A retrospective look at pop, fashion, trends, TV, film, toys, fads, wars, people and all manner of curiosities from the vintage vaults.
FLASHBACK to November 13, 1970:
Soldiers in fire support base Aries, a small clearing in the jungles of War Zone D, 50 miles from Saigon, smoke marijuana using the barrel of a shotgun they nicknamed “Ralph” to get high.
WE’VE heard enough about The Avengers, it’s time for another group of superheroes to get some recognition. The Legion of Regrettable Comic Book Superheroes is a motley group consisting of the lamest and oddest heroes ever put to print. You can keep your Iron Man and Captain America; I like my heroes with a touch of stupidity. So, bring on Aqua Melvin, Matter Eater Lad, and the rest of the gang – The Legion of Regrettable Comic Book Superheroes has come to save the day! (or embarrass themselves trying.)
Origin: Adventure Comics #242 – Nov. 1957
Aquaman responds to a distress call from a ship and discovers an unconscious Vaudeville clown onboard. If that wasn’t strange enough, the only way to save him is for Aquaman to give him a blood transfusion. Naturally, this imbues him with Aquaman’s powers for 24 hours and insanity ensues.
IN the 1980s, cricket was violent, thrilling, angry, captivating and utterly fantastic. When the mighty West Indies played England at Lord’s in June 1980, I was by the Tavener’s pitch-side pub. It smelt of warm body, smoke and beer.
A West Indian steward saw me trying to get a view and invited me to sit by the rope. In the bright sunlight, I stepped over the low barriers and onto the grass. Joel Garner was bowling. At 6ft 8inches tall, running in fast with the ball held high in his hand, Garner was the most fearsome, magnificent human being I had ever seen.
Failed political photo-ops
DAVID Cameron is facing ridicule once again. His latest gaffe was to tweet a picture of himself looking serious and statesmanlike while having a serious statesmanlike phone call with Barak Obama. The problem, aside from the typically patronising pomposity of the gesture, was that he looked singularly un-statesmanlike. In fact, he resembled nothing do much as a perplexed pudding.
Of course, he has plenty of competition in the failed phot-op stakes.
Here’s George Osborne, Chancellor and Chelsea fan, in ‘man of the people’ pose, manfully working late while snacking on a burger and fries. His tweet backfired when said burger was identified as coming from posh nosh joint Byron.
Oh, hello! Talking of burgers…
Hey presto – instant ridicule. What a Gummer.
But frankfurters are even more risky. Republican Presidential nominee Michele Bachmann has been dubbed Palin 2.0 thanks to her numerous factual and logical gaffes. On this occasion, however, she was guilty of nothing more than innocent naivety, and chomped on a corn dog in full view of the press without considering the consequences.
Best to stick with a beer. In Nigel Farrage’s case almost literally so, as he clings to his pint prop as tenaciously as Tony Blair clung to his ubiquitous ‘ordinary guy’ coffee mug. Asked about it, he replied: ‘I’ll tell you something. I work an 18 hour day most days and I think I’m entitled at lunchtime to a pint.’
William Hague famously claimed to have regularly drunk 14 pints a day as a schoolboy, and he wasn’t averse to being pictured pint-pot in hand. But his most risible moment was this fashion faux pas which was intended to make him look cool, but didn’t.
Even without the banana, David Miliband achieves the extraordinary feat of making his brother look normal.
But what the hell – normal’s overrated, right? Just ask Francois Hollande. Actually don’t ask him, as he appears to be a bit sensitive about it. In fact, two French press agencies even took the unusual step of withdrawing this unflattering portrait of the French president.
Ask former US Congressman Chris Lee instead. Or better still, just admire this picture of himself that he utilised in the services of his reply to a sex ad on Craigslist.
Of course anyone can have an off-day. But for one man, it happened to be Groundhog Day.
In the end, you just have to laugh along and rise above it.
