Boomers Watched Music Videos Before MTV

MTV turned 40 this week. Certainly it left its mark on the culture, especially the generation immediately following the boomers. Many of us were out working jobs and raising families by the time MTV began broadcasting on July 31, 1981. However, it occurred to Mister Boomer that even though there had not been a channel devoted to music videos 24/7 before MTV, boomers still saw many music videos as far back as the 1950s, aired on various TV shows like the British Top of the Pops, and both national and local programs in the U.S.

The pairing of music and film goes all the way back to the first talkies in the 1920s. In the boomer years, one might argue that every Elvis movie was a promotional spot for the release of a record, and each song in the movie a music video. However, can anyone deny Elvis’ performance of Jaihouse Rock (1957), in that wonderful two-story set, wasn’t a music video? Certainly the Beatles’ movies contained music videos within the plotlines to support record releases, too; but we are talking TV here, not on the big screen.

Music videos in the boomer years were often promotional in nature. Bands in the 1950s and later released them to TV programs around the globe in regions where they weren’t able to tour in person. Others were not intended for public consumption, but found their way to local stations looking to attract a young audience.

Here are just a few early examples:

The Big Bopper– Chantilly Lace (1959)
Many rock historians (and NPR) point to The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson) as the father of modern music videos. He is also credited with coining the phrase, “music video,” in an interview with an English magazine in 1958.

The Animals — The House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Gary Burdon stared directly at the camera several times in this video, and the band even moved around a little at one point. Of course, like many TV performances, there is not a cord in sight; the instruments are not plugged in. But with several camera angles, a minimal set design, and a moving camera, this was an early music video.

Martha and the Vandelas — Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide (1964)
Motown filmed the group singing inside a Ford factory in Detroit.

Bob Dylan — Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
This “video” was actually the opening sequence of a documentary called Don’t Look Back by D.A. Pennebake, about Dylan’s first tour in England. What is so memorable about it now is how Dylan, standing in an alley, flips cards with words from the song on them. This scenario has been imitated hundreds of times since by bands of all types.

The Beatles released many promotional videos, including Strawberry Fields, Paperback Writer, Rain, Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out, Penny Lane and many more. Their video for Something (1969) featured them with their wives!

David Bowie was also an early-adopter, releasing the video for Space Oddity in 1969.

The Monkees — TV Show (1966-68)
Like The Beatles and Elvis before them, the show was basically a promotion for their records. Each episode introduced their new music in a video within the plot. The difference was, this was made for TV.

The Rolling Stones — We Love You (1967)
This song was the B side of Dandelion in the U.S., but it was the A-side in England. The video, like many of the Beatles’ videos, was a mini-movie in and of itself, purported to be a re-enactment of the 1895 trial of Oscar Wilde. You’ve got to see it to believe it, then you’ll say, “yeah, that was 1967 all right”:

Once you go down that road and search for these early music videos, you’ll see how much influence they had on the next generation that appeared on MTV.

How about you, boomers? Do you recall watching music videos 50-60 years ago?

Boomers Want to Believe “The Truth is Out There”

After an extensive new investigation of reports by military personnel claiming to have observed unidentified flying objects (UFOs), a preliminary report has been released. So, are there flying saucers traipsing about our skies? The answer issued by the U.S. government is … maybe?

There have been reports of flying saucers by people in all walks of life throughout the boomer years and on to the present day. Is it any wonder, then, that boomers want some explanations to what they, their friends and families, have observed for the past 70-plus years?

The granddaddy of all reports is often referred to as the Roswell Incident. It was the summer of 1947 when a rancher near Roswell, New Mexico, discovered debris in a field that he could not identify. He notified the nearby Roswell Army Air Force Field, and base intelligence officers took over the investigation. On July 8, 1947, a press release was issued by the public information officer, Lt. Walter Haut. Haut’s release, approved by base commander Col. William Blanchard, stated the belief that the U.S. had recovered debris from the crash of a UFO — a flying saucer. The next day, another press release was issued, this one from higher up the ranks. Gen. Roger Ramsey released information that the debris was not from an alien spacecraft, but just a weather balloon that crashed in a thunderstorm. Nothing to see here, move along, folks.

By then it was too late; word had spread based on the original press release. The headline of the Roswell Daily Record on July 8, 1947 stated, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region.”

