I recently resumed the Music Class I teach for teenagers at the Lighthouse International. One of the items we will discuss and listen to this week is Billboard's Top Ten Songs of the last fifty years (August 1958 through July 2008). This extraordinary chart (the online version is complete with embedded videos) is the result of compiled sales and radio play data and serves as a condensed survey of American taste over half a century. From The Beatles to LeAnn Rimes, this list does not represent what is good but rather what is popular. Staggeringly popular. But beware: the most-represented decade in the top ten is the nineties with four entries, and they're probably all songs you'd prefer to forget. But like it or not, these songs have delighted (or assailed) more ears than you can likely fathom. The number one most popular song of the last fifty years is Chubby Checker's 'The Twist;' below is a video of that vampire Dick Clark introducing Chubby during the dawn of the sixties. The novelty dance that accompanies a hit pop song is still in vogue; only these days instead of doing The Twist, we lean back or brush our shoulders off.
Today, the Photoplay boys and I had a helluva lot of fun participating in a film production helmed by our friend Cory McAbee (the production was also recently mentioned on Cory's blog, The Smallest Star). I'll post more details about the project when Mr.McAbee does, but for now, watch this trailer for his previous film, The American Astronaut. The film is an exuberant "musical space western" that overflows with surreal humor and stunning black-and-white imagery. Mr.McAbee not only wrote, directed, and starred in the film, but he's an accomplished visual artist and musician as well. That's an awful lot of creative ambition and I admire it. I'm quite curious to see what he's got in store for the future.
This cover design for hip-hop artist Busdriver is beautiful - or "beauteous," as my former illustration professor Alan Reingold used to say. Epitaph credits the album artwork to Seripop. Also check out Seripop's blog.
Click image to enlarge.
Barack Obama scored endorsements from The Denver Post and the Miami Herald Saturday, two major newspapers in key battleground states.
“Republicans love to mock Obama's history as a community organizer," said The Denver Post. "But here was a man with no money to offer, no patronage to dispense, no way to punish his opponents. All he could do was to work with people from all walks of life, liberals and conservatives, business people and the unemployed, and bring them together in common cause for a better community. Could there really be better preparation to reunite a worried and divided America to again pursue our 'more perfect union'?"
When I saw that documentary about the four year-old girl whose paintings made her a star in the art world, I thought, "Gee, the art world couldn't get any more exciting than this! No wonder the state of contemporary art is such a vital topic of discussion in most American homes!" Turns out I spoke too soon, 'cuz check out this newcomer who just burst onto the scene! That precocious tyke can fuck off, cuz I've got a new favorite artist!
And you thought contemporary advertising was crass and insulting.
This week, a new exhibit of antique cigarette ads called Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking opens at The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library's Healy Hall (188 Madison Avenue). I've just become addicted to Mad Men and this exhibit represent a startling period of advertising history that the show addresses directly as well. The exhibit is also represented in an extremely dense and thorough online gallery.
Say it's presents, dear God, please say you mean presents...
According to the site, the exhibit intends to tell "the story of how, between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, tobacco companies used deceptive and often patently false claims in an effort to reassure the public of the safety of their products." Two particularly savory slogans from the ads include "It’s a psychological fact: Pleasure helps your disposition" (Camel) and "Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboros."
One particularly thoughtful function of the exhibit is the 'Then and Now' gallery, which contrasts ads of decades past to current ones. Some are nearly identical. Take these two ads, which advocate that age-old trick of blowing toxic smoke in your girl's face to turn her on.
Click image to enlarge.
Much like Mad Men, these images portray a time when the act of buying and selling a product was vastly different then it is now (although our willingness to be told what we want to hear hasn't changed much at all). But more than anything else, these advertisements represent a time when it was okay to hope you'd find a couple dozen cartons of Viceroys under the tree on Christmas morning.