Friday, February 25, 2022

Neon Plastic Army Men and Unknown Garage Rock - Hippie Love Turbo Radio Show - Code Word "Rambutan"

This episode of Hippie Love Turbo, on KUCR 88.3 FM was full of fuzz and grit. Sort of like your bellybutton except with a better backbeat. However, there were a few non-fuzzed out tracks throughout this show including a jangling song by a mysterious unnamed band.

The track Look For Me Babe has been attributed to a band named The Unknown but according to Teenbeat Mayhem!, the most informational book on regional rock from the 60s, the song was recorded by a long forgotten group. The confusion appears to come from a bootleg released by Moxie, a label from L.A.that specialized in releasing extremely rare and lost rock music. Back in 1977 Moxie released a single with two songs attributed to The Unknown; Look For Me Babe and Bluejean Man. If you listen to the two songs back-to-back it becomes apparent that the songs were performed by different artists. Look For Me Babe has an almost country sounding groove with singing that's practically spoken versus Bluejean Man which has the typical youthful strained vocal sound and semi-tuned guitars found in many countless garage rock songs. According to a list of every known Moxie release, the initial version of the single also features 2 songs by Frank Zappa as a B-side. I'd argue that the first release shows how Moxie was a bit fast and loose with how they compiled their releases further cementing that the band is most likely an unknown group rather than a band named The Unknown. Either way it's a fun little tune and the mystery behind it adds to its charm. 

Plastic army men as seen in Our Favorite Toys (1997)

As the show continued, I went on a little rant about the history of little green plastic army men and how the Vietnam War briefly changed how the toys were marketed. According to David Bergman, the CEO of Processed Plastics, a now defunct company that made a giant share of the green army men after acquiring another toy manufacturer Tim Mee Toys in 1965, there was a small downturn in sales due to anti-war sentiments in the US towards the end of the war. During an interview on the Discovery Channel documentary Our Favorite Toys (1997) Bergman stated that:

"During the end of Vietnam War, basically to take care of the decline in the sales of the figures, we decided to go to a neon type blues, bright oranges, reds to help keep our figure sales up."

Whether or not the new colors helped sales doesn't appear to be known to the public, however, I find it interesting that more hasn't been written on the subject. Although I clearly remember bright blue and red cowboys and headdress adorned Native Americans, I've never seen neon toy soldiers as described in the documentary. If you are interested in reading more about the little plastic guys I suggest you check out Plastic Today's brief historical write up, Toy Solider HQ's reviews of various army men and similar toys, as well as, a content rich blog titled World War II Plastic Toy Soldiers.

That's it for this episode's summary! Thanks for reading the blog and be sure to listen over the air on KUCR 88.3FM on Sundays at midnight or through KUCR.org. If you'd like, you can also listen to KUCR through Radio Garden or Tune-In.


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