THE problem with songs about food is that, well, they’re never really about food. Tasty as brown sugar is, the Stones weren’t really singing about sucrose. And when Robert Plant sings “Your custard pie, yeah, sweet and nice. When you cut it, mama, save me a slice” he’s not talking about pastries. You might say it’s a time honored tradition for rock and pop musicians to use food as symbols of sex and drugs.
We certainly can’t go through them all, so let’s narrow it down and focus just on songs with fruit in the title. Here’s a playlist that not only is interesting and fun, but also rich in Vitamin C.
1. “Apples and Oranges” by Pink Floyd
The setting is the produce section at the grocery store; however, apples and oranges are also an allusion to the differences between Syd and a girl he sees there (who, according to Syd himself, he’d been stalking for hours).
In this video, Floyd makes an appearance on American Bandstand. Syd looks absolutely stoned out of his mind, and you can tell the cameraman takes care to avoid him as much as possible.
2. “I Am a Tangerine” by Tommy James and the Shondells
Tommy has admitted that he was hopelessly wasted when he wrote this song, and that it makes no sense whatsoever. Don’t go reading clever allusions and metaphors into this one, folks. When Tommy screams “Hello Banana”, he was genuinely introducing himself to a piece of fruit.
3. “Peaches’ by The Stranglers
“Peaches” is a simple song about walking up and down the beach staring at the ladies. However, the fruit acquired a gynecological connotation by the line:
“Will you just take a look over there. Is she tryin’ to get outta that clitares?
“Clitares” being a French word for bathing suit, and I’m sure The Stranglers were well aware of how the word would get misinterpreted. Clever bastards.
4. “Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin
Led Zep were no strangers to fruity music – let’s not forget “The Lemon Song”. Page wrote this one during his Yardbirds days, purportedly about singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon. The false start at the beginning begat an interesting urban legend – that the intro was the remnant of the “the greatest song ever recorded” but the tape was destroyed, and both Plant and Page couldn’t remember how it went. This snippet at the beginning (not in the video above) is all that remains.
It’s total bulls**t, but nonetheless it’s an urban legend that should be fostered and encouraged. Of course, when it comes to fruit-centered urban legends, nothing will compare to the “Cranberry Sauce/I Buried Paul” conspiracy.
5. “Raspberry Beret” by Prince
Theories abound regarding the meaning of this song. Many feel it’s just a simple story about a young nobody who becomes captivated by a woman who enters the store where he works. Prince was under fire from Tipper Gore over his racy lyrics for “Darling Nikki”, so he wanted to tone things down a bit. But the fact that the store is owned by “Old Man Johnson” belies a dirty subtext. After all, this is the same guy that brought you “Soft and Wet” and “Cream”.
So, what does it mean? Some think the “raspberry beret” refers to an uncircumcised penis. Others say it’s menstrual blood. I say this is may be best left unanswered.
6. “Blackberry Way” by The Move
Very much in the vein of “Penny Lane”; sort of a downbeat answer to the peppy McCartney classic. Personally, I cannot get past the “ooh-wah” bridge (at about the 1:45 mark in the video) which is lifted directly from Harry Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk”. It’s stolen so exactly, the song is ruined for me.
7. “Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond
Speaking of plagiarism, “What I Like About You” by the Romantics features a guitar riff pretty damn similar to Diamond’s “Cherry, Cherry”. Of course, there’s always some borrowing and cross-pollination in pop music. In fact, you could argue “Cherry, Cherry” owes some of its melody to “Dirty Water” by The Standells.
Whatever its roots, I’m inclined to agree with Rolling Stone in calling this one of the greatest three-chord songs of all time. You’ll notice no horns or drums; that’s because this hit was actually a demo version. Adding drums, horns and other polish detracted from the energy, so they kept the original.
8. “Dear Delilah” by Grapefruit
I could have ended this playlist on top with “Strawberry Fields”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” or “Blueberry Hill”. Instead, I’ll invalidate the entire premise of this article and offer up a song without any fruit at all in its title. The band’s name is certainly fruity enough, though. Grapefruit was of the hallowed 60s tradition of bands naming themselves after fruit (ex. Moby Grape, The Lemon Pipers, Strawberry Alarm Clock… not to mention Apple Records). In Grapefruit’s case, John Lennon actually named them after Yoko’s awful 1964 book.
