Saturday, January 28, 2012

Whatever Happened to TV Show Themes?

"Sunday Monday, happy days! Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days! Thursday Friday, happy days! The weekend comes, my cycle hums, ready to roll to you!"

"Well, we've movin' on up (movin' on up) to the East side (movin' on up.) We finally got a piece of the pie!"

"Thank you for being a down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidante."

If you were a child of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, I'm sure that like me you can still sing dozens of TV show themes by heart, and no doubt you can name which shows the ones above came from. These and other great songs added to my enjoyment of equally great TV programs, many of them comedy sitcoms. Even instrumental openers--like on Taxi--are still quite memorable.

That's why I'm wondering why we rarely hear an opening original theme for today's shows. Not so much dramas like Mad Men which feature an original score, but the half hour comedy sitcom. Many don't seem to have any opening at all other than flashing the credits. One exception is The Big Bang Theory which features a theme written and performed by the Barenaked Ladies for the show, so kudos to them. However, will people still remember and sing it decades from now?

Is it Hollywood's laziness and growing lack of imagination that has contributed to the theme song's demise? It seems that opening TV themes started to disappear around the same time as the advertising jingle went AWOL--about a good 10-15 years ago. This was right around the time reality TV shows started to get popular. Whatever the reason, I miss the creativity. 

Here's some of my favorite opening TV show themes. What are yours--and why do you think they're so rare today?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mah Na Mah Na, The Muppets, and Italian Soft Porn

Just before the holidays, Slate reported on this story but it seemed to slip under the radar. All these decades, it seems the Muppets were keeping a secret from us: they're familiar with soft porn Italian film soundtracks. You know that song Mah Na Mah Na? Well, if you don't recognize it from the The Muppets, then you might recognize it from The Benny Hill Show...but after learning about its origins, I can understand why Benny was fond of the ditty. It first appeared in a 1968 Italian sexploitation film about Sweden called Sweden: Heaven and Hell, which explores various sexual activities. Here's a clip from the movie that features the song--and a bevy of Swedish women in a sauna. For those of you who are fans of Retrospace, I'd say these women are about 2 minutes of screen time away from having pancakes*.

Mah Na Mah Na was written by Italian composer Piero Umiliani and was a minor hit in a few countries--it peaked at 55 on the American Billboard singles chart in 1969. That same year, it was first heard on Sesame Street, as sung by a shaggy male Muppet backed by two girl Muppets. Later the girls would be replaced by alien like creatures called Snouths.

Thanks to Jim Henson's love of catchy European tunes, Mah Na Mah Na would become one of the most infamous songs in the Muppets' catalog. And thanks to retro pop culture trivia, we may never look at the song in the same way again!

*See Retrospace for pancake explanation.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 1972...Or WTF, I'm Forty?!?

It isn't that often that I mention personal accomplishments on this blog; it's better served showing you pictures of bell bottom pants. But today I turned 40 years old, and I'm not sure why, but it seemed relevant to mention it. A few weeks ago, I wasn't in love with the upcoming milestone. I understood why Jack Benny kept his age at the perpetual 39. But now that it's actually happened, I don't feel any different than when I turned 30 (and where the heck did those past ten years go, anyway?) Sure, there are some things in life that I wish had happened by now (ahem, finding my life partner) but there's been a lot of incredible things that have happened the past four years or so that previously didn't seem possible. I can honestly say that I've never been as happy and confident in my entire life as I am now. I discovered my love for a newer area of marketing--social media--and I finally feel like my writing has taken off the past few years. Last year I posted about how women in their 40s in this day and age have a somewhat more positive experience and are viewed by society differently than women who lived through their 40s in the 60s and 70s. Yes, life is good and continues to get interesting and more fulfilling. 

But I'm sure you don't want to hear me jabber on about...well, me. For fun, I thought I'd pull together some key facts about January 1972, the month and year I was born:

*The song topping the music charts was Don McLean's American Pie.
*Gas cost 55 cents a gallon (yikes!)
*The cost of a first-class stamp was 8 cents. 
*The average cost of a new house was $27,550.
*The first Star Trek convention was held in New York.
*All in the Family was the top rated show, followed by The Flip Wilson Show.
*Life cereal had a popular commercial with the famous line, "He likes it! Hey Mikey!"
*The Godfather was a few weeks away from winning the Oscar for Best Motion Picture. 
*The Dallas Cowboys were a few weeks away from being the Superbowl VI champs. 

