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Department Of They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore

Posted by: Jon Fine on September 11, 2007

The cultural archaeologists at WFMU dig up a rather cool theme song from one of the most overtly crazily-titled treats of all time. (And one that once had unusually good packaging, to boot.)

Oh, the disappearing ad jingle. But not just that. There was a time when the likes of, say, Pepsi, would have studio bands record its theme song in a bunch of different styles—so the rock station would get the rock version and the funk stations would get the funk versions. On some obscure funk compilation I have buried somewhere there is, if I recall correctly, such a version of a Pepsi jingle, and it’s pretty damn hot.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers come from a period in American culture in which, I like to think, the in-jokes of the underground—and especially the drug underground—more routinely trickled into the mainstream, under-the-radar style. In the Sixties and Seventies, the grownups were even more clueless than they are today; the schism between youth culture and the day-job world was new and thus fairly unbridgeable. (I write this, of course, as a grown-up of today. More or less.)

Yeah, go ahead, don’t believe me. I’ll raise you an H.R. Pufnstuf and a Krofft Supershow:

“Take a trip with us today”? Take that, Adult Swim.

Reader Comments


September 17, 2007 10:41 AM

Any time a generation comes into power they bring what they thought was cool into the world they create, Generation Y has their own show "Yo Gabba Gabba" (!) which takes their 1990s DJ and Rave styles, largely forgotten in the last few years, and rewrites them for a younger generation who, let's face it, isn't going to grow up to go to 1990s raves.

The granddaddy of all of this though is Chicago TV's "Kiddie a Go Go" which was the only legitimately garage TV show from 1966:
They combined actual mid-60s dances and DIY high school dance bands for tiny tots.

Pepsi ran a series of ads targeting both "Those Who Think Young" and "The Pepsi Generation" and after all, was there a Pepsi Generation before Pepsi invented it? Those campaigns may have been the beginning of major marketers splitting the market by age or generation (many niche companies did this in the 1950s, but they weren't Pepsi). The risk in doing so is that for every prescient marketing coup like "Rock and Roll High School" that taps into a teen trend with legs, there are 3 "Roller Boogies" that make a quick buck but embarass the corporation a few years later.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers is the only snack product and commercial that coolly reflected the times, tapping into teenage aggression in the riots and "whole world is watching" era. Two lesser commercials, Belly Bongos and Grab a Loop, portray teenagers involved in hula hoop type games and therefore are naturally more active. There are a few films like this drive-in theater one that also tries to hit the Bonnie and Clyde nostalgia boom:
Sadly the marketers went straight to the mellow, easy to digest Peter Maxes of the world when producing ads for the "UnCola" 7-Up:
Or the notoriously "Fantastic Planet" style of these Levis ads that Chris Blum made:

And While Kaptain Kool and the Kongs reinterpret the 1960s attitude with a huge dose of Welcome Back Kotter, an obscure TV show named Run, Joe, Run detailed the sad story of many of our returning Vietnam Veterans, this poor German Shepherd suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Vietnam Flashbacks as he tried to help kids stay out of trouble:

The only warning I can give corporations is to stick with aggressive or macho images and avoid going after dance trends and their marketing will seem cooler later on.

The Man Can't Bust Our Music.

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