Grapefruit’s singer is a member of the amazing Young family – the same clan that spawned AC/DC (Malcolm and Angus Young) and The Easybeats (George Young). Grapefruit had the full support of The Beatles, but couldn’t achieve the success they no doubt expected.
You might say that everything was going peachy keen at Apple, but they wanted to be top banana, and ended up with sour grapes.
(insert sounds of crickets chirping)
Sorry. A fruit pun was bound to happen at some point. My sincere apologies.
FLASHBACK to May 5th 1943:
Olive McDonald, branding the casing of a 3-inch mortar-bomb, at a factory somewhere in England, on May 4, 1943.
EVER read Little Nemo, the comic strip about the lad’s fabulous dreams?
The strip ran from October 15, 1905 to April 23, 1911 in the New York Herald.
FLASHBACK to August 30, 1960:
Young girls at Japanese radio manufacturing plant in Tokyo, stretch in unison to the beat of a man blowing the whistle. The stretch break takes place twice a day and, according to company officials, raises the efficiency of the girls who assemble the miniature parts of transistor radios. The girls use microscopes to insert needle-like parts into the radios.
YOU’RE looking at an illustration from a 1530s manual on warfare. The advice is to “set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise”.
One way of achieving this is with a flaming rocket cat. You can also surprise the enemy by using doves as instruments of death.
THE Women’s League of Health And Beauty were there to help:
Mary Bagot-Stack founded the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in 1930 when her daughter Prunella was just fifteen years old, but when Mary died at a tragically young age in 1935, Prunella was called upon to continue the work of the League. Not only did she continue the work but she watched the League spread from Britain to Canada, Australia and Hong Kong, with a worldwide membership of 170,000 women by 1938. Around this time, fitness, movement, keep-fit and physical recreation for women was spreading throughout Britain and becoming something of a national phenomenon.
IN 1978, there was an infestation of mice in Jimmy Carter’s White House:
WHEN Kurt Cobain met Courtney Love, it made it into this biography:
Already infamous in Portland, Love was holding court in a booth when she saw Kurt walk by a few minutes before his band was set to appear onstage. Courtney was wearing a red polka-dot dress. “You look like Dave Pirner,” she said to him, meaning the remark to sound like a small insult, but also a flirt. Kurt did look a bit like Pirner, the lead singer of Soul Asylum, as his hair had grown long and tangled — he washed it just once a week, and then only with bar soap. Kurt responded with a flirt of his own: He grabbed Courtney and wrestled her to the ground.
BEAVIS and Butt-head are two boys so stupid they once forgot how to wee, who treat dog bites by pouring sports drinks into them, and who believe it’s possible to get yourself pregnant. They’re the best. Mike Judge’s sniggering fartknockers are easily dismissed, but they rule hard. Huh huh. We said “hard”.
THEY COULD DESTROY A BAND
1980s glam-rock also-rans Winger were frequently the butt of jokes on Beavis & Butt-head – the boys’ weenie neighbour Stewart wore a Winger shirt, and they described the band as “wussies”. Apparently this all came from when Mike Judge heard that frontman Kip Winger had insisted that MTV not let Beavis and Butt-head mock his band – Judge got annoyed and made fun of them loads. Winger ended up blaming the band’s break-up on the cartoon, but it turned out he’d actually been misquoted the whole time. Sore.
THEY CHANGED THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
As well as beautiful catchphrases like “I need TP for my bunghole” and “I have seen the top of the mountain, and it is good”, Beavis and Butt-head gave the world insults like dillhole, assmunch, buttmunch, ass-goblin, asswipe, dickweed, dillweed, fartknocker, turd-burglar, pecker-butt, bunghole and chode-smoker.
