Salt Lake’s Best Rock

Oh my hell…  in the previous entry, I mentioned remembering a TV ad for a Salt Lake radio station that used the opening drums from Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” right? So guess what I just just ran across on YouTube? The stuff you can find out there on the interwebz never fails to amaze me…

Incidentally, if you’re interested, I also found this brief history of the station as I was wandering cyberspace trying to confirm my fading memory, written by a dude named Paul Wilson in 2005:


In 1947, Salt Lake City had only two commercial FM stations…at 100.3 (Bonneville’s KSL-FM) and 98.7 (what is now KBEE-FM).  In the early 1970s, KCPX-FM (at 98.7) was known as “Stereo X” and was the home of a wide-ranging free-form album rock format…but under the direction of KCPX Program Director Gary Waldron, by the end of the 70’s the station had evolved into “Real Rock 99 FM”.  The playlist was short (only a couple hundred songs) and it quickly became the market’s top-rated station, combining the laid-back presentation of album rock with tight top 40 rotations a decade before Pirate Radio spawned the term “Rock 40”.  As the 80’s began, the station hired a full staff of announcers and “99FM” continued to dominate the market.  I was fortunate enough to hold the 7-midnight shift for nearly four years, until the musical pendulum swung back toward pop music and the station evolved again.  By 1984 there was a new crew of jocks, the format was CHR and “Hitradio 99” again dominated the market.  Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures had owned the KCPX stations (AM, FM and TV) for a number of years but sold the TV station in the mid 70s.  In the mid 80s they sold the radio stations to John Price, a Salt Lake based contractor best known for building massive shopping malls.  Under Price, the station evolved into “Power 99” and finally to AC as KVRY (Variety 98.7).  The historic KCPX letters were parked on a small AM station in Centerville for about twenty years (more on that later).  Price eventually sold the stations to Citadel; the format remained AC but the call letters were changed to KBEE (B98.7), which is how the station is known today.

Incidentally, it’s been 15 years since that was written, but KBEE B98.7 is still around, now owned by Cumulus Media and playing an adult contemporary format, i.e., mainstream soft rock. I rarely listen to it.


“Treat Them Too”

I’ve now lived long enough to see just about everything that ever meant anything to me, pop-culturally speaking, get hollowed out, recycled, subverted, and/or exploited by cynical beings who make their money by feeding off a generation’s nostalgia, like one of those emotional-parasite energy creatures that occasionally turned up on the old Star Trek series. And yes, I am kinda bitter about the whole deal. You may have noticed.

But every once in awhile, one of these exercises in crass commercialism comes along that is so disarmingly silly, and so affectionate toward the material it’s aping, that even I can’t help but smile at it. Case in point: a new advertisement that perfectly recreates the look of a music video circa 1985, from the film-noir-inspired lighting and shadows to the editing montages, garish fashions, and cheapo compositing effects. Everything about this feels authentic, right down to the occasional VCR tracking glitch. But there’s one important difference between this and an actual vintage MTV clip… in this video, the band is composed of cats.

Such an obvious mashup of the two most enormous forces on the Internet — nostalgia and funny cat videos — could easily have come across as being too calculated and crashed under its own weight. Execution is everything, though, and this piece is, in my humble opinion, pure marketing genius. If I must be sold cat treats using a parody of one of my all-time favorite songs, well, this is the way you do it.

I understand there’s also a 30-second broadcast version, so I imagine we’ll be seeing “The Electric Furs” on our TVs very soon…


Clever Ad Makes Me Smile

Up until two days ago, I’d never heard of “Jeremiah Weed,” even though it’s supposedly the alcoholic beverage of choice for U.S. fighter pilots, at least according to the company’s official Facebook page. (You’d think something like that would’ve impinged on my Trivia Detection Net at some point. I strongly suspect this claim is nothing more than the feverish imagining of some copywriter somewhere who was going for the same macho/funny vibe behind Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign.) Anyway, this Jeremiah Weed stuff is, again referring to that Facebook page, “a 100-proof bourbon liqueur distilled in Kentucky” that is “relatively strong and somewhat sweet.” It’s an ingredient in a number of products marketed by the company, including:

  • Jeremiah Weed Bourbon Liqueur
  • Jeremiah Weed Blended Bourbon
  • Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka
  • Lightning Lemonade® Premium Malt Beverage
  • Roadhouse Tea™ Premium Malt Beverage
  • Spiked Cola™ Premium Malt Beverage

Honestly, those all sound pretty horrible to me. I’m not a bourbon drinker and I’m not a fan of overly sweet booze (when I do drink, which admittedly isn’t often these days, I usually prefer Irish whiskey on the rocks, nice and simple and not likely to leave me with a splitting headache the next day, which syrupy mixed drinks and sugary liqueurs always seem to do). However, I’d be willing to sample any of these beverages if it was personally handed to me by a member of That L’il Old Band from Texas:

I always wonder when I see ads like this if the reactions are genuine, i.e., are these really just random good ol’ boys dropping into the local Kwik-E-Mart with no idea ZZ Top was behind that wall, or was it all scripted and acted? Either way, it’s a fun ad. I love those guys… the hot rod, the beards, the dancing girls. Yeah, that’s rock and roll, and that’s what I’m all about, baby.  Still not sure about that Weed stuff, though.


