Monday, July 29, 2013

One Sided Records; an Ode to the Humble Radio Spot.

Before the internet, before youtube, before DVD and Blu Ray's hell even before VHS, movies had it tough. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say but hear me out. If you were a movie released  in the 60s or 70s or even the  80s you either lived or died by word of mouth. Sure you had TV and you had Posters and Newspapers but movies  back then didn't have megamillion dollar marketing campaigns, no viral videos, no Redband trailers, no teaser campaigns. And if you were a horror movie forget about it. You played at a handful of theatres then the drive in and that was that. Hopefully the kids weren't making out too much or too high to remember if you were any good or not. Hopefully they told their friends.

Yet even though the budgets are bigger,  the way movies are marketed hasn't changed. Studios have always gone for the Bait and Switch / Smash and Grab marketing model they've always used. They saturate the market with hype until nobody can resist  but slap down their cash and see what the hype is about. Then the movie doesn't live up to the hype and so the audience is disappointed. Rinse and repeat. Back in the day they  just used different tools to achieve it.

One of those tools was the Radio Spot. A glorious little piece of movie magic which if you look hard enough  you can still find hiding in  the crates if you know where to look. (By crates I mean the internet and the place to look  is eBay)

The Radio Spot was a 45 or sometimes a 12" record (and sometimes a reel to reel tape)  given to radio station DJs which often had movie trailers on  them. Some were ads for Coca Cola, or General Motors. Some were even of Frank Zappa and the Beach Boys encouraging people to vote but most were designed to get your movie out there. Comprising of 3 tracks (or spots) one usually lasting for 60 seconds and then another two of 30 seconds they were little audio trailers  played between songs or after news segments to promote films of the day.

And get this, most of them were one sided! One sided! How cool is that? Also these records were never kept for very long. The movie finished and the radio spot was likely thrown in the bin. This of course makes them very rare and highly sort after collectibles. As always the older the movie or the more bankable the franchise the prices for these items can and do go through the roof.

Case in point.....

That's a very expensive 3 minutes and 34 seconds.

Another great things  about them (especially when it comes to the Horror/Exploitation genre) is they were so over the top. Like I mentioned before about Hollywood's "Buy-My-Snake-Oil" tactics when it comes to film marketing, horror films were the prime example. You had to draw people in. Your target market had to feel as if they couldn't miss out on it before  they left the cinema to tell their friends to  give it a miss. If your picture promised  "Boobs, Blood or  Beasts" (or in most cases all three) you exploited peoples curiosity just as much as the supposed "dignity" of the  actors or actresses on screen. In that way it is suffice to say the Exploitation genre has always been a  two way street. But here's what I mean. This is a Radio Spot for Ted V Mikels' schlock disasterpiece  "The Astro-Zombies". Listen and tell me if it isn't trying to reach into your psych, grab hold of your id and just strangle it....

Watch it and you die a thousand deaths! Brilliant! or this one for American International's Frogs!

Or this one which I think is definitely a cut above the others because it doesn't try too hard. It knows its going to  scare the crap out of you but what more would you expect from this classic gem?

Brilliant right? IN fact the other one is so good we might as well go for a twofer.........

Thanks to the internet they have mostly been recorded and put up on youtube and other file sharing sites. When I DJ'd the closing party of "The Stranger With My Face"  Horror Film Festival here in Hobart, I interspersed the selected soundtracks  with lots of cool radio spots. I have a very cocktail lounge/listening club vibe to my DJing (film scores don't lend themselves to "Wave Your Hands In the Air"  type antics) so they fit the atmospherics perfectly.

I just love these things to death, And I love how they all have to have the Ratings Certificate at the end. This one's a classic! Tons of reverb the classic line "Violently Raw Brutally Frank it had to be made that way!!" and the message at the end "The R Rating will be strictly enforced"

These are just tremendous gems, and if I were able to afford the exhorbitant prices on eBay I would snap them up all the time. They're just  fabulous pieces of ephemera and an art form which sadly has gone the way of the Dodo.  Outmoded and made extinct by the steady march of media technology. Anyway I hope you enjoyed my little history lesson/ excursion. If you see any around your local record shop I'll pay you top dollar for them. Within reason.

Luke Pencilneck

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