Comic Books #40: Archie Sound Effects

I know I've been going Archie crazy these past few months, but I think this one'll probably do it for a while. As you know, I'm a great admirer of Dan DeCarlo's work, and Archie comics take me back to the good ol' days like nothing else can. IMHO there can never be too many Archie posts, even nonsensical ones like this one.

DeCarlo was a master at framing a scene, clearly portraying the action, and conveying the appropriate emotions of the characters.... not as easy a task as you might think. Take a look at any comic books of a similar genre (in other words, not superhero, action or horror comics), and you'll quickly see how superior the Archie comics were in terms of illustration.  There were a ton of Archie knock-offs (i.e. Tippy Teen, Swing with Scooter, Go-Go and Animal) but none come anywhere close to the original, thanks in large part to DeCarlo's fabulous artwork.

So, as final salute to DeCarlo (there'll be more Archie posts, I'm sure - but not for a while), I've collected a bunch of panels with wonderfully silly sound effects and action from the Betty & Veronica comics. Indeed,  these characters were not static figures outlined in ink.  They were dynamic and real.  What better way to demonstrate DeCarlo's fantastic ability to make these characters come alive than this? Enjoy.


Needlework a-Go Go #26: Sweaters Gone Wild

In the seventies, macrame unleashed millions of hanging planters upon our great nation.  And, in much the same way, the crocheting frenzy that persisted through the sixties on into the early eighties yielded an untold number of sweaters from sea to shining sea.

The sixties sweaters were mostly tasteful and even stylish; whereas, the seventies sweater creations often pushed the limits of good taste.  Far be it from me to critique the styles of the seventies - I happen to love them.  Instead, I'll let you be the judge.  Take a look at a variety of sweaters spanning three decades..... but beware of the dreaded 70s Sleeveless Sweater.  Don't say you weren't warned.

Bad Songs #15: Songs for Gay Dogs

Nothing against Paddy Roberts - after all, he was a distinguished veteran of the Royal Air Force during World War II, a successful soundtrack composer, and an accomplished lawyer.  That being said, he may have taken a wrong turn with his album Songs for Gay Dogs.

Obviously, the term "gay" had a different meaning in 1963, but it still deserves a chuckle.  It's easily one of the best unintentionally funny album covers ever..... and by "funny" I mean "humorous", not "gay"..... and by "gay" I mean "queer" not "lively"..... and by "queer" I mean "homosexual" not "peculiar".

Anyway, any one of the songs on this album would qualify as a bad song, well worthy of inclusion in this post.  However, I thought I'd just just include a couple randomly picked tracks. After all, how many songs for gay dogs do you need to hear?  I think a couple of Paddy's poorly sung ditties about senseless unfunny nonsense will be more than enough.  See for yourself.

"Three Old Ladies" by Paddy Roberts
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"The Little Piggy" by Paddy Roberts
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Vintage Reads #35:Espionage and Action Paperbacks (Part 2)

How can you top a Robert McGinnis paperback cover? His amazing illustrations did for espionage/mystery/action paperbacks what Norman Rockwell did for The Saturday Evening Post and what Frazetta did for fantasy fiction.  The artwork sold the item every bit as much (and often more) as the content itself.  And it wasn't due to lurid sexual imagery; it was pure artistic prowess that didn't need to resort to shock value.

Then came the 70s (or you could say the latter part of the 60s), and some would say taste went out the window. Not I; however.  I can appreciate the change from the distinctive style of McGinnis and his many imitators to the tawdry photography-based espionage/mystery/action covers that came out during the seventies.  Times had changed.  We weren't living in the halcyon days of James Bond, Sinatra, and martinis anymore.... it was Shaft, The Ohio Players, and weed. Needless to say, book jackets needed to change accordingly.

So, here is a gallery of espionage/mystery/action paperback covers.  I don't separate the three genres because there is such overlap, and I want to avoid any commentors angrily informing me that a certain cover is from an action novel and is most definitely not from an espionage novel.  Get it straight, Gilligan.

