Days Of Conspicuous Consumption – Part 3 – The 70s – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
More than looking at old magazines, leafing through family photos or listening to first-hand recollections, listening to the radio commercials of a decade do much to spell out just where a society was in terms of Popular Culture, probably more than any other medium representing a space in time. Certainly more than TV, since we can look at the images; often grainy and bordering on nondescript, with the expectation already set up so we’re predisposed to feeling a certain way, either wistful or wistfully embarrassed. Listening to a radio commercial, on the other hand, free of the images and intentions of the advertiser, but relying instead on a strong verbal message, do a lot to portray a specific period and where society was, emotionally during that time.
People have often said that the 60s really didn’t end until 1972, and you can believe that, just by listening to the 1972 commercial for Annie Greensprings Wine – very groovy, laid back and mellow – buzz-words for the early 70s.
By the end of the decade we were knee-deep in Disco and the kinetic nature of the radio commercials reflect that, while humor by the mid-1970s was a tad more cynical than it had been the decade before due in large part to the aftermath of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. We were also going through turmoil at the gas-pump and the newly focused attention on Miles Per Gallon made Foreign cars and trucks attractive, while American car manufacturers were trying to hang on with the old tried-and-true.
The 70s have also been regarded as the “me decade” – a period of time associated with soul-searching and questioning – no longer thinking in terms of “the group”, but how life was affecting the individual. The interesting thing is the last gasp of “us” reflected in the 1970 commercial for Coke, probably the most iconic and reflective of a decade at its hopeful start. It wasn’t “I want to buy a Coke for myself”, but rather “I want to buy the World a Coke”. Along with Earth Day, probably one of the best examples of society being together, if even for a short period of time. That would all go away soon enough. Another factor is how old were you when these commercials were playing – if you were somewhere between 10 and 15 it could be nostalgic, since those are the ages these imprints occur. History, nostalgia and Popular Culture are luckily, not one-size-fits-all.
You’ll hear a lot of stuff you remember, maybe all too well – you’ll also hear stuff that’s not familiar at all. Since this is volume 3 of what promises to be pretty weighty as far as compilations are concerned, be patient; your memory-joggers will be on soon enough.