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Preserving the people, places, and things from the pop culture past...because some of us still believe in yesterday.

older | 1 | .... | 23 | 24 | (Page 25)

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    I don't know why so many homeowners in the 21st century seem to be afraid of color. Open a home magazine, and you're likely to see showcased interiors mostly painted in drab shades of grey lately. This was hardly the case in the late '60s and the '70s decade, when orange ruled the rooms. Granted, it would be overkill to have too much bright orange in a living space and most of these examples went overboard. But isn't it cheerier to have a pop of this sunny shade versus seeing white everywhere? Well, as a retro loving gal I certainly think so, and I'm sure most of my readers do, too. So here's a little collection of images I've dug up that highlight the popularity of orange; shades when viewing optional...












    Purrfect for just lion around (heh heh heh...see what I did there?) This is from a 1972 Spiegel catalog (the year I was born.)


    Is this supposed to be a sofa, bed, instant conversation pit, or all three? It appears to be part of the home since it has a built-in electrical outlet, but it's one of the coolest things I've seen. What's up with the hose, though? I guess you had to live in the '70s to know for sure.



    I love the handbag phone and the fish.



    Say what you want, but this sure beats the pink bathrooms that were popular during the 1950s.

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    Since launching Go Retro a good decade ago I receive many requests on a fairly regular basis from artists, musicians, businesses, and the like asking for free publicity on this site. You've probably noticed I've barely mentioned anyone through the years and there's a good reason for it: many of them simply aren't that talented. (Ouch, I know. But true.)

    However, when Josh Isn't reached out to me a few weeks ago and invited me to listen to some of his recorded tracks, I immediately KNEW he was more than deserving of someone sharing some love for him. Josh is a very talented young man and, as I told him in my reply to him, a bonafide double whammy: he looks a lot like John Lennon and sings more than an awful lot like one of the Wilson brothers...as in Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys. For real. In fact, if you close your eyes while listening to him you'd swear you were hearing the BBs themselves.


    For example, Josh took the 1962 Bobby Vee classic "Take Good Care of My Baby" (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) and gave it a Beach Boys-esque makeover. Have a listen, and let me know what you think!



    I know, right? Amazing vocals and arrangement! And as you can see, he plays all instruments on the cover.

    The Cleveland-based Josh Isn't (his last name actually isn't Isn't, ha ha, but Perelman-Hall) credits the Beatles for sparking his passion for '60s music. As a young teen until high school graduation he soaked up all things Beatles, and the Fab Four inspired him to learn guitar as well as several other instruments. He also fell in love with the 1950s doo-wop sound (as evident in his song choice above) but it was one particular album by the Beach Boys that really inspired his music career.

    "It took me until the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college to find out that The Beatles weren't the only group inspired by these songs," he told me. "The Beach Boys totally fit the bill for me, and hearing Pet Sounds changed my entire view of music. I identified with Brian Wilson and his desire to be creative within the confines of pop music. From then on, I knew that I had to spend my life making music, and that my goal would be to use creativity in the music the same way The Beach Boys had."

    Josh hasn't recorded an album yet, but he's obviously well on his way. Here's a few other tunes he's given the BB treatment to, including his latest cover of John Legend's "All of Me", which also contains some nice shades of his doppleganger, John Lennon, as well:




    Did I mention that Josh is only 22 years old? So there's proof that many millennials are doing more constructive things then taking the Tide Pod challenge!

    Josh isn't sure if any of the Beach Boys have heard his music but of course, hopes that one day they will. He doesn't have an official site yet, but you can follow Josh and his latest releases on his YouTube channel and Facebook page. Here's how Josh describes himself, by the way:

    Who is Josh Isn't? Josh Isn't is a 22 year old musician and video creator, taking much of his inspiration from the sounds of the 1960s, especially groups such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys. He uploads videos to his YouTube channel, all of which are creative covers with an accompanying video of him singing and playing all (well, most) of the instruments himself. 

    I hope my Go Retro readers out there will give Josh a listen and follow his channels for his latest updates. When he makes the big time you can say you saw and heard him here first! I wish him all the success in the world and believe he has a very bright career ahead of him. I can't wait to hear what he records next.