Retrospace Podcast #28


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Mini Skirt Monday #111: Retail Minis

Once upon a time, the miniskirt was as commonplace as the local mom and pop shop. But, alas, they're heyday has long since passed. But, unlike the mini, the odds of the mom & pop making a comeback are probably pretty slim.  A great loss to our country IMHO.

Today, we've got a bunch of retail minis - local advertisements (pulled from newspapers and yearbooks), plus non-adverts with just minis amid the splendor of the local biz. Consider this an ode not to just the miniskirt, but also small family owned retail stores. Both were so wonderfully ubiquitous that we didn't know how valuable they were till they were gone.


Music Lists #15: The Top 40 Perfect Pop Songs

When making these music lists, it's important to set the ground rules.  Too many times I've seen magazines just launch rabidly into their stupid lists with not so much as a sentence of explanation.  So, let me clarify what I'm looking for in a pop song that would qualify it as "perfectt".

1. Accessibility

This is not a list of the greatest songs of all time; this is pop music, which means they are easily digestible to your average listeners. We're talkin' McNuggets here, not foie gras  For instance, Procol Harum's "Salty Dog" is a masterpiece, but not even close to the strict definition of a POP song.

I can hear it now "Why isn't 'Strawberry Fields' on the list? Are you some kind of retard?" Keep in mind: I'm looking for music that is simply easy and pleasurable to listen to, which has nothing to do with artistic depth.

2. The Right Ingredients

The perfect pop song is nothing more than a joyful auditory nugget.  It doesn't need to be "bubblegum", but it can't meander or get carried away either.  "Hey Jude" and "My Sweet Lord" may be pinnacles in the history of popular music, but they're hardly tightly constructed with their long symphonic stretches. And Dylan had some historic lyrics, but these ingredients for a pop gem just aren't there:
A. Pleasant non repetitive verse
B. Melodic Chorus (see criteria #3)
C. Bridge - a tightly constructed pop song has a seamless bridge
D. The Middle Eight - the perfect pop gem breaks things up after the second chorus with a 3rd melodic part
E. Key Change - listener's attention span begins to waiver without this pop necessity
F. Coda - you can't just end it abruptly or fade out; that's for the lightweights.   
Now, not all my top ten meet these ingredients to the letter, but this is a good guide to cooking the perfect pop nugget.

3. Melody

The perfect pop song has a catchy melody without being just a jingle.  This is perhaps the most abstract qualification of all because you can't verbalize what makes certain chords, sounds, harmonies resonate with the human mind, while others do not. There's been tens of thousands of pop songs released over the years, but only a select few that literally "strike a chord" in the auditory center of your brain.  It's fresh sounding, a slightly novel melody, but at the same time it's by no means 'prog'.

And lastly, this is only a top 40 because - who gives a damn what my 179th greatest pop gem is? This is the type of list that could quickly turn into a boring reproduction of the top forty charts over the years.  No - let's keep it to the best of the best.  I relish your input - please let me know of any unconscionable oversights.

So, now that we got that out of the way, on with the list!


Ads #48: Carcinogenic Comics

You could never get away with this sort of thing today.  Any hint that the cigarette ad is marketed towards minors is strictly verboten in the US.  But back in the early seventies, it was 'game on'.  The Doral tobacco company utilized the same basic advertising strategy as Twinkies: humorous and colorful full-page comic book ads.

To make matters worse, they actually made the pack of cigarettes talk.  "Taste me!" it would say.... funny that it never said "Smoke me!"  The ad pictured above is just wrong on so many levels.  Don't get me started. 


Needlework-a-Go Go #25: Bewitching Stitching

I've got a bazillion needlework booklets.  If you're looking for full color pictures of yesterday's fashion, they beat the hell out of Cosmo and Vogue any day. Admittedly, by the 1970s, they became somewhat laughable examples of fashion at its nadir; however, needlework pamphlets from the 1960s are quite the opposite.  They are bright and shining examples of vintage beauty, full of stone cold foxes in their handmade finery.  Each chick is an absolute knock out.  Come, have a look...


