Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reebok Redux

If you were a teenage girl in the 80s like I was, you either owned a pair of Reebok sneakers or noticed that everyone else did. Now, to celebrate its 25 anniversary, Reebok has reissued its Freestyle model which was one of the first athletic shoes created for women. Called the Rein-bow and retailing for $64.99 at http://www.rbk.com, it comes in several 80s-ish bright colors including lime green and bright yellow which can either make you look really cool or like Ronald McDonald. They'd look great with a matching piece of clothing, but I don't recommend bringing back the bad fashion fad of wearing them with parachute pants tucked into tube socks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mod Mats

I can always count on Crate&Barrel to have at least a few retro-inspired home items in every catalog of theirs that I've ever seen. The one that arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago featured these irrisistable placemats and napkins. They look like they'd be right at home in a beatnik poetry cafe. The napkins retail for $4.95 and the mats for $6.95 each and are available in Crate&Barrel stores or through their website. The only thing boring about them is the name - while the other 89 styles of dining room linens are called Tribeca, Cimarron, and Akira, these are simply called...Retro Squares.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Stone Family Reunion on the Sly


'Tis the season for nearly forgotten music groups from the 60s, 70s, and 80s to be performing free concerts at city parks and plazas all across the nation. But every summer, one band always seems to be mysteriously absent from the series line-up sponsored by the local oldies radio stations, and that's Sly and the Family Stone.

Surely it's not because they weren't famous enough. The funky bi-racial (they were the first major American group to combine white and black members) Family Stone had several hits in the late 60s and early 70s, including Everyday People, Hot Fun in the Summertime, Dance to the Music, and Higher. My good, late friend Joe Pope who attended Woodstock told me they brought the house down at the infamous music festival. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. So what happened to them?

It turns out a few members of the Stone are actually currently touring - at paying venues - across the U.S. and Europe this summer, sans frontman Sly Stone, who pretty much retired from the music business in 1987 after serving time for cocaine use. The group has had several different members through the years, but in 1969 consisted of Larry Graham, Freddie Stone, Gregg Errico, Sly Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, and Jerry Martini. Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson (it wouldn't be a Stone show without Cynthia growling "All the squares go home!") and Jerry Martini are the current members participating in the tour. Sly Stone is said to come out on stage for special appearances, but does not perform.

The official site for this latest incarnation of the band (which is calling themselves the Family Stone Experience) including tour dates is www.familystonemusic.com. Don't you wanna get higher?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thank You, Rob Miller

The co-author of one of pop music's lovliest and most covered songs from the 20th century has passed away. Rob Miller, who has died from cancer at the age of 74, was responsible for penning "For Once in My Life", a title that was recorded over 250 times. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Buble put their own stamp on the composition, but the most famous version is the harmonica punctuated Stevie Wonder interpretation which went to number 2 on the U.S. music charts in 1968.

My favorite, though, is Bobby Darin's cover from his last television appearance in 1973. He puts his own ring-a-ding-ding on a song that works well as a ponderous ballad or swinging number. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bc6OOAaQpWk

Miller wrote other hits usually recorded by Motown artists including "A Place in the Sun", "Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday", and "Touch Me in the Morning". He leaves behind a wife, six children, and of course, a small but memorable song catalog.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Welcome to the Sixties...Getting the "Hairspray" Look!

The new musical movie version of "Hairspray" has hit the theaters and since Access Hollywood ran a story last week on how to find early 60s inspired fashions from the film that have to purchased at a physical store, I thought it would be fun and easy to list some great sites where you could purchase the same kind of dresses online: think cute and colorful, Sandra Dee like belted dresses with full skirts and twinsets. But think again. Apparently, fashion from 1962 (the year the movie takes place) is stuck in retro purgatory somewhere, at least on the Web. I either found sites that sold a lot of 1940s dresses (too soon) or psychedelic and mod clothing (too late.) One site featured a frightening Angelina Jolie lookalike - right down to the tattoo encased arms and injected lips in 1940s hookerwear that came across not so much sweet and innocent but downright trampy (why does everything today have to promoted from the slut angle?)

So I only really have one passable site right now to mention where you might find early 60s-esque threads: DaddyOs. All of the dresses here are definetly vintage inspired; poke around through a few pages and you will find the variety that Tracy Turnblad herself would feel right at home in, and cocktail dresses similar to the one Michelle Pfieffer wears in the movie (thankfully, no John Travolta styles.) DaddyOs gets most of their ladies' offerings from a clothing manufacturer called StopStaring where you can find even more sweet selections.

Hands down, eBay still remains the best resource for any era of clothing. Simply do multiple searches for 1960s or 60s or sixties dress on any given day, and a plethora of choices will come up for you. The caveat is that you often have to weed through the frumpy to find the fab, and you're taking a chance when purchasing from a stranger in an online auction environment (I recently experienced my own eBay fiasco trying to obtain a Diane Von Fursternberg dress.) Good retro is always in style, as long as the movement deprived coifs from the movie don't make a comeback.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

If I Were a Carpenter

A few weeks ago, I got this crazy idea in my head that I was going to make my own retro/ modern furniture. Never mind that I’m a woman. If the chicks on Extreme Makeover – the Home Edition – can craft headboards from scratch, then why shouldn't I? And all of the authentic mid-century Danish stuff on eBay was just too darned expensive. So after poking around online and eventually Amazon.com I found this old (very old, as a matter of fact – copyright 1953) and used book called – what else? Build Your Own Modern Furniture by Klaus Grabe. And I’ve been waiting for Mr. Postman to deliver it ever since.

