Gremlins and Wormwood

72 gremlin_cropped further(Pictured: part of an AMC Gremlin print ad. Full ad linked in the post below.)

I have not done one of these Links and Notes posts for a while. But as we have been a little short on content here lately, it’s as good an idea as any. All of the stuff below has passed through my Twitter feed recently and is worth your time.

The best thing I have seen on the Internet lately appeared at the AV Club last week: “‘You Stupid Darkness!’ and 29 Other Peanuts Quotes for Everyday Use.” It should put to bed for all time the idea that Peanuts is just entertainment. Charles Schulz was a dark, damaged genius working out a fairly grim philosophy of life one day at a time for 50 years, and was able to invest seemingly innocuous quips with deep meaning. Any artist with the stones to put the words “Even my cold cereal doth taste of wormwood” into the mouth of a child is an artist we should bow down to. Also worth bowing to: AV Club writers Donna Bowman and Noel Murray for the idea and the execution.

Schulz’s best work is timeless, but occasionally he was tempted to be topical. This 1976 CB radio-themed strip, from the highly worthwhile Twitter feed RetroNewsNow, knocked me sideways—I thought for a second it was a parody or something. Also for Peanuts fans: the Twitter feed Peanuts on This Day, reposting Schulz’s work day-by-day exactly 50 years back.

Another landmark piece that you should read is “Why the Death of Greatest Hits Albums and Reissues Is Worth Mourning” by Stephen T. Erlewine. Millions of us started building our music libraries with greatest-hits albums, because they offered kids on an allowance a better value than buying all of the singles or all of the albums by our favorite artists. As Erlewine writes, the process of discovery, and of revisiting that past once discovered, will be a lot different in an era of downloading and streaming.

Every time I do one of these, I end up linking to a bunch of stuff at Rebeat Magazine, and here I go again: 10 Rock Bands on 60s TV digs up some odd, anomalous ways in which TV producers, who were inevitably members of the pre-rock generation, tried to graft the kids’ music into their programs. Rebeat’s piece included a mention of the Buffalo Springfield’s appearance on Mannix, which I blogged about two years ago. (My post discussed another Mannix guest shot that Rebeat missed, so go read it.) Also good: their look at the Stories album About Us. It’s the one containing “Brother Louie,” but “Brother Louie” is vastly different from the rest of the record.

Yet another of my most-read sites is Dangerous Minds, which is required for anyone interested in the obscure and/or weird side of rock culture. A recent piece on Christopher Cross revealed that behind the adult-contemporary schlock-meister was the sort of guy you wouldn’t expect. Also worth your time: an introduction to Wilma Burgess, the first openly lesbian country singer, and a profile of the Liverbirds, an all-girl rock band that emerged in the UK at the height of the rockin’ 60s.

One of the most effective ways of understanding how we used to live—which is one of the things this blog is about—is through old ads. The Twitter feed Old School Ads posts a lot of evocative ones. They recently dug up a print ad for the new 1972 AMC Gremlin, and if you can look at that picture and tell me that’s not a beautiful car, we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore. Bionic Disco is another source for old ads, including TV spots, and recently featured a local TV ad from 1978, in which then-Packers coach Bart Starr shilled for the new 1979 Lincoln Versailles and his Alabama car dealership. Flashbak.com also posts a great deal of advertising, some from America and some from the UK—their recent compilation of T-shirt ads was spectacular. (Does anybody still sell iron-on transfers?)

Also good for understanding the past: old pictures. Flashbak posts several galleries a week, often with hilarious commentary. Retronaut’s recent gallery of 1969 California high-school students made me want to climb inside and live there.

That takes us back only about three weeks. If you like any of this stuff and you want to get some more of it in real time, best follow me on Twitter.

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