Friday, April 20, 2012

"Hey Whitey, I Thought You Were A Lefty?"

One day last week, I dropped my cell phone and it exploded into three parts on the floor at a client's studio. Said client asked if the phone would work again, and after I pieced it back together and fired up the power and saw that it worked, I said: "Bounces back wash after wash."

This resulted in a short conversation about old commercials ... "Ancient Chinese secret" ... "You call it corn, we called it maize." Soon I was on YouTube, looking up some of my favorite commercials from the old days. I was delighted to find Right Guard's "Hi Guy" and Schmidt's "Big Jim's coming!"

At this point, I was going to go into rant mode on the state of modern TV commercials. Only Allstate's "Mayhem" campaign and Sonic's "Two Guys" goofballs at the drive-in are must-see TV for this guy. Too often I instead see the ever-present Flo for Progressive and Mike Rowe for almost everything else. Oh, and whatever idiotic "idea" Bud Light is running with these days. (And as you are probably aware, there is a new annoying pitchman on the scene: "Scott" the Scotsman who is saturating the airwaves trying to convince you that you need more for lawn care than a Lawn-Boy and a sprinkler. I'm so glad I don't own a house.) But hey ... I'm sure there was a lot of crappy commercials back in the old days, I've just forgotten them.

So here's one man's list of three vintage commercials he wished would hit YouTube:

1) Bob Uecker "Front Row" commercial for Miller Lite, circa 1984. How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy in the summer of '84 memorized it and repeated it over and over again. I can still recite most of it from memory:

Uecker (finding his seat at a baseball game): Hey sports fans, I love ya! The great thing about an ex-big-leaguer? Freebies to the game! Just call up the front office and BINGO. Another great thing? Lite beer from Miller. It has a third less calories than their regular beer, plus it tastes great.

Heckler: Down in front!

Uecker: Ha! I love 'em!

Usher: C'mon buddy, you're in the wrong seat.

Uecker: Must be in the front rowwwww!

(Cut to Uecker in noseblood seats in the outfield upper deck.)

Uecker: He missed the tag! He missed the tag!

How great was this commercial? Not only is "Uecker seats" now a euphemism for crappy seats at a game, the ad convinced me to drink Miller Lite for a few months before I moved onto Schmidt.

2) Jeff Altman for Valvoline, circa 1988. Altman is a hyperactive standup comedian. I knew him from his frequent appearances on David Letterman's show. One of his bits at the time was to describe his father, and in the crotchety manner he treated Altman as a child. This commercial featured Altman in both the role of father and child shopping for motor oil. The child speaking to Valvoline's quality and the father saying: "Quality, schmality. I just want whatever's cheapest." The ending is the child saying something like "there's a rebate", and the father responds with: "Would you just get the Valvoline like I told you? Or I'll sink you like a three-foot putt."

How great was this commercial? Me and my buddy (same guy from summer of '84!), briefly left our table at a bar to get closer to a TV when the commercial aired during the Saturday afternoon MLB game of the week.

3) Amoco "The Road Worrier" commercial, circa 1984. This was a takeoff on The Road Warrior movie. It features The Road Worrier, a grizzly Mel Gibson-like tough guy with a few day's growth who drives an Amoco tanker truck. He pulls up to a house, walks to the front door. A man answers the door, announces to his daughter that her date is here. Dad engages the driver in conversation:

Dad: "How's it going Road?"

(Editor's note: I love that the Dad feels he has a great vibe with his potential son-in-law and calls him "Road"!)

Road Worrier: "I'm worried."

Then Road expands on his anxiety, something about how subpar gasolines clog fuel lines, damage carburetors, etc. and that Amoco has the highest-quality gasoline. He and the girl prepare to drive away.

Dad: "So where you headed?"

Road: "North Dakota. There's an Amoco station there."

I first saw this while in school at the University of North Dakota. Imagine my great delight when while visiting my parents, who at the time lived in Illinois, and I saw this commercial and it still mentioned North Dakota. I had been worried that Amoco changed the name of the state for whatever market they were airing the commercial in. It wasn't Road Worrier-like worry, but I was concerned nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Bachman-Turner Overdrive - "Hey You"

This week I was going to write about Pavement's "Summer Babe (Winter Version)" ... riffing guitars, lazy vocalist singing nonsense, yet it's all catchy and irresistible somehow. But I had that song on the radio as a child and it was "Hey You" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Plus it's catchier than the Pavement tune, has a better rhythm section, and while Stephen Malkmus is intentionally a lazy singer, Randy Bachman as a singer is just lazy. I'll take that over an unforced error.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Def Leppard - "Hello America"

From Def Leppard's debut album, when I'm guessing they were still categorized as a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band. I bring that up so that I can say that the abbreviation for that metal subgenre is "NWOBHM," and trust me: It's a lot more fun to type that than it is to say it. Supposedly there is a way to pronounce the abbreviation, but I've never heard it used. Than again, I've probably only ever discussed NWOBHM with like three other people.

I say I'm guessing that Lep was still being called a NWOBHM band in 1980, but I'm sure this song - it hit #45 on the UK charts - resulted in cries of "sell out" from all the denim clad NWOBHM-loving longhairs. What with its AOR-ready riffs, hooks, and chorus ("AOR", look that one up kiddies, speaking of abbreviations. Just don't be a little wisenheimer and call my tastes "MOR"), this is the type of tune from their first album that set the stage for the mainstream glories of High 'n' Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria. Hello America ... Hello Mutt Lange.

And Mercury's advance must not have come in yet, because Joe Elliot sings about taking a Greyhound when he's in California.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Contours - "First I Look At The Purse"

Is this one sexist? Or feminist? Is the narrator a hustler or just lazy? Decades ahead of its time - it celebrates women who have money insted of looks, curves, and sex appeal - it's another brilliant Motown (okay, Gordy Records) production by Smokey Robinson. He wrote the song with fellow Miracle Bobby Rogers. Robinson is who Bob Dylan called "America's greatest living poet." With couplets like this, I can't argue:

Why waste time looking at the waistline
First I look at the purse