THEIR MUSIC REVIEWS WERE SPOT-ON
On Vanilla Ice: “They’re always putting this guy down and making fun of him and saying he sucks and stuff. But you know, he really does suck, and this is one of those times where everybody’s right.”
On Radiohead: “Sometimes, if I have a boner that won’t go down, I listen to this type of music”.
On Type O Negative: “I think they’re a cross between Megadeth and my butt. I mean that as a compliment. My butt rules.”
On Scatman John: “They should have a name for this type of music.” “They already do have a name for this type of music, Beavis – it’s called crap.”
THEY MADE PEOPLE PROUD TO SUCK
After featuring a video by heavy metal band Grim Reaper, Judge ran into several of the members backstage at an Anthrax concert. “I thought I was gonna get my ass kicked,” says Judge, “But he said ‘I love your show. You trashed my video, but wait til you see the next one – it sucks even more’”.
THEY COULD MAKE A BAND HUGE
White Zombie were releasing their song Thunder Kiss ’65 for the third time, and not making a huge impact with it, when Beavis and Butt-head discovered it and decided it ruled. “Beavis and Butt-head thought Thunder Kiss ‘65 was cool and played it a lot” said White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult. “I hate to say we owe a lot to two cartoon characters, but we really do. That show was really cool. Everything that Beavis and Butt-head liked, I liked too so it was cool. It was kinda cool to be in company with the things they approved of.” They also championed the hell out of Gwar (who are THE BEST), and had Snoop Dogg (back when he was Snoop Doggy Dogg) on the show a bunch of times.
THEY PAVED THE WAY FOR SOUTH PARK
Until Beavis and Butt-head came along, animation for adults consisted of The Simpsons and bugger-all else. Matt Stone and Trey Parker had started making rudimentary cartoons by the time Beavis and Butt-head was broadcast, but there’s no way they’d have ended up with a prime-time slot on a mainstream channel without Judge’s show. When South Park blew up, Mike Judge got in touch with Stone and Parker to warn them that success brings a backlash with it. Parker told Playboy in 2000 “He said, ‘There’s going to be this big rise, and then everyone will hate you. You just ride it out and do your job, you’re just a show.’” He also gave them the advice “Don’t let people take advantage of you, because they’re dumb.” Judge voiced Kenny for his sole unmuffled line in the South Park movie, Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
MIKE JUDGE DID IT PROPERLY DIY
“I always wanted to do animation – I did flip books as a kid” Mike told an interviewer in 1996. “But I always thought you needed all the equipment and the money for film and all the sound equipment. I thought, maybe if I’m rich someday. Then an animation festival came to town, and I saw the cels in the lobby and realized a local guy actually did it. So I figured out ways to make films with a $300 camera. I did the lipsynch tracking with a stopwatch and a four-track cassette recorder, and did the music as one piece.”
WITHOUT THEM THERE’D BE NO OFFICE SPACE OR IDIOCRACY
After finishing Beavis and Butt-head’s first run, Judge wrote and directed box-office-flops-turned-cult-hits-on-DVD Office Space and Idiocracy (as well as Extract, which to be fair is a bit rubbish). Office Space is possibly the best movie about work ever made, while Idiocracy manages to combine really intelligent satire with a lot of people getting hit in the nuts. The dad from Everybody Hates Chris plays the future US President in it, and he’s completely amazing. He’s a wrestler who keeps grabbing his crotch.
This is the trailer for Judge’s new show, Silicon Valley. Does it look good? Yes, it does, it looks really really good.
THEY KNEW HOW TO TURN A CUSS INTO A GAG
When Senator Ernest Hollings, who had never watched an episode, badmouthed the show during an interview, he mispronounced it as “Buffcoat and Beaver” (which is incredibly weird, and sounds really rude, and suggests Senator Ernest Hollings has a dirty mind). This immediately became a running joke, with almost every adult that the boys encountered pronouncing their names differently (“Travis and Bob-head”, “Crevis and Bung-head” etc).