So How Much Has VW Paid Uncle George Anyhow?

Another Super Bowl commercial has slipped onto the Internet, this one being VW’s follow-up to last year’s wonderful “Vader Kid” spot, as well as to the “Bark Side” teaser that was released a couple weeks ago. The Star Wars connection isn’t immediately obvious, but when it comes, it’s a real pay-off:

Once again, it feels a little strange to realize how directly this is pitched at my specific demographic, how coldly calculated this ad must have been to so precisely push the buttons of we 40-something Gen-Xers. But whatever… it’s fun.


Netcrap: “The Bark Side”

Floating around the InterWebs today, this delightfully daffy VW commercial, apparently intended to be a teaser for something bigger during the upcoming Super Bowl broadcast:

I love the greyhound dressed as an AT-AT wandering in at the end. Last year’s VW Super Bowl spot was, of course, that sublime ad featuring a little kid in a Darth Vader costume trying to use the Force on various household objects. I don’t know what ad agency VW retains, but I wish I worked for them…


Thought-Provoking Ad

A coworker of mine is currently in Germany, regaling we earthbound drones back home with tales of her adventures via Facebook. She commented this morning on seeing a woman in a full-length burqa emerging from a sex shop and how that seemed “like progress.” And that in turn reminded me of something I saw on Boing Boing a while back.

This is a little on the racy side, but it’s nicely done and very, very interesting… and not just in the immediately obvious way!

Nothing like messing with your cultural stereotypes, eh? As I replied to my traveling friend, you never know what’s going on under those things…


The Conservatism of Cola

Even though I’m frequently chagrined by reminders that I was born and bred and still live in the most right-wing state in the union, I’ve realized in recent years that I do, in fact, have some conservative tendencies. Definitely not in political or cultural terms, but at least in the sense of not liking change for the sake of change, and of valuing things and aesthetics that many folks would happily scrap in the name of “progress.” In that spirit, here’s a flavor of conservatism that I can actually bring myself to support:


Cool Ads for Lousy Movies

Here’s something fun for your St. Patty’s Day, a trio of ads for a New Zealand TV network’s upcoming airing of the execrable movie Alien vs. Predator (not to be confused with the excellent four-part comic-book miniseries Aliens versus Predator, which was published in the early ’90s). The movie stinks, but I love the clever ads, especially this one:


As always, click to embiggenate.

Via the Bad Astronomer, who dubbed the campaign “beyond awesome.” Total agreement here.


In My Duster, My Duster…

Here’s a quaint little something I’ve been meaning to post for a while. It’s a television commercial from 1985 that, as you will see at the beginning of the clip, originally aired during the very first MTV Awards show. I only vaguely recall the commercial — I think I must have seen a truncated version of it on regular network channels, but certainly not this long-form clip — and I don’t remember the car that’s being shilled at all. Which is weird because I usually have a pretty good memory for this sort of thing. (Have you ever noticed that the era of “classic” cars seemed to end with the ’70s? Seriously, aside from the DeLorean and a few high-end sportsters that no normal person could ever afford, are there any memorable cars from the ’80s?) Nevertheless, I just love this silly ad because it so wonderfully encapsulates the atmosphere of that moment in time, the heady combination of seedy glamour, escapism, fun-loving decadence, and cheese. Oh, and it’s got a catchy jingle, too; it’s only fair to warn you now, you’ll be humming this tune for days:

There is apparently an urban legend that this ad was shot in an operating cocaine factory, and that all the white stuff visible in the background and caked on the pipes and catwalks is the real deal, genuine Bolivian Marching Powder. I haven’t been able to find any solid evidence for or against this tale, but I tend to doubt it myself. Oh, there was probably plenty of blow floating around that set — some of those dancers are looking a little manic, and it was 1985, after all — but come on, an actual coke factory? Would it really be that messy, considering how expensive that stuff was (is)? That’s a little far-fetched, even by urban-legend standards. I’d imagine the owners of such a plant would be a very unhappy to see all their precious product scattered around the floor like that.

One final note: the pretty brunette singer in the poofy skirt is none other than Finola Hughes, one of the stars (at the time) of the daytime soap General Hospital. Later, she would appear in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, a low-budget flick called Aspen Extreme. (Usually described — and not inaccurately — as “Top Gun on the ski slopes,” the movie features some awesome, Warren Miller-style skiing footage and quite possibly the coolest bachelor pad ever seen in the movies, an old railroad caboose set up in the woods. Finola plays a wealthy temptress who leads our noble hero astray.) I had quite a thing for Ms. Hughes back in the day; I’m pleased to see on her official website that she’s remained quite yummy…


Boom De Yada

This seems to be making its way around the InterWebs — I picked it up from Ilya — and it amused me enough to want to jump on the bandwagon:

As I wrote in comments over at Ilya’s, it isn’t often that a frickin’ commercial makes me smile like a little kid, but this one sure did. Of course, it probably helps that I start recognizing people about midway through. Kudos to whoever thought to include Stephen Hawking in there; his synthetic, monotype Cylon voice ironically seems to add an extra dose of humanity to this sort of thing…