Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Rock and Roll Band Logos

Both logos came from
The Beatles and The Rolling Stones: some might say there was rivalry between two of the biggest and most successful bands in rock and roll history, but I always believed they had nothing but mutual respect for each other. I also like to sum up their styles by pointing out that The Beatles' music was about love while The Stones' music was about sex, and that might also be apparent in their infamous logos. I love both groups and have admired the design of each of their brands, so I thought it might be fun to take a look at each to learn the origins of them. 

First, The Beatles. It's interesting that Ringo can be attributed to some of the more quirky tidbits of Beatles history; he coined the phrase "a hard day's night" which became the name of The Beatles' first feature film and corresponding song. He's also responsible, in part, for the manifestation of the logo, which made its debut in 1963 but still looks quite contemporary today. In fact, the logo doesn't really follow any highly recognizable fonts of the late 50s/early 60s, which keeps it timeless--just like The Beatles' music. 

The logo came about when Ringo Starr and Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager, visited a London drum store called Drum City in April 1963. Ringo originally had his heart set on an all-black drum kit, but was quite taken with a swatch of Ludwig's new oyster black pearl finish on the front desk. It was only available on the Ludwig brand of drums and the store's owner, Ivor Arbiter, had one Ludwig Downbeat kit with the finish in stock, for the hefty price tag of £238.

Epstein balked at the price. He offered to trade in Ringo's old drum set for the Ludwig set. Arbiter agreed on the condition that the Ludwig logo appear on the bass drum, as he recently had struck a deal between the manufacturer and his store. Epstein counter negotiated that The Beatles' name had to appear on the bass drum as well. 

That led to Arbiter quickly sketching out an impromptu logo for the band--featuring an elongated "t" to emphasize the word "beat" in Beatles. Amazingly, Arbiter was paid only £5 for his graphic design work--a logo that was soon to become famous the world over. A local sign maker named Eddie Stokes perfected the design and painted it onto the drum kit.

Photo taken by Gordon Baer, via
The Beatles' logo, now on the new drum set, made its debut during the filming of Thank Your Lucky Stars, which the Fab Four were appearing on. By the time they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show almost a year later, Ringo had yet another new Ludwig drum set, with the logo appearing slightly heavier. Ringo would use seven different drum heads between 1963 and 1967, and is rumored to still own the original that he acquired through Drum City.

So maybe Ringo wasn't responsible per say for the design of the logo, but if it hadn't been for the drum mishap, who knows how it might have been interpreted differently. It's clean, basic, classic and instantly recognizable. Needless to say I think Mr. Arbiter got gypped! Here's a really great news clip on the story of Ringo's drums and how The Beatles' logo came to fruition:

The Rolling Stones' logo may be a contrast of sorts compared to The Beatles--for starters, it's a symbol, not incorporating the name of the band or any letters for that matter. Where The Beatles' logo is black, The Stones' is red, a color indicative of passion and energy. It's also a depiction of one of the most sensuous and sensitive parts of the human anatomy, the mouth. Right away I think you can see where we're going with this...

Variation of the logo from RockWriteListen
The "Tongue and Lip Design" as it was named was created for the band a little later than The Beatles' logo--in 1970 by the graphic artist John Pasche. Pasche was an art design student at the Royal College of Art the time, and Mick Jagger approached him to create a logo after being disappointed with the designs that Decca Records presented to the band, to be used on The Stones' new label. Pasche was clearly inspired not only by pop culture at the time, but by the size of Jagger's pout:

"I wanted something anti-authority, but I suppose the mouth idea came from when I met Jagger for the first time at the Stones’ offices. I went into this sort of wood-panelled boardroom and there he was. Face to face with him, the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth."

But it also goes a little deeper than that. The tongue is said to represent the Hindu goddess Kali, the goddess of everlasting energy. That may have been a prophetic element, as The Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

I also think the timing of this logo's debut is worth noting; it's far too suggestive for the Kennedy era and would have caused a controversy had it been created in 1963. As it was, by 1970 we were in the throws of the sexual revolution. 

The Stones were a little more generous in paying for the creation of their logo; Pasche received £50 initially, but the group was so pleased with the results that they gave him an additional £200 as a bonus. In 2008, the V and A Museum purchased Pasche's orginal drawings of the logo at auction for over £50,000. 

Throughout the years, the tongue portion of the logo has received graphical treatment from other artists, who have incorporated the Union Jack, American flag, and other elements into the design.

These two awesome logos for two awesome bands have endeared through the decades and are instantly recognizable. What are your favorite logos in music history?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Retro Product Fail #8: The Blythe Doll

Photo via mydollies4 on Flickr
Open your eyes to the world of Blythe! The Blythe doll, introduced by Kenner in 1972, was either really cool or really creepy looking depending on your perspective. With an oversized head and equally oversized eyes (sort of an early protege of the Bratz dolls), Blythe's appeal was that you could dress her in different outfits and change her eye color and expression by pulling the string on the back of her head. Probably not something you'd want to play with if you were high on certain substances, as Blythe looks freaky enough to the un-stoned.

Personally, I think she looks like Christina Ricci, Michelle Bachman's Time cover portrait, or the woman who became known as "the runaway bride" a few years ago. They all have what I like to call crazy eyes. Apparently, other people back in 1972 felt the same way because Blythe only lasted a year in the United States and Australia. Here's one of the original commercials, with a theme song so indicative of the times (it sounds like the lead singer of Blood, Sweat and Tears singing):

Blythe was all but forgotten until the year 1997, when a photographer and TV producer named Gina Garan received a vintage Blythe doll as a gift, and she eventually became an overnight hit in Japan. According to Wikipedia, this is how Blythe's popularity got resurrected:

She began taking her Blythe everywhere with her and took hundreds of photos. In 1999, she was introduced to CWC's Junko Wong by artist and illustrator, Jeffrey Fulvimari which brought Blythe to the attention of Parco and toy executives. In 2000, Gina published her first book of Blythe photography with Chronicle Books, This is Blythe. In 2001, Hasbro (the Trademark and License owner) gave TakaraJapan and CWC a license to produce the New Edition of Blythe (Neo Blythe). Blythe was used in a television advertising campaign by Parco, the fashion branch of Seibu Department Stores in Japan and was an instant hit.