The 'Stache #3

"Ya see, doc, I was just a clean cut wimp who couldn't get laid if my life depended on it. Then, I grew my hair out a bit, got a David Crosby 'stache, and now the chicks can't keep their hands off me.  I'm a wreck, doc. I don't think they love me for me.... I think they just love THE 'STACHE!"

Yes, it had been a looooong time since it was fashionable for men to really let their facial hair grow into big bushy beards and such.  Certainly, since the Depression Era, men kept their face shaved or at least clean cut (a la the pencil thin mustache).  In the early sixties, you had your odd beatnik and Castro beard, but it was by no means a mainstream look. But then suddenly, the lads from Liverpool showed up with long handlebar mustaches around '67, and the facial hair explosion was officially on.  Even the clean cut Beach Boys looked like unwashed hobos by the time the seventies rolled around.

The Great Facial Hair Experiment (as I've just now named it) lasted all the way until the eighties. By '84, it was back to the clean look. I mean, can you even imagine a bearded Depeche Mode? It was the end of an era.

Well, at Retrospace we're all about celebrating the seventies in all its wonderful hairiness. Let's have a look at a few more phenomenal 'staches.


Sex Sells #27: Picking Up Girls Made Easy

Remember all those Picking Up Girls Made Easy ads in magazines back in the seventies? They were in basically every issue of National Lampoon, but they also popped up in everything from Playboy to People.... and I've been curious about it ever since. Unfortunately, I've never been able to get my hands on a copy, but have managed to get a hold of the corresponding 1975 record.

Besides being the lamest thing I've ever heard, it's also mildly creepy.  The scenarios described on the record are absolutely ludicrous..... I pity any fool who actually tried to put these pick-up tactics into use.  Even in the hypersexual seventies, these pick-up strategies wouldn't work on a nymphomaniac on ecstasy. Judge for yourself..

Listen: Womens Clothing Store Pick Up

From the back cover:

“PICKING UP GIRLS MADE EASY will teach you a whole new system for picking up girls — a system that is so complete and so absolutely foolproof you’ll soon be picking up girls automaticallly!!! Absolutely everything is spelled out for you… Picking up girls can be as easy as opening a beer! And the more you listen to the album, the better you’ll get. It’s INCREDIBLE!”


Pancakes #3

I think we all know where this is headed.  That's right - two generous helpings of pancakes.  As I've mentioned before, you'd be hard pressed to find a picture of people in the seventies in a social setting NOT within minutes of pancakes.  Combine (1) the sexual revolution, (2) drug experimentation gone amok, (3) women's liberation, and (4) tens of millions of Baby Boomers all in their prime, and what do you get? All you can eat pancakes.

It's time once again to put to work your deductive reasoning and utilize a discerning eye to tell whether the scenes are innocent moments in time or mere seconds before an explosion of Seventies Pancakes.  Indeed, in the blink of an eye any one of these photos has the potential to become unfit for Retrospace.  Were I to show you the very next shot from any of these pictures, and Retrospace could be immediately condemned by Google.

And if pancake predicting isn't your bag, you can still enjoy these snapshots of 1970s life, overflowing with bad fashion and unconscionable decor.  Let's have a look!


Vintage Scan #21: Astrodome - 8th Wonder of the World

I've been watching baseball since the mid seventies (although, I'm sad to report I've watched very little the past few years).  So, I knew the Astrodome was a big deal.  I knew it was the first of its kind and mega expensive for its time.  However, I recently acquired a 1966 booklet entitled Astrodome: 8th Wonder of the World, and, holy crap, I had no idea the level of orgasmic enthusiasm over this thing.  When they say its the 8th wonder of the world they actually mean it!


Understanding Human Behavior #2

Time for another round of heavenly hash from perhaps the greatest series of textbooks ever: Understanding Human Behavior (1974).  The photograph above is from a chapter on dealing with in-laws.  The caption reads "If a boy's best friend is his mother, keep clear!  Momma's boys usually make lousy husbands."

