Another article by Art Chantry that shows how some brilliant creativity and as Art calls them “delicious source points.”
Art Chantry: About ten years ago, Hallmark came out with the ‘talking card’. it was a small music playing device utilizing microchip technology that would start to play a cheezeball tune (happy birthday, etc.) when you literally opened the card. It was all small enough to slide between the layers of paper making up the card itself, so it was com…pletely hidden. it saved the company from disaster – they were really hurting just before they tried that gimmick. It turned the greeting card business around.
If they had been a little more diligent, they could have had ‘talking cards’ back in the 1970′s! of course, it would have been analog technology – a record player. It’s always amazing ideas what can pop up out there if you have a clever brain and will to copycat and steal.
Back around 20 years ago, I bought a old used book called “the GIMMICKS book of records.” It’s a British edition (I don’t think there ever was an American edition), published by virgin from around 1980. It collects together weird, funky, strange record disks that are eccentric or ‘gimmicky’. Mostly it’s a collection of picture disks and colored vinyl or peculiar packaging. (ho hum. seen it, been there, done that.)
But in the very back of the book is small section of truly eccentric records – square, metal, shaped, laser-etched, scratch-n-sniff, weird labels, extra thick, fuzzy, etc. This is the gemstone heart of this book. These are delicious source points for ‘outside-the-box’ thinking. I mean, once you see a 12″ LP with a CD inset into a giant hole in the middle of the vinyl disk, you begin to realize that dang near anything is possible. Doors open up in your thinking. This is actually a great little book.
But the strangest, most interesting piece reproduced in the entire thing is a little 7″ square greeting card (christmas combined with the 100th anniversary of the European Polydor record company) that was made back in 1977. At first glance, it just looks like some advertising 7″ single. frankly, the graphics themselves are rather dull – a clip picture of an antique gramophone.
But, closer inspection reveals that it’s got a flexi-disk mounted halfway into a peculiar fold on the card. there’s also a plastic nob grommet on the fexi and there’s also a little nail taped to the paper corner. What the hell is it?
You unfold the cardboard and the nail sticks out like a nasty threatening needle. The paper folds over itself to create an extremely crude “speaker cone” or “gramophone horn”. Then you place the needle into the grooves of the fexi and turn it with your finger-tip using that little grommet/nob. It’s not a greeting card – it’s a fully functioning record player!!
I have no idea what the music is (I assume a christmas song), and I don’t really care. this is one of the most brilliant little gimmicky crazy promo items I’ve ever seen. Whomever dreamed this up deserves a place i
sic history. It’s absolutely genius. but, there’s no credits anywhere. It’s from 1977 and it’s European.Beyond that it’s inventor is lost.
Now, if Hallmark had been on their toes, we’d have seen these everywhere a full 25 years before they introduced the ‘talking card’ technology. I’ve always believed that a GREAT gimmick is worth a MILLION words.
Art Chantry: i had no idea about these other “designs” of the same basic concept. this old polydor item still seems to predate the others you have noted (although i don’t know about the one clark talks about). but, the idea is ancient and the ways to skin that cat are endless. the one question i have is did any of these designers buy this book before they ‘came up’ with their design? we’ll never know….so, it emerged from religious evangelicals, eh? no surprise. much of the recording industry emerged from church basements. like record pressing plants. for decades. many of the vinyl pressing companies out there were still gospel/religi…ous/conservative oriented because of their links to the church. many of them started out as teenie little pressing operations making records of their choir and their arrogant minister to distribute the ‘word.’ when i worked with estrus on a lot their stuff, we had to deal with censorship problems in the packaging and the music all the time. we had to get sneaky and clever to get around it….i went looking for old vinyl pressing equipment at one time. there was a church pressing plant in sumner washington (southeast of here) that actually pressed all of the early northwest punk rock single (the fartz and the u-men and the fastb…acks, etc. all came from a church basement!). it had closed down over decade earlier when i decide to track it down. i had some idea of doing super-duper high custom crazy records by hand DIY style. but, it had all disappeared in the landfills. often, these were considered dangerous (they used explosive boilers and pvc is carcinogenic). besides, the recording industry went about buying up old equipment like that and destroying it to prevent competition for their new ‘CD’ technology. sorta like the airlines buying up the railroad tracks in america to rip them out to prevent and future competition. it’s a practice as old as american pie….