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  • 04/12/18--18:03: In Praise of Mayonnaise

  • May 5th is best known as Cinco de Mayo, but it also happens to be National Mayonnaise Day (mayo...get it?), a "holiday" that doesn't quite have the same notoriety as National Doughnut Day, National Chocolate Day, or any other of the bunch of food days that social media has taken to recognizing during the past decade or so. 

    We do have a National Condiment Day, but in my opinion mayonnaise deserves some standalone love. Why? Well, because it's tasty, it elevates your sandwich eating experience to a whole new level, and it's something of a technological wonder in the food world. 

    And, as if you couldn't tell, I love mayonnaise. Many people don't know this, but it's a condiment I could easily overdo and would put on a lot more foods if I wasn't concerned what people would think of me. I've heard that the Germans put mayo on their fries, which gets a big ja and thumbs up from me. And when I read Fergie's (the princess, not the singer) autobiography that came out in the 1990s, I distinctly remember her confession that one of her favorite guilty pleasure foods before her Weight Watchers transformation was potato chip and mayonnaise sandwiches, a delicacy which I confess I have not tried myself, but I have dipped chips directly into a mayo jar so I'm sure that counts. 

    Also, mayonnaise wasn't truly invented during the 21st century like I thought it was. That's surprising, given the plethora of 1950s and 1960s recipes that featured it; it even got mixed into gelatin molds (which is where I draw the line with my love of the creamy condiment.)


    In fact, mayonnaise is quite the vintage recipe, with origins dating back to the 18th century. According to the Hellman's website, mayonnaise was invented by the Duke de Richelieu's chef in 1756 when his boss was busy defeating the Brits at Port Mahon in Spain. The chef was going to whip up a sauce of cream and eggs to add to a celebratory feast but upon realizing he was out of cream experimented with olive oil as a substitute. He called his recipe salsa mahonesa which evolved into the more French sounding mayonnaise. 

    But not so fast; Wikipedia informs us that mayonnaise as a food name wasn't used until 1806 by Alexandre Viard, the author of a culinary encyclopedia. In that recipe version, aspic is used instead of an egg emulsion -- a deviation from the modern concoction we're used to. 

    Some food historians theorize that mayonnaise grew out of the simplest form aioli, a combination of garlic and oil. Making mayonnaise from scratch is pretty straightforward; you add a bit of oil to egg yolks and whisk rapidly so that the combination emulsifies. Then adding lemon juice or vinegar is where the magic of food chemistry happens, with the acid helping to bind the mixture and turn it into the familiar creamy spread.

    Hellman's, by the way, wasn't the first mass producer of commercial mayonnaise in the States. That honor goes to Amelia Schlorer, a Philadelphian who started selling her homemade recipe in glass jars in her family's grocery store in 1907. Schlorer's mayonnaise recipe was said to be the best among the community events and church functions she prepared food for.

    Soon, the Schlorer Delicatessen Company and was mass producing her mayonnaise, later becoming Mrs. Schlorer's (now owned by a food label called Good Food, Inc.) An advertising jingle heard in the greater Philadephia area during the next few decades helped popularize her brand -- and the use of mayonnaise (and may have also inspired more men to make their own sandwiches.)


    Hellman's mayonnaise came along a few years after Schlorer's success. It was first sold in 1913 out of Richard Hellman's New York deli. When its popularity began to take off he sold the deli and opened up a mayonnaise factory in 1915. Sales skyrocketed a few years later when the New York Tribune declared his brand of mayonnaise the best and noted its high concentration of oil. 

    By the mid century it seems mayonnaise had taken off in popularity and was being used in everything from dips to fried chicken. (I've also seen, but have not tried, chocolate cake recipes that call for mayonnaise as one of the ingredients.) Mayonnaise is also much loved in other countries, with Europe, Japan, Russia, and Chili among the world's top mayo connoisseurs. Japan's most popular mayonnaise brand is Kewpie, featuring that iconic vintage doll (on the bottle, not in the mayonnaise, ha ha) and is made with apple and malt vinegars which I've heard gives it a different taste than American brands.

    Now...what to say of Miracle Whip?

    Do you love or loathe mayonnaise? Have you found a creative use for it in a recipe? Share your thoughts below and let me know!

