Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Child of the Eighties

Imprinting is real, because I've been singing these to myself all my life (as I've mentioned a bit before here).

If you were born between 1978 and 1983 and your parents paid for cable, it's very likely you were imprinted the same as me. These brilliant Nickelodeon bumpers were the work of tv ad men Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman during their revamp of the Nick brand during the mid to late 1980s. Charged with the mission of rescuing the stalling network's market share, Fred and Alan developed the doo-wop sound to be one of the defining bits of vocabulary for the channel.

When we brought up the notion of a sound identity, Nickelodeon executives, still not fully understanding of where we intended to steer the channel, suggested a consideration of Raffi, then a recent phenomenon as a singer for young children. “He’s very popular; our research confirms it.” Fred/Alan tried a lot of arguments to bring them around to a doo-wop sound, but they fell on deaf ears. “Doo-wop’s 30 years old, no kid has ever heard of it.”

We won the day on two grounds.

Fred played on the executives’ liberal backgrouds. “We love all forms of African-American music, and using doo-wop will be a great way to educate American kids without anyone being the wiser.”

Alan’s worked even better. He opened his mouth and, quoting The Marcels’ arrangement of chestnut “Blue Moon,” sang:

“Bom-ma-bom, a-bom-bom-a-bom, ba-ba-bom-bom-a-bomp, b-dang-a-dang-dang, b-ding-a-dong-ding.”

“What kid isn’t going to relate to that right away?” Alan asked.

Case closed.

It's fascinating to read about simple decisions made miles away such a long time ago, and how those decisions shaped our perceptions of the world. I mean, these guys were absolutely right. I hadn't heard doo-wop before I heard these, and I did relate to them immediately. So much so that I've given them enough importance to spend 30 minutes writing and researching them on my blog. They were inventive, artistic, and absolutely charming.


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