Sunday, January 20, 2008

The $99,000 Answer

"Anything large and impressive, if it was reasonably new in appearance, was automatically claimed as having been built since the Revolution, while anything that was obviously of earlier date was ascribed to some dim period called the Middle Ages. The centuries of capitalism were held to have produced nothing of any value." - 1984, George Orwell

Watching The Honeymooners (or any 1950s TV show), there are two things that stand out. First, the episodes are much slower paced than anything on TV today; a scene that might get 30 seconds today gets 3 or 4 minutes back then.

Second, the differences in culture are striking. Have you ever heard of "Captain Video", or the DuMont network it was on? Specifically for "The $99,000 Answer", it's striking to note that none of the songs mentioned as "Popular Songs" are songs that anyone will have heard of today. "Don't Fence Me In", Cole Porter? "Shuffle off to Buffalo" from 1938? "Just Too Marvelous for Words" from "Ready, Willing and Able" from 1933? "Take Me Back to Sorrento" from 1898? "I'll Be Seeing You", Irving Kale, 1938? "It's All Over Now", Bassy Simon, 1927? "Goodnight, Irene"? "Goodnight Sweetheart", Ray Noble? Of course, I can recognize Stephen Foster, which as the punchline is the only song Ralph doesn't recognize.

I'm not sure if this is normal cultural drift, if it's related to the dawn of records as a popular medium, or if it is because Elvis, The Beatles, and "Rock and Roll" made any popular music from before that time completely obsolete. It's almost that any music obviously from before the rock era is considered "classical", and demoted to an existence solely of folk music concerts and symphony orchestras.

1 comment:

  1. I can recognize most of them. Watch "The Odd Couple" & "I Love Lucy" & you can hear lots of old songs