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    Some songs seem so ingrained in the decade in which they were recorded that it may come as a surprise to discover they're actually a cover version of an older song. Such was the case with Soft Cell's "Tainted Love", released in 1981. Given that we were hearing a lot of New Wave and/or British hits on the U.S. charts in the '80s, I assumed that the song was written at that time. It actually originated around the time of Beatlemania and Motown (don't blame me -- I can't be an expert on everything about the 20th century; I started this blog to learn as much as my readers!)

    Yep, we've all been living a lie..."Tainted Love" was recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964 and released in 1965 as the B-side of her single "My Bad Boy's Comin' Home." Both songs were considered commercial flops -- and it probably didn't help that "Tainted Love" was regulated to the B-side. It was written by Ed Cobb, a songwriter and music producer that went on to write or co-pen other hits such as "Dirty Water" by the Standells and "Heartbeat" by Gloria Jones. Cobb originally offered "Tainted Love" to the Standells, but they passed on it.

    Jones, by the way, is often most known for being the girlfriend of T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan up until his death in an automobile accident 1977 (Jones was driving the car and suffered severe injuries.) She was a member of T. Rex during the mid '70s and had a son with Bolan. But she also had serious songwriting chops, composing hits for The Supremes, Junior Walker, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and many other entertainers.

    Although "Tainted Love" failed to get any attention or airplay when it was first released, it found new life as a nightclub standard during the Northern Soul music craze of England in the 1970s. In fact the song was so popular among the Northern Soul crowd that Jones was declared the "Northern Queen of Soul."

    It was sometime during this time that Marc Almond, Soft Cell's lead singer, heard the song and expressed interest in recording a cover version. The band's producer, Mike Thorne, wasn't impressed with Jones' version; he considered it too "frantic" and more suited for a dance floor. So the song and tempo was slowed down and recorded in a different key to pair better with Almond's voice.

    As most of us know, the cover version was a huge hit, released as an A-side single in 1981 and reaching number one on the UK charts fairly rapidly (the highest it reached on the U.S. charts was number eight by 1982.) Extended versions of the song included a section of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go."

    After discovering Jones' version, I honestly have to say I prefer it over Soft Cell's. It has a jaunty Motown beat to it that is very reminiscent of "Good Thing" by the Fine Young Cannibals. And the original music video of Soft Cell's version is just plain bizarre and creepy. It seems the little girl in the video is perhaps the slave's/servant's child and the lead singer is taking out his woman's unfaithfulness on the innocent girl? Well, we'll never figure the '80s out. The re-released 1991 music video is not much better.

    The newfound popularity of "Tainted Love" led to more cover versions including one by Marilyn Manson and has also been sampled in Rihanna's "SOS."

    Here's Jones' version followed by Soft Cell's...let me know which one you prefer!





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    Image via Retromusings
    A good friend recently returned from a business trip, only to get struck down with some kind of bug or virus the day after. My initial thought was, "If only we were living in the 1950s this may not have happened."

    That's because there was a time when women wore gloves everywhere, even during the warmer months and while traveling; hence, there was a little bit of added protection against picking up a cold or flu virus.

    Needless to say, someone walking around today constantly wearing gloves -- especially during the summer  -- would be seen as a little cuckoo. But during the 1940s and '50s, gloves were an important fashion accessory for women. They weren't just sported on Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's but at parties, shops, church, job interviews, the theater, and other places.


    In fact, the trend didn't completely die off in some parts of the world after the 1950s -- I found the following comment on Quora speaking about ladies and gloves in the UK:

    The practice of smart, conservative women routinely wearing gloves in public was common in my part of England up to the 1970s, and had not completely vanished in the mid 1980s. They were regarding as an essential part of a well groomed woman’s engagement with the outside world. My wife, born in 1955, had a pair of gloves for every outfit - long gloves for evenings and concerts, leather gloves to go with country tweeds, nylon for town suits, and short white cotton gloves to go with summer dresses. These were not absolute rules, and they were for show rather than for warmth. Gloves were usually matched with hats, handbags and footwear, but white was a safe default option. On leaving the house, a lady slipped on her gloves as routinely as her outdoor shoes. 