What's interesting to me about this topic isn't so much the ridiculous advice doled out in this textbook, but rather the issue itself.  The subject of dealing with in-laws used to be a real issue - a common, almost universal, problem.  How many movies, TV shows and cartoons featured the main characters dealing with hard-to-tolerate in-laws? Tons.

Today, we are so disconnected from our extended families, that the issue of fitting in with our in-laws has slowly become inconsequential.  Sure, we talk with them, and most of us have some degree of a relationship with them.  But, today everyone moves around so much, it's becoming less and less likely you'll see them at all, except for holidays and special occasions. What to do about the in-laws? Who cares?

Found Photos #10: Parties I Wasn't At

I'm 40+ years old and I'm beginning to accept that all my good parties are far off in the rear-view mirror. I know this sounds depressing, but it's not.  I've had my fair share of throw-downs, full of respectable levels of debauchery and vice. But for some reason, if I were to repeat those performances today at this age, it would no longer be viewed as wild fun, but rather sort of sad and cause for alarm (akin to Vince Vaughn et al in Old School trying to relive his salad days). You can't go back.

(insert sounds of violins playing)

Anyway, in a rather pathetic attempt to look back on better days, I've uncovered a handful of found photographs from parties long ago passed.


Mini Skirt Monday #110: Interracial Couples

I certainly don't pretend to know the back story on all these photographs, so I won't claim these are all actual romantically involved couples. I can tell you that most of these images are from the early seventies, and a mere ten years earlier, pictures like these would have been scandalous - romantic or not.

I'll spare you a long discussion on interracial dating.  I've already touched on it before, and it's a really sensitive subject for some - In fact, I'm sure I'll get complaints on the title of this post.  I couldn't come up with anything better.

I remember seeing an article in LIFE when I was a kid about Jim Seals (of Seals & Crofts) and his black wife.  It was shocking to me then - not in a bad way, just a "new" way.  I'd never seen any 'mixed" couples at that point in my life - I'd lived in Massachusetts, Spain and Ohio by that point. But I have a feeling, no matter where I'd lived, that LIFE article would have been no less jarring.

So, let's check out some miniskirted babes and their partners of a different race.  I also think it wouldn't be wildly inappropriate to raise a glass in honor of John Seals and his Diamond Girl.  Cheers!


Bad Songs #14: "Julie's 16th Birthday" by John Bult

Check any list of the "worst album covers of all time" and you're bound to run across this little gem. Obviously, it earns its reputation from the implied cradle robbing, but a listen to the title song puts those rumors to rest.

In many ways it's almost worse than the initial thought that Mr. Bult might be hopping on some jail bait. In fact, it may be one of the most depressing songs I've ever heard.... poorly sung, poorly executed, but depressing as hell nonetheless.  I won't ruin it for you by giving away the (admittedly predictable) ending.  Listen for yourself.

"Julie's Sixteenth Birthday" by John Bult (1985)

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Note: To avoid getting emails pointing this out - this is indeed "bad songs 14" not "13", as there are two "bad songs 12". No need for panic.


Comic Books #39: Horror Comic Idiots

John, you senseless idiot.  You're on a "strange lonely back road", get your sorry ass back on the highway.

It's fun to read these old horror comics: we know the rules of their world, but the characters are blissfully unaware.  In horror comics, you should never dismiss superstitious legend, never take the back roads, and always believe your humble wife's intuition.  Otherwise, you're dead meat..... just like ol' John blissfully oblivious to his impending doom.


Foxy Ladies #20: The 100 Hottest Female Singers/Musicians of the 1960's - 1980's

I'll spare you the suspense. Agnetha wins.  No contest.

There's only three rules to this list: 

(1) The singers must have experienced a degree of popularity in the 1960s - 80s.  Thus, no local obscure singers, and no Fergie.

(2) Their popularity is derived primarily from music. Thus, no Cheryl Ladd or Goldie Hawn, even though they put out albums.

