Saturday, June 19, 2004

The British Invasion Part Three

The roots of the British Invasion (and hence The Beatles) can be traced back to America. In the United States, the Fifties saw the birth of rock 'n' roll. "Rock 'n' roll" was the term coined by disc jockey Alan Freed for the rhythm and blues he programmed for a largely white audience. Of course, rhythm and blues was a musical genre born in the South and first performed by African Americans. Rock 'n' roll swept the nation in the late Fifties, with artists like Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, of course, Elvis Presley. It was only a matter of time before rock 'n' roll records would make their way to such British ports as Liverpool. And it was only natural that British teenagers, like their American counterparts, would be drawn to this "new" music. At the same time American rhythm and blues artists were beginning to tour Britain. Muddy Waters toured England in 1958 and other R & B artists followed. Soon Britain was swept up in a rhythm and blues craze. Between rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues, various bands were popping up all over Britain in the early Sixties. It would be these bands, starting with the Beatles, who would invade America.

Among the British disciples of rhythm and blues was a group called The Animals. The Animals played nearly unadulterated rhythm and blues. In fact, their first huge hit in America was an arrangement of a traditional folk song, "House of the Rising Sun." It was the first song by a British group to go number one in America after The Beatles. The Animals followed that success with other hit singles, each with a strong blues base. "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," and "Don't Let Me Down" all owed a great deal to rhythm and blues. By 1966 The Animals started to see membership changes and the band was renamed Eric Burdon and the Animals. The group also drifted away from its blues origins into the psychedelia popular at the time. They still managed to hit the charts, however, with songs like "Sky Pilot" and "Monterey." They broke up in 1969 after a rather fruitful career.

Another group inspired by rhythm and blues were The Yardbirds. Unfortunately, they did not see The Animals' success. The Yardbirds played a free-form style of blues that did not translate easily into hit singles. In 1964 their manager produced a song closer to the other British bands of the time, "For Your Love (by future 10cc leader Graham Gouldman)." The song was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. They had other hits with "Heartful of Soul" and "Over, Under, Sideways, Down". Departing from their purely blues oriented music did not sit well with some members, however, and lead guitarist Eric Clapton quit the band as a result. Clapton was replaced by guitarist Jeff Beck. Like many groups of the time, Yhe Yardbirds drifted into psychedelia, the song "The Shape of Things" being a prime example. The group saw yet more membership changes, with bassist Paul Samwell-Smith leaving the band. As a temporary measure, Jimmy Page took on the job of playing bass for The Yardbirds. Eventually, Beck and Page would play dual lead guitar with the band, until Beck left the group. Thereafter, The Yardbirds began to disintegrate. They charted no singles in the process. In 1968, the band finally folded. The Yardbirds' place in history was cemented by the performers who would emerge from the band: Chris Dreja, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

While The Animals and The Yardbirds were esentially blues bands, Manfred Mann performed R & B, soul, and jazz in addition to the British rock of the time. Named for their leader (something Mann did not particularly like at the time), the group had a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy". They would have further hits in Britain with "Come Tomorrow," a cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Got To Go, Go Now," "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. Jones" and "Ha! Ha! Said The Clown." Strangely, however, none of these songs were hits in the United States. They only had one other hit in America. In 1968 their remake of Bob Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn" hit the top ten. The group disbanded in 1969.

While Manfred Mann covered Dylan material, Donovan was seen as a poor man's Bob Dylan. Sometimes Donovan isn't cited in essays on the British Invasion, perhaps because of his folk roots. But as a Scottish native, Donovan Leitch is certainly British and he arrived in America at the same time as the British rock acts. At any rate, Donovan did not remain a folk act for long. His song "Sunshine Superman" was an early example of psychedelia. It was also a hit in the United States. Legal hassles hindered Donovan's career in the United Kingdom, but in America he had a steady string of hits. "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man (another bit of psychedelia)," and "Atlantis" were all hits Stateside. Unfortunately, by 1970, Donovan's career began to fade. I always found that regrettable myself, as I always had a great love for Donovan's music. "Sunshine Superman" is still one of my favourite songs.

