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21.11.16

Life & Death

Posted 21st November 2016

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The Music You Want (JAM Creative Productions, 1979)

Yesterday, on a small corner of the internet, something flickered back into life.

A jingle package, in fact. A jingle package made by JAM Creative Productions in 1979, for legendary radio station WABC. Called “The Music You Want”, it would be some of the last jingles JAM made for WABC which emphasised the station as somewhere to go for music.1 (Three years later, WABC would transition to a talk format.)

These jingles were previously unavailable on JAM’s website. Sure, the famous Top 40 packages were there, like LogoSet (1976) and Positron (1977). And all WABC’s talk radio packages were there, from Talk To Us (1982) right through to Top News (2005). But a little slice of that history was missing. And now it isn’t. Brought out of limbo into the digital age. So we can all enjoy some damn fine jingles, which even plenty of jingle obsessives have never heard before.

This pleases me.

*   *   *

A Brief Message (Khoi Vinh and Liz Danzico, 2007-08)

The website A Brief Message had a rather, yes, brief existence. Launched in 2007, it was billed as the following:

A Brief Message features design opinions expressed in short form. Somewhere between critiques and manifestos, between wordy and skimpy, Brief Messages are viewpoints on design in the real world. They’re pithy, provocative and short – 200 words or less.”

To be honest, it was never the writing side of A Brief Message which I particularly liked. What caught my attention was the site design itself; one of the very earliest examples I came across of a site breaking out of pre-existing templates, and making each post look different. Moreover, each post had a specially commissioned piece of artwork, which is still a rare thing to find today, let alone back then. It’s a site I’ve always remembered, as something which came along and made me realise that web developers can paint themselves into artificial corners: every post can look different if you want it to. It fundamentally made me think of web design differently.2

The site is no longer online. Well, not properly, anyway. As usual, most of it is preserved online via the Wayback Machine. But the actual URL is dead as a Pyrenean ibex.

In fact, the site had a bit of an odd end full stop, really. Launched in September 2007, the site stopped updating in March 2008: an active life of just half a year. That’s a very short amount of time for a project which had so much promise, and had two such talented people running it; you have to wonder what happened. And then the archives fell offline for good at the end of 2012.

And man, that sucks. I have no problem at all with the site not updating; it was a shame when the project was so promising, but there could be any number of reasons for that happening. But to not inform your readership about the future of the site, and then letting it just fall offline entirely is a dreadful way for a project to end, and is just rude as much as anything. Communicate with your audience. Let them know what is happening. And keep those archives online, especially when you’ve made something important and influential, as A Brief Message undoubtedly was. If a work remains online, it is never truly dead.

A Brief Message had much that could inspire people even today. If it wasn’t for the Wayback Machine, that work would be inaccessible entirely. Even as it is, that copy of the site isn’t quite complete, and far fewer people will read it. It’s all such a waste.

This displeases me.

*   *   *

Without a word, somewhere on the internet, someone drags out something from the past, and makes it live again. Elsewhere, without a word, great things die in the most ignoble way possible.

Be the person who makes things live, not lets things die.


  1. UPDATE (25/11/16): Here’s some more details about these cuts, gleaned from email conversation with Jon Wolfert. These jingles never aired in this original form in 1979, but were resung for WGAR and a demo issued with those call letters. WABC eventually had six of the cuts resung with different lyrics, and aired them in 1980. When it came to putting the demo online, it was felt the original WABC cuts were more historically interesting than the WGAR versions, despite the fact they never aired in this form. 

  2. Even if I’ve decided most of my sites wouldn’t benefit from such an approach. 

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