2003   JANUARY 13   #013

Chromalox - The Eight Seasons Of Chromalox

In 1996 I heard this Chromalox piece on a limited edition CD, "Product Music" and it became an instant favorite. Pal Mike "Sport" Murphy wrote a wonderful essay about the song and it sums up everything I could say and more. It is reprinted here with permission (see text below image).

Learn more about Product Music Records by reading "The History of the Industrial Musical" by Jonathan Ward.

In closing, I'm still floored by this recording... I love it as much as my first listen... If only we could find out who the studio performers were on this gem. Although it's highly doubtful Chromalox would remember this gem, they are online and they continue to give you, as the narration goes, "that toasty kind of warm that makes the season come to life!"

- Otis Fodder

TT-10:38 / 9.74MB / 128kbps 44.1khz
from the LP, "The Eight Seasons of Chromalox" (Chromalox)
recording taken from the 1996 CD, "Product Music" (Honest-Abe)

Toby Paddock writes:
I've always had a feeling that something just wasn't quite right, but could never put my finger on it. Now it's clear, I have no Chromalox environmental comfort systems. Never did. All these years wasted.

by Mike "Sport" Murphy

Tomorrow advances: red, remorseless and foreboding as the Blob, and it and I both know I am no Steve McQueen. Memories find themselves grafted with weird sorrows hardier than the host. The moment at hand is a big motherfucking pain in the goddamn ass thanks to all them other bastards. Am I alone in this triune trauma? Of course, but so are a million other lugs. Alcohol, my nemesis, has returned to limit thought (my nemesis), and other remedies arrive with attendant "catches'. But rejoice! I"m here to share one other, which works, and does so with no such discernible risks (other than some predictable abstract philosophical ones I absolutely reject). It"s a recording.

The Chromalox corporation manufactured (still might, at that) a line of air filtration/heating/cooling devices for home and workplace. This is not the place to discuss the profound impact - pro and con - of such systems-n-gizmos, and it may be agreed that few people outside of the industry ever consider the matter beyond that yearning appreciation one instantly acquires when they go on the fritz. Chromalox knew this, and in order to tout their line of wares and inspire consumer consciousness of its indispensable salubrity, the company commissioned a promoganda record album: THE EIGHT SEASONS OF CHROMALOX (For convenience, we"ll call this TESOC henceforth). It was the late 1960s / early 1970s, the sweet, final efflorescence of "hip' vs. "square', before the mass discovery of irony wrecked everything.

We elitist wiseasses might, however, do well to appreciate this appropriation of our beloved irony (a gift from Mad Magazine eventually stolen and retooled for hoi polloi consumption by the National Lampoon). For, by the alchemy of "trend monster reversal' (credit to Rev. Ivan Stang for formulating the trend monster hypothesis), we were given back sincerity as our home domain. We entered an exalted realm of supra-irony, in which one may wallow in the comforts of squareness on their own terms while regaling oneself with a kind of narcissistic exasperation that feels pretty damn cozy, as detestable neuroses go. TESOC - like nothing this side of fondling a slimy, gelatinous Berrie Jiggler - tickles the mutant chakra responsible for such rarefied pleasures. You can have a laugh at your Twinkie and eat it too! Let me try to describe this miracle. Drop the needle, grasshopper.

A diminished "feminine hygiene spray impressionist' piano arpeggio emerges, like hope itself, from the snap-crackle-pop grooves. Guitar:clean... a kachang as gentle as that first tentative stroke of her fingers across your eager scrotum... oboe: rich and rare as almond butter. Already, glorious portents of a sonic vacation to a wood paneled world where all clam chowder is creamy perfection... first time, every time. A little girl speaks, intoning doggerel about walking home in winter ("Even though my toes get tight, I do not seem to care') with an awkward formality that tries to remember to stay cute. It works because it doesn"t. We"re buying it despite understandable dubiousness and bafflement: Toes? Tight? After her fetching recitation concludes, the bass guitar takes a confident downward run ushering in a mid-tempo trumpet and trombone-driven theme right out of some "Medley from HAIR' on some Bob Crane TV special we may, sadly, only imagine.

The greatest announcer voice in all Hucksterdom barges in with "Ever notice how fresh and clean and wonderful cold can be... when you"re goin" home?' He utters these words in a baritone so ripe you could take a bite right out of it. Every adjective is spoken with a decisive satisfaction that cannot fail to electrify anyone not perversely attracted to the rank, the schmutzik and the awful. "Chromalox creates the kind of warm that helps you love cold' ...he speaks in Italics! Only some Bolshevik overdosed on Bukowski - attaching some errant romantic aspect to the thought of freezing on a bare mattress in a pool of his own waste, loathing himself and longing for oblivion – could fail to answer the invitation to bourgeois bliss this voice represents. Which side are you on? Fair enough, stinky.

Imperceptibly, the music has downshifted to a more pastoral, reflective mode. After a few more adjectival intoxicants ("Smooth... quiet... toasty warm') from our Godlike narrator, a passionate fellow sings his union-rate heart out in a soulful moan of the Bobby Hatfield or Chuck Negron school: "C-o-o-old wind... let me hear you whiiiine...' over oleaginous "Nadia"s Theme' piano. A truly pro "modulation-cum-uptempo-shift' occurs and we"re soon digging a group of young cats and chicks, smack dab between Spanky and Our Gang and Free Design, chirping (ofay gospel style) some surrealism about "frozen moments that we"ve known before'. Ramming home, like a sucrose dildo, their ecstasy in knowing and having known winter"s icy grip in undiminished faith that they"ll soon be home in the warmth Chromalox provides. Without Chromalox, what would those "frozen moments' be like? A living hell. But they do not seem to care; Chromalox is REAL. Not some phantasm of wishful naïveté - like world peace - but a tangible, clean, toasty REALITY.

