Continuing with my last post on the decline of urban music retail, here’s a truly extinct medium: the album radio spot. These advertisements flourished in an era when record companies pursued mass markets of radio listeners who bought their music in record stores. How many of those conditions exist anymore, at least in this combination?

Typically 60 seconds longs, the album radio spot teased listeners with musical snippets, maybe the artist’s own spoken voiceover, and — best of all — some creative copy.  I think the latter are the real pleasures of the album radio spot, especially when they tried to ‘speak the language’ of their targeted market.  Consequently, as you cycle through the different years of spots below, conceivably you can track the changing ‘voice’ of the youth, specifically as the advertising industry understood it.  Compare, for example, the spots for the Byrds’ Ballad of Easy Rider (1967), Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality (1971), and ZZ Top’s Deguello (1979) to hear what I mean.

I assembled the archive of album radio spots you see here through simple YouTube searches (“album radio spot,” “album radio commercial”).  It raises several questions:

  • Why all the results centered around 16 years, 1967-82.  Were those really the only years that record companies promoted their new releases via radio advertising?  Did they switch over to TV advertising?
  • Why are almost all of the albums below squarely in the rock genre? In fact, the Curtis Mayfield spot may be more of a PSA than an album radio spot, but it’s pretty awesome nonetheless.
  • Were these advertisements all national campaigns, played on radio stations across the entire country?
  • Is it me, or with a few notable exceptions (Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush) were none of these records exactly mega-sellers in their day?  Was the album radio spot an advertising medium of last resort?  Why are all of these plainly North American advertisements?  (Okay, I did find a Dutch radio commercial for Abba’s 1981 album The Visitors.)

If you have any answers, or if you know of other album radio spots online, please share them in the comments section below.  Until then… enjoy!  I suggest you listen to all of these in sequence as a YouTube playlist of album radio spots, letting them wash over your ears as a listener might back when car radios had those little punch-button pre-sets. Otherwise, here are individual links to the playlist’s contents.

 

1967

Moby Grape – Moby Grape

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=be0vj02hPuw?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Nico – Chelsea Girl

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEyU1j5-Mds?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Paul Revere & The Raiders – Greatest Hits

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlU7y-sOsRU?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Mothers of Invention – Freakout & Absolutely Free

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zs7ClCV6p8?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1968

The Monkees – The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COHlwTXAZjQ?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Radio

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytZESBbu8bA?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Jackie De Shannon – Laurel Canyon

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0i5SXd2-FM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1969

The Ventures – Hawaii Five-O

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbvDeO19mp4?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Ventures – Underground (at 2:07)

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gqo59vQbL4?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RycWU2AjO0U?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Byrds – Ballad of Easy Rider

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOQO9uxCqzA?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BzQoKZLtaU?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Chicago Transit Authority – Chicago Transit Authority [first Chicago album]

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xEimY207fM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

13th Floor Elevators – Bull Of The Woods

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ59Aw2vbVc?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Frank Zappa – Hot Rats

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j564CzSaNi4?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Coven – Witchcraft

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjyysNyic-g?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1970

Grateful Dead – American Beauty

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TlehfkRatY?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygoMl_0QwfE?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFB-0ouhtU8?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Neil Young – After the Goldrush

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF3TZsD0D34?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1971

Black Sabbath – Master of Reality

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LufyFh9uII8?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention – 200 Motels

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gpUGgYA6Ww?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Elvis Presley – Love Letters From Elvis

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEbwL3ExO4c?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Lou Reed – Transformer

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK4jF-qDIas?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZlUGtKliqg?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Move – Split Ends

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkyEkEYKEN4?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1972

Carl & the Passions – So Tough [Beach Boys project – thx ]

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAnFklmCGoI?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1973

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFCM4Mt7HYM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

David Bowie – Pin Ups

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXpAmHzjSss?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1975

The Supremes – The Supremes

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABbKl9pYRAI?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Blue Öyster Cult – On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIvYBr6HodY?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Todd Rundgren – Initiation

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5yIeyJWArM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1976

Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy1alqKQV_w?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1977

Utopia – Ra

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UyR8YMkLsQ?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Utopia – Oops! Wrong Planet

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn8TrN3wlL8?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Hawkwind – Quark Strangeness & Charm

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1SfTOM4__0?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko7T2JgHorM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1978

KISS – solo albums

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBAbkjRuDGI?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Todd Rundgren – Hermit of Mink Hollow

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlGgdwnTkX8?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

AC/DC – Powerage (and 9-18-80 concert commercial)

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP2i1Zzuh2w?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

The Hot Ones (K-Tel Records compilation)

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrwkZkSChrM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1979

ZZ Top – Deguello

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3BicsS5-RE?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

Judas Priest – 1979-82 radio spots

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj4baQXzVnM?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1980

The Ramones – End Of The Century

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r23_VAsx5SI?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>

 

1981

Iron Maiden – Killers

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVDHpAFaVoc?hl=en"><img src="http://pages.vassar.edu/musicalurbanism/wp-content/plugins/images/play-tub.png" alt="Play" style="border:0px;" /></a>