and what exactly does "Schlemiel, Schlamazel, Hassenpfeffer Incorporated" mean? Could it be some sort of lesbian code?

And in the opening credits, Laverne literally comes out of the closet - assisted by Shirley opening the door. Could this be a not-so-subtle clue?

"But Shirley had a boyfriend" you say. This is true - I won't argue with that. Shirley was dating Carmine Ragusa for several seasons. But whatever became of "The Big Ragu"? I'll tell you what became of him: He became a dancer on Broadway! You do the math.


Album Covers #10: Christmas Album Covers

Okay, "FAVORITE" is a stretch. Some of these album covers are straight up awful. However, I do love looking at old records, and here's a few Christmas LP's that I found particularly interesting. Enjoy!


Vintage Scares #10: Christmas from the Crypt

Check out some Christmas images and audio with a horror twist. It's like a Halloween-Christmas hybrid - how can you go wrong? Enjoy!


Foxy Ladies #9: Vintage Santa Babes

Last week's Mini-Skirt Monday featured vintage chicks in a Santa getup. Consider this post a Part II to that one except not all of these involve miniskirts. This time round it's simply retro gals in Santa Claus outfits. The images, perhaps, aren't as good as last time, but I hope you'll find it interesting nonetheless.

The cost of electronics back in the day always floors me.  This little record player and speaker set would cost $2155.33 today, adjusted for inflation!

Vintage Scan #10: Old December Newspapers

So, I had the idea to peruse through some old December newspapers to see if anything interesting caught my eye. I love to look at what was going on during this month in decades past. A few things interested me, the first being this advertisement..

 This is actually an advertisement for clothing (specifically, wool shirts), NOT weaponry.  In fact, this ad has nothing whatsoever to do with guns, so the presence of a firearm is kind of mysterious.  I guess we can assume this dude plans to shoot some animals in his brand new flanel shirt - but, I wouldn't be surprised to learn a lot of people showed up at The Crescent looking for guns 'n' ammo.

Who didn't love the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1970's? I never got to see them live, but I sure did see them on TV a lot - such as the Gilligan's Island special and appearances on Saturday morning cartoons.  I liked Curly and Meadowlark Lemon.  this would have been a great way to spend Christmastime in 1978.


Ads #28: Home Appliances!

I've always marvelled at these old advertisements picturing a woman absolutely wetting herself over a simple home appliance. If you've ever spent any time looking through old newspapers and magazines, it becomes abundantly clear that what your woman wants for Christmas is appliances and MORE appliances! 

The 1969 ad below basically says she'll make sweet love to you every time she runs the dishwasher! (Or she'll have hot steamy sex with Santa while you're at work - I'm not reall sure what the ad is trying to illustrate.) Anyway, you get the point - women wanted appliances for Christmas, and they wanted them bad. 


Astro-Santa in the Space Age

image source

They really loved the idea of Santa riding a rocket in the 1950's.  It was, after all, the Atomic Age. People in the 50's lapped up anything associated with the "space age"; futurism was in vogue.  So, it was only natural that this "technophilia" would be reflected in their conception of Christmas. 

It's always struck me as odd that the people of the 50's would buy into futurism and the utopian "world of tomorrow" at a time when technology had never been so deadly! With the advent of nuclear bombs, we could now wipe out all life on earth (except for cockroaches and Keith Richards) with the touch of a button. And yet, at the same time, futurism and techno worship was in full bloom. Go figure. 

New Zealand Christmas Parade circa 1962 (image source)

Trivia Newton-John #13

Are you ready for a holiday edition of Trivia Newton-John? All 3 questions will pertain to a staple of holiday TV viewing for over a decade, the Andy Williams Christmas specials. The rules are simple: be the first to put ALL the right answers in the comments section and you get an award to place proudly in your sidebar.  Good luck!


We have a winner! The Footwashin' Rock Baker has answered all three correct. Collect your award, sir. Well played.

For everyone else, even though you're a bit too late, I encourage you to try your hand at the questions. I don't post the answers (they're in the comments section) so that you can try to get them yourself.


Yuletide Grooves #7: Naughty Mistletunes

Okay, the title of this post may be overstating it a bit, but these are still a lot of naughty fun. I don't think any of these songs actually have strong language - they're more playful than graphic - so it's probably safe for work. With each song I've included a brief description, a memorable line from the song, and the song itself for you to listen to.  I hope you enjoy them!

"Santa Claus Is Coming to My House" by Karla Devito (1982)
Lyric: ""Even though it wouldn't be right, I want Santa Claus to come and stay all night!"

Karla was the wife of actor Robbie Benson, who actually co-wrote this piece-o-crap. You may remember Karla as the girl that sings alongside Meatloaf in the video for "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"; although, that's not actually her voice on the record. Unfortuneately, it is her real voice in this Christmas song, and it's excruciating!