I have never read anywhere the full extent of the British Invasion. I do know that there were a massive number of British groups that made the trek across the Atlantic. Gerry and the Pacemakers, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, The Troggs, and other bands all had their time in the sun. I don't know that there is any real agreement as to when the British Invasion ended. I would say that it was more or less over by 1966 myself. My reasoning is twofold. First, by that time several American artists had broken the chokehold that the British had possessed on the AMerican charts. Second, the number of British groups coming to America sharply declined. Indeed, by 1966 music was changing once again, as psychedelia rose in America with groups like Jefferson Airplane.

Regardless, the effects of the British Invasion could be felt for years to come. Many of the major groups of the Sixties had their origins in the British Invasion groups of the Sixties. Led Zeppelin emerged from The Yardbirds. War emerged from The Animals. British Invasion artists such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and others went on to have successful solo careers. And British acts continued to make the trip across the Atlantic, if in fewer numbers. Status Quo, T. Rex, Duran Duran, and other British groups would follow the British Invasion bands in coming to America. Indeed, it was not until May 2002 that the Billboard singles chart featured no British artists! It was the first time since 1964.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The British Invasion Part Two

I don't know how many bands from the UK made the trip over the Atlantic during the British Invasion. It does seem to me that it must have been a fairly large number. Of course, for every band that had some success here in America, I would imagine that there were many more that had none. And, of course, I imagine that there were many one hit wonders, at least where the United States were concerned.

From the beginning, the media were looking for "the next Beatles." In the early days of the British Invasion, there were some who thought that could be the Dave Clark Five. I would imagine that there are many today who would be saying, "the Dave Clark who?" But in the early days of the British Invasion, the Dave Clark Five were The Beatles' chief rivals. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show within weeks of The Beatles' first appearance on that show. And they were one of the first British groups following The Beatles to crack Billboard's Top Ten Singles chart. That first hit was "Glad All Over." It was followed by several other hit songs, among them "Bits and Pieces" and "Catch Us If You Can." The Dave Clark Five were even successful enough to appear in their very own movie, Catch Us If You Can in 1965. The movie marked the directorial debut of John Boorman, who would go on to direct Deliverance and Excalibur. Although the Dave Clark Five were the first to challenge The Beatles' dominance of the charts, their success did not last. As time went by, they were eclipsed by other British bands arriving on America's shores. The advent of the psychedelic movement pretty much brought an end to the Five's career here in America. Unwillling to perform psychedelia, the Dave Clark Five last charted in America in 1967. At any rate, I can remember many of their early hits being played on the radio. While it is hard to see them as serious rivals to The Beatles, I have to admit that they were a pretty good band.

If the Dave Clark Five could be described as The Beatles' rivals, then perhaps Peter and Gordon could be described as The Beatles' allies. Peter and Gordon were Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. The two met in school and found a common interest in music. They soon began performing as a duo, combining elements of rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, and folk music. They were eventually signed by Capitol, the same label that was home to The Beatles. Indeed, while their relationship did not help Peter and Gordon get signed, Peter Asher knew Paul McCartney personally. Paul McCartney was dating Peter's sister, actress Jane Asher. It should then come as no surprise that Peter and Gordon recorded Lennon and McCartney songs that were never recorded by The Beatles. Besides their first hit, "World Without Love," they also recorded "Nobody I Know" and "I Don't Want to See You Again." The Beatles did not provide Peter and Gordon with their only hits, however, as they also had hits with "Lady Godiva," "Knight in Rusty Armour," and a cover of Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways." Peter and Gordon contiued to be somewhat successful even into the psychedelic era, but then broke up in 1968 to pursue separate careers. As a kid, both "World Without Love" and especially "Lady Godiva" were among my favourite songs.

