Christmas Greeting Cards, 1950 – 1980

Christmas cards became ubiquitous in the post-war era, when millions of Americans retreated to a more secluded existence in the rapidly developing suburbs. As small towns—idealized by Frank Capra and Norman Rockwell, among others—started to be displaced by tract housing complexes and chain stores, embellished scenes of the vanishing idyllic communities became a standard trope on greeting cards…

Avalon Hill’s Occult Ritual Kits, 1974

Avalon Hill, known for historical wargames like Blitzkrieg (1965) and PanzerBlitz (1970) at this point, released the Witchcraft Ritual Kit and Black Magic Ritual Kit on the heels of The Exorcist, the occult blockbuster that saw demon “Captain Howdy” enter the material world (and eventually a 12-year-old girl) via a Parker Brothers Oija Board…

The Music the Machines Make: ‘Systems of Romance’ by Ultravox, 1978

By K.E. Roberts

London’s Ultravox was John Foxx’s band for three increasingly brilliant albums. Their debut, 1977’s Ultravox!, is an uneven but essential distillation of Roxy Music, art-rock-era Brian Eno (who produced, along with Steve Lillywhite), prog, minimalist electronica, and dub. The same year’s Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, on the other hand—a mere eight months separated the albums—is a focused and unsparing gnashing of teeth…

Commies, Devils, and Mind Control: How the Christian Right Invented Satanic Backmasking

By K.E. Roberts

Rock and roll was maligned as an “unholy pleasure” almost from the get-go, just as dancing was decried as the “Heritage of Hell” centuries before. After John Lennon declared the Beatles “more popular than Jesus” in 1966, Christian fundamentalists immediately condemned all music that “aroused the lower instincts,” and the smear campaign would last for more than a quarter-century…

Slasher Film Posters, 1980 – 1988

Although the slasher film developed out of Italian giallo films, particularly the work of Mario Bava, the genre began with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), which was extremely controversial at the time for its graphic violence, sexuality, and the final act’s depiction of a cross-dressing Norman Bates…

Beware the Beat: ‘Rock: It’s Your Decision’, 1982

When John Lennon told British journalist Maureen Cleave in March of 1966 that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now,” and that “Christianity… will vanish and shrink,” there was no controversy apart from a handful of letters sent in to the paper that ran the story, the London Evening Standard

Recollections: Wonder Bread’s ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Trading Cards

It sounds ludicrous now, but the neighborhood grocery store was once an exciting destination for kids. Along with a serviceable “toy section,” where you might find an overpriced Micronaut or Metal-Man, dinosaur and army man playsets, Presto Magix “dry transfers” (the paper had a distinctive and delicious smell), die-cast mean machines like Dyna-Flytes, and a host of other tangible pleasures…