If you own an original Kenner Blythe doll, they're worth a bit of money--as of this posting, eBay has one listed with a current bid price of $1,850. In 1972 the doll was available with one of several hairstyles in the U.S.: a brunette with bangs, a sidepart brunette, a darker brunette with thinner bangs, a sidepart blonde, a red head with bangs, and a sidepart redhead. Twelve different outfits were available as well as colored wigs. 

Now that I've gotten an education on Blythe myself, I think the doll is kind of cool--definitely very quintessential 70s with the clothing, hair, eye feature and creepiness factor. Any of my readers ever own one? If you're interested in the modern day Blythe, you can check out the official website here

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Land of the Lost TV Series #3: Love Connection

On this Valentine's Day, I thought we'd take a look back at one of my favorite daytime shows of the 80s and 90s, Love Connection, the show where "old fashioned matchmaking meets modern technology." Love Connection was the 80s' answer to the 60s' hit The Dating Game. Where The Dating Game focused on the matching of couples and leaving it at that, Love Connection recounted what actually went on during a date, often making for a more interesting and hilarious show.

Hosted by the dashing Chuck Woolery (who, let's face it, probably had more of the single women on the show drooling over him than the male contestants they had to pick from), Love Connection would bring out a contestant onto the stage who was single or divorced, and show the audience video clips of three possible matches that the guest had previously reviewed (in this case, "modern technology" meant video dating.) The live studio audience would then vote on which of the three potential dates the contestant should go out with. Woolery would reveal which person the contestant actually chose, and that person would come on the screen to help provide a recap of the date. If the date didn't go well, the contestant had the option of going out with the person the audience chose, if they did indeed make a different pick.

You never knew when sparks were going to fly between the couple, but you can probably guess which type of date made for the most entertaining episodes: the bad ones. More often than not, cupid's bow missed the target. I'll never forget the Czechoslovakian guy with a greasy looking combover and turtleneck who thought he was the Eastern European Don Juan. Part of the show's charm, however, is that it featured real people (mostly in their 20s, but occasionally singles in their 40s or older would get a shot at love.) The fact that the show was watched by millions of people didn't stop guests from openly bashing their dates on national television, as in the case of this mullet wearing dude in this particular clip below. It truly is a treat to watch 80s clips of the show, to think that some of the hair and clothing styles actually turned people on. 

Not every match-up on the show was a failure. According to Woolery, there were a total of 29 marriages, 8 engagements, and 15 children attributed to Love Connection by 1993. Keep in mind nearly 22,000 couples had met through the show by this point, so that's not the most impressive ROI! Here's one of those couples who actually did walk down the aisle:

Love Connection originally ran from 1983-1994. In 1998, the show returned with a new host, Pat Bullard, and this time allowed viewers to help vote for a contestant's date online. The new version of the show was short-lived, however.

I think what Love Connection proved is that love is not always easy to find, and there's no easy formula to making a match. But compared to cheesy fake dating shows like The Bachelor? I'd take Love Connection anytime.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Half the Fun is Wearing Them

And the other half is making fun of men who wear them.

I've had painfully little time to update the blog lately, but I should be getting back up to speed in a few weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Whitney Houston by linking back to this post I wrote about her a year and a half ago. How sad and ironic that one of my readers heard a rumor years ago that she had passed away. Such a shame--I'll always have fond memories of that concert I saw on a nice summer's night in 1986.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Old Timey Family Doctor

Growing up, my family--my parents, siblings, and I--all went to the same family doctor in town for general check-ups, injuries and ailments. Dr. McArdle could treat it all--he left the golf course one afternoon when I was an infant to give me a shot when I contracted measles. Five years later, I got a shot in the buttocks for a raging case of poison ivy, and it was cleared up within 24 hours. When a metal splinter got stuck in my brother's eye when he was working underneath a car, he came over the house to take it out. I never appreciated any of this until now, but Dr. McArdle was an amazing doctor, and he dispensed medicine with a gentle bedside manner and a dose of kindness. All of the years I can remember going to him, it seems my mother and I were never waiting long in the wait room. 

It's such a drastic difference compared to today. I don't want the comments for this post to turn into a raging political debate about insurance and pharmaceutical companies; I'm just trying to point out how difficult and stressful trying to see a doctor can be today compared to the 1970s. Doctors of the present day are seeing way more patients in the course of a day, which means they have less time to really listen to you as a person. The general practitioner will often refer you to a specialist for treatments they used to be able to do themselves. If you're lucky, you have insurance that allows you to see a specialist without their permission; if not, you must wait for their referral. Waiting rooms? Maybe they should be called wasting rooms, since you waste time sitting around for your turn, particularly in walk-in clinics and ERs. My mother waited for 8 hours in one a few months ago with an infected hand from a stray cat's bite, despite the walk-in clinic's reassurance that they had faxed the hospital the proper paperwork that would have gotten her admittance right away.

My mother also asked her present GP today for a pain shot for her bursitis, only to be told it can't be done by them and that she should see a specialist. She lamented that Dr. McArdle would have been able, and happy, to give her a shot with no problem. It's all about giving patients the runaround now. Sadly, the old time family doctor who went out of his way--who was allowed to go out of his way without insurance company red tape--is gone.

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