While Peter and Gordon had a brief but fruitful career, The Zombies may have been the most unlucky British group besides The Kinks. Indeed, The Zombies were on the edge of breaking up when they won a local contest that offered a recording contract as the first prize. The Zombies had hits on both sides of the Atlantic with "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No." Unfortunately, their third single, "Leave Me Be," did not do nearly as well. Two more singles, "She's Coming Home" and "I Want You Back," did moderately well in the United States, but failed to make the charts in Britain. The Zombies recorded a second and final album, Odessey and Oracle in 1967. Unfortunately, the band's long string of failures resulted in the band's break up after the album had been recorded. Ironically, The Zombies finally had another hit single, "Time of the Season," after the group had split up! I always thought it rather sad that The Zombies met with so little success after their first two singles. From their only two albums it always seemed clear to me that they were among the best British Invasion bands. They were certainly among the best song writers of the era. Unfortunately, it seems that they just could not produce a hit single.

A band that did meet with a good deal of success was Herman's Hermits. Led by Peter Noone (AKA Herman), Herman's Hermits provided a lighter side to the British Invasion. Herman's Hermits performed easily assessible pop songs as well as many novelty tunes. Perhaps for this reason, they were among the most successful of the British Invasion bands. They had their first hit in Britain in the fall of 1964 with "I'm Into Something Good." Their success in Britain soon led to success in the United States. They had hits with "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter," a remake of "Silhouettes," a cover of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World," and the novelty song "I'm Henry The VIII I Am," perhaps their best known hit. Despite their early success, tastes in music effectively put an end to the band's string of hits. They had one last hit song in the United States in 1967. A movie, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter,", featuring Peter Noone, was released in 1968, but the soundtrack did not even chart. Herman's Hermits broke up in 1971. I must admit that I have always had a soft spot for Herman's Hermits. While they were admittedly lightweight, nearly to the point that they could be considered a precurssor to bubblegum, their songs are very listenable. And the group had a fine sense of humour.

Another novelty act to emerge from the British Invasion was Freddie and the Dreamers. Following successes in Britian, the group also found success in the United States. They had a hit with "I'm Telling You Now" in America and appeared on such TV shows as The Ed Sullivan Show and Shindig. Of course, much of their success here in the States may have been due to their stage antics. Lead vocalist Freddie Garrity would perform a rather odd dance while singing. The dance soon earned a name, "the Freddie," and the band even recorded a song to go with the dance, "Do The Freddie." The song actually hit the American top twenty. Freddie and the Dreamers were competent performers, producing several very listenable songs, among them "I'm Telling You Now," "A Little You," and "You Were Made For Me." Unfortunately, all of this was overshadowed by the group's stage performance and the ridiculousness of the "Freddie." No one took the band seriously. Perhaps realising this, Freddie and the Dreamers more or less became a novelty act. They recorded an album of nothing but Disney songs and a children's album Oliver In The Underworld (their last album). The group disbanded in 1970. Given the quality of their early work, it is sad to me that Freddie and the Dreamers took this course. Indeed, today they are largely forgotten. The only reason I probably know of them is the fact that my older sister had their first album

Indeed, it seems that it has been the more serious British Invasion bands that were remembered, even when those bands met with little succcess. It seems to me that Herman's Hermits was the only novelty group to be remembered at all.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The British Invasion Part One

I was born just a little under a year before The Beatles arrived in America. I was much too young to remember their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, although I was able to see their impact fairly immediately. By the time I was old enough to remember much of anything, British groups dominated the charts. At ages three, four, and beyond, I was able to witness the effects of the British Invasion.

Of course, The Beatles started it all. And it seems quite likely to me that the first song I ever heard (or at least actually listened to) was a Beatles song. In the Sixties, The Beatles dominated the media. Their songs were constantly played on the radio. Four movies were released featuring The Beatles in some shape or form. Even television was not immune to The Beatles. Although they stopped playing in person on American television by the time I could form memories, they sometimes sent promo films to various shows. And, of course, there was the animated cartoon. The Beatles brought the Fab Four's music to kids every Saturday morning.

I rather suspect that The Beatles had a greater impact on me than any other musical performers. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Even as a child I bought nearly every magazine, nearly every book that mentioned them. And I eagerly watched A Hard Day's Night, Help!, and Yellow Submarine on television. To this day the death of John Lennon is one of those pivotal events in history for me. I can remember it clear as day, my brother awaking me and telling me that Lennon had been murdered.

