Being an American, it is incredibly easy to forget how pervasive our culture tends to be, particularly when it comes to popular music. Unlike many other nationalities, we are not inclined to listen to music in other languages; and as a result, we are generally unaware of some really phenomenal movements that have been critical reflections of and contributors to our own culture.
We are all familiar with the fact that video killed the radio star (great jam, too), but the concept of ‘music videos’ has been around a lot longer than MTV. Behold – Scopitones!!!
A type of video jukebox based on technology developed during the Second World War, Scopitones featured a 16 mm film component with a magnetic soundtrack. The resulting machine single-handedly changed the way listeners were able to experience music, and this novel device quickly became an international sensation.
Personally, I tend to associate particular genres of music with Scopitones, although my ideas seem to reflect the period during which it was used. In particular, Yéyé and Rock n Roll seemed to be the most popular – or, in general, anything those damn kids happened to be listening to.
(Fun fact – Vespas also came about because of WWII technology!):
Many artists were met with great success as a result of Scopitones – particularly those damned adorable Yéyé girls, I’m guessing. And despite the fact that the technology was rather short lived, it was undoubtedly an integral precursor to the way in which we enjoy music now.
Françoise Hardy, Singer, Heartthrob:
There are loads of videos and links and photographs that would be a joy to post, but I would both A) Lose your attention and B) Run out of material for the future. So please accept this link to one of the first Scopitones ever, from the inimitable Serge Gainsbourg in 1958, this terrific NPR story about the rise and fall of this fabulous little device, and a nod to one of my absolute favorite blogs and resources of all time, Scopitones.blogs.com.