Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Food and "Whiteness" at MGM Records

"Milk and cookies," "milquetoast," "whipped cream" and "white bread" were terms one expected to hear in reference to MGM acts like the Cowsills, the Osmonds, and Pat Boone (an actual dairy spokesman) during the late '60s/early '70s. Helmed by the future Republican governor of California, Mike Curb, the label strove to project a clean, family-oriented image amid the unprecedented drug- and sex-friendliness of the music industry of the day. In response to the FCC's call for less narcotics on the airwaves, for example, Curb made Billboard headlines in 1970 by dropping 18 of his "progressive rock" and "hard drug groups" all at once. Curb also viewed the food-related descriptions mentioned above, evidently, as positive signifiers of cleanliness and whiteness or, maybe, whiteness-as-cleanliness. The Mike Curb Congregation's own "Sweet Gingerbread Man" (1970), though, demonstrated that no one was above the almighty double entendre.

The Cowsills surrounding a tower of white bread in the gatefold of The Cowsills (1967)

Whipped cream cake and dairy cows on the back of the Osmonds' Homemade (1971)

Milk as a central image for a 1972 Cashbox ad for Pat Boone and the Boone Girls' "Mr. Blue" single

The Mike Curb Congregation's "Sweet Gingerbread Man," in contrast, peddled cookies as "tasty and tan," naughty and nice.

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