Of course, The Beatles began a wave of British bands that crossed the Atlantic to try to find fortunes here in the United States. Oddly enough, many of the major bands to emerge during the British Invasion did not immediately find success here in the United States. The Rolling Stones first arrived in the United States in 1964, hot on the heels of The Beatles. Despite this, they did not have a big hit here in America until "Satisfaction" in 1966. Of course, by that time I was old enough to listen to and appreciate music. Two things have always set The Rolling Stones apart from The Beatles. One is the rough image cultivated by Andrew Oldham. While in the early days The Beatles were seen by many as relatively non-threatening, The Rolling Stones were seen as very rough and tumble. The other is The Rolling Stones often played unadulterated blues. While The Beatles had also been influenced by rhythm and blues, they gravitated more towards straight forward rock 'n' roll. The Stones continued to play blues influenced music until 1967 when psychedelia crept in. Of course, afterwards the blues influences would return.

As a child I was relatively innocent of The Rolling Stones' rough image and their blues influences. I do remember many of the Stones' early songs being played on the radio--"Satisfaction," "Ruby Tuesday," "Paint It, Black," and so on. To this day I have always enjoyed the songs that the Rolling Stones put out in the Sixties, even if I have found some of their later material somewhat lacking. I have to wonder how much the death of guitarist Brian Jones's departure from the band and his subsequent death had to do with the decline in The Stones' musical quality. At any rate, it seems to me that after 1971 they did not put out good songs as consistently as they had before.

Another major band from the British Invasion that did not hit it big immediately was The Who. As hard as it is to believe, many of The Who's early songs ("Happy Jack," "Substitute," "Magic Bus") were not huge hits. The band did not really take off until the creation of their rock opera Tommy. Afterwards, The Who were a force with which to be reckoned, producing a string of hits throughout the Seventies and Eighties, from "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Rain" to "Who Are You." The group's success even extended to movies. Quadrophenia drew upon the band's successful album for inspiration. The documentary The Kids Are Alright offered an inside look at the band, from their early beginnings to the Seventies. The movie based on their rock opera, Tommy, is a cult item to this day.

I do remember many of The Who's early songs being played on the radio. I also remember being a Who fan at least since grade school. Unlike the Rolling Stones, it seems to me that The Who never saw an appreciable decline in the quality of their music. I tend to prefer their songs from the Sixties, but their work in the Seventies and Eighties sounds quite good to me as well!

In my mind the fourth major band to emerge from the British Invasion would be The Moody Blues. Formed in May 1964, they had their first hit on both sides of the Atlantic, "Go Now," in the fall of that year. The group failed to follow up on that success, however, so that by 1965 both guitarist Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick left the band. They were replaced by John Lodge and Justin Hayward respectively. Originally playing rhythm and blues oriented music, the addition of Lodge and Hayward took the group into a different direction. They recorded what may well be one of the greatest rock albums of all time, Days of Future Passed. The album was revolutionary in two respects. First, it was one of the earliest concept albums--it depicted the passage of a typical day. Second, it mixed rock music with a symphony. The album proved to be a hit, as did such singles from the album as "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon." The Moody Blues would continue to have hits throughout the late Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. The group still tours today to sold out crowds. They also remain one of my favourite bands of all time, having produced many of my favourite songs ("Nights in White Satin," "The Story in Your Eyes," and "On the Threshold of a Dream").

Like The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Moody Blues, The Kinks proved to have lasting power. Unlike The Rolling Stones and The Who, The Kinks found success in America very early in their career. Both "You Really Got Me" and "All of the Day and All of the Night" were huge hits. Unfortunately for The Kinks, they crossed the American Federation of Musicians. Following a 1965 appearance on the TV show Hullabaloo, the powerful union banned The Kinks from performing in America for five years, presumably because of unprofessional conduct. This meant that they could not appear on stage or even on television. In other words, they could not effectively promote their songs here in the United States. As a result The Kinks did not again have a major success in America until "Lola" in 1970, even though they continued to do well on the British charts. Fortunately, The Kinks had longevity on their side, giving new fans a chance to discover them. As a child I can remember their two early hits, "You Really Got Me" and "All of the Day and All of the Night", being played on the radio. As I got older I was able to discover more of their music. I have always liked The Kinks.

