Vintage Tobacco Advertising

Rock and roll has always been a contrary form of music. At once ‘the devil’s music’ and the soundtrack to the American Dream, it has leant itself to as much commercial dogma as rebellious transgression. Rock and roll is both savage and servile. It’s sexual awakenings and automobile sales. This moral and ideological duplicity is what makes the genre so interesting and it’s something that I don’t think is acknowledged frequently enough.

Whilst researching footage for Wet Face‘s Lowered Expectations, I came across a collection of old tobacco advertising curated by the internet archive. Aesthetically speaking, the degraded analogue footage complemented the band’s lo-fi sound. The 50s and 60s vintage was also apt, since it came from a golden age of garage rock and tittyshakers. More importantly, however, I felt that the tobacco advertising theme could make a pretty servicable allegory for the duplicity I have been trying to describe.

Tobacco is (and especially was) big business. It’s what The Man would have you take up. To no lesser extent – and quite without irony – tobacco smoking has traditionally been the accessory of rebellion. It’s what you shouldn’t be doing behind the bike shed.

Aside from the Warholian girl dancer (who acts as a sort of visual throughline for the piece) all the remaining footage consists of defunct tobacco advertising, injected in short, quasi-subliminal bursts. Given that many music video channels now have a policy against depicting the consumption of tobacco, this content has an oddly illicit flavour. At least, it would have if any of the advertised products were still actually available to purchase or if they weren’t the produce of some of the most established organisations in the history of Corporate America.

Incidentally, Wet Face‘s 5-track Lowered Expectations EP is available to purchase from iTunes or Amazon mp3