    The history of gloves, of course, stretches much farther back than the decade of rock and roll and poodle skirts. Something I recently learned is that scented gloves -- perfumed with flower and herbal essences -- were popular in Europe during the 1600s and 1700s (hey, anything to cover up the stench of body odor.) By the 1950s, however, they were available and worn in an array of colors and styles to suit any outfit and setting.


    I found the following brochure on glove etiquette at the site Retrowaste. It was produced by a company called Paris Gloves, a Canadian company founded in 1939 which is still in business today. Note that it says gloves should stay on when shaking hands -- a good way to deter unwanted germs.


    Ah, there seems to be so many rules here. For example:

    Gloves must always be removed before eating, drinking, smoking, playing cards or putting on makeup.

    When lunching in a restaurant, a lady removes her coat but keeps on her hat and gloves, removing her gloves when seated at the table.

    At dances, long gloves would be part of a lady’s ensemble and as such, kept on. The glove fingers should be tucked into the opening at the wrist while smoking or drinking, and the gloves removed entirely immediately upon sitting at the table.

    When gloves are worn merely as a covering for the hands (such as heavy winter gloves), they should be removed with the coat.

    It seems obvious that daytime gloves as an accessory fell out of practice due to the inconvenience of them (you leave them on when sitting down at a table, but then take them off when the food arrives...ah, such confusion) as well as changing social norms and clothing styles as we headed into the swinging 1960s. Still, that didn't stop Emma Peel from sporting them once in a while...


    So maybe they're impractical and unusual by today's standards (no one can text or swipe with them unless the gloves were designed for mobile device usage), but it is fun to look at advertisements and images from when they were used to complete a woman's ensemble. I also leave you with this parting comment from the same gentleman who answered someone's question on Quora about why they fell out of fashion:

    Why do customs, fashions and traditions fall from favour? Who knows -- I guess things just reach a point where there is more kudos in ignoring them than in observing them. It does seem a shame, however, that a whole generation of young men have grown up without experiencing the ineffable pleasure of helping fasten the mousquetiere buttons on the wrist of a lady’s opera glove.

    The following 1950s and 1960s Van Raalte glove advertisements were posted on Retromusings:






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    Note: this post contains affiliate links. Affiliate Links allow the blog owner to earn commissions on relevant retro-themed products she thinks her readers may have an interest in. 

    When it comes to the Beatles' entire franchise, the animated ABC series The Beatles is like the lone kid sitting by himself at the lunch table. Most Beatlemaniacs despise the cartoon and consider it to be not much more than ill-conceived malarkey. Yet, I think there's a few reasons why The Beatles deserves at least a little respect, especially when the 50th anniversary of its 1965 debut on American television received zero attention.

    The Beatles themselves may be the number one reason why any mention of the series was absent from The Beatles Anthology documentary (at least the edited version that aired on ABC) and has never been issued on DVD or VHS, despite being owned by Apple. That's because the group pretty much loathed the way they were depicted, especially their voices, not to mention the goofy plot lines. But more on all that in a moment. 

    We all know by now that The Beatles were the number one band by 1964 and that their superstar status meant there was money to be made by lending their names and likenesses to several marketing tie-ins. There were Beatles dolls, the Beatles Flip Your Wig board game, Beatles lunchboxes, Beatles hairspray, Beatles bubblegum, and even Beatles nylon stockings (which I happen to own a pair of) just to name a few licensed products.

    Given the critical and box office success of A Hard Day's Night, which enabled a multitude of fans to see their favorite band on the big screen when seeing them in concert wasn't an option, it only made sense that an animated series based on the Fabs would eventually be proposed. That Liverpudlian cheekiness and perpetual sense of fun that The Beatles always seemed to emanate, even during media interviews, seemed to be a natural fit for a cartoon series.


    American film and TV producer Al Brodax became enamored with the idea of an animated series of The Beatles after watching the band perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Brodax had previously produced a series of Popeye shorts for television in the early '60s, which were purposely kept brief so that several of them could be made quickly and aired consistently. These shorts are considered by Popeye fans to be low quality as a result, and a blemish on the franchise. Brodax also produced a revival of Krazy Kat as well as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Beetle Bailey, and several other animated series. 

    Brian Epstein, The Beatles' manager, agreed to let ABC and Brodax create a series for American viewers but he never wanted the show aired to viewers in the UK. He felt that the silly depictions of the band, cheesy plot lines, and somewhat primitive animation was disrespectful of the group. In fact, episodes of the series didn't make its way to the UK until the 1980s...a good decade after the band split up.

