Mad About Mad!

I had a paper route as a kid.  It was nice because I had an income (not much, but a lot for a kid).  With the money I earned, I would run up to the record store and buy records or tapes or maybe I’d go to Circus World and buy some new toy I wanted.  If I wasn’t buying toys or music, I was in the book store buying my favorite magazine – Mad.

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This week it was announced that Mad would be coming off the newsstands after an amazing 67 year run!  What a shame this is!  I remember picking it up and laughing out loud at so many things!  As a kid, I always laughed at the humor and satirical content and often brought it to school and laughed with friends during lunch.

I will admit that it has been some time since I bought a copy of Mad, but I can recall some of the things I looked forward to each month:

Movie and TV Parodies

M*A*S*H became M*U*S*H, Different Strokes was Different Jokes, The Sound of Music was The Sound of Money, and the Godfather was The OddFather.

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So many great satires and parodies were presented in Mad.  I always loved reading them and found the comedic spins on character names creative and funny.

Spy Vs Spy

As silly as these comics were, I always wondered which Spy would wind up beating the other one! I don’t recall rooting for one Spy in particular.

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Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

Al Jaffee, was responsible for two of my favorite Mad Magazine features.  The first was Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.  Who doesn’t respond with a sarcastic answer when someone asks you a ridiculous question!!??  I always loved this feature, and Al wrote many books based on this feature.

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The Mad Fold-In

Al Jaffee also was responsible for this feature.  There was usually some crazy drawing on the back cover.  There was some scenario or question posed and you folded the back cover in and the answer and another drawing appeared from the original.  It’s hard to explain, but this picture may help…

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Incidentally, as of this writing, Al Jaffee is still alive and celebrated his 98th birthday in March!

Don Martin

Another great contributor to Mad Magazine was artist Don Martin.  He was with the magazine from 1956-1988 and had some very funny characters.  At one point in his career, he was promoted as “Mad’s Maddest Artist!” His stuff always had really generic titles like “One Fine Day at the Bank” or “One Tuesday Afternoon After School.”  What I loved about him was that his cartoons always had some of the weirdest sound effects!  What I mean by that is he’d spell out the sound effects that were going on and those always cracked me up!!! Here are a couple of his onomatopoeias:

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SHTOINK (seen above) was actually his vanity license plate on his car.  When I think of Don, I always think of my best friend, Jeff.  I’m not sure why, but we still make silly noises and make up words when we chat on the phone and when we’re together.  I am sure we spent many hours laughing at the “sounds” created by Don Martin for Mad Magazine! Sadly, he died of cancer in 2000.

Alfred E. Neuman

He was the iconic face of Mad Magazine who signature phrase was “What, me worry?”

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Alfred’s face could be found on the cover of Mad, and when I’d walked over the rack, I’d look for his face to find the magazine!

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The character itself has interesting origins and you can read about them on wiki here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman

Alfred also made a record!  Depending on the source, it’s either from 1963 or 1966 (some sources say it could be as early as 1959), and it was called “It’s a Gas!”  With a name like that, you are correct if you thought it included “sounds a body with gas makes”.  Drew and Mike played this often when they were doing mornings on WRIF.  Enjoy it at the link below:

Farewell, Mad

Mad is really one of the last satirical magazines around.  Crazy Magazine stopped publishing in 1983 after a brief decade of issues.

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Cracked magazine (which I often bought with Mad) ceased publication in 2007.

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In a few weeks, the bimonthly publication will only feature vintage MAD content and be sold at comic book stores. The magazines will still be mailed to subscribers, and DC will continue to publish MAD books and special collections. Starting with issue 11 (Mad reset its numbering in 2018 after moving offices) in October, “new” issues of Mad will only feature new cover art, while the rest of the magazine will comprise articles pulled from previous issues. I am sad to see it go, and based on the things I am seeing on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and other social media sites, I am not alone.

In 2015, “Weird Al” Yankovic served as Mad Magazine’s first “Guest Editor.”  Naturally, I bought that issue.  Upon hearing the news of the magazine’s demise, Al tweeted: “I am profoundly sad to hear that after 67 years, MAD Magazine is ceasing publication. I can’t begin to describe the impact it had on me as a young kid — it’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird. Goodbye to one of the all-time greatest American institutions.”

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67 years in publication!  67 years of satire.  67 years of laughs!  Thanks, Mad!

In honor of Mad, I plan on using Sploydoing, Floourtz, Gluwwtch, Flaark and other onomatopoeias in my daily vocabulary for years to come!

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I Miss Record Stores!

