Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hair Care '69

The more I look at this print ad from 1969, the more I, well, dig it. The field of read captures the eye, directing you immediately to the proud Brother and Sister. The rough typeface used for the world "Magnificent" conjures images of Africa...the slogan, "Your Hair Will Dig It!" made everything funky and contemporary. I do dig it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

One Funky Shirt

See? 30 years before Seinfeld had a puffy shirt, a Brother had one, this 1970 ad proves. Another fashion high-point from our friends at Eleganza. The real gamble would have been to wear this thing in my old neighborhood in 1970. (I just noticed: If you buy two, you can save $1.40)

Monday, September 10, 2007

This 1980 album from the Invisible Man's Band contains one of my favorite records of all time: the 12" version of "All Night Thang", a hot bit of funk/soul/disco. It's got everything you needed in a record back then--a chant at the fade; disco whistles; a funky bassline..A great story about these guys: They are actually the grown-up members of the Five Stairsteps, the Chicago vocal group who blew-up in 1970 with "Ooh Child." They were unfairly compared to the a Jacksons because, well, there were 5 of them and they were related (they were the Burke family) and they were black. Anyway, they grew up and led by Keni Burke--a fine vocalist and a doubly fine bass player--they put out this album. Get "All Night Thang" if you can find it. The album cover has been a bit of a mystery to me. Did the guy in background slap her down (she's kinda holding her jaw) or is she just looking up at him? Why is she on a tiled floor? Never mind. Get the record.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yep. Straight from Italy, I'm Sure.

Yes, yes. But if they called it was it really was--the Cheap Square Toed Shoe from Roxbury--nobody would have bought it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lisa Fischer

The 1990s were a blur to me. I was climbing the ladder, careerwise; got married, had four kids--so I was a little distracted. So clue me in because I missed it: How did singer Lisa Fischer NOT become a big star, given her considerable talents? I was listening to tracks from her 1991 album (the slow-burn she does on "Chain of Broken Hearts" is among the best recorded performances of the decade), which drove me to Google to find out what happened to her. She's still alive--one has to ask, these days--and tours with Tina Turner. And she does studio work. All of that is beautiful, but I do wish that face and that voice had the exposure it deserves.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bill Cosby is Right

I've been really into Bill Cosby as of late , particularly the stuff he did during the height of his first phase of fame--those years after the 1960s tv show "I Spy" ended. His 1969-1971 "Bill Cosby Show," in which he played coach Chet Kincaid, is on DVD now and is a revelation: a black male character who is a funny, three-dimensional man, rather than a childish buffoon. The show's wit, humor and sophistication makes it more akin to the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" than the broadly-played black sitcoms that would premiere later in the decade. Cos' didn't cheap out his fame by doing the quick, the easy and stereotypical, but used his popularity to create TV that made us laugh and think....which brings us to the subject of today's post, a clip from a Cosby television special, "A Boy Like Me."

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hard to believe now: For three or four years between Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album and Thriller, Jermaine Jackson was as famous as his brother. Jermaine was a pretty serious pop star until, well, Thriller turned all the Jacksons (included the talented Reebie) into also-rans. Anyway, on this album, dig "Let's Get Serious" written by Stevie Wonder, who absolutely steals the record away from Jermaine when he breaks in about 1/2 way though the song (S-e-r-i-o-u-s; Baby let's get ser-i-ous...yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah yeaaahhh.....)

You Just Know He's Bald Now...

But the pillows on his mother's couch are still greasy. A Duke ad from 1993.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


When you see a woman with 4ft extensions and obviously fake nails and you think to yourself, "Didn't her mother teach her better?" No. This was her mother.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cigarette, Baby?

This ad says it all. The really "together" brother is a photographer assigned to shoot this Queen. It's been a long day and they're only half done, so he offers her from his pack of Viceroys. She's accepts. Because what woman can resist an offer of tobaccofied death?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sparkle (Dreamgirls v1.0)

"Dreamgirls" got me thinking about the film 1976 film "Sparkle." The movie follows the rise and fall of a fictional 1960s girl group, Sister and the Sisters. You get the impression the movie was designed as a vehicle for Irene Cara (r), but the spectacularly fine Lonette McKee (c), in her first motion picture appearance, steals the show. Speaking of McKee, I've been revisiting her work in recent years--and she is spellbinding. Look at the work of any Oscar nominated actress of the 1970s and 1980s, then watch McKee in movies like "Cuba," "The Cotton Club" and she's right there with them.

You can predict "Sparkle" 's plot from a mile away; the ending is too upbeat, given the journey that precedes it; and the entire film looks like it was shot on a single street. But the music is pretty good as are the performances by a young Mary Alice, a pre-Miami Vice Phillip Michael Thomas, Dorian Harewood and Tony King. Check out a clip here:

Friday, June 29, 2007

Soul Closet Cinema: Trouble Man

Trailer for blaxploitation classic from 1972 starring Robert Hooks. Sounds like the narrator is the late/great Adolph Caesar.

Who's the Man, Who Would Bare Himself for His Fellow Man....?

Dig this ad from 1969. Supposed to be an underwear ad, but it looks like five guys making a pact never to get hoodwinked into going outside without their clothes again. And yes, the second fellow from the left is indeed Richard Roundtree, who later found fame as Shaft.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Levi's Ad, 1971

Levi's Jeans gives us this groovy couple from 1971. They are buying produce as the sun sets. Lemme guess: He's into Sun Ra, Roy Ayers, maybe the old blues acts at the Fillmore; he's not into television, tried to watch "Julia" but it wasn't his bag. She's a primary school teacher, UCLA class of 1966, studied tap as a kid; she reads James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, does not care if Huey is free or not. The tag line at the bottom of the ad asks anyone has had a bad time in Levis. They will have a great time, particularly after he stops off and buys that 3 gallon glass jug of fruity wine that he likes.

The 1967 movie "Bonnie & Clyde" influenced fashion for at least 5 years--and this is an example from an Ebony Magazine fashion spread from 1972. But by now it was late in the trend and while the woman's dress could conceivably be Bonnie-ish, what in the green sweet world are those harlequinized get-ups those jokers have on?? Bring on Denver Pyle and the Texas Rangers and end this thing.

Who Was Putney Swope?

Ever see this movie? In 1989, I tracked down this forgotten 1970 movie. It's an irreverent, great flick, directed by Robert Downey (not Jr., but his father). Basic story: Partners in an advertising firm accidentally vote the black partner as the new head of the company. He fires them all, keeps and advances the black staff and tries to move in a new, inclusive direction, but at what cost. Reminds me of Animal Farm, the great George Orwell book that about animals, but really is about communism. Putney is about advertising, but is really about something a little deeper. Yeah, its a little dated now with zooming shots and assorted late 60s cinematic goofiness. But still fun to watch. Not with the kids, tho.