Daughter joined Instagram, so we had to have The Talk. Every parent has to have The Talk about these things. Years ago, it was the talk about Hobo and Comic Sins, and she didn’t listen, and now she looks back on her webpages and she’s embarrassed. So maybe the old man knows a few things, hmmm? So maybe you’ll listen to me now?

Don’t use 70s filters.

She’ll ignore me. It’s the hip & popular thing to do, of course - make your pictures look like they were shot with a cheap, horrible Eastern Bloc camera, or a plastic camera with a “lens” made out of congealed Superglue, or a picture from the 70s that’s faded over time. This isn’t an argument against filter programs; I have several and use them here. This isn’t even an aesthetic argument against using programs to simulate film stock or tonal ranges from previous eras; I have a program that recalibrates pictures to look like they were shot on Kodachrome from the 40s and 60s.

This isn’t even about using the filters that crappify the image; I’ve used 70s filters, but only when I take a picture of something that looks like it’s straight out of the 70s.

Otherwise: no. 1) It’s anchronistic. It takes something contemporary and makes it look as if it’s old, which it cannot possibly be. That computer, that dog, that iPod, these things did not exist then, so a faded picture of the items makes no sense. 2) the faded look is not a result of an aesthetic choice. It’s just the product of time and decay. The only reason it sums up some vague sense of nostalgia is because you’ve been told that’s what old photos looked like. They didn’t look like that at first. In fact they were quite colorful, and didn’t look as if they’d been dipped in urine for a week. 3) It puts distance between the viewer and the image. A good black-and-white photos from the early 60s, say, connects immediately, and if you’re aware of the passage of time, it’s because of the clothing or the setting. A faded picture makes you aware of the passage of time because of the condition of the image, not its content.

That’s The Talk. Although I boiled it down to “everyone does that. It’s old.”

I try to spend as little time thinking about the 70s as possible; my least-favorite decade for so many reasons, although certainly a much richer one than the 90s, which was pretty much a came-and-went decade. I’ve been listening to some CBS Radio Mystery Theater while doing menial tasks, and some of the shows have commercials and news. The plays themselves are usually sub-par, and they did a million of them - eight years, five days a week? Wikipedia says:

Actors were paid union scale at around $73.92 per show. Writers earned a flat rate of $350 per show. Production took place with assembly-line precision. Brown met with actors at 9am for the first script reading. After he assigned roles, recording began. By noon, the recording of the actors was complete, and Brown handed everyone checks. Post-production was done in the afternoon.

Believe me, it shows. Good actors. Drab stories. It was an attempt to revive classic radio, and was quite inferior to ABC’s Theater 5, but it had good pedigree - Himan Brown was the director, and he was noted for “Inner Sanctum,” which I also found tiresome. (Except for the host, but that’s another story.) Just as “Inner Sanctum opened with a creaking door, the CBSRMT opened with a creaking door, but it was 10X creakier. If it had been the 90s, it would have been EXTREME CREAKING. E G. Marshall was the host, and closed the program with “pleasant . . . dreams, hmmmm?” just like Raymond from “Sanctum,” but he couldn’t pull off creepy, and no one wanted him to be creepy, because he was E.G. Marshall.

Anyway: SI’m listening today, and the play ends, and the music fades out, and the announcer comes on to say the news will follow shortly. This being 1974, they filled out the time between the end of the show and the start of the news . . .

. . . with beautiful music.

Later I figured out that the airchecks came from a Beautiful Music station. But I remember other stations doing that, especially the old ones that had that undefinable format: news and music and swap-meets and local chat, Paul Harvey at noon. Need to fill? Throw in some Beautiful Music.

This first one is the soundtrack for a TV show that never was. It’s about two minutes, and includes the CBS radio news theme and an absolutely perfect 70s headline.



This one is a Beautiful Music version of a hit song.



That's "Last Song" by Edward Bear. (That was the group, not the singer.)

Now, for the full horrors of the 70s, I want you to listen to this. It says it all. It really does.


The more things change, eh?

By the way, if you don’t recognize the term, “Beautiful Music” was used without sarcasm for years; people think it’s interchangeable with Muzak, but that’s because “Muzak” was applied to all the faceless, inoffensive, waiting-room-and-elevators music. (Yes, music was played in elevators. “Muzak” was also called “elevator music,” which wouldn’t mean anything today.) Muzak could get a little peppy now and then, particularly if the Muzak client was a grocery store, where they wanted the mood to be upbeat and happy. (Today the grocery store was playing “25 or 6 to 4,” which I could have done without; at least it wasn’t that “Time,” song, where a guy who just wants to know the time gets a metaphysical lecture from a useless hippie. "Hey, you got the time?" Does anyone really know what time it is, man? "Uh - yeah. It’s a constant, with a fixed reference point in Greenwich. The development of timepieces that could accurately reflect the Greenwich mean made accurate seafaring navigation possible, and was immensely useful to the emerging British empire. But I see you have a band of string around your wrist instead of a timepiece, so nevermind, I’ll ask that fellow in the suit.”)

I can’t resist this next one, because it contains so many indefinables of the era. Special K had an ad campaign called “The Ball and Chain,” which likened extra weight to carrying around, well, a ball and chain. For a sound effect they used a popping cork. Made no sense. The Ball and Chain is a heavy thing; this sounds like someone popped his cheek with an index finger. There’s a chipper campy singing intro, which probably plays off the success of Bette Midler’s “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” the previous year.

Then there’s the voice of the female character - a tired, whiny New Yorker. It's either the persona or the voice, but she was all over the place back then. The male voice sounds like Paul Frees at first, but I don’t think it is.



I’ll be posting these and many others to the 70s section in a week or two.

New Disney: 15 or so additional title cards. I should probably have grouped the years on one page; I hate slide shows. But what's the internet but a slide show, anyway? See you around.


















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