My first job was a paper route.  I delivered for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I guess I was probably about 10 or 11.  Some of your customers paid the paper directly, but most of the time, you had to go door to door to “collect” for the week’s deliveries.

My dad decided since I was making money, I’d need to have a bank account to put the money in.  He went with me and I opened an account at Michigan National Bank.  I think he had hoped that I would put money in there and save it for when I needed a car or something.  The fact that the bank was basically in the parking lot of the Hoover Eleven shopping center, which was almost directly across from my paper route, was probably a bad idea!

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There were two stores in the shopping center that ended up with most of my money.  The first was Circus World, a long gone toy store where we bought the latest Star Wars toys, Matchbox cars, and toy guns.  The second store, and the one that got most of my money, was a record store called Harmony House.  Oh, Harmony House, how I miss you!!!

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When I had my paper route, Harmony House was located in the original wing of the shopping center.  I had a turntable in my bedroom and I would go and buy 12 inch LP’s, 45 singles, cassettes, and eventually CD’s.  Some of the music blogs I follow have often said, “You never forget the first album you bought with your own money.”  I can say that isn’t true.  I don’t remember mine.  I can tell you the ones I bought, but don’t remember my first.  This is probably because many of the albums my dad had ended up in my collection.

What I remember is walking in and there was a wall which had a pegboard on it.  On the pegboard, there were pockets which had the new 45 singles on it.  Each pocket contained about 20-30 45 records in it.  On the front of the pocket was the title of the song and the artist.  If you were to compare that wall to the Billboard chart, it was basically the Top 30 or 40 songs that were being played on the radio.  I remember buying “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on 45.

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The above pic is not really what the wall in Harmony House looked like, but it gives you an idea.  Looking at the picture, it reminded me that I lost the adapter that you put on the turntable to be able to play 45’s.  With an LP album, there was a small hole in the middle of it that the spindle went through. In the above picture you can see that hole on the “Creepers” record.  The hole on a 45 was much bigger, as you can see in the majority of the 45’s shown in the picture.  It seems to me that I had about 50 of those yellow 45 adapters at home for my collection!  It snapped in the record so you could play it.

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The singles were often released in hopes that you’d buy the album when it came out.  I was buying albums from artists that my dad introduced to me like Roy Orbison, Elvis, and others.  If I had to take a good guess, I would imagine one of the first albums I ever bought was from the Beatles.  Probably Beatles 65 or Beatles VI – both of which I loved!  In elementary school we had a “Record of the Week” which each class voted on and we could all bring songs in for the class to vote on.  I remember bringing in a Beatles Album.

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I used to spend hours in Harmony House!  I remember that occasionally there would be a huge cardboard cut out of a local DJ (like Arthur P from WRIF) with a spot for 45’s.  It would be their “Pick of the Week”.   They had a listening station where you could put headphones on and listen to the 45’s and you could probably find me there 50% of my visit!  I used to love talking about music with the people who worked there and became good friends with them in doing so.  It was always cool to have one of them say, “If you like that … you will really like _____!”

Vinyl sales started to decline with the rise of cassette tapes and cassingles (a single song on a cassette).  I used to take a vinyl album and record it to cassette so I could play it on my Walkman.  Then, I just started buying albums on cassette.  I DO remember the first album I bought on cassette –

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Eventually, CDs became the way to get your music.  I remember when they first came out, they came in a HUGE box!  The CD would sit at the bottom of the packaging, and the top half of it was pretty much nothing.  Now, when you buy a CD, all you have to do is remove the cellophane around it – back then you had to crack open that huge box!

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Let me preface this by saying I realize that I am probably gonna sound like an old man here, but I hate the fact that more and more music is being delivered digitally.  That being said, I will say that in some cases it is great – like for DJing.  All my new music is downloadable and clean edits.  It does make that very easy.  However, I miss the days of listening to an entire album from start to finish.  I miss picking out the songs I hoped I would hear on the radio.  I miss comparing “notes” with other friends who bought the album to hear what songs were their favorites and why.

It seems that there is little interest in albums anymore.  Hell, back in the day, there was a radio format called “AOR” which stood for “album oriented rock” and you got to hear those cuts that weren’t being played anywhere else!  My Tune Tuesday blog this week about Dwight Yoakam was about a song that never played on the radio, but it is still a great song and one of my favorites!  Think about growing up – no doubt you have an album that you could put on and play it from start to finish and you loved every song!!  Right??

