spider-man

Listen to over an hour of background music from the 1967 Spider-Man Animated Series

The music from the 1967 Spider-Man animated series is jazzy and catchy. Unfortunately the music has never been released in a format that would allow us to enjoy it completely. I often wondered what it would be like to capture the music from a series that never did a soundtrack, but I don’t have to wonder any longer. YouTube user, 11db11, went through the entire run of the series and attempted to capture the audio in its complete form, removing voice and sound effect when possible. This labor of love, which I imagine took a good amount of time, is over and hour-long and an addicting listen.

The music is credited to Jazz legend Ray Ellis. Ellis, who passed away in 2008 was a record producer, arranger and conductor. He is probably most famous among “serious” music fans for doing the orchestration for Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin (1958). That is all well and good, but I became an unknowing fan because of his work with Filmation.

Working under the pseudonym of Yvette Blais (his wife’s name) and George Blais, he and Norm Prescott composed most of the background music for cartoon studio Filmation from 1968 to 1982. Ark II, Space Academy, and Jason of Star Command owe their very original musical styling to this brilliant maker of music. So if you need something new (that is old) to enjoy, why not give the video above a listen. It is not a soundtrack release, but it is probably the closest we will ever get.

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ms-dos-5-upgrade-advert

This is how you sell an MS-DOS Upgrade

The MS-DOS 5 Promo Video with its memorable visuals and music stylings is pretty close to perfect as advertising. Now you might laugh at the notion, but consider this one important fact. It is decades later and we are still talking about it. Now it might not be in the same league as advertising classics like, “Where’s the beef?” or “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, but in my opinion this is still impressive.

This video was posted online a while ago, but last night I was up late watching it and really thinking about how to best describe the music. The best I could do was that it sounds like the music that results when you explain to a person who knows how to make music what “rap” music is, but they have never really heard it before. The results are these terribly clunky and overly literal rhymes that do not flow from well and are not catchy at all. Despite listening it repeatedly, I still cannot remember a full lyric, but instead I walk away with a general impression of what was said over the duration of the promo.

Now I am not saying that modern advertising should attempt to mimic this bit of history, but I sort of am. Why bother with the same old stale ads that we see again and again, when you could create an amateurish mashup of pop culture like an advertising mad scientist and have it stand the test of time? Think about it.

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Knight Rider Burnin’ Key Cars were Fearsome and Unmerciful

The Burnin’ Key Car concept was pretty simple. You get a small toy car and a key. Put the key in the small car. Give it a squeeze. Watch it go. If you loved toy cars in the eighties, you probably crossed paths with one and if you had a wide enough kitchen floor, or some other room without carpeting, you had a great time. If you had a fully carpeted home? Not so much. I cannot remember which of the Burnin’ Key Cars I had, they have long since disappeared from my life and my memory, but I know it was not the Knight Rider version, because with a toy car this fearsome, you never forget. Allow this commercial to explain.

No way I saw this mind-blowing as a kid. It looks like the type of commercial that was put together by people who had never seen Knight Rider, but imagined an end product that was so much more intense than the real thing. With words like Fearsome, awesome and unmerciful mixed with a sort of real version of the Knight Rider theme. It makes you wonder, what small child could resist this sleek black toy car? It also makes it obvious that I never saw this bit of advertising. If I had, I would own this Key Car.

If you take just one thing from this commercial though, let it be this…

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Podcast

Retroist Podcast – Episode 200 – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

On today show I talk about the film classic, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I start off talking about how lucky I was to see the movie as a kid and then how difficult it was trying to convince everyone that the movie was amazing when I none of them could ever see it. Then I talk about the movies itself. First I mention one of the biggest inspirations for the film, Doc Savage. After that I discuss the people in front of and behind the camera, the plot, the music, the film’s reception and much more.

This is my 200th episode and I want to thank everyone who keeps listening to the show. Your continued interest helps make this a lot more enjoyable to do.

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flying-in-style-01

Continental Airlines’ Club and Pub, because Air Travel used to be Amazing

Flying for most people is not enjoyable. It is cramped with little room to move around and most of the time you are just counting the seconds until you can get off the place. That was not always the case. During the Golden and Silver ages of air travel, people would treat air travel as an event. Something worthy of getting dressed up for and it was an experience meant to be savored. After all, you are flying thousands of feet off the ground above the clouds in one of humanity’s greatest achievement.

While this time has passed. Memories of it live on through the spoken word of people who witnessed it and the advertising that sold everyone on the dream.