Famous people who share my birthday: Janis Joplin (yeah!), Dolly Parton, and Robert Palmer. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what my 40s are going to bring. If Go Retro goes quiet the rest of this month, I've just been extremely busy. On that note, I'm planning on a small surprise here for the month of February. Nothing earth shattering, just going to slightly change things up a bit for next month. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vintage Thrush Ads: Ladies Love Your Exhaust Pipe

Thrush has been making mufflers and exhaust parts for vintage automobiles and hot rods since 1966, but in my opinion the best part of their history are their old advertisements from the 70s and 80s. Before I show them to you, let me just remind everyone that "Thrush" sounds a lot like "thrust." Thrush is also the name of a yeast infection that people can get in the mouth and throat or on their tongue. Take out two letters and you have the word "tush." I'm just saying. I truly mean no disrespect to the Thrush company, but just thought I'd point that out.

The ads are spectacular; laden with double entendres and subliminal imagery. The agency who dreamed up this theme wasn't stupid; everyone knows that sex appeal sells. I wouldn't expect anything less from the testosterone laden 70s. 

I found most of these ads scanned on Flickr by a user named trebomb. I must give credit where credit is due! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

That (60s) Girl

I'm not a heterosexual man or a lesbian, but I do know this: I think that of all the decades, women of the 60s were the most beautiful. Over and over again, guys usually have something positive to say on video clips featuring Rachel Welch, Jane Fonda, Shirley Bassey and anyone else who was somebody during the 60s. That is not to say that the 50s, 70s and 80s didn't have attractive, sexy humans of the female persuasion, but when it comes to choosing a classic look that would still be right at home even in 2011, I think the 60s women have it nailed (for her debut this week on CBS This Morning, Gayle King looked very 60s in a yellow and black colorblock dress and heavy eye makeup.) I tried to dissect what made 60s women so appealing, and I came up with these reasons:

For both men and women, hair got longer and more finger friendly (meaning it could actually move because it was free of sticky/greasy styling products more often) during the 60s. While some gals opted for pixie cuts (a la Mia Farrow and Twiggy), a mod bob designed by Vidal Sassoon, hairspray coated bouffants and beehives or afros (all of which looked marvelous), the classic look that immediately comes to mind when I think of the 60s decade is hair that falls to or past the shoulders with heavy, eye framing bangs. I could be wrong, but I tend to think that most men still prefer long hair on women, and the 60s certainly provided them with plenty of that.

In the 60s, makeup was all about the eyes, and I greatly admire anyone who could artfully apply the mod looking/cats eye makeup in the 60s--because I've been attempting it myself (sans the fake lashes) with varying results! In my opinion, it's still a classic makeup look, especially when paired with pale lips. On the other end of the makeup spectrum were the ladies who preferred to go au natural--like Joan Baez--and still looked beautiful.

"Sexy, Not Slutty"
I've seen this comment left plenty of times on YouTube by guys when reminiscing about sexy starlets and singers of the 60s. Sure, this decade gave us the miniskirt, hot pants, and bikini, but most gals knew the meaning of modesty--if they were going to show off their legs in a short skirt, they usually revealed little else. Today, it's all about showing too much skin and leaving very little to the imagination. Sixties women knew how dress sexy and look classy, not trashy. 

On that related note, I love women's fashion from the 60s the best compared to other decades. From Mad Men-esque curvy suits and dresses to colorful space age inspired clothes to the maxi dresses in the age of Aquarius, there was something for everyone in the era, and it all looked groovy. By contrast, many fashion trends of the 70s and 80s leave us scratching our heads and saying, "What were we thinking?"

Did I miss anything?

Monday, January 09, 2012

The More Things Change...

Happy New Year! I have not forgotten about Go Retro; I've just gotten busy again with two jobs and I'm almost done with a new post that will hopefully go out this week. In the meantime, I saw the following clip shared on Facebook last week and found it very moving because it's still relevant in the year 2011. It's from the 1940 Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator (combined with more modern footage.) This speech takes place at the end of the movie and some believe it's one of the greatest ever captured on film. I certainly thought so.

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