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I’ve recently become a source of amusement to my lovely wife. I suppose in some ways I’ve always amused her, but lately she’s been cracking up over my reaction to a series of TV commercials.
We keep running across half-hour infomercials for those Time-Life music collections: you know them– a has-been musical celebrity like Tony Orlando talks to a host with a fakey name like “Chelsea Applestone” about a collection of CDs containing 168 Awesome Soft Rock Hits! or 138 Romantic Classics!
The infomercial splits its time between the hosts’ reading cue cards, comments by more fakey-named people talking to someone off-camera about how super it is to have all these songs in one place, and of course, clips of all the fabulous songs on the collection.
About a minute into the commercial I usually start wondering aloud if the guys from Air Supply actually live in a place that looks identical to the set they’re sitting in or if Huey Lewis was hitting on Valerie Springbutton between takes of the “Superstars of the 80s” spot.
And then there’s the music, but I don’t really need to explain my opinions on “She Believes in Me” or “Ride Like the Wind,” do I?
(One exception: when they play the clip of Linda Ronstadt singing “Blue Bayou” the room falls silent. Some things from the 1970s are above reproach, thank you very much.)
All that said, here’s my take on these collections: you don’t have to actually buy the CD sets, you can simply watch the commercials. Why? Because nobody really needs to hear all these songs in their complete form. A memory is like the flash of a camera– it comes quickly, you’re in the moment, and then it’s gone. The absolute perfection of these commercials is the fact that in 30 minutes you can be taken back to a period in your life when these songs meant something to you, and then it’s back to the remote and The Colbert Report.
Case in point: during one of these commercials, they played a clip of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling;” the memory that flashed through my head had me driving in my 1974 SuperBeetle to my friend Craig’s house on a bright Saturday morning in May during my senior year of high school. We hung out in his driveway and then went out for Italian Beef sandwiches. All of that was evoked from fewer than 5 seconds of a Boston song. Would I have recalled more if I heard the rest of the song? Probably not.
Do you really need to hear all of “We Are The Champions” to reminisce about 1978? I’ll bet that the average listener would get about 45 seconds into the song and start reaching for the button to get to the next track. Think about it: “I’ve paid my duuuuuuuuesss…”
My advice: save the $150 and TiVo the commercials. The bonus is that nobody will ever hassle you for actually buying an “As Seen on TV” CD collection.
Meanwhile, Lisa continues to laugh while I play the grumpy old man who’s cursing out the TV. I think she thinks it’s cute that I’m getting old and cantankerous. Maybe I am.

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