MIKE JUDGE HAD A BAD TIME
This isn’t really a thing to celebrate, but he’s not having a bad time anymore, so that’s something. When a five-year-old set fire to his family’s trailer, killing his two-year-old sister, his parents claimed he’d been influenced by Beavis and Butt-head’s obsession with fire (he hadn’t been – the family didn’t have cable TV). The ensuing controversy led to Judge being banned from having Beavis say the word “fire”, which he hated because it implied some responsibility for the incident on the part of the show. He also had a pretty rubbish deal with MTV, with one director later recalling “MTV robbed that guy, he got nothing”. When the show returned in 2011 though, Judge was in more of a position of power, and the full title of the show was Mike Judge’s Beavis And Butt-Head. Dude did good.
THEY SPAWNED DARIA AND KING OF THE HILL
Beavis and Butt-head’s monotonal classmate Daria ended up getting her own spin-off series, which was awesomely 90s and beautifully observed (plus several of the characters in it were weirdly alluring). Mike Judge also morphed Beavis and Butt-Head’s neighbour Tom Anderson into Hank Hill, lead character of King Of The Hill, which ran for thirteen seasons, won tons of awards and was ace. Judge also created The Goode Family a few years ago, about a family of politically-correct liberals, which was sort of rubbish so let’s not dwell on it.
THEIR ANIMATION SUCKED BUT RULED AND THEN RULED WHILE STILL SUCKING
The animation in the first series of Beavis and Butt-Head was properly rudimentary – it was hand-drawn, rushed, and the character models took a while to be properly solidified (a bit like the way early Simpsons episodes look like they were drawn in real-time). When the show came back in 2011 they had full HD, really lovely-looking animation, but for the bits where they were commenting on music videos, they re-used the rubbish old animation. Christ knows why, but hey, recycling’s a positive thing, right? The poor animation was also a source of inspiration to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who applied the same DIY aesthetic to their cut-out construction-paper films.
MIKE JUDGE IS A LOVELY DUDE
A lot of people that work in telly are vicious sods, but Mike Judge seems to not have a bad word to say about anyone. Describing Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America script, he said “I’ve never laughed out loud as much reading anything”, he’s described Family Guy as “great”, Simpsons creator Matt Groening as having “started it all”, and equates old Road Runner cartoons with the moon landing. He also put together a touring festival, The Animation Show, designed to showcase work by lesser-known artists. What a nice dude. Plus he’s friends with Johnny Knoxville, and that guy seems to have pretty good taste.
THEY CAN HELP BROKE-ASS ARTISTS BY LAUGHING AT THEM
In one episode of the 2011 season, Beavis and Butt-head comment on a video called It’s So Cold In The D by T-Baby. T-Baby is broke as hell – she’s not got a record contract or anything, and her song was just a no-budget YouTube video that people thought was funny. She got US$4,000 to let her video be used on Beavis and Butt-head, and will get another $4,000 every year that the show’s repeated. She told TMZ “People have been making fun of me my whole life, so Beavis and Butt-head laughing at me is no big deal – I’m laughin’ all the way to the bank. It’s been the biggest kickoff to my career.”
THE mid-century palette was vastly different than it is today. Much of what we find advertised in vintage cookbooks and magazines seems nauseating by today’s standards. I’m sure the same will be true of our current tastes when viewed fifty years from now. This gastronomic sea change certainly makes for an interesting browse through recipes and food adverts from yesteryear. Here are a few exceptionally foul examples.
MEALS IN A MOLD
As a general rule of thumb, I prefer my meats not to be suspended in a freakish mold of gelatin and psuedo-mayonnaise. But I’m funny that way. However, I will say the pimiento used for the fish eye is a stroke of brilliance.
GUY Burgess woke at around 9.30 on the morning of Friday, 25 May 1951 in his untidy, musty-smelling bedroom. Next to his bed was an overflowing ashtray and lying on the floor was a half-read Jane Austen novel. Since his return from Washington DC three weeks previously, where he had been second secretary at the British embassy, he had been rising relatively late.