Monday, September 28, 2009

Retro Vibe Ad of the Day - Cadbury Dairy Milk

There is no no doubt that many of the creative people behind many of the ads we see and hear on TV and radio today are Retro kids from the 70s and 80s. You don't have to go too far for proof.

Today's example, the Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate TV ad featuring the electro funk classic, "Don't Stop The Rock" from Freestyle. I think it's a good ad since it resonates with me because of the music and it's goofy enough that you'll be talking about it but it took me a few views to finally remember what product the ad was actually about. Not so good as far as advertising goes.

Still - how many of you forgot about this song until you saw it on the Cadbury ad? Retro lives!!



Retro Video of the Day - Tenderness


One of the good things that came out of the break up of Ska wonderkids "The English Beat" in 1983 was the formation of "General Public" by two of the former members. Although originally made up of former members of The Clash, The Specials and Dexy's Midnight Runners, in the end it was only Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger that endured.

Their biggest hit was Tenderness off their first album from 1984, "All The Rage". It managed to reach #11 in Canada and #27 in the U.S. Although they managed a few more hits over the years, including songs on some well known 80s movies like Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, they never matched the same success. Dave still tours as the English Beat and plays General Public tracks but ol' Roger called it quits for good.









Useless Retro Link of the Day - Instant Bueller

Have you ever had one of those moments while working in your cubicle or studying for an upcoming test when a friend or co-worker asks you something so stupid that all you can do is simply stare almost stupdified that they even thought of asking you such a messed up question? Ever wished there was a perfect sound bite for just such a moment?


Well - wish no more. Click the pic below of the clueless teacher (played by the ever awesome Ben Stein) for the link to the perfect soundtrack to this stunned moment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze (1952-2009)


I've only been writing this blog a couple of months and I can't believe how my memorial posts I've had to write for some rather iconic 80s type figures. The latest to the list is Patrick Swayze who sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer the other day. Hell of a way to go. You have to admire the fact that he kept right on working right to the end and had a current show on A&E that was doing fairly well.

Whether you liked him or not, his body of work was pretty large and he was an accomplished dancer and released some music as well. He's mainly known by many for his roles in Ghost and Dirty Dancing (which let's face it, wasn't dirty at all in retrospect.......I've seen worse during Sunday mass, but I digress) along with some of his earlier work on The Outsiders, Red Dawn and Young Blood which helped earned him a membership in good standing of the Brat Pack back in the 80s.

As a tribute, here are some examples of Patrick doing what he does which you may not have seen before.










Friday, September 11, 2009

Retro Video of the Day - Just an Illusion

In keeping with the whole Beatles buzz this week due to the release of their remastered CDs and video game, today's video is from a group whose name was inspired by John Lennon's Imagine. Imagination was a British trio from the early 80s that delivered some pretty cool R&B mostly while dressed in really retro gladiator style outfits. I'm not kidding.

Their songs charted in 28 countries and they produced three platinum records, nine gold and a dozen silver ones all in the span of three years. Not bad considering many people in North America never even heard of them. "Just an Illusion" was their highest ranked U.S. single at 27 even though it reached #2 in a few countries including the U.K.






Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Retro Ad of the Day - Diet Pepsi

Some of the most innovative ads of the 80s and 90s were a result of the cola wars that waged between industry giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi. This bitter rivalry started in the late 1800's (talk about retro!) and continues to this very day.

Soft drink origins date back when herbal cola syrup mixtures were sold in pharmacies as cure-alls and brain tonics. Colas back then actually contained coca extract from the kola nut that is better known today as cocaine. Needless to say people liked to get their cola fix but found the stuff too hard to drink straight so pharmacists began mixing it with water at first and eventually soda water which many people found be a very pleasant tasting beverage. Fast forward 100 years, the cocaine is no longer an ingredient, but we're still sucking the stuff back like it actually does a body good. Hardly.

So here's a small tribute to some of the Pepsi ads from back in the day. Why Pepsi instead of Coke? It gave me an excuse to post an ad with a young Cindy Crawford.........that's why.









Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Retro Labour Day

When you think of labour day, you assume it was the brainchild of some tree huggin' Canadian or similar minded forward thinking country but in fact the Labour movement was born in the good ol' U.S.A. The idea of unions and worker's rights was bred in the land known (and often hated by some ass backward countries) for it's capitalists.

Samuel Gompers, an American, is the one to thank for the eight hour work days and worker's compensation. He organized the American Federation of Labour and was their president for many years and helped make the American work force one of the highest paid in the world.


Ironically, another American named Sam, Sam Walton created an outlet for merchandise that is mainly made in non-unionized countries with low standards of living and deplorable work conditions with no benefits, which has led to some North American suppliers close their factories here and ship jobs off-shore. Go figure.


Something to think about as you chow down on chicken and tater salad at a Labour Day picnic. In honor of labour day, here's a few videos with an obvious theme that relates to the nature of this much welcomed holiday.














Thursday, September 3, 2009

Retro Video of the Day - Sweet Dreams / Pop Muzik

In keeping with the MTV theme from the posting the other day here's two examples of videos that kind of show how quick some artists realized what a powerful media videos could be in giving their music a whole new dimension and got pretty serious about producing a quality video to go along with the song.

