Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When Hawkeye Hawked Computers

Image via Mamecade

A computer/technology pioneer and the cast of a sitcom that never showed a single PC on the set during their run…a match made in advertising heaven!

According to an old L.A. Times article, the cast of M*A*S*H* replaced the Charlie Chaplin lookalike that IBM was previously using to promote their computers in the late 80s. The president of the agency that created the campaign said that M*A*S*H* was a natural fit for the new strategy because they represented teamwork. By the time these ads aired/ran, the popular show had been off the air for five years. Maybe the executives also felt that American consumers would appreciate seeing familiar faces to shill computing products. Then again, lots of celebs were showing up in computer print ads and commercials around this time...Bill Cosby for Texas Instruments, Bill Bixby and Tandy and William Shatner pitching Commodore were just some of the celebrity endorsements for computers during the 80s. Whatever the reason, the second commercial spot here looks like a M*A*S*H*/The Office....er, mashup:

A few years before this campaign, Alan Alda was the spokesman for Atari computer products. Is it just me, or is this commercial a little unsettling? What the heck is Alda doing dressing in a college boy's room, if he isn't his father? Shouldn't Hawkeye be checking out the girls' dorms?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Milkman Cometh

Image via Antique Automobile Club of America forums
The milkman: for those of us born after a certain time in America, we never got a visit from one...no fresh, cold milk waiting for us in glass bottles on the doorstep or in the milk chute every morning. But there was a time for many decades when regular milk delivery was a given. Milk delivery goes so far back that milkmen first delivered the goods by horse and wagon, before the automobile and milk trucks came along. Many people who did have milk delivered recall how the fat (cream) would rise to the top of the glass milk bottles and would be scooped out and eaten (yum!)

There was even a milkman-themed board game produced in the 1950s, called Merry Milkman by Hasbro. As you can imagine, the object was simple: the first player to deliver all of their milk to the neighborhood won the game!

Via image Northwest Leeds Tumblr
By the time I was born in the early 70s, the milkman had practically disappeared from American neighborhoods. It's not difficult to understand why--milk first got delivered at a time when homes didn't have refrigeration and needed to be consumed fairly quickly before it spoiled. In the 1950s and 60s, not only did households have refrigerators, but the first paper milk cartons were being produced, which were cheaper than the heavy glass bottles milk was first carried in. It also cost more money to have milk delivered then buying it at the local store. 

But the milkman may be making a comeback: in recent years I've seen news stories here and there about how the nostalgic love for milk (and food) delivery is keeping the milkman alive and well in some parts of the country. In Louisville, KY, Ehrler's Micro Dairy delivers milk, cheese, eggs and jam to customers three times a week. In one month alone, they delivered over 800 gallons of milk. 

A.B. Munroe Dairy of Providence, RI, is another company that provides milk delivery, mainly to the Southern New England area. They've been in business for over 130 years. 

And what about bigger city dwellers who crave home delivered milk? Manhattanites are in luck; Manhattan Milk, owned and operated by Matt Marone and Frank Acosta, deliver hormone-free milk and other goodies around the New York City vicinity. 

Interestingly, the milkman never faded away in Britain, where milk delivery remains a trend. As in the States, British milk producers/transporters have diversified their offerings to include yogurt and other foods available for home delivery. In India, milk delivery has never gone out of fashion. 

I'm not sure if I'd ever use a milk service myself--it's still pricier than visiting a store--but I do like the idea of a milk truck making early morning deliveries and keeping a small bit of nostalgia alive. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saxy Songs of the 80s

It must be the toughest gig these days to be a saxophone-playing session musician--you just don't hear them anymore in most mainstream music. One recent exception is Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" which featured the late Clarence Clemons. She gets an A for effort in my book, but the song still falls short of the memorable pop and rock tunes that prominently featured a sax--songs that all these years later we still remember for their sultry solos or melodies. 

It's so strange to me that saxophones have disappeared as a pop music trend, as they're hip and sexy. And I'm sure we all know that no other decade personified the sax like the 80s did. It seems like every other song on the radio back then featured a saxophone. As with all other lists, this one is purely subjective...but here are the songs that had (in my opinion) the most memorable saxophones... 