    And that is why the show to this day is much maligned by many Beatles fans. The biggest issue most people have with it is the inaccuracy of the voices given to John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Much as it would have been nice to hear the actual Beatles voice the animated versions of themselves, it just wasn't feasible at the time given their hectic touring and recording schedule. So that meant that voice actors had to be hired for the show.

    It may sound like four separate men voiced the characters but in fact it was only two. American actor Paul Frees voiced John and George while British actor Lance Percival of Paul and Ringo. Frees in particular was no slouch when it came to voicing animated characters; he did a ton of work for the Rankin-Bass stop motion TV specials, several Disney projects, and much more. Along with Mel Blanc, he was often referred to as "The Man of a Thousand Voices."

    In my opinion, Ringo's animated voice sounds like it should have been used for George's...John's sounds more like an upper crust Brit...while Paul and George sound almost interchangeable to me.

    According to Mitchell Axelrod, the author of Beatletoons: The Real Story Behind The Cartoon Beatles (so far the only published book about the show) the Beatles themselves were less than enamored when viewing and hearing their animated selves for the first time. According to Axelrod, during the screening Ringo Starr commented to Paul McCartney that he'd been made into a dummy while McCartney replied that his voice was way too high pitched (all the while Percival, who did both of their voices, sat embarrassingly between them.) John Lennon said the group had been turned into The Flintstones.

    The Beatles at a screening of the series, looking less than pleased
     Also according to Axelrod, it wasn't completely accidental that less care was given to an accurate voice depiction. Brodax's choices for the Beatles' voices were intentional since he felt that children (and the series was aimed at the youngest of fans, after all) wouldn't be able to comprehend a Liverpudlian accent.

    Despite this initial reaction from the band, the series was a ratings smash hit upon its September 25, 1965 TV debut. A total of 39 episodes were created and aired until 1969. Each is named after a Beatles tune and features two "singalong" songs (but without the red ball bouncing across the screen, another complaint from the Fab Four.)

    And therein lies one of the redeeming features of these cartoons -- when a song is played, it's the actual one as sung by The Beatles. Also, the series was actually the first ever created that depicted real life people in animated form. It also set the stage for The Beatles' animated feature film Yellow Submarine released in 1969, which Brodax also worked on along with the same studio that did The Beatles.

    Axelrod believes that there's real potential for Apple to capitalize a bit on The Beatles and review interest in the series, if only they would issue an official release on DVD (bootlegs have made their way to Beatles conventions.) As he pointed out in a 2015 interview, the simple animation isn't that far off from what many cartoon channels are creating today, and it would offer a chance for kids to get introduced to The Beatles' music. The cartoon has gained something of a cult following in recent years and bootlegs of program have made their way to Beatles conventions.

    And yes, the story lines are pretty dopey with the boys usually thwarting female fans and getting themselves mixed up in all kinds of predicaments while their dialogue is punched with bad puns and some Brit speak that the Beatles themselves probably never actually said. Indeed, poor Ringo is usually portrayed as a very dim bulb and prone to trouble. But, it's a cartoon after all, and it was aimed at kids. 

    Even the attitude of The Beatles themselves toward the series softened in later years, with Lennon remarking during an interview, "I still get a blast out of watching the Beatles cartoons on TV" and George Harrison admitting in 1999 that he "always kind of liked (the cartoons.) They were so bad or silly that they were good, if you know what I mean, and I think the passage of time might make them more fun now."

    That seems to be the sentiment of the toons' current following (which may have been spurred by millennial-age fans); there are Tumblr pages dedicated to the series, memes that have been created, and curiously, McFarlane Toys released a box set of figurines modeled after the cartoon in 2004 that included an alligator, speakers, and radio (and they're not cheap!) Why an alligator? Because he was featured in a few of the episodes...most noticeably as a costume cover-up for lovesick female fans.



    Hopefully one day the cartoon series will be officially released on DVD so that fans who do appreciate them will be able to add them to their Beatles collection. In the meantime, you can follow the Facebook page run by Mitch Alexrod for any developments on the series, and enjoy a few clips of the show below that are currently uploaded to YouTube.







