The Now Explosion
A newbie in my orbit has me reliving my salad days. The wannabeau and I are the same age and grew up in Atlanta, so we’ve had a lot of “Remember when Lenox was an open-air mall?” and “My first trip to Oxford Books was” and “How many times did you ride the Pink Pig?” conversations.
Yank your nasty brain out of the gutter right now. Riding the Pink Pig isn’t a euphemism for how we hit that here in Georgia. The Pink Pig was an Atlanta tradition, a rite of passage, a kiddie train at the downtown Rich’s department store during the Christmas season. Why we celebrated Christmas by riding a train that looked like a pig is beyond me … but it was special, dammit.
All these conversations about the Atlanta of the 1960s and 1970s got me thinking about some coolness from the sixth grade … so I Googled and I YouTubed … and found that the University of Georgia has archived footgage from — wait for it — The Now Explosion.
You late fortysomething kids from Atlanta and Jacksonville and other blessed cities are squealing right now, aren’t you? The rest of you? I feel sorry for your lack of Now Explosionism.
What was The Now Explosion? Nope, not Larry Tee’s first band; my Now Explosion predates that musical marvel by about a decade. The Now Explosion was music videos. In 1970. Eleven years before MTV’s moonman and that Buggles song.
Why is that still a trivia question? Doesn’t everyone know that “Video Killed the Radio Star” by now?
The Now Explosion played locally produced videos for Top 40 hits. For several glorious months in 1970, Channel 17 — now known throughout the world as Super Station TBS, but then just a local UHF station — broadcast Now Explosion every weekend, for about twelve hours straight, Saturday and Sunday. It was a badge of honor to brag on Mondays about the number of weekend hours wasted watching Now Explosion.
The Now Explosion was just plain cool. No, not cool — groovy. Now Explosion was the epitome of groovy. Trippy, hippy graphics and dancing chicks. On TV. All weekend long. The right thing at the right time for an impressionable eleven-year-old girl already passionately in love with music. I was also fascinated with hippies in those days. A big thrill was the occasional Sunday drive down to Piedmont Park, where we’d watch the hippies. Being a complete and total dork, I used to make magazine photo collages of hippies.
Now Explosion was a beautiful moment that was of the moment. It was, as the marketing materials stated, providing television that young adults really dig. Since the videos were, for the most part, shot around Atlanta, you had the connection of a favorite song with a slice of your city. It was something just for us.
Here are snippets from some of the videos. I’ve watched this several times (more times than I want to admit) since I found it last night; I was surprised at how many of the videos I remembered. It’s well worth watching the full nine-plus minutes; some clips are brilliant, some hilarious. And now I know why I dance the way I do.
Try to stick with this video until the end, and you'll be rewarded with a non-silver-foxed Kenny Rogers singing and emoting to “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (helluva great song).
My favorite isn’t included in this clip. It was a video of a beautiful hippy girl with long hair, playing Frisbee in Piedmont Park, with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” playing. I wanted to be that carefree hippy chick. I still want to be that carefree hippy chick.
Skinny Bobby Harper — a longtime Atlanta disc jockey, and a family fave throughout my childhood — was one of the DJs on Now Explosion (the term “veejay” had yet to be uttered). Here’s a clip of him remembering the Now Explosion days:
When The Beatles announced their breakup, Skinny Bobby played the video for “Let It Be,” which ended with the four-square photo collage from the album. As the song faded and the screen froze on the photo, he said something like “Look closely. This will be the last time you’ll see them together.”
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