Besides the aforementioned bands, there is only one British Invasion group that seems to me to have had real staying power. That is The Hollies. Curiously, like The Stones and The Who, they were not an immediate smash in America. Although they had hit singles in Britain in 1964, it was not until 1966 that they had a hit in America with "Bus Stop." Afterwards, they regularly hit the charts in the States, racking up a string of hits until 1974. "Stop, Stop, Stop," "On a Carousel," "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)," "Long, Cool Woman," and "The Air That I Breathe" all did very well in the United States. Even the departure of original member Graham Nash (to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash) did not detour The Hollies' success. Unfortunately, following the huge success of "Long, Cool Woman," and "The Air That I Breathe," The Hollies' albums and singles failed to sell. A reunion with Graham Nash in the Eighties produced a minor hit with a remake of "Stop In The Name Of Love." Regardless, I always have loved The Hollies. I remember many of their older songs being played on the radio and I also remember their later hits quite well. They certainly were among the best bands of the British Invasion.

Of course, there were more bands than simply The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Moody Blues, The Kinks, and The Hollies to emerge from the British Invasion. The number of British groups hitting the American charts was huge in the Sixties. And from what I have read, it seems that there were times when they dominated Billboard's Top Ten. While many of the bands didn't have the lasting power of The Stones, The Who, The Moody Blues or The Kinks, they would find a good deal of success here in America.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Cable TV

Have you ever noticed how local and cable programming have gone down hill since the Eighties? I can remember back in the Eighties, the local stations would show movies on Saturdays and Sundays when there are no sporting events. I got to see El Cid, The Vikings, and a ton of old movies that way. Now every Saturday is filled with either sports or infomercials. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against sports. I've enjoyed a few NFL and college basketball games in my time. But every single weekend?! As to infomercials, does anyone actually watch them?

And then there are the local stations' daily schedules. Talk shows. Talk shows. Talk shows. And when they do show reruns, it is usually some recent show. Don't get me wrong, I like The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond, but must they be on every single station? Fortunately, one of our local stations is now actually showing The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and Cheers. Still, I would like to see a lot more variety on the local stations. A few more older comedies and movies on the weekends.

And then there is cable. I think basic cable has gone downhill even more. Back in the Eighties, TBS showed a lot of old sitcoms--The Andy Griffith Show, Sanford and Son. And they showed some old action series too--The Wild Wild West and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. They showed a number of old movies, a lot of John Wayne and stuff like The Great Escape. The Family Channel's Saturday line up was nothing but old Western TV shows--The Rifleman, Bonanza. Late night weekdays they showed classic comedies like Dobie Gillis, The Burns and Allen Show, and The Jack Benny Show. USA had Night Flight. Now TBS shows pretty much the same thing as the local channels. The Family Channel has become the refuge of old ABC sitcoms. USA has some good original series and some of the better recent movies, but no Night Flight.

Worse yet, so many of the basic cable channels show the same shows. I don't know how many different channels show the various Law & Order series and The X Files. Don't get me wrong I love the Law & Order series and The X Files, but there are only so many times you can watch them. And I swear none of the basic channels show any movie made before 1990 (except, unfortunately, Cocktail and John Candy movies). I miss the old days when there was a greater variety of programming.

Of course, there are more channels on cable now. Unfortunately, most of these channels are not on basic cable, at least not on my cable system. Sci-Fi, TVLand, Turner Classic Movies, and many of the better cable channels are all on digital cable. And, unfortunately, digital cable now costs an arm and a leg. Essentially, to get better programming, one has to pay a lot more. It would be a lot easier if the basic channels would simply vary what they show. A few older movies. A few older shows. Try not to show what the other guys are showing.