Eurythmics came on the scene with "Sweet Dreams" in the early 80s and as if Annie Lennox's incredible voice wasn't enough, you also got the cool visual imagery to accent the song and really solidify the mood and feeling it produced whenever you heard it afterwards. The images of the video made you think how it all connected to the song and it stayed with you. (Having said that - what's with the cow in the video?)





By contrast, Pop Music by "M" (pronouned "Ehmm" - yeah, I'm kidding) was so hokey that it almost seems like a parody produced in someone's basement. Everything from the cheap set to the seizure like dance routines make this video so bad it's actually good. This song was a hit but I hope the dude didn't spend all the money in one place - he sure as heck didn't spend it on the video!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Want My MTV - To Start Playing Music Videos Again

There was a time when having your song played on the radio in a regular rotation was the most critical aspect of music promotion. Getting on the air in major markets was paramount to success. It was all about the quality of the music and vocals, there was substance, there was talent, you didn't have to be pretty or ruggedly handsome to have a hit record. Then it all went hell. Well, not at first.




In 1981, Music Television went on the air in the U.S. and single handedly changed the way music was marketed and promoted virtually overnight. MTV was the brainchild of Warner Communications and American Express, who funded Warners' cable business but wanted a commercial outlet to reach the teen and young adult markets who traditionally have high disposable income.

When Warner and Amex gave the go ahead for the channel, the timing couldn't have been worse. In the late 70s, record companies were hurting and looking to cut costs and one of the first things on the chopping block were music videos which were being produced for late night TV and specialty shows and were mainly filler on local channels.

At the time, videos were never really considered a necessity and some of the more avant garde artists like David Bowie and Talking Heads were using them as an artistic extension of their music but most bands were simply churning out performance videos either as concert footage or hokey and staged performances that they lip synched badly too. The consensus amongst the record companies was that videos had a negligible impact on sales. At the time they were probably right.

The race to get the channel on the air in 1981 was on before record execs completed their 1982 operating budgets. Before deciding on Music Television, MTV was almost dubbed TV-1 and TV-M for Television Music which really didn't roll of the tongue to well so it was switched around and the young channel found it's name. Now that they had a name, they went out and tried to get their hands on as many videos as they could. So how many videos did they have in their library on launch day? A whopping 250.

Original MTV VeeJays


Some record companies like MCA and Polygram flatly refused to be a part of the channel and didn't provide any videos at all. The channel struggled to convince the companies that videos would help promote the artists and boost their record sales. Because of the fact that many record companies were slow to get on board, the video cupboard was kind of bare and heavily stacked towards certain artists. For example, thirty of the 250 videos on hand were Rod Stewart videos. Regardless, MTV figured once they showed some minor signs of success, the record companies would come around. So on August 1, 1981 MTV launched with its first video, the prophetic (yes, I'm talking about you Christopher Cross) "Video Killed The Radio Star" by the Buggles.

It didn't really catch on with the cable companies at first. Their now infamous, "I want my MTV!" campaign changed all that and had thousands of people literally screaming the phrase to local video companies convincing them to add the new channel to their roster and it quickly swept across the U.S. and was making money by 1984. The influence it had on pop-culture was undeniable.

Christopher Cross- great face for radio

It was no longer good enough to have a good song as a musician, you had to have a look and a photogenic (videogenic? is that even a word?) face to make it. Network television took notice and tried to compete with shows like ABC Rocks and NBC's Friday Night Videos but MTV was 24/7 music videos and nobody was doing that.

MTV had its share of controversy as well. For one thing, they refused to play " Billie Jean" or anything else by Michael Jackson saying that "R & B" wasn't what MTV was all about similar to why Country music wasn't being played on MTV either. Ironically, Canada launched its music channel, Much Music, with "Billie Jean" as the first video they played. Upon closer inspection of the playing rotation for February 1983, MTV only had two videos being played that featured black artists: Tina Turner and the dude from The English Beat. MTV was given the ultimatum of either play "Billie Jean" or no more videos from CBS and their associated record labels. Obviously they caved and "Billie Jean" not only became iconic, but it changed the way most videos would be made going forward. It raised the bar to what a video can be - a visual representation of the song, not just a lip-synced, pseudo concert performance.

The second video aired on MTV

MTV did come around though. Four years later they launched "Yo! MTV Raps" and helped turn rap and hip-hop into the mainstream genre that it is today. Some of the other classic programming they provided over the years include their "Unplugged" acoustic series, Beavis and Butthead, Total Request Live (TRL), along with their various award shows. Along the way though they did lose sight of their roots and moved away from playing music videos to providing reality programming like Punk'd, The Real O.C., A Shot At Love, The Hills, The Ashley Simpson Show (Editor's note: sweet baby Jesus, make it stop), The Surreal Life, The Osbournes, Pimp My Ride and a host of others that are numbing our children's brains and providing zero cultural significance and making us all a wee bit shallower and dumb..........but I digress.

It's interesting to wonder how many artists from the 80s and 90s would have even seen the light of day in North America if it wasn't for the musical vehicle that was MTV.