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    Jim Henson was a genius -- no doubt about that -- but sometimes his puppetry ventured into mad genius territory. He took creative chances that revealed a bit of a dark side to his work, whether it was a series of commercials done for Wilkins coffee (where an early prototype of Kermit commits various acts of violence against another muppet because he won't drink the coffee brand) or his feature film The Dark Crystal which starred hideous looking creatures that were a stark departure from the cute and fuzzy Muppet Movie gang.

    Which brings us to today's post. The Muppet Show had a few unsettling sequences that I still find weirdly wonderful 40 years after first viewing them. Actually, the popular muppet variety show of the '70s and '80s had many moments that could easily fit into this post, but here are the five that made me think a little bit, even at my tender age, and stuck with me all these years. Not many children's shows today will be able to say that decades from now.

    1. Time In a Bottle

    I was creeped out when I saw this sequence for the first time as a kid, and after watching it a second time 40 years later I must admit its potency hasn't diminished. Set to Jim Croce's classic ethereal hit "Time In a Bottle", it shows an elderly scientist getting progressively younger with each gurgling flask that he downsuntil...well, you can see for yourself. Sometimes the lesson is you gotta quit while you're ahead!


     
    2. The Jabberwocky

    I could appreciate Lewis Carroll's surreal poem when classmates read and acted it out in junior high, but as a kindergarten student The Muppet Show interpretation was a little scary, especially as the damn thing doesn't die even when its head gets sliced off!



    3. The Stalagmite's Toothache

    I bet you didn't know cave formations had teeth or could talk, but this was Jim Henson's world, and we were just watching it. This is by far one of the most out there and disturbing Muppet Show sequences, and I actually remember it being part of the 1978 episode that featured Alice Cooper as a guest star, which makes it all the more fitting.

    The real kicker is the unsettling ending, which reveals the afflicted stalagmite is actually a tooth inside another stalagmite's mouth. Shudder.



    4. The Windmills Of Your Mind

    Without a doubt, the most frantic cover of the Noel Harrison/Dusty Springfield hit.



    5. Mummenschanz

    OK, this clip does not feature any of the muppets. But the Swiss mask/mime troupe, whose creative routines and use of props seem to be inspired by psychedelic drugs, are probably responsible for a few kids' nightmares in the '70s thanks to their appearances on American television.



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    If you follow any brands on social media, you've probably noticed that too many of them like to talk about themselves way too much. Their pages are often an endless stream of photos, memes, and promos shoving their product or service in front of your face in a one-way conversation. They're a lot like the obnoxious party guest you once met who talked nonstop about their life yet never asked you a single question about yours.

    So when I saw the series of Guinness ads devised by the Ogilvy ad agency in the 1950s, I was a bit taken aback at how ahead of their time they were. At first glance, these ads -- which were conceived by David Ogilvy himself while he commuted home one evening in 1950 -- might seem a little confusing as they don't directly promote Guinness. And yet, that's the point and proves how ingenious they are.

    Instead of directly highlighting the qualities of Guinness, Ogilvy decided to bring value to the customer by putting the spotlight on a variety of foods that Guinness compliments including oysters, cheese, and game meats. The result was an early example of content marketing and native advertising that delivered trivia and relevant information (oysters are packed with vitamins and minerals and their number-one enemy is starfish, for example.) It isn't until the bottom of the ad that we learn a bit about Guinness, which makes all oysters taste their best.

    Even more ahead of its time, this particular ad was available via the Guinness company as a reprint, "suitable for framing." Since the ads didn't even look like advertising, but food guides, some restaurants took to tearing them from magazines and presenting them to patrons.

    The Guinness Guide To Oysters ran in 1951; other "Guide To" ads were published in throughout the 1950s and '60s. All demonstrate that you don't have to directly talk about your product to make people interested in it. 

    Ogilvy knew that advertising didn't have to just promote a product; it can be useful, sharable, and ultimately, memorable as the Guinness Guide To series proved. Here are the other ads in the series. Warning: they may give you a craving for certain types of food and Guinness.


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    It was 1986 and employees of the United Way of Cleveland -- who were fed up with their city's rather lackluster reputation -- decided that the best way to draw positive publicity would be to release 1.5 million balloons in the hopes of also breaking a world record. What could possibly go wrong?