Ah well, I guess I shouldn't complain too much After all, I do own a DVD player. And there are a lot of old shows and movies available on DVD now...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Soda Nostalgia Part Two

Today I am thinking of soda again. There are a few I can remember that I left out of my last discussion on soda. One was Frostie Root Beer. I seem to remember that it was among the best root beers out there, up there with A & W. I also remember their logo as being fairly distinctive. It featured a bearded fellow with a pointed hat (not unlike Santa Claus's hat). I don't know if he had a name, although I'm guessing it was Frostie.

I also remember that there was a greater variety of brands of flavoured sodas available when I was younger. Chief among these was Crush, which is still a major brand. Most people are familiar with Orange Crush (which, among other things, lent its name to a R.E.M. song), but it has also come in such flavours as Lime Crush, Lemon Crush, Grape Crush, and Cherry Crush. Crush has actually been around for some time, since 1916. Norman Rockwell even created paintings for some of its earliest advertising.

Of course, there were also a number of lesser known, flavoured sodas out there. One I particularly remember well is Jumbo. I seem to recall that the bottles featured the picture of an elephant. Jumbo is still a product of the Double Cola Company, although it actually pre-dates Double Cola. The Double Cola Company started out in 1922 as the Good Grape Company, then became the Seminole Flavor Company in 1924. Seminole manufactured a drink called Marvel Cola, which was later renamed Jumbo Cola. By 1933 Jumbo Cola was renamed Double Cola; although, the flavoured drinks kept the Jumbo name. Jumbo still comes in a variety of flavours: grape (the Good Grape that the company was originally named for), strawberry, orange, and root beer, among others. Jumbo is hard to find around here, but still available.

I also remember Vess sodas quite well. Vess came in a wide variety of flavours, cola, grape, root beer, orange among them. I remember places around here selling Vess well into the Eighties. I also remember that their bottles were unique for sodas in that one could actually twist the lid off (just like a bottle of beer)!

Nesbitt's is another flavoured soda company I remember. And like the other companies, it came in a variety of flavours: orange, grape, root beer, strawberry, and creme soda. Nesbitt's seemed to have disappeared from store shelves around here in the late Seventies, although I have heard that it still around.

A more famous flavoured soda company is Shasta. One thing I remember about Shasta (in fact, it's still true) is that it came in a ton of flavours (over 40 from what I have read). Besides the traditional cola, root beer, orange, and grape, they also make black cherry, creme soda, ginger ale, Dr. Shasta (their take on Dr. Pepper), and even more. I also remember a commercial they must have done when I was about six. It was a take off on Westerns with a character named "the Lone Orange."

Of course, Nehi is probably the second most famous flavoured soda line besides Crush. Indeed, it was imortalised on M*A*S*H, on which Grape Nehi was Radar's favourite drink. Well before my time Nehi's advertising featured a number of well known celebrities: Bob Hope, Joan Crawford (who would later hawk *gasp* Pepsi...), Hedy Lamarr, and Bing Crosby. Nehi came in a variety of flavours, grape, orange, root beer, and peach.

Nehi is a product of Royal Crown Cola Company, whose best known product is Royal Crown Cola--now abbreviated RC. The Royal Crown Cola Company's history goes back to 1905. Initially they manufactured various flavoured sodas under the name Royal Crown and a cola under the name Chero-Cola. Chero-Cola aroused the ire of the Coca-Cola Company, who sued for trademark infringement. The two companies were in and out of courtrooms until Royal Crown finally won in 1944. In the meantime, the name of their cola product had been changed to Royal Crown, later abbreviated to RC.

Like Nehi, celebrities often appeared in Royal Crown ads. Ronald Reagan, Joan Bennett, Linda Darnell, Paulette Goddard, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Diana Lynn, and Gene Tierney all sold Royal Crown Cola at one time or another. Royal Crown did not simply depend upon celebrities, however, as they also made a few innovations in the soda business. They may well have been the first soda company to sell their product nationwide in cans (all the way back in 1954!). They also introduced the first diet cola--Diet Rite in 1961.

Needless to say, I remember RC Cola quite well, In fact, the Yankees reading this may not be aware of this, but one should properly drink an RC Cola while eating a Moonpie. To this day Coca-Cola is my favourite cola, but either RC or Double Cola would be my second favourite.

