Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Super Bowl of Rock ‘n Roll with Cereal Box Hits on the Side

This week marks The Vinyl Call's first guest blog by my brother-in-law, Matt, a writer from NY.

Every morning I thank God that I do not yet suffer like the famous actor George Clooney, who on reaching his mid forties lamented,I am falling apart… [plagued by physical] aches and pains.”  I speak my prayer silently, while my wife echoes Clooney as she peers in the mirror to paint a new face.  My obsession with advancing age has taken the form of noticing such minutiae as the fact that classic rock music has recently become the preferred Super Bowl halftime entertainment.  We had McCartney in 2005, The Rolling Stones in 2006, Tom Petty in 2008, Springsteen in 2009, and the Who in 2010.

Knowing that you have reached the age where you are considered a marketers’ prime target may be bad, but far worse is thinking about becoming the target of ads for Life Alert (“I’ve fallen and can’t get up”), the Scooter Store, and second-to-die life insurance, a trifecta of horror on the order of O.J. Simpson tossing the coin in the 1993 Super Bowl at which Michael Jackson performed as the Buffalo Bills lost their third straight championship game -- itself a trifecta cubed.

Most of us choose to remember pleasant dreams not nightmares, and so I blot out the Bills’ threepeat failure by recalling the 2003 Super Bowl, at which underdog Tampa Bay became the first expansion team to win the championship, Sting performed at halftime, and I began to realize that, but for a simple twist of genetic fate, I’d have had Sting’s hair and a different life.

But we all play what we’re dealt, and live who we are.

And so in my news-obsessed life, I recently couldn’t avoid an advertisement from Quaker for an afterschool snack, which was being marketed by some bubble gum songstress who hasn’t yet achieved the ubiquity and widespread appeal of Miley Cyrus.  I later learned the youth’s name is Miranda Cosgrove, and my ignorance of her the product was my quixotic attempt to prolong the innocence of my daughter. One small victory has been watching her voluntarily mute iCarly ads and change to Animal Planet once Ms. Cosgrove’s show is on. 

When I was her age, music marketers touched our lives in a very physical way: they commandeered our breakfast table.  The first record I acquired as a child in the early 1970s was attached to a box of Alpha Bits, “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five.  My brother and I ripped it off the back of the box to play it before we had breakfast, and as we listened, we used the cereal letters to spell words we shielded from our mother’s view.

We played that first cereal box record to death, much to our parents’ and older siblings’ chagrin.  Watching a square record circling on a turntable was endlessly fascinating.  And the marketing had its intended effect.  A few months later, my brother bought his first record with money he had earned delivering newspapers, the 45 of “ABC” by the Jackson Five. 

Over time, humidity made the mixture of vinyl and cardboard warp, but the record always played, and was a refreshing break from the records that adults had otherwise placed within our reach -- Disney soundtracks, the multiplication tables, and Tubby the Tuba. 

The next cereal box hit that entered our home was on the back of Honey Combs:  “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees.  It failed to command our attention with as much fervor as the first.  The novelty of a square record had worn thin, and my obsession turned to the Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season of 1972.   They beat the Redskins in the Super Bowl that year, one of the lowest scoring championship games ever.  Classic rock would have to wait to become the mainstay at halftime.  That year, the University of Michigan Marching Band accompanied a couple of imitation Sinatra crooners, a nod to my parents’ generation.  Perhaps iCarly will join the Reese’s Puff Rappers on stage at a Super Bowl halftime thirty years from now…


  1. What a rush of memories! Do you remember the two little helmets! Redskins and Dolphins. When do you think they will stick little jump drives in breakfast cereal?

  2. The 90s version of this for my kids was CDs actually attached to the cereal box in little plastic sleeves, or else offers for CDs if you sent in umpteen proof-of-purchase tabs. As I recall these were mostly by boy-bands. Wonder what the next generation will find in/on cereal boxes.

  3. Great post, Aunt Brenda! Loved reading it!

  4. That was all Matt. I'll pass along the kudos.