Sunday, January 2, 2011

Commercial Success

When I started cartooning for thursday, Pud Stickles had not yet arrived at MIT.  In fact, he was a high school senior with plenty of time to watch TV.  It's odd, because these days I don't watch TV, go to the movies or listen to the radio.  Technology has done that for us - it's given us an Internet with such a rich viewing experience that I can watch all the video I want on YouTube, chat interactively on places like Facebook (and get into innumerable political arguments on any of a number of self-important message boards), and pull a variety of MP3's off of music blogs.  But back in the day, technology meant black-and-white TV, an alarm-clock radio and a cassette player.  High-end technology was a stereo with enough wattage to blow the door off your neighbor's room.  The thursday office didn't even have that; we made do with one of those old phonograph record players that had the speaker enclosed in the unit and a leatherette case with a closing top.  It was wonderfully scratchy, and the sound was flat and tinny, especially when Meat Loaf was belting out of it cranked up to 11.  And in 1976, that's how we entertained ourselves.

We also had TV.  And TV had commercials.  And commercials were a staple of Stickles cartoons, including the very first one published in thursday in March 1975.  In the parlanceof the music business, it was remastered in 1980, when I was out of school and had lots of free time in the evenings after work; the original was drawn with a Rapidograph pen, which meant all the lines were the same thickness (there is something to be said for the richness of a quill pen and India ink, which is hard to duplicate using PC Paintbrush).  And there really was a diaper advertisement in which a man in the street snapped a completely soggy diaper at unsuspecting passers-by...
Radio in Boston consisted of 68 RKO, for those who liked Top 40, and WBCN for the more progressive rockers (King Crimson, anyone?).  MIT had WTBS (the name was later sold to Ted Turner for the princely sum of an old amplifier and some 8-track cartridges).  TBS had no commercials, but it had "The Ghetto", and "The Ghetto" had lots of wonderful '70s soul and emergent disco.  My upbringing as a musician at an arts high school made me fond of classical music - though not necessarily of classical music stations...

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