(Roughly) Daily

Video killed the radio star. Film, not so much…


Before MTV, and long before we could stream music videos on our cell phones, mid-1960s American hepcats gathered around 500-pound, 7-foot-high contraptions to watch 16-millimeter Technicolor films of B-list pop stars gyrating to their latest hits. The contraption in question was usually a Scopitone, one of several audio-visual jukeboxes found primarily in bars. Their reign, if you can even call it that, was brief, and by the end of the decade, the novelty of these then-high-tech devices had faded entirely…

Scopitone films were deliberately exotic, designed to appeal to a target audience of men on the prowl in bars. “They had to grab people’s attention from across a room… They are the only type of film produced for people who aren’t watching them. In general, nobody is choosing to look at the Scopitone machine. They’re mostly guys hanging out in a bar. The wild colors, suggestive dances, and bikini girls in the films were supposed to distract men from their drinking long enough to put more money into the machine to see what else might be in there.”

One Scopitone classic is Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl.”…It’s just Neil in an ever-changing assortment of dinner jackets surrounded by a bunch of Las Vegas showgirls in very elaborate costumes, each themed for a different month of the year. It was guaranteed to get people’s attention in a bar in 1965…

The inside of a Scopitone machine: up to 36 films were mounted on a carousel, which rotated until the consumer's selection was aligned with the projector.

Read the entire Scopitone saga at Collectors Weekly… and check out more Scopitone “singles” at Bob Orlowsky’s Scopitone Archive.


As we make our selections, we might recall that this is the anniversary of different sort of public musical performance: on this date in 1892 “The March King” John Philip Sousa and his newly-formed band (post U.S. Marine Band) performed publicly for the first time, at the Stillman Music Hall in Plainfield, N.J.

Sousa and his civilian band (source)


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