Yesterday, it arrived. It’s small. It’s paperback. It’s in black and white. It’s old, alright. The price that was printed on it as part of the cover says that it retails for 75 cents. So is it was worth the inflated 40 odd dollars that I paid for it? I think so. There are 21 nifty (there’s some cute fifties speak for you) projects to work on, and all of them look like designs you’d find in IKEA, from nesting tables to a platform bed. Unlike IKEA, though, these are projects that do require that you have a basic knowledge of woodworking including knowing what a butt joint (I’ll give you a hint…it’s not a body part) and a tenon is. And to give you an idea of the kind of politically incorrect time warp the book was produced in, the model carpenter photographed throughout the book has a cigarette dangling out of his mouth in some of the shots.

Thanks to the magic of adult continuing education, I feel confident, though, that after a few class sessions I could tackle this cute end table (the book tells me it's prefect for housing a high fidelity radio turner and record player!) or even one of the swell looking low-slung chairs. If you're ever looking for out-of-print books or magazines, www.bookfinder.com and www.lostpaper.com are two good resources.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What New, Pussycat? A Tom Jones DVD Set

Why would anyone trying to break into showbiz take the unfortunate stage name Engelbert Humperdinct? My mother told me it was because Humperdinct thought he could infringe on Ton Jones’ success and wanted a name that would help him stand out from the sexy performer. If you ask me, he chose a rather unsexy moniker.

Jones needn’t had worried. While Humperdinct enjoyed moderate success, there is only one Tom Jones - the Welsh crooner with a voice that could still reduce the Coloseum to dust, and who has collected more women's underwear than Victoria's Secret's warehouse. The proof is in a new three disk DVD set that was released a few weeks ago called This is Tom Jones. Showcasing episodes of his weekly variety series from 1969 to 1971, the set features guest appearances by Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Janis Joplin, not to mention enough renditions of It’s Not Unusual to make even the most diehard of Jonesmaniacs a bit nauseous.

That’s the good news. So what’s the bad news? According to many reviews on Amazon, the show episodes are incomplete – some averaging close to only 20 minutes! Keep in mind, Jones’ weekly variety show was an HOUR long. Here’s how one disgruntled fan graciously broke it down:

Disc 1
2/4/69 Premiere Show 38 minutes
4/18/69 (Show only survives Black & White - 24 minutes)
9/25/70 33 minutes

Bonus Material:
ABC Network promo for the series Premiere 1 minute
Mid-day KATU Portland, Oregon Interview 1969 6 minutes
Tom Tells his Burt Bacharach Story 5 minutes

Disc 2
11/27/69 21 minutes
12/4/69 26 minutes
2/19/70 25 minutes

Disc 3
4/25/69 22 minutes
10/9/70 30 minutes

Bonus Material:
Tom Jones interview, videotaped in Los Angeles February 11, 2007 35 minutes

I guess it's not unusual for entertainment companies to continue to rip fans off. I'll try waiting to see if my local library eventually carries this set, rather then wasting $35.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Time Has Come Today: Go Retro Launches!

When I listen to a favorite song or watch a favorite performer from a previous era, I feel some sort of tangible ache in my heart that can't be easily defined. It's not regret, because it's not like I was born in time to have had the chance to experience seeing the performer live in the first place, or walk into a record store (remember those?) to purchase the recording on vinyl.

Maybe it's a former life of mine feeling the regret? Who knows, but this feeling compels me to replace my old blog, The Daily Female, with Go Retro! - a loving tribute to all those people, places, and things that had an impact on pop culture from the 40s or so through the 80s. No one wants to hear the bitter gripings of yet another frustrated single woman out there on the World Wide Web, anyway. A blog's got to be specific. Want to know whatever happened to a once famous or obscure person on the music scene in the 80s? How to decorate your home in the mid-century modern style? Want to hear about people from today whose style is definetely time wharp inspired? Wonder what the watusi was? I hope Go Retro will be the blog to go to for these fun answers and more.

Why the 1989 cutoff date? Coming of age in the 80s, I believe that it was the last era that retained any kind of innocence. Actually, it was 1985...because I remember hearing Madonna's Like A Virgin in 1986 and thinking that the end of civilization as we knew it was on its way to its destructive course. It's no secret to those that know me that I grow more disgruntled with today's world by the day. I long for a time when cell phones weren't glued to everyone's heads, when everyone wasn't in a mad SUV-induced rush to get somewhere, where men and women coupled up at dance halls where the big bands used to come and play (as The Kinks used to sing) and where kids knew that being in a library meant you had to talk in a quiet voice. You have entered a zone devoid of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and any other bimbo or manbo who dares call themselves a "celebrity." They'll be no news about the iPhone on this blog. Instead, I want to tell people about companies that are still producing vinyl records (yes, they do exist!)

So...welcome to Go Retro, and let the reminiscing begin!

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