Friday, July 29, 2016

Logomania: or, the eagle bites the bolt

Ancient TV logos are a happy obsession of mine, though some would say there are no happy obsessions (but there are, Blanche, there ARE!). I collect them as gifs, because, let's face it, the soundtracks to these things are never that stimulating. The only exception is the original NBC In Living Color peacock from the late '50s, which had the most doom-y sounding music behind it. I was only four, and I was terrified of it and would run and hide as soon as I saw that peacock.

These are two similar (but not identical) ABC logos from the early '50s. ABC was always the third runner-up in the network sweepstakes. I think it's still that way now.

These strike me as a little strange.  They feature apertures which open, and I guess it's supposed to look like a camera lens. To me, it's like a doorknob that says ABC on it, but what do I know of technology?

And yet, it's NBC which became so famous for its zoom-in "eye" logo with - yes, an aperture that opens! And then it closes again. It's creepy, is what it is, but all the best TV logos are creepy.

It does make you wonder, however, who got there first.

This may seem like a still picture - but look closely, and it isn't. It's quivering and jumping up and down ever so slightly. This is what I love about old technology - the way everything trembles (trembles, trembles). It's one of the simpler versions of an early '50s ABC logo featuring an eagle with lightning in its beak.

This is a more sophisticated, animated version of the same logo. But it still looks awfully militaristic. I was probably scared of this, too, when I was four. The poor framing and flickering are things I prize, and the expanding star is slightly explosive. Early TV ads often featured that same lunging-at-the-viewer effect, with the names of products jumping off the label to fill the whole screen. This was a visual ambush which no one was used to, so it may have intimidated people into buying the product.

While this one may look the same, it isn't. Note how filthy the screen is, with somebody's hair stuck at the top of the frame (and also at the bottom, for a second). These are the kinds of logos that make me turn cartwheels of joy. If you're old like me, you'll remember the sound that went along with these extremely scratchy bits of film. It's very hard to describe, but it's the auditory equivalent of all that scratchiness and quivering hair. My brother and I used to try to imitate it by going "Phhhhhhhhhhhh!"

This is a weirdie, and I have no idea who it is. Someone's face appears in the middle of the star! I don't know who this is, and if I didn't know better I'd say it was from the primitive universe of the Dumont Network. It has a Dumonty feel to it. But no, it isn't, it has to be ABC.

But this one is Simply The Best. The lightning-bolt lights up dramatically as it seems to spear through the eagle's beak, and the eagle is illuminated in a big dramatic sweep from below. And oh that scratchy stuff, it's in abundance here! It's likely on an old film that has taken a beating over the decades, so it's doubtful it would look this bad when it was first broadcast. But you never know. I particularly love kinescopes of old shows that had their credits written on a piece of cardboard that was manually dragged across the screen.

Watch at your own risk! I can hardly describe this music, with its dark and doomy gong-sound followed by menacing upward glissandos of low woodwinds, then (under a voice which seems to be announcing the end of the world as we know it) a few bars of a creepily dissonant, almost gamelan-like theme that might have been used for the entrance of a bloodthirsty emperor who ate little girls like me for breakfast.

The visuals are, however, stunning, far more dramatic than any other incarnation of the NBC peacock, which has now been reduced to a sad, flat thing resembling a vinyl tile in someone's bathroom. The bathroom of someone with no taste. But I love this, it's a piece of art,  which is why I use it as one of my "signature" gifs at the bottom of the post. (That IS why I do it. Didn't you realize? It's a way to call attention to the link to my Amazon Author Page, which - I won't say nobody looks at it, because frankly I don't know. But every once in a while, I do.)