Showing posts with label 1955. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1955. Show all posts

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Colorfully killed by irony

Remember the old sitcom, Norby?

No, me neither.

Norby, from the creator of the somewhat better-remembered show Mister Peepers,  ran on NBC for exactly four months in 1955. It's notable for being the first sitcom to have every episode filmed in color.

All 13 of them.

David Wayne starred in the show, one of the first regular series in the then-new "compatible color" format on network TV. It was sponsored by Eastman Kodak -- which wanted to sell color movie film just as much as NBC wanted to sell color TV sets for parent company RCA -- and was "Photographed on Eastman Color Film."

Color sitcom on a network that wanted to showcase the newest big thing -- color -- and a photography behemoth that wanted to move Kodacolor . . . what's not to love?

WELL, this is where the irony comes in.

What wasn't to love? The cost. Kodak hated how much it cost to sponsor and film Norby on Eastman Color Film a lot more than it loved trying to sell color film to the 99.9 percent of TV viewers who, alas, could only see the show in lifeless monochrome instead of living color. Remember, in early 1955, an RCA console color TV would set you back $898 in non-devalued American currency.

That would be, not to put too fine a point on it, $7,955.03 in 2016 cash money.

And, friends, there we have it. The first all-color sitcom in TV history was killed by irony -- it just cost too bloody much.

All because it was in color.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ads that will embarrass y'all in 60 years

For the hell of it, I've been going through some mid-1950s editions of Television magazine, immersing myself into an archival wayback machine.

Trade advertising was fascinating then -- at least to me -- sometimes dry, sometimes cute, occasionally  sophisticated . . . and too often, through the clarifying lens of 2015, horrifying.

Let's just say my little "wayback" exercise is a quick and effective manner of coming to grips with how a culture you were reared in -- and, frankly, didn't think much about at the time because people never see the forest for the trees -- actually was pretty horrifying in many ways.

IN THIS CASE, looking back at 1955 and 1956 through the lens of a television camera, we see a culture that was both deeply racist, quick to stereotype and completely hung up on the glories and nobility of "the Lost Cause." We see a culture dedicated to whitewashing (both literally and figuratively) its defining narrative and embracing an identity that you could sum up as They Who Give the Finger to the Yankees.

The South's past: Not forgotten because it's not really past.

Of course, to be fair. one Minnesota TV station had a trade ad touting itself via the ugg-a-mug stereotypical language of the American Indian, but you have to admit that the South set the standard for casual bigotry in the United States. We Southerners leave our subtlety at the door.

NOW, this has me thinking about matters not of the past but of the future.

My wondering goes something like this: When future generations of Americans -- or whomever -- look through the cultural output of post-millennial America, what things will horrify them that we hardly think about at all? Which of our cultural assumptions will testify against us and our age?

You know, sort of like watermelon-eating black children, branding yourself with the Confederate battle flag or the "gallantry" of Nathan Bedford Forrest?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Que sera, sera

You never know what's going to end up on the ol' phonograph in the 3 Chords & the Truth studio.

Last night, it was this 1955 LP by Doris Day. Tomorrow night, it could be Waylon Jennings. Who knows? Certainly not yours truly.

What I do know is that, sooner or later, it'll all end up on the Big Show. Keeps life -- and listening -- interesting, it does.

You'd be shocked, shocked to learn how much of the music on the program comes from where I find a lot of the good stuff. That would be estate sales and Goodwill, where lots of albums and singles that never found their way to CDs or downloads sit waiting to be rediscovered and loved anew.

AND WHILE I enjoy these vintage sounds in the comfort of the studio, I find I'm also getting a lesson in how tempus keeps fugiting at an alarming rate. For example, Miss Day's Day Dreams album came out in 1955, a mere six years before I came on the scene.

As an ambivalent member of the Baby Boom generation, that doesn't seem much like ancient history. But then I do the math and see that 1955 was 59 years ago. In my mind, 1955 is the day before yesterday, even though I wasn't born yet.

But in 1955, Doris Day was 31 years young. Now she's 90.

So listen up, kiddies, and listen good. It could happen to you -- and it probably will. I know, year by year, it's happening to me.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'50s sound: It's a thing of renown

What happens when you play a 1958 pressing of a 1956 LP on a 1955 Webcor record changer? Something like this.

What you see and hear here is the real deal. And it's a lot more fun than an iPod. Or iTunes. Or even an iYiYi.

(Yes, there is such a product.)

The first part of the audio is from the crappy microphone on my Nikon digital camera. Then I fade into the WAV file being recorded of the Les Brown LP on the studio computer. The audio file has been synched to the video.

This is what it really sounds like, folks. I did absolutely nothing to the audio other than adjust the volume.

Compact discs, my foot.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy your visit to the world of 1950s high fidelity. Up next, Les Brown and His Band of Renown with "Meanwhile, Back on the Bus" off of the Capitol Records album "Les Brown's in Town."

And note, please, that hipsters today are paying $28 for 180-gram LPs that fall far short sonically of what was the $2.98 norm in the 1950s and '60s.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hang on to your hats

Now that I have this new addition to the 3 Chords & the Truth studios, God only knows what's going to start showing up on the Big Show.

"This" is a 1955 Webcor component record changer. Back then, this would have been part of your expensive and cutting-edge "hi-fi system."

I just call it my "midlife crisis" purchase.

But now that I can play 78 RPM records in the studio just like anything else (in glorious monophonic sound, might I add) . . . watch out.

Is what I'm saying.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.