Home » 1950s » Play That Funky Muzak: Television,Movies And Being Caught Unawares Of The Subliminal Soundtrack

Play That Funky Muzak: Television,Movies And Being Caught Unawares Of The Subliminal Soundtrack

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Adults Only

                                  What you see here is the logo for the ‘Adults Only’ segment of the late 70’s/early 80’s American pay TV service  ONTV,which was known to air hardcore pornography in some that carried it,after the station had signed off for its regular broadcast day. Interestingly enough ONTV and other pay TV services were originally created for providing a cable TV-like experiences to cities,who feared monopolies,that didn’t yet have cable TV service. There is an another  interesting fact about these services. The opening segment of this Adults Only service (a separate charge for subscribers to ONTV,by the way) which you see in the photo above featured during 1981  the Bob James song “The Walkman”-followed by Ronnie Laws “Heavy On Easy”. Since I tend to notice these things being a music aficionado of sorts,there was an hysterically interesting topic for this blog in there somewhere: the relationship between the music of the funk/jazz/soul spectrum of the 70’s and 80’s and promo commercial soundtrack material for television and film. Since it has the strongest personal connection,I’ll start with the subject of pornography.

                                    During the winter of 2006 I driving from back from the grocery store with my ex when I decided to play Jeff Beck’s reggae-funk version of the Beatles classic “She’s A Woman” from Beck’s 1975 album Blow By Blow. My ex,who was driving the car remarked that the song sounded as if it was part of the soundtrack to a pornographic film. Unlike him apparently? I had very little to no experience with pornography. Never was prudish,simply very uninterested. Whenever I would see a sketch about pornography on TV sketch comedy shows or adult cartoons such as Saturday Night Live or Family Guy,I would begin to hear funk oriented music in the back round. Personally I’ve chocked it up to the fact that because funk,jazz and any hybrids or extensions of the two both flow from rhythmic movements of sound that adult filmmakers noticed how this might effectively match the physical end of the human sexual experience. While most people today are aware how sexual ones singing can be on a record,instrumental funk and jazz are often still very much associated with adult film for many people.

                                        On the other hand,I have actually discovered music based on incidental soundtrack music heard in a film or television show. The first example I can remember occurred when I was eight years old. Where I lived there was a local television celebrity named Eddie Driscoll who had starred in (among other things) The Grover Swale Show, featuring the buck toothed character of that name who was one of Driscoll’s many television characters he played and created. As seen in a tribute TV special to Driscoll following his retirement,I never noticed the theme music used for that show as featured in a clip beside the fact it wasn’t a bad song and had a great groove. A decade and a half later I picked up a CD copy of the Ramsey Lewis album Tequila Mockingbird and when I arrived at a song called “Skippin” I was amazed. It was The Grover Swale Show theme! And now I knew where it came from. Come to find out,TV stations such as the type my father was once an engineer in (the same one where Driscoll once worked,by the way) had a huge store of records by Dave Grusin,Bob James,The Crusaders and Ramsey Lewis used as incidental back round music for local shows and commercials.

                                       In addition to the references to pornography,I’ve also heard a lot of people refer to funk (in particular) jazz-funk as being elevator music,or muzak. A good part of that probably has to do with the fact that so much visual media-from film to television,has integrated instrumental jazz/funk music into the back round of American’s day to day lives. We hear it when we turn on the TV. We hear it in movie trailers. Not to mention on the multitude of radio commercials and promos that utilize this type of music in the same fashion. Can we say therefore the still obscure music of funk is a part of our lives without us knowing it? Or is the presentation so subtle and misunderstood no one even realizes it? Jazz and funk are therefore not commercial musics-they are more often used  for commercials instead. Especially on the most melodic end of the music. Therefore if one is listening for it and,like myself are looking to jazz and funk as an alternative to what other music’s they are hearing,exposure to it may be easier than one thinks. So the funky sounding muzak your hearing is really just funky music in a little broadcast incidental soundtrack dressing.

*I would like to dedicate this to Ben Minnotte,creator of the YouTube channel ‘The OddityArvive’,which did serve to inspire some of the information here. So Ben,thank you very much for your contribution of influence.


1 Comment

  1. A good selection. Enjoyed Jeff Beck’s groove.

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