I guess one of the things I miss most about record stores, aside of the music that I bought, is talking with people about music.  I loved being able to talk to staff members about music that had just come out.  I remember talking to a guy at Harmony House all the time about the “Future Releases” that were coming out.  We’d look at the list each week and talk about it.  It was always a great conversation when an artist would do something “different” from what they normally did (Pat Benatar’s True Love album comes to mind).

I had the same experience later on with a place in Roseville called Record Time.  My buddy Ken was the manager of the Oldies Department there and would steer me toward great imports and hard to find songs.  I had so many rare and hard to find CDs in my collection because of him.  Even though our music preferences weren’t always the same – it was always great to share thoughts with him.

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The other great thing about a record store is bumping into other music lovers.  So many times I’d be looking at the back of an album and another customer would walk up and say, “That’s a great LP!”  Those random conversations could also lead to discovering new music too.

It is nice to see that vinyl records are making a comeback.  I think it’s crazy that they are trying to sell them for $30 an album, especially when you can get the CD for $15-$20!  There is something to be said about hearing a song on vinyl, though.  I don’t really even know how to describe it, maybe you can help me do that, but the best I can do is – it sounds “fuller” and more “real”.  I don’t know, maybe that’s just the old man in me….

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Today, I am forced to look for CDs (if I am buying any) at Walmart, FYE (which is slowly becoming non-existent), Barnes & Noble (which is usually WAY overpriced), or online.  It’s not the same.  If I am at Walmart, the guy next to me looking at CDs is really there to buy toilet paper, not there solely to buy music.  With the internet, we have instant access to album reviews, which can be useful if you know what you are looking for.  I miss hearing about something that I didn’t know about from a fellow music lover.  I miss walking into the record store and hearing something playing in the store and wondering “Wow!  I like that!  Who is this and how can I get it?!”

Thank goodness there are still a few stores around that sell used CD’s, records, and even movies.  Sadly, they are as close as we’ll come to Harmony House or Record Time.

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No More Toys … R Us.

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While prepping for my radio show, I came across a story that saddens me.  Toys R Us, who filed for bankruptcy recently, may be considering closing all of it’s stores as early as next week. In my opinion, this is just another way we ruin childhood for kids today. I grew up in an era where Toys R Us was one of three big toy stores that a child could walk through in awe and wonder.  Now we are taking this away from them?

I was lucky enough to have a Circus World toy store about a mile from my house.  A bunch of us kids would walk up there are check out all of the new Star Wars toys.  There was also Kay-Bee Toys (which was not as good as Circus World or Toys R Us) which had some of the odd-ball toys and (at least  in my neighborhood) pool equipment.  What I remember about Circus World was that the aisles were thin and the shelves were LOADED with toys.  In the summer, we would pass the time away in the Circus World store for hours!

I remember how sad I was when Circus World closed, but at least we still had Toys R Us.  This was the BEST of the toy stores.  They had everything from toys, board games, video games, videos for you to watch, books to read, swing sets, and everything in between!  I LOVED going to this place!  I still do.

What kid wasn’t filled with excitement at the thought of walking through the toy store?!?!  We did it often when it was close to Christmas time or birthdays.  “Tell me some ideas”, my dad would say.  How cool was that – “some ideas” ultimately meant a LONG list of possible gift ideas for Christmases and birthdays for years.  Dad probably regretted ever asking for a list, but he sure was never not able to find something we wanted.

I talk about kids, but what about adults?  We are also going to feel the pain of losing this store!  Do you know how many times I would walk through Toys R Us scanning the aisles for things that I thought my kids would like?  I can think of so many instances where I saw something and said, “Wow!  This would be an awesome gift for _____!”  Sometimes. I would go there just to look and see what kinds of stuff was available for my kids….that I would like playing with too!  Ha ha!

In an age where online shopping is the “in” thing, I personally think it sucks.  I like to go and look for ideas.  The online shopping experience is very rarely gonna show you something that you just “might” stumble on while walking  through a store.  Often, a picture of a product is not enough.  I like to read the back of a board game box.  I like to really examine the toys.  You know as well as I do, a picture can make ANYTHING look better than it actually is.  I can remember ordering things from comic books thinking they looked so cool, only to get them and think “What’s this piece of junk?”

Toys R Us – I am sorry to see you go.  I am sorry for the future children who will now walk one or two aisles in a Wal-Mart or Meijer store to see new toys, never to know the true awesome amazement at the amount of toys to choose from.  I thank you for always being there for a kid who was never really sure what he wanted for his birthday until he had the chance to look on the shelves of your store.  I am sorry for Geoffrey, the giraffe, who was spotted in your TV ads and throughout your store – I hope he finds a good place to retire.