item 1 >>> The first 2 in what I hope will be 4 or 5 daily podcasts are open and ready for business at http://stolfpod.podbean.com. If you’ve never listened, Stolfpods are 5-7 minutes long and features vintage radio and TV commercials…there are now over 40 of them up, covering all sorts of products, and even a couple on TV theme music. I also have several podcasts at http://thewholething.podbean.com. These are longer, and get deeper into the background behind music for various commercials, altho the latest one, “No L,” is on non-Christmas Christmas music. Stop over and let me know what you think.
item 2 >>> One clarification on the Mr. Potato Head spots in Stolfpod #42…the plastic potato, intended to substitute for a real one, was introduced in 1964 according to Uncle Wiki, earlier than I had thought. The toy itself dates back to 1952, and even early on, its success prompted Hasbro to spinoff various family members like Brother Spud, Sister Yam, and in the 60s Oscar the Orange and Pete the Pepper. In 1975, the “head” and all the accessories doubled in size, due to new toy safety regulations.
item 3 >>> One of the coolest things I use the internet for is to research “old stories” I’d heard years before. In some cases they check out, in other cases, my facts were decidedly twisted, or just plain wrong. But even where I had it right in the first place, the added information can be fascinating. Take famed cellist and conductor Pablo Casals, one of the most vehement critics of rock and roll. I had originally heard that he called the Beatles “poison set to music.” A few years later, I read that this comment had been inspired by hearing “Sherry” by the Four Seasons. So what’s the story? His comments appeared in a magazine called Music Journal, January 1961, so he was obviously thinking of Elvis, Fats, Jerry Lee, and Little Richard when he called it “poison set to sound…an abomination…a disgrace…the raucous distillation of the ugliness of our times…a brutalization of both life and art…I feel very sad for the people who are addicted to it.” He went on to say he didn’t agree that there was “no such thing as bad music.” Because in his mind, I guess, he’d found it.
item 4 >>> The Liberty Tree Mall’s official dedication was in February, 1972, with 40 stores and services, and a big metal tree. What you might have forgotten was the mall was planned and built between 2 existing stores…Ann & Hope opened in 1969 on one end, Lechmere on the other end in 1970. OK, we called it “Dan & Dope’s,” but my crowd loved hanging out there…I guess we were the original Onion Town Mall Rats, despite being of college-age. I fondly remember those carob ice-cream cones from who? Brighams?, over the Summers of 1972 and 1973, before I moved away. One thing you probably didn’t know: altho Liberty Tree and the North Shore Shopping Center were seen as rivals, they were both owned by the same company.
item 5 >>> Yeah, carob…I touched on it in item 7 of Dec. 15th’s DFHC. It was supposed to be the “new chocolate,” but unfortunately we still had the old chocolate, and after the initial “hipness” factor wore off, carob couldn’t go head-to-head with the old standby. I used to think it had a sort of coffee-like zing to it…but today, the debate goes on. Carob boosters insist it tastes nothing like chocolate, while chocolate lovers compare the taste of carob to dirt. I have to wonder, have they ever actually tasted dirt? It’s like several years ago, when zebra mussels began invading the Great Lakes, and folks asked, well, can you eat them? The reply was that they “tasted like sewage.” Again, you know that how exactly? What I think they’re doing is confusing taste and smell…and after all, in 1994 when Crayola came out with their “Magic Scent” crayons, one of the colors/odors was “Dirt.”
item 6 >>> And speaking of chocolate, I missed a Silver Anniversary…on January 13, 1985, nationally syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene praised the joys of quaffing Canfield’s Chocolate Fudge Soda. Literally overnight, the chocolate tonic craze was born, and within months, Canfield’s was selling as much soda every 2 weeks as they had the entire previous year. Sure, I dug it too…and with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I don’t think I could do the fad justice…so sometime in January, one year late, a feature on Canfield’s will grace DFHC. But for now, it’s interesting to point out that despite the obvious financial windfall, the whole thing was basically a logistical nightmare…said company founder Alan Canfield “I don’t know that I’d ever want to go through that again.”
item 7 >>> Christmas Myth #4…the 4 calling birds in “The 12 Days of Christmas” are mynah birds. Or some other loud-mouth budgies, like parrots or magpies or even maybe parakeets? Nice try, but no dice. Originally, it was “colley birds,” also spelled colly or collie, meaning blackbirds. Collie was Scottish for black, from coal, and indeed the original Collie dogs were black, not Lassie-colored. Were blackbirds baked in pies? There’s some debate about whether that really happened, and many theories about what they actually represent in “sing a Song of Sixpence.” All I know is, in olden days people ate what they could get their hands on, birds included. And apparently what the British call a blackbird is more closely related to our robin than our blackbird, altho not related to their robin. Yeah, I guess I’m gonna have to dig further into this…watch this space ( ).
item 8 >>> And of course, the 5 golden rings do not refer to jewelry but to ring-necked pheasants, so the first 7 gifts are all birds. You knew that right? The song itself was originally one of those memory games, where you’re challenged to remember an additional thing each time around, like “The House that Jack Built.” BTW, the Chad Mitchell Trio did a hilariously dark Nazi version of the tune, back in the early 60s when you could get away with such things. One of the Christmas records I never played on the radio, but wished I could, like Tom Leher’s “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica”…
item 9 >>> You remember J.M. Fields stores, I betcha. A department store chain based in Salem, expanding in the 50s up and down the Eastern Seaboard, then bought by Food Fair in 1961, and the home office moved to Philadelphia. The 2 stores were often built side-by-side, and with many you could walk between them without exiting, a version of today’s “superstore.” They went bankrupt in 1978, along with sister chain Pantry Pride.
item 10 >>> …not to be confused with the legendary Marshall Field’s chain out of Chicago, which is now part of Macy’s. There weren’t any in the Northeast…I learned about the store from Stan Freberg’s TV western spoof “Bang Gunleigh, U.S. Marshall Field.” This was a routine from his short-lived radio series on CBS in 1957, the best of which was collected on a Capitol LP “Face the Funnies.” My folks got it for me one Christmas, and I practically memorized the whole freakin’ album. The radio program lasted only for 15 episodes, and I just found out today all of these 30-minute gems are on the net, ready for the downloading…well, maybe I’ll catch some shut-eye next year.
This ad appeared in Billboard. There are 2 versions of the song: the “clean” stereo version on the 1964 LP, and the mono single version which has added sleigh-bells and other folderol. If you’re really into the Beach Boys, I suggest getting their Ultimate Christmas CD issued in 1998. It contains the entire regular album, the 45 version of St. Nick, the “Child of Winter” single, plus out-takes from their unissued 1977 “second” Christmas album, and other bonus tracks, including a version of “Little St. Nick” sung not to the tune of “Little Deuce Coupe,” but to another Beach Boys song, “Drive-in.”
shameless chicken-fried plugs…
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi