Now that the Christmas season has passed and the gifts have already been received, let’s take a nostalgic look at popular gifts through the years. The 1950’s marked the beginning of mass TV advertising, making the following items popular gift ideas.
Remco Electronic Transistor Radio: It was the iPod of the 1950s. Brand new transistor technology made radios so inexpensive that children could put one together as a science lesson.
It was 40 years ago today that David Bowie arguably invented glam rock with the U.S. release of his third studio album The Man Who Sold the World. While the dominant storyline usually contends that glam’s genesis began with Marc Bolan’s glitter and satin-wearing appearance on the British broadcast Top of the Pops in March 1971, Bowie nonetheless predated T. Rex’s performance that mixed raunchy guitars with androgyny by addressing sexual uncertainty over hard rock riffs on the Sold the World’s opener “The Width of a Circle”.
What’s more, Bowie’s first iconoclastic challenges to the alpha male rock star stereotype continued during the Sold the World era with him donning a dress during the album’s U.S. promotional tour, and he later showed up wearing the same garb on the album cover for the 1971 UK release of the project.
But the Sold the World metamorphosis wasn’t just a stylistic change up but a musical diversion as well. Bowie abandoned his psychedelic folk-leaning roots on the release, teaming up with the virtuosic Mick Ronson (who later formed the backbone of the Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band) to concoct an album that leaned towards the proto-metal electric heaviness of then contemporaries Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Though Sold the World is now often overshadowed by Bowie’s commercial breakthrough Hunky Dory and the glorious run that is the Ziggy Stardust albums, the 1970 release is when Bowie’s strange odyssey really began. And when he became truly great.
It’s either genius at its most inventive or someone with just too much time on their hands. However, Toronto’s James Cochrane took a bunch of old electronic devices and computer parts, including printers, along with a handful of household items, to create the Bit-52s – a robotic cover band of the B-52s. Creating a series of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, Cochrane was able to replicate the B-52s’ ‘70s seminal hit “Rock Lobster” in its entirety in what appears to be his basement. The only question that really remains after watching this video is: does the “band” take requests?
During the big “boy band” craze of the late ‘90s, early ‘00s, LFO stood out. Their hip-hop style and inventive, fast wordplay gave them memorable hit singles in a crowded, competitive field. Perhaps the biggest reason for their success was lead singer Rich Cronin, who partially wrote and produced much of the group’s music. Their biggest hit was “Summer Girls”, a nostalgic nod to a summer romance, punctuated with Cronin’s memories of early ‘90s pop culture. Where else are you going to find a song that mentions Abercrombie & Fitch, Fun Dip, Michael J. Fox, and New Edition, amongst other things? In 1999, it was virtually impossible to find someone under the age of 30 who couldn’t recite the chorus of “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick…,”.
Maybe it’s time again to revisit Peyton Place, not the cheesy television show or even the risque novel, but the big screen movie of love, angst, teen rebellion, and parental authority. Never has sexual repression looked so good, with Lana Turner as the repressed single mother who accuses her good girl teenage daughter played by nymphet Diane Varsi of acting the whore. Although this tale was set at the beginning of World War II, it’s late ‘50s release said more about that decade of juvenile delinquency than it did the past as kids go to make out parties, get married against parental wishes, and rebel against corporate conformity. That’s why the movie feels so fresh today. Despite the dated clothes and cars, the norms of contemporary times seem to have regressed and the threat of world war as a backdrop to the what the heck attitude of adolescents makes the zeitgeist seem increasingly appropriate. The trailer seen here with the movie premiere make looking into the past a vision of the near future.