Saturday, March 26, 2016

MAD about the 1970s.

If you'd like to see a microcosm of the 1970s, not that anyone really should want to, I recommend this:

MAD magazine released this in 1978 and it is an absolutely marvelous snapshot of American culture at the time. Of course it's an excellent peek into the mind of MAD at the time, too. MAD was being aimed at young teen boys who could be counted on to fail at "Makin' Out," the title of the single, which was released with MAD Super Special #26 ("Musical Laff Hit - Danceable - Singable - Forgettable").

I won't try to add to the excellent review Gregory Reece wrote of the song and the magazine for Pop Matters in 2014, when MAD editor Al Feldstein died. I will say, as you can hear above, that the song tells tales of people failing at hookups for a number of reasons, often 70's related (astrology and tiny cars among them), while all about them it seemed others were getting their groove on. The whole theme is post-sexual revolution, pre-AIDS, and so very 70's. On the chorus the singers point out famous people and characters who are "making out," and that's where the picture of 1978 really comes to the fore.

Although heralded in rhyming triplets with no pattern, the people and creatures whom we are told are getting lucky include these categories:

Ralph Nader (whose consumer protection movement was arguably at its height in the 70's)
Jacques Cousteau (documentary series ran 1966-1982)
Oakland Raiders (NFL championship 1976; but a perennial contender during these Madden years)

The Fonz (Happy Days, 1974-1984; Fonzie not yet jumped shark)
Steve Austin (The Six Million Dollar Man, 1974-1978)
a Muppet (The Muppet Show, 1976-1981)
Charlie Brown (I know, mainly a comic strip character, but a true multimedia titan; between 1971 and 1987 there were 1-3 new Peanuts specials per year on TV, annual reruns of favorites, 3 feature films, and 5 miscellaneous specials like Snoopy at the Ice Follies)
Archie Bunker (All in the Family, 1971-1979)
Mr. Spock (no movie yet, but Star Trek was in reruns everywhere)

Darth Vader (original Star Wars out 1977)
Superman (first Christopher Reeve film 1978; second-highest grossing film of the year)

King Kong
(This is not just fanboy stuff; the classic monster movies of the 30's and 40's enjoyed a huge revival in the 70's)

Pet rock (craze dated 1975, but boy, we didn't forget about that fast)
Santa Claus
Jack Sprat

The last two, Santa and Sprat, were kind of there to fill space and provide appropriate rhymes. The rest were damn near perfect for 1978. I was trying to think of other cultural icons they might have left out, but came up dry. Maybe Cronkite? More 60's. Jaws? Could be, but the shark didn't have a name. You wouldn't just call him "Jaws." To be in the song you had to have a quickly recognizable name. Who else would YOU have put in?

And who would you put in if you were doing a song like this today? Who are 2016's icons that would be funny in a song like this? They'd have to be famous and (excepting Fonz) yet not especially known for their success at l'amour. Maybe Bernie Sanders.

Nah, too weird even for MAD.

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