Gibbs Dentifrice - Anniversary! Roll up! Roll up!

In keeping with the human tradition of celebrating arbitrary and essentially meaningless anniversaries, today we're celebrating our 1,137th post with this wonderful 1947 ad for Gibbs Dentifrice! And we don't feel a day over 1,124!

Yes, our first post ever was an ad for Gibbs Dentifrice, way back in the halcyon days of 2009. It's always embarrassing to look at your naked baby photos, or things you made long before you figured out what the hell you were doing, and our first post was full of, uuh, not many jokes and me speculating how they got the tins of tooth powder sealed inside plastic bubbles in the era before Photoshop. Funny, funny stuff, folks.

Anyway, Gibbs seems to like filling their ads with eye-filling color and fun eye candy. Good on them. Today's ad has some perfectly period-correct painting of circus imagery that rewards the wandering eye. I wonder if it was more worthwhile to go to that kind of trouble back then - you know, when people tended to read a magazine cover to cover and weren't so pressed for time? Pure speculation, there. I can't prove any of it.

"Dentifrice? What the Sam Hill is that?" you say? Well, it seems to be a pretty broad term describing any ingredient that is included in toothpaste. Say what? Yep. Even the stuff that freshens your breath can qualify as a dentifrice. Usually we just call it toothpaste these days, and apparently, before the tubular era we live in today, it came in tins.

So what's with the "Roll up! Roll up!" bit at the head of the copy? From various contexts, one could deduce that it's a thing that's familiar to English people who go to the circus. Cambridge Dictionary says this:
said, especially in the past, by someone who wanted people to come and pay to look at something unusual or interesting: "Roll up! Roll up! Come and see the amazing bearded lady!" shouted the circus man.
I suppose it's like you're calling passersby to park their, uuh, wagons, maybe? The phrase does seem to predate the auto-car. All I know is I first heard it in Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1 (pompous much, guys?), a three-part epic prog rock song cycle with loads of Kieth Emerson's trademark keyboard spazgasms all over the place. In case you were getting laid in high school, and consequently never listened to their album Brain Salad Surgery, I'll fill you in on the story. It's about this question: "How do you create a sideshow in a post-modern world in which mainstream culture is pretty much a depraved freak show already?". Written in 1973, the song does seem a little accurate now...
And if one doubts the prophetic power of Lake's and Sinfield's lyrics, ponder "Where the seeds have withered, silent children shiver in the cold/Now their faces captured in the lenses of the jackals for gold" during the next media foray into Bosnia or the South Bronx. Or consider "Performing on a stool, we've a sight to make you drool, seven virgins and a mule" when sampling the exploitative TV wares of Jerry, Jenny, Montel et al.
  Here's the bit where he sings "Roll up!", in case you don't feel like sitting through all thirty minutes-ish of the album version, or this abridged nin-minute version, with one of Carl Palmer's tedious and awful drum waknings solos.

I, however, could use a brain-exploding synthesizer tour-de-force right now. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky. Brush your teeth, kids.

Click for big.


Michael Leddy said...

Congratulations on the big 1,137! That's a milestone in the life of any blog, or dentifrice.

But I'm surprised that you didn't mention "Magical Mystery Tour."

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