DeVito, Karla - Santa Claus Is Coming To My House .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

[IMPORTANT NOTE: In some browsers, in order to play the beeMP3 music files, you must be viewing the full post, not the truncated post with "Read More" at the bottom. Simply click the post title or the "Read More" link to view the full post.]

"Back Door Santa" by Clarence Carter (1968)
Lyric: "I ain't like old St. Nick, he don't come but once a year."

From the blind dude that brought you the dirty hits, "Strokin'" and "Sixty Minute Man". The horn break from  "Backdoor Santa" is actually sampled in the Run DMC song "Christmas in Hollis".

Clarence Carter - Back Door Santa .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Vintage Business #3: The Office Christmas Party

The office Christmas Party has long been a source of embarrassment, hedonism, bonding and, according to a Harvard study, thousands of pregnancies. Company Christmas parties go waaaay back - there's even records from the days of King Richard II of office parties to celebrate the holidays.... given the amount of ale on the menus, it would seem Christmas party drunkeness is a centuries old tradition!

In this post, I've pasted together some quotes and facts relating to the office Christmas party that I found interesting or amusing. I hope you enjoy reading it. Cheers!

"What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day."
- Phyllis Diller

image source: Harvey Kurtzman's hilarious magazine HELP (1961); much like MAD magazine


Yuletide Grooves #6: "Santa Claus Is a Black Man" and other holiday favorites

Let's face it, most vintage Christmas songs are as white as the wind-driven snow.  It's one smiling Caucasian after another singing about silver bells, opening presents, decorating the tree, etc. Sure, there's Nat King Cole, but "The Christmas Song" came out in 1946! I'm talking about afrocentric holiday tracks from the 1970's - when Christmas was full of soul and booger-nosed funk. As much as I like Perry Como and Andy Williams, you will not see them in this post.

First up is "Purple Snowflakes" by Marvin Gaye, an incredible example of a holiday song with a soulful vibe AND a psychedelic twist..... but then, Marvin was the master. He could sing his grocery list and it would give me chills.  I think this song needs to be more recognized than it is. It really is amazing.

Download here via Rapidshare

Pssssst! If you want to hear some more soulful Christmas songs, read on!

Ads #27: Cigarettes Make Great Stocking Stuffers!

Before the stigma of smoking took hold in America, it wasn't at all unusual to find advertisements picturing Santa Claus taking a drag from a cigarette. There was even a cigarette television commercial featuring Fred Flinstone as a cigarette spokesman.  If the idea of a chainsmoking St. Nick horrifies you, it's only because you've been indoctrinated with this mentality- had you been an adult in the mid-sixties, you wouldn't bat an eye at Santa puffing on a Chesterfield.


Ads #26: Christmas Ads

This man gives her a Christmas bouquet and she puts it on her head?  He needs to stop staring and make her stop. Spare her the further embarassment of being seen in public wearing holiday vegetation on her head. His expression says, "Oh my God in Heaven, this crazy bitch just put it on her head. I could run screaming or just nod and smile.Think, man, think!...."


Yuletide Grooves #5: Swedish Xmas Throwdown

I found this odd little gem over at Jil Igen, a Swedish Christmas music blog. There, I learned that this Thore Skogman character was quite the celeb in Sweden and has written over a thousand songs.  However, what intrigued me about this album wasn't really the music - I don't know Swedish, so it all sounds fairly nodescript. It was the glorious cover.

What the hell is going on here? This is perhaps the strangest album cover I've seen in a long, long time.  The title of the LP translates to "knock on the door".  Take a listen to the title track.

Download the song here.
According to Wikipedia, "Fröken Fräken" (literally: Miss Freckle) was his biggest hit.  Hmmm. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.  Well, before I go, I'd like to leave you with one more piece of Christmas in Sweden. God Jul!


10 Favorite Christmas Music Performances

This meme originates at The Shelf, and made its way to me via Retro Hound (who hates the word "meme" at least as much as I do).  I decided to participate in this one for two reasons (1) it's not just Christmas songs, but rather performances, which I thought was an interesting twist, and (2) because Retro Hound operates one of my favorite retro sites in the blogosphere (another word I hate), so I'm all over it.

10. "Silent Night" by Claudine Longet and Andy Williams

You may recall from an earlier post on Claudine Longet that Andy Williams discovered her stranded on the side of the road in Vegas.  He fell in love with this unknown dancer and it wasn't long before her career took off in television, movies and the music business. They were well connected with the Kennedy's (Bobby being a close family friend) and things couldn't be happier.

By 1970, however, the couple split up and Claudine moved in with the famous Olympic skier, "Spider" Sabich. The relationship became tumultuous and in 1975 Claudine shot her husbund in the stomach, killing him.  She only spent 30 days in jail.....