(3) Please do not overly fixate on the order; focus on glaring omissions and unworthy inclusions.** 

With that said, here's #2 - #100

2. Debbie Harry 
3. Olivia Newton-John
4. Tina Turner
5. Terry Nunn (Berlin)
6. Wendy James (Transvision Vamp)
7. Barbara Mandrell
9. Sylvie Vartan

Retrospace Mix Tape #22: Name Songs

In my never ending attempt to diversify your playlists, here's another round of off-the-beaten-tracks with names in their title.  Those of you with iTunes filled to the brim with songs like "Hotel California" and "Stairway to Heaven" may be in for a bit of a shock.  Just repeat to yourself that not everything entering your auditory canal needs to have been a big hit.  Sometimes you have to jump off the fairway and hunt around in the rough because the hidden gems often are the sweetest.

And God knows there's been "name songs" a plenty over the years: "Mandy", "Hey Jude", "Joanna" (Kool & the Gang), "Think of Laura" (Christopher Cross), "Barbara Ann", "Angie", "Peg", "Daniel", etc.  Here's a bunch of name songs that perhaps you haven't heard.  Granted, most of them aren't exactly the greatest songs ever recorded, but maybe somewhere in this list you'll find that hidden gem buried in the rough.


Foxy Ladies #19: Showgirls

This is one of those posts that really needs to be a series rather than a single entry.  However, with so many topics buzzing around Retrospace, there just isn't the time.  Suffice it to say, the burlesque and striptease have been around since the dawn of man (and that's not hyperbole). It's had its high and low points to be sure; however, it's been an unbroken line from Salome to Blaze Starr.

The Mad Men days of the late fifties - early sixties are perhaps the golden years of American "adult entertainment". Indeed, during this period, there was very little social stigma attached to the gentleman's club.  This bipolar period had both a veneer of wholesomeness on one hand, and the swingin' bachelor on the other.  Taking your lady to the Playboy Club was actually considered a classy date.

Once regulations on films slackened, club owners found it much cheaper to play a roll of film than hire living breathing strippers. Naturally, the remaining adult clubs had to compete with the X rated theaters and subsequently lost any trace of class, and degenerated into seedy strip joints.

Today, they're still here, but the wonderful mojo of the early days are gone. Sure, there's still lots of high end clubs, but the culture surrounding it has changed.  Let me put it to you this way: burlesque clubs in the 50s and 60s often had a buffet... can you even imagine going to a strip club today and eating from a buffet?


Understanding Human Behavior #1

So, I've got this set of textbooks called Understanding Human Behavior: An Illustrated Guide to Successful Human Relationships (1974) and they are so full of amazing pictures and articles that I couldn't begin to squeeze them into a single post.  These books cover everything from satanism to space travel, from sexual deviancy to dealing with in-laws.  It's less a pop psychology text than it is a hodgepodge of the seventies mind.  

The illustration above is from a chapter on education in the future.  How is that in 1974 we still believed you could one day get your schooling at the press of a button? I thought that sort of future "utopianism" had died out with The Jetsons. Notice how "brain surgery" is right above "wood crafts". Of particular interest is a section on a system of learning called the "learning web": 
"What we need is a computer network geared to helping us meet others who want to talk about the same subject: first you would give the computer your name, address and telephone number, and get back a printout listing other people in your city who had made the same request.  You would choose one and arrange a meeting at, say, a cafe and turn up there, book in hand so as to be recognized.  It could be as simple as that."

Mini Skirt Monday #109: Mini ABC's

Miniskirts have been used to inspire guys to buy everything from floor polish to roll-on deodorant.  So, here's a thought: How about using them to inspire learning? It's about time we used their vast power for Good. And God knows there's a lot of Americans who can't read, and probably plenty of full grown adults who don't even know their ABC's.  So, I'm proud to do my part in the education of Americans. To those of you who are struggling with our alphabet - You're Welcome. Let the learning begin.