    Dubbed Balloonfest '86, it was intended to be a harmless fundraising publicity stunt that would help elevate Cleveland in the eyes of the American public as a happening city while raising money for the United Way, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to other nonprofits throughout the community.

    The event was scheduled for September 27, 1986 (a Saturday, so that everyone could watch) with the logistics being coordinated by Balloonart by Treb of Los Angeles. The company's founder, Treb "the Balloon Man" Heining, had made a living out of organizing balloon drops for public events -- everything from presidential nominations to the Super Bowl. Just a year prior to Balloonfest '86, he had successfully released one million balloons over Disneyland in honor of the park's 30th anniversary.

    Thousands of volunteers, including students, worked round the clock for hours leading up to the spectacle filling balloons with helium. The balloons were corralled in mesh netting in a structure set up on the southwest quadrant of Cleveland's Public Square.

    Under normal weather conditions, helium-filled latex balloons will stay aloft until they eventually deflate and fall back to earth (or, according to some experts, will shatter into shards once they reach a height of approximately ten kilometers; no one knows for sure because no one has witnessed it.)

    But apparently the organizers of Balloonfest -- despite telling the local news how much planning went into this event -- didn't watch the weather forecast for the day of the scheduled spectacle, or they didn't fully comprehend how changing weather could seriously affect their balloons.

    Thousands of residents descended upon Public Square where they were interviewed by Big Chuck and Lil' John, a comedy duo who also hosted their own late-night horror movie show on a local Cleveland television station.


    As a high pressure rain front system started advancing towards the city in the afternoon of September 27, organizers decided to release the balloons early. At 1:50 PM, nearly 1.5 million colorful balloons were freed from their mesh prison, ascending and swirling around Terminal Tower looking like the spilled contents of a 1980s Contac capsule.

    Unfortunately, Cleveland was about to live up to one of its negative nicknames as "the mistake on the lake." Shortly after lift off the dark clouds looming over the city opened up, raining down on the balloons and forcing several of them to land on Lake Erie. The timing couldn't have been worse. The day before the event, two local men went missing on the lake during a fishing excursion. The plethora of multi-colored balloons bopping along the water made rescue efforts impossible for the coast guard, who couldn't distinguish any heads or life jackets among the multi-colored mess. Two days later, the bodies of the fishermen washed up on the shore.


    And there were other dire consequences. The balloons caused traffic accidents, forced Burke Lakefront Airport to close a runway, and several horses to spook when some of them landed in their pasture. There were at least two lawsuits brought against the United Way of Cleveland as a result of their event: one by the widow of one of the deceased fishermen, and the other by the horses' owner.

    Furthermore, it's hard to measure how much damage was done to the environment by the release of so many latex balloons. They mysteriously disappeared from Lake Erie the day after the event and if someone didn't retrieve them, that can only mean they got absorbed into the body of water. Many of the 1.5 million balloons ended up blowing north into Canada.

    But hey, at least Cleveland did get listed in the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book Of World Records for the largest ever mass balloon release. That record was broken in 1994 when 1.7 million balloons were released over Wiltshire, England.

    I think it's best if they just stick with their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Drew Carey, and LeBron James as their claims to fame.

    Here's a look back at the doomed affair as compiled by The Atlantic:



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    Heads UP, peasants.

    It's the Queen of Rock's birthday today!

    So to celebrate what would have been Freddie Mercury's 72nd birthday, we're going to have a listen to ten underrated Queen songs (a tough one for me, because such a list can easily hold 50 tracks.)

    But first, a funny thing happened to me about a month ago. A really funny thing, in fact. I became a huge Queen fan! I know, I know, I'm REALLY late to this party.

    You'll have to forgive me, because while I knew all of Queen's hits (of course; who doesn't? And yes, before you can ask, of course I've seen Wayne's World.) I just never really paid attention to any clips of them performing live and didn't know the extent of their excellent musical catalog.

    Honestly, it was the trailer for the upcoming Bohemian Rhapsody film that piqued my interest and finally made me look up what the big deal was over Freddie Mercury. OMG! How the heck could I have been so ignorant of this gorgeous man's talent and stage presence?

    Anyways, better late than never.