It's unfortunate, but many of these flavoured sodas are either no longer available or do not have the distribution they once had. That's too bad, as many of them taste better than many of the generic and store brands available today. Crush, Nehi, and Shasta are still around, but there are times I would like to have Nesbitts again...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Space: 1967

Referring back to yesterday's discussion of predictions for the year 2001 made in the Sixties and Seventies, I suppose it should be no surprise that at that time they thought space travel would be routine by the 21st century. With John F. Kennedy's pledge to set a man on the moon, the country was swept up in a literal space craze. I can remember as a child actually being able to name the astronauts: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and so on. Astronauts were both heroes and celebrities in those days. Now I can't name any of our current astronauts, and I don't think I am alone in that.

To gauge how enthralled the United States of America was with space in the Sixties, one need look no further than television. Nearly every sitcom, from Gilligan's Island to Bewitched, had at least one episode which touched upon outer space in some way. And then there were a few TV series that had a space theme. Star Trek and Lost in Space featured individuals in the future travelling through space. My Favorite Martian and The Invaders featured aliens from outer space, although My Favorite Martian's was benevolent, while the invaders of The Invaders, well, weren't.

Space even played a role in commercials. Entire advertising campaigns were sometimes built around space, especially for foods selected by NASA for use in their space missions. General Foods had developed Tang in 1957, but the drink did not really take off until it was used on Gemini flights in 1965. Sales shot through the roof when it was served on the first lunar mission, Apollo 11, in 1969. Naturally, commercials for Tang made no secret of it being the drink of astronauts! Pillsbury developed "Space Food Sticks" for NASA. Naturally, Pillsbury sold Space Food Sticks to the general public as well. Of course, not every food with a space theme was associated with NASA. In 1965 Quaker Mills introduced the breakfast cereal called Quisp, whose spokesman was an alien with a propeller atop his head, named, appropriately, Quisp. The cereal itself was shaped like little saucers.

Toys with a space theme were also popular in the Sixties. Probably the best known were Mattel's line of Major Matt Mason action figures. The line was quite successful for some time. Marx produced their own line of astronaut action figures under the name "Johnny Apollo." In 1968 Ideal produced a line of four battery powered robots called Zeroids. And, of course, there were a lot of other toy robots, "ray guns" and rockets.

Strangely, I don't remember motion pictures being swept up in the space craze. From the late Sixties I can only remember a few movies that dealt with space in some way shape or form: Planet of the Apes, , Marooned, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, and, of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey .

By the early 1970's, following Apollo 11, the public's fascination with space dwindled. By the mid to late Seventies, astronauts were no longer the celebrities they once were. For a time in the Sixties, however, space seemed to be on everyone's mind. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that they thought we would have a moon base, space stations, and routine space flight by 2001.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Future--Sixties Style

Yesterday I tried fixing my friend Brian's computer. A good deal of malware and spyware had gotten on the machine. The end result of this is that Explorer was constantly crashing. He could not go online. He could not even install AOL. I finally gave up and just decided it might be best if he did a reinstall...

That brings me to the thought that when I was a kid, I never even concieved that there would be such a thing as the World Wide Web. In fact, I didn't even think that we would have computers in most homes by the year 2004. As a child, computers were fairly large things that took up the better part of a room. And only the government, big corporations, and universities had them. But then, I suppose that when I was 7 years old I didn't hear that someone had invented something called a microchip...

Of course, I also thought that we would have a colony on the moon and a space station. I also thought that by this time, space travel was routine. It seems I was wrong. But then, it also seems that a lot of people more or less thought the same thing. Both the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the TV series Space: 1999 featured a moon base. I was only a year old at the time, but I have read about General Electric's Futurama at the 1964-1965 World's Fair in New York City. It not only included a colony on the moon, but a city under the sea.

It is strange how things turn out. As a child I thought we would have colonies on the moon, but I didn't think we would have home computers. We have not even been back to the moon since 1972 and now most homes have computers. It makes me wonder what the next 40 years hold in store.