"You Belong to the City" -- Glenn Frey
I was a big Miami Vice fan in the 80s, even though I was too young to know what was going on in every episode--the opportunity to drool over Don Johnson was my main motivation for watching the show. That, and the flashy clothing, cars and music. Miami Vice probably had the best soundtrack of any drama on TV at the time, and I still have a my copy...on cassette! One track that still stands out is Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" because of the repeating saxophone riff throughout. Frey played all instruments on the song except for the sax...that was accomplished by studio musician Bill Bergman. 

"Urgent" -- Foreigner
This list wasn't put together in any particular order, but if I had to pick one top 80s saxophone song it would have to be Foreigner's "Urgent." Motown sax legend Junior Walker played on the album version (as did Thomas Dolby on synthesizer.) The whole song just screams sex and it wouldn't be the same without Walker's sax riff and scorching solo. 

"Careless Whisper" -- Wham!
A list of notable saxophone songs would not be complete without "Careless Whisper", a song which got overplayed both on the radio and MTV (and which Brooke Shields thought was about her after her breakup with George Michael--ha!) Michael was only 17 when he composed the song on a bus and thought up the sultry sax rift himself.

"Smooth Operator" -- Sade
What makes "Smooth Operator" stand out is the sax plays a starring role throughout the song, vs. just having a short solo--just like the character Sade is singing about; a rich, promiscuous playboy. Stu Mathhewman played sax on the studio recording and in the music video. 

"Maneater" -- Hall and Oates
Charles DeChant has been a band member of Hall and Oates since the 1970s, and actually plays several instruments including flute, guitar and keyboards. But he's mainly a saxophone expert and "Maneater" was a song that definitely let his sax skills shine. A song with a title like "Maneater" deserves a saxophone. Daryl Hall has said that the track at the time wasn't like anything else on the radio. It reached number one on the U.S. charts in 1982 and stayed there for 4 weeks. 

"True" -- Spandau Ballet
Steve Norman (also pictured at Live Aid at the top of this post) was Spandau Ballet's saxophonist, but didn't start with the band that way--he was originally a guitarist. By the third album he introduced the sax to the group's sound, lending a much-needed sax solo to their big hit, "True." 

"Rio" -- Duran Duran
British saxophonist Andy Hamilton played with several 80s bands including Wham!, Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran. He's the saxophone player we hear on the song "Rio" but in the music video, two members of Duran Duran mimic the playing: bassist John Taylor while on a cliff and keyboardist Nick Rhodes on a raft. Hamilton also contributed sax to another DD hit, "Union of the Snake."

"Who Can It Be Now?" -- Men at Work
Greg Ham from Men at Work played several instruments, but it's his saxophone playing on "Who Can It Be Now?" that no doubt made the song a hit and introduced the world to the new wave Australian band. 

There are dozens more songs out there and expanding the criteria here to include the 1970s would have brought Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to the list. What are your most memorable saxophone songs?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Seeking the Great Go Retro Scoop

Photo credit: Mathieu Meunier
I know this blog has been quiet of late…and it's going to be even quieter as I'm leaving for Washington D.C. on Thursday for a mini-vacation and to see the cherry blossoms in the nation's capitol. In the meantime, there's something that's been on my mind lately. Go Retro is now six years old and in all that time there is a type of post I would love to do which hasn't been accomplished yet and that's to interview somebody. That's right, I'm looking for a great scoop--so consider this an open call to find someone relevant to pop culture history who wouldn't mind answering a few questions for this blog. Some of the subjects I have in mind include:

*Someone who co-starred in a notable music video from the 80s who might have a story or two about the band/performer and the behind the scenes going-ons (I came close a few years ago when I almost got the woman who starred as Alice in Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" video, but she flaked on me. Pfffft. Her loss, right?)

*Someone who worked behind the scenes on a notable TV sitcom or variety show from the 60s, 70s or 80s.

*A former Playboy bunny who worked in one of the Playboy clubs

*A former go-go or backup dancer for any of those variety/music shows

*A roadie or groupie for a band/performer from the 60s, 70s or 80s

*Someone who worked for or had a close encounter with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or any other notable music group/performer from the era.

You get my drift. Anyone who has a good story to tell. If you or someone you know fits the bill, feel free to email me at GoRetro1@hotmail.com.

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