Here"s the explanation for the work"s title: through Chromalox, we can truly consider each season as TWO seasons: the one Mother Nature has provided, and the improvement Chromalox has provided, which not only serves as an escape from (or alternative to) nature, but enables one to more fully appreciate nature itself by contrast. It"s a sort of "God Helper', bringing to our mundane environment the same versatility Hamburger Helper has brought to the same old humdrum kitchen fare. Sneer as we might from our vantage, I bet the Donner Party would have welcomed a little of each! Ponder on that, O smug.

A jaunty whistling theme reminiscent of "Raindrops Keep Fallin" On My Head' rises up from the mix (incidentally, you wanna hear some good engineering, look no further. Outside of the Casino Royale soundtrack, nothing beats it) to whisk us into the next 2 seasons: Spring (Printemps) and Chromalox-mediated Indoor Spring (Petermaxprint-emps). Now that little urchin returns to reflect in verse on the good filtered air inside, and here"s the Lord"s own deejay urging us indoors to a "happier spring' away from rain and allergens, and hark: the Free Spanky Singers pull off some chancy harmonizing, and you get the idea. Like Ives" HOLIDAYS or Vivaldi"s FOUR SEASONS, we"re taken through the year in four movements, but TESOC goes ‘em one better each quarter! Perfect symmetry... the golden mean.

Recall that this was an era of rampaging formal innovation in music. We had Rock Operas, Rock Musicals and Concept albums stretching and ignoring boundaries within all genres... Townshend and company tilting over there... Lenny Bernstein saying the Mass up yonder... SONG CYCLE and LUMPY GRAVY out on the frontier. Who but a Jann Wenner-esque cad (and I"m being nice) would deny the validity of this same impulse in the makers of promotional music? Not me, friend. I"ll go further: TESOC ranks with the most fully-realized and timeless explorations of the period. At least. You see, like all great art from Norman Rockwell to Plasticville model train layouts, TESOC touches the eternal (Well, eternal in the context of modern America... not like Cervantes or something... Christ! But if Spin can call the Beatles the "greatest band of all time' over Basie, Sousa, Europe, etc, I can call my lifespan "eternity' and it sure feels that way anyhow). I"m sometimes up for "TWENTY FIRST CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN', sure, and yeah, it rocks... but every time I roll TESOC, I"m like an alligator enjoying a belly-rub... hypnotized like a chicken staring at a line in the gravel. While many of the era"s musical works strove to simulate the narcotic experience, TESOC PROVIDES ONE! With a jaunty strut that belies its aesthetic proximity to such epics of boredom as, say, old pro golf tournament highlights or the MDA Telethon itself (both of which I fully endorse anyway), TESOC hooks you with the veneer of "camp' and reels you into abject complacence. It"s aural heroin, to put it in hipster terms; it is an antidote to meaning.

As I listen to the wonder unfold, I step into the bright pages of an old issue of HOUSE AND GARDEN. The pictorials of brown, plush family dens AND the ads! Cigarette ads! All of it! Just as one can savor freely the homey comfort of such illusions without any intrusion from "AMERICAN BEAUTY' type "scathing commentary', one may ignore genuine ecological and social ramifications and relax in this sublime representation of the impossible American Reward. It is like celebrating – no, entering - the myths of a vanished civilization, drawing all sorts of Joe Campbell significance (or in this case, significant non-significance) while completely and properly forgetting the human sacrifices and slavery those cultures thrived upon. Except it"s the atrocities and idiocies of THIS culture I"m ignoring. It"s the sacrifice of my own life I"m forgetting. My inner Opie undulates like the waxy "lava' in that notorious "lite' and forgets that I ever heard of Fox News Channel, Sport Utility Vehicles, Osama bin Laden, Britney Spears, male pattern baldness, "In Your Face', colon cancer, Pokemon, Sting, the music business, and on ever downward. Garry Moore is at the bar-b-q, that cute girl from Seeley Street just passed me a love note, and there"s no school tomorrow. TESOC is an oratorio on the more benign and sanctifyingly bland texts of my particular religion, and when I listen, I speak in tongues of naugahyde. I dance, gripping rubber snakes in my fists, fearlessly. I declare my indolent Jihad on the "fidels', and speak the holy word "eh'.

Thus refreshed, I breathe deep and walk out into the world to smoke and drink and fuck and sing and get my fool ass kicked. To face yon complications and compromises of real life. To McQueen the Blob as best I can, knowing that whenever it all gets too real, there"s a quarter-hour"s worth of reliably delicious cheese, finer than any from the great state of Wisconsin, waiting inside my home. INSIDE. And as long as this spiel is, be glad I didn"t get all Jungian and symbolic on interior/exterior personal modes. Even I got too bored for that. And there"s my fucking point.

Boredom. Yessssssssssssssss.

"Warm is beautiful... when you know there"s cold! Fragrant air is beautiful when you know there"s filtered air! Summer is beautiful... when you know there"s Chromalox!' – (Godvoice, TESOC)

- Mike "Sport" Murphy