Just here for the old music clips? Go here.
A podcast in the morning, the work blog, the penultimate Clown Week entry, a video at the office, filed a column, set up two interviews, did a radio segment that was mostly improvisation parody of an evasive congressperson: this sort of diversity keeps one interested, and happy. And also unwilling at the end of the day to do anything else except watch a movie and futz around with various projects. But! There’s much in the way of Listen below, with some amusing excerpts you may enjoy. Or may not.
Saw this at the grocery store the other day, and was gratified:
. . . and then somewhat saddened. My daughter doesn’t get the reference. Then again, I’m not sure I got the reference, at first; depends on when there was that revelatory intersection in childhood where you realize that something you didn’t quite get was a callback, a shared cultural reference.
In the early 80s, when the reference was even more tenuous - maybe they thought he was imitating Gabe Kaplan - but still part of the cultural vocabulary:
What we have here are kids who are actually waggling cigars.
The old ladies enjoying a pickle, which allows them to express their still-vital interior life in a manner contrary to their exterior image, seems to be a pickle-ad constant, as if the briny snap of the pickle reinforces and contradicts their aged selves:
That’s Ruth McDevitt, who did a lot of radio. You may remember her as the lady in the bird store in Hitchcock’s avian-related thriller. Anyway: why a stork? Wikipedi on Vlasic:
A child-bearing stork was introduced as a mascot in the late 1960s, merging the stork baby mythology with the notion that pregnant women have an above average appetite for pickles. Vlasic marketed themselves as "the pickle pregnant women crave . . . after all, who's a better pickle expert?"
The voice was Doug Preis, who also did Lucky the Leprechaun.
You do get the reference, don’t you? Did you get a smile at the phrase “why a stork?” Then there’s hope.
Now, the Cues! Do I have to explain? Fine. As I say every week: if you're just joining the Listen project, it includes a selection of music cues gleaned from "The Couple Next Door." Library music the producers dropped in to get them in and out of scenes. It's the background soundtrack for mid-century life. Many more can be found here.
Some of these are familiar - after a while, they're all familiar, but minor differences suggest they're the same idea extended, shortened, and reworked, so they could be used in a variety of circumstances. But every week I find something new. This week was no exception.
I mentioned “Big Town,” a radio serial turned into a movie that appeared on the marquee in the movie discussed on Monday’s “Black and White World” section. I mentioned it contained some horrible acting. I am hear to prove it. The hero, the square-jawed intrepid humorless crusading reporter, is talking to another radio cliche, the gabby cabby. These guys were all over the place what with their colloquial dialogue what tends towards the discursive, speaking without contraction if they are of the Runyanesque sort. The cabby here was played by Mason Reese, who’d later have a career in commercials, TV, and of course “Lou Grant.” He really chews this one up. It’s almost a parody, right down to naming his cab after a girl.
A lot of old radio was like this. A lot. Yes, the city was called Big Town. Good Lord.
But there was also the clever stuff, as with any medium, which brings us back to The Couple Next Door music cues.
#148: I’ve heard this before, but not like this:
Here’s the tail end snipped off for a “mail sent” sound. That’s what I use it for now, anyway.
#149 As I’ve noted before, these are either beginning to blend together, or I’m just hearing different parts of the same thing, or different takes of the same thing that are used for transitions or conclusions. For example, we’ve heard the chatty / time-passing theme before, but here for the first time it’s used under dialogue to illustrate a long argument over paint color.
#150 The epic misadventure of house construction continues; when the painter quits, the Buttinski couple, the enormously irritating Madge and Charlie Beamish, decide to throw a painting party, and invite everyone over to help. All of a sudden, 50s party music for the smart set:
# 151 It ends up a mess, more or less, the guests drink more than they paint. There’s this cue to indicate a total surprising disaster:
I present a little snippet to remind you of the context in which these things appear, and also to give you a taste of the skill, humor, and economy at work here. Three and a half minutes; five characters; two moods turning on something Lynch did to perfect: the incoherent fluster-fit of total, utter panic. Her character is level-headed and never less than articulate, but about once every three weeks something like this happened. Listen as she slides from weary host to tired-but-amused-wife-observing-husbandly-foibles to complete social horror.
#152 Long ago I caught a cue that seemed to quote “Pop Goes the Weasel” in a minor key, like a Volga-boatman dirge; I was right. They had a version in a major key as well, but there's still something ominous about the Weasel motif.
# 153 Confusion and alarm - but it resolves to that chord, the sound of domesticity we keep hearing again and again.
If you’re wondering which Jell-O week it is, here’s Don Wilson - Jack Benny’s long-time portly pitchman - keeping you up to date.
Another ad from “Couple” - paper napkins for Thanksgiving? It’s the stylish thing to do!
It’s hard to tell if “Couple” had consistent national sponsorship; there are two sponsors that pop in from time to time. Jell-O, and a margarine that promised NO OILY TASTE! which immediately made you think of an oily taste, and a series of in-show spots for Glamorine, some sort of cleaning product / dessert topping. Local stations probably added spots in the middle if they had one.
But what if they didn’t? Couldn’t have dead air, could you. So the network either provided ads for upcoming shows - wordy, tendentious spots that seemed ever-so-slightly to be talking down to the listener - or PSAs like this. Imagine hearing this on a commercial station today.
Here's the newspaper video; meet my new colleague, who's delightful.
A column at startribune.com (scroll down to the columnist section) and other things here and there! Have a grand weekend, and I'll see you around.