In the 1970’s Continental Airlines was attempting to get people to fly and was making a push for their Club and Pub flights. This is a flight where…now get ready for this…they had a club AND a pub space on the plane. A place, that is not the bathroom, where you could stretch your legs, grab a drink and most importantly play video games!

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That is right, they had cocktail versions of PONG for your enjoyment while you socialized in comfort with your fellow passengers.

I doubt we will ever return to this storied age of air travel again, but I am happy that these artifacts exist to remind us that we do have the right to complain. Because when it comes down to it, sometimes things move backwards and the past could have nicer things than the present.

fun-fountain

Wonderful and Terrifying! The Fun Fountain by Wham-O

While most of us remember how magical and painful the Water Wiggle was, we don’t talk about Water Wiggles slightly less painful cousin, The Fun Fountain. This “fountain” consisted of a clown head shaped base that sprayed water at high pressure skyward and a clown hat that you placed over the stream. The water pressure would lift the clown hat skyward, levitating it just out of reach, and spraying everyone near it with an enjoyable drizzle of chilly hose water.

Some would say, “well that is fun?’ It was, but really it was just the start of things because like all good water toys from before the nineties, The Fun Fountain has a dark secret. It wasn’t just a stay cool toy, but was instead a game of Russian roulette, with each kid taking their turn passing through the stream. Do it fast enough and you could maybe get the water to reconnect with the hat and climb skyward again. Do it too slowly and the hat would come tumbling to the ground and you would be mocked for your slow-pokedness or worse, you would get bopped in the head by this hunk of plastic.

Now the thing is, it didn’t always hurt. Sometimes it was a glancing blow, but other times it hit you just in the right spot and if you caught a rough spot on the hat it could actually cut you and boy could that could close down the fun wet lawn time quickly.

Here is a commercial from the early eighties that shows the Fun Fountain in action. What you see in this ad is the fun the fountain offered, but believe me, there was a dark side to this amusement that took the shape of a wet clown hat of pain.

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Konami’s Track & Field or How I Failed as a Video Game Athlete

While we never had an arcade, several locations in my hometown when I was growing up had video games. Off the top of my head I can name six of them, although I am sure there were more. I made my rounds between those locations on foot and by bike almost daily. Not just to play the games, but often, when I was out of money, just to observe the gameplay and study how I might get better.

It was a big deal when a new game showed up and the news would rocket through the kid grapevine. I prided myself on being up on the most recent games, I especially liked being the first one to see and try a new game, and I dropped every extra quarter I could into games to try to get decent at them. When Konami’s Track & Field appeared at the newspaper store near the bank in the early summer on year in the 1980’s, I was out-of-town for the week, having gone to stay with my Uncle in the “country” or what passes for “country” in New Jersey. When I returned it was all people were talking about and I rushed downtown to check it out.

The corner of the store was absolutely electric. Kids were lined up to play Track & Field and the ones who were playing it were pounding on the buttons with an intensity I had never seen. Observing from a distance, I tried to gauge how to play. It looked pretty straightforward. You hit the buttons quickly, then you hit another button. How hard could this be. After waiting in line for about a half hour, I finally discovered how hard it could be. I was terrible. Terrible enough that it was embarrassing.

The first event in Track & Field is a race. All you have to do is hit the buttons in rhythm and go fast. First I couldn’t anticipate when the race should start, so I kept getting false starts. Then even when I got going, I just could not get a rhythm down to get my mustachioed athlete moving.

I went back early the next morning, before anyone else was there. I burned through a dollar in minutes and quickly realized something. I cannot keep rhythm.

I always knew that I was not musically talented, but this game confirmed that I had a real issue with it and even after years of trying to play the game, I still can’t maintain a beat that will drive me to victory.

As someone who prided themselves on their ability to at least get decent at video games, this has always stuck in my craw. Just this weekend, I was at a video game show and Track & Field was set to free play. So I parked myself in front of the game and attempted time and again to master the game. 90% of the time, I fail and when I don’t it is mostly just dumb luck. Video Games require different skills and in the case of Track & Field, it is a skill I just don’t seem to able to foster. Because of this, I find this game above all others, makes me fill like a kid again. Sitting there, studying other players, trying to master the very basics of the game until my hands and wrists are sore and red.

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I will probably never master Track & Field, but that’s okay with me. Everyone needs their unattainable goal – their white whale. For some it is a mountain they just can’t climb. For others it is a fear they need to conquer, but for me it is a quarter guzzling percussion game from 1983 featuring sports I don’t care about.