Although I am one who actively shuns “the good old days” when talking about the past, there are times when I find myself inundated with bits of my youth; my formative years. And there is something about the radio commercial, that soundscape of catch-phrases and hummable tunes that gets into your psyche and stays there for eternity.
And I will confess that one of the things I did regularly as a kid stalking the mean streets of L.A. on my bike, aside from dumpster diving at Radio stations, was hounding perplexed station personnel for their expired commercials. After a fashion, they got to know me and would routinely shove a box full of goodies they had saved for me, most likely for the questionable joy of watching me balance a 35 pound box of records on my handle bars and not fall over while racing down Wilshire.
But within those expired grooves were hours and hours of familiar music and convincing message. And aside from commercials for Helm Bread (which starts this 30 minute adventure in sound), there are commercials for everything from Pioneer Chicken, Chicken Delight, Lions Drag Strip, Hancock Gasoline and Coast Federal Savings to $12,000 homes for sale at Laguna Niguel.
There’s no particular pattern to the commercials, their time frame goes from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s and practically all the products, essentials we couldn’t live without, were all native to Los Angeles. Some products have changed over the years – companies are merged and sold and become something else, and even though they retain a name, they bear no resemblance to what they once sold.
But like the Top-40 radio and early FM that I post periodically, the commercials are evocative of a place and time. And maybe you aren’t familiar with them – you came to L.A. too late or you were born long after these commercials expired – this was what was just as much a part of our culture as the places we went to and the clothes we wore. For better or worse, those 30 second and one minute masterpieces got stuck in our collective memories, and I would be very surprised if a lot of you don’t know all the words by heart to at least half of these.
Needless to say, there’s a lot more. But for now, here’s a sample to get the wayback machine rolling.