    Here are ten underrated songs by lead guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor, and lead singer/frontman extraordinaire Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury) that show incredible songwriting range across genres and really deserved to chart higher -- or at all.

    1. Keep Yourself Alive (1973)

    The Brian May composition that kicked it all off...the very first track on Queen's very first album, Queen. And remarkably, this catchy rocker went nowhere on either side of the Atlantic.



    2. Bring Back That Leroy Brown (1974)

    Ragtime meets rock in a delightful ode to Jim Croce's most famous musical character (Croce died tragically the year before in a plane crash.)



    3. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (1976)

    Was this Mercury hinting about his sexual orientation ("Whatcha doing tonight, hey boy?")? Mercury simply said in an interview that it was his "ragtime mood." You be the judge, but I can attest that there are many female fans that would love to have him as their good old fashioned lover boy.



    4.  Let Me Entertain You (1978)

    After the success of "Bohemian Rhapsody" Queen started selling out bigger venues and adding pyrotechnics and effects to their shows. And Mercury was just as unapologetically unabashed with his stage get-ups that included tight pants, form fitting jumpsuits, leather, short shorts and more. He once referred to himself as a "Persian popinjay" and he never let his fans down with his over confident stage strutting, gyrating, and other moves.

    It was an act, of course --  offstage, Mercury was said to be shy and quiet. He admitted to an interviewer once that he had created a monster and was expected to keep up that persona to please fans. "Let Me Entertain You" doesn't disappoint because it sums up what to expect at a Queen show back in the day and reminds us that Mr. Fahrenheit and the group never did anything half-assed.



    5. Back Chat (1982)

    Sadly for American fans, the group's 1982 album Hot Space was so poorly received by critics and listeners in the U.S. that they decided to stop touring there. It was a big departure from the rock sound fans were accustomed to, venturing instead into disco, funk, and New Wave -- the type of music flowing in gay clubs at the time.

    No surprise that this different direction was Mercury's idea. May, Deacon, and Taylor reportedly hated this album and the songs on it. Yet I must confess I really like the tracks on Hot Space and applaud the attempt to capture the '80s pop sound. Apparently Michael Jackson did as well, because Hot Space inspired his Thriller album.

    After the iconic hit "Under Pressure", "Back Chat" is one of the best songs on the album in my opinion.



    6. Calling All Girls (1982)

    Yes, I'm including two tracks from Hot Space because "Calling All Girls" got stuck in my head immediately after hearing it. Also if you've seen George Lucas' 1971 dystopian film THX 1138 you'll see the video was heavily influenced by the movie.



    7. Pain is So Close to Pleasure (1986)

    It sounds like something Smokey Robinson would have recorded in the '80s. Freddie does falsetto on this Motown influenced tune from the band's A Kind of Magic album.



    8. The Miracle (1989)

    Cuteness aside with the music video (which featured kids playing pint-sized versions of the band members), this is just a lovely song about the everyday beauty of our world, the cycle of life, and the dream most of us have for peace -- the ultimate miracle. May has said it's one of his favorite Queen songs, and it's easy to see why.



    9. The Show Must Go On (1991)

    A lot of people think this song, from Innuendo (the last Queen album recorded while Freddie was alive) alludes to Freddie's dedication to recording music even as his health was failing due to contracting HIV. That may be true, but for me the lyrics are a personal reminder of how we need to keep pressing on when faced with disappointments. Lovers will leave, friends will betray you, and jobs may be taken from you. However, the show...YOUR show...must go on. I kind of think of this song's message as a prelude to the triumphant "We Are the Champions" in a way.

    Note: this isn't the official video below, but it does showcase Freddie's sexy ways with his trademark broken microphone stand and incredible stage presence. A man that could keep thousands of fans enthralled in the palm of his hand during each show for sure.



    10. Too Much Love Will Kill You (1995)

    The first time I heard this song, I cried. Partly because the lyrics are so poignant and true and partly because the version featuring Freddie on vocals was released a few years after his death. Brian May wrote and recorded it as his first marriage was ending.



    Fortunately, there are not too many other Queen songs that make me reach for a tissue. Their music is empowering and uplifting.

    Happy Birthday, Freddie!

    via GIPHY

    What Queen songs would you include on your underrated list?

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