The origin of the phrase “flying saucer” is in dispute. However, most sources agree the first mention of the phrase in U.S. newspapers happened a month before Roswell, in June of 1947. It was then that Kenneth Arnold, an experienced pilot from Idaho, was flying his small plane near Mt. Rainier in Washington, on his way to an air show in Oregon. Arnold spotted a group of objects traveling at a high rate of speed. He clocked the time the objects took to travel between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, and estimated the unidentified objects were flying at 1,700 mph — twice the speed of sound. It would be another four months — October of 1947 — before Chuck Yaeger would break the sound barrier in his historic flight. Arnold had stopped for refueling in Washington at an airfield where he was known, and told staff what he had seen. Word quickly spread and by the next day, Arnold was inundated with questions from West Coast press. He recounted his story, describing the group of aircraft as unidentified flying objects, adding they flew “like a saucer if you skip it across the water.” Newspapers interpreted that to mean, a flying saucer. The story headline in The Chicago Sun from June 26, 1947, stated, “Supersonic Flying Saucers Sighted by Idaho Pilot.”

The U.S. Air Force started investigating UFOs a year later, with a project named Operation Sign. In 1952, it was renamed Project Blue Book. There were more than twelve thousand reports of UFOs documented in Project Blue Book from 1947 to 1969, when the project ended. There are seven hundred of these incidents that remain “unidentified.”

Boomers know all too well the sci-fi movies of the 1950s that were spawned by these early sightings. Imaginations ran wild as the vast majority of the films did not surmise our visitors came in peace.

On a warm summer evening in the early 1960s, Mister Boomer engaged in a game of hide-and-seek. His neighborhood was filled with kids from the age of six to sixteen (baby boomers!). On his block, kids of various ages often played together, from baseball games to summer evening hide-and-seek extravaganzas (a large tree was the “safe” spot. The game had finished, and groups of parents could be heard on various porches, talking and drinking various beverages, from lemonade to beer and cocktails. Meanwhile Mister B, his sister and three other kids retreated into the coolness of the grass near the street, in front of his house. The kids lay on their backs, staring up at a clear sky that displayed more stars than usual, the view often muffled by air pollution in his industrial area.

Ever the dreamer, Mister B tried to identify constellations he had heard about in school. He thought he had found the Big Dipper, and the North Star. Intently observing his spot in the night sky, he saw three stars in a triangle form that appeared to flicker. He pointed it out to his neighborhood companions, and they remarked on the twinkling of these little stars. His sister was uninterested. Then, one star began to flicker brighter and faster. Mister B was not at all sure what he was seeing, but he kept watching as the white-yellow light became brighter, until the other two stars in the triangle began to do the same thing. They did not appear to be twinkling in unison, just fairly frantic flickering in varying degrees of brightness. A few seconds later, the original twinkler changed colors; first it went to blue, then to red, toggling between yellow, blue and red faster and faster until all of sudden, the three “stars” disappeared in three directions from their triangle formation. Jumping up from the grass, Mister B exclaimed, “Did you see that?” One of the kids shrieked and ran home. Another said he didn’t see it. Mister B told his parents, who were involved in conversation with neighbors. He was summarily dismissed and told it was time to go into the house.

Now, Mister Boomer isn’t saying he saw flying saucers. They were points of light, but they definitely moved extremely quickly once they left their origin spots in the sky. That qualifies as unidentified in Mister B’s book. Within a couple of years, his father had not one, but two UFO sightings he mentioned to the family. In fact, both were seen by multiple people who reported them to city police. One was a cigar shape, the other, more of the classic saucer. He was not at all convinced by the explanations given by local authorities.

Despite Project Blue Book investigations having been officially closed for more than four decades, UFO sightings continued. In recent years, there has been an increase in sightings by U.S. military personnel, which prompted the U.S. Senate to ask the Air Force to launch a new investigation of these reports since 2006. They started by rebranding UFO to UAPunidentified aerial phenomena. The preliminary report of their findings was released on June 25, 2021, and their findings were inconclusive. However, 18 of the incidents were classified as involving unusual movement or flight characteristics.

What the Air Force did report on these UAPs was:
• They pose no threat to national security
• There is no evidence of technology in use beyond present-day scientific knowledge
• There is no evidence of extraterrestrial origin
• There is no evidence that the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico incident was a UFO, and the government does not possess any dead alien bodies

How about it, boomers? Case closed? Did you or someone or know see a UFO/UAP in your boomer years?