A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream

In this featured episode, radio advertising producer, writer and composer Clive Desmond covers the golden age of radio ads, including Frank Zappa, Ken Nordine, Linda Ronstadt, and Randy Newman.

While the 1960s shift in print and TV advertising has been heavily documented and mythologized by Mad Men, Madison Avenue’s radiophonic collision with the counterculture is less well known.

Desmond takes listeners on a highly subjective journey through one narrow, eccentric, corridor of radio advertising. He’s been working in the field for more than thirty years, and he’s won some of the industry’s top awards.

In this piece, he has rescued beautiful forgotten nuggets of radio history and delicately arranged them into a glittering associative chain—a constellation of jingles and spots that somehow all add up to more.

A version of episode was originally featured on The Organist, a bi-weekly experimental arts-and-culture program from McSweeney’s and KCRW, under the title A 700-Foot Mountain of Whipped Cream.

Credits

Music

All incidental music courtesy of the wonderful artists listed below from Free Music Archive FMA.org. Podington Bear, “Three Colors,” “Light Touch,” “Keep Dancing,” “Clouds Pass Softly Deux”. Lee Rosevere, “Let’s Start At The Beginning,” “Making A Change Blue Dot Sessions, “Diatom,” “The Zeppelin”. Anamorphic Orchestra, “Machine Elves”. Chris Zabriskie , “Another Version of You”

Comments (18)

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  1. Tara D

    What an awesome episode on radio advertising. Clive Desmond is wonderful to listen to, and tells a great story. Thank you!

  2. Jason Nelson

    Gonna be honest, it felt kind of gross to hear Desmond espouse praise for advertising. When they make the comparison between advertising and garlic bread, how it’s like a nice side to the main content that’s expected, I couldn’t disagree more. Advertising is a necessary evil, an obnoxious side effect of our capitalist culture. Just look at the prevalence of DVR, or ad blockers, or how most phone games have a pay-to-remove-ads option, or how you can skip ads on youtube, or how youtube red removes ads entirely. I would never try to block garlic bread.

    There are exceptions to disliking advertising, like the creative and entertaining super bowl ads, or when a marketing company makes a serious flub with their social commentary in their ads that make it a topic on social media. But these are exceptions.

    Hearing about Desmond’s childhood was charming, but their effusive praise of this thing most everyone hates felt inauthentic, like its propaganda or like Desmond is possessed, or at least disconnected from normal experiences of advertising. Maybe it’s because they’re on the other side of the radio, but from this side? I’d rather pay 5 bucks a month to never have to hear an ad on 99% Invisible ever again.

  3. Justin Allen

    I love your podcast, but I couldn’t make it passed the 5-minute mark of this episode.
    Around 4 minutes in, this audio glitch/noise developed that was so distracting that I couldn’t penetrate through it to hear the words underneath. I gave it about a minute hoping the sound would correct itself, but it continued.
    I usually don’t let audio issues bother me when listening to podcasts but this one was too much. I had to stop.
    This isn’t a complaint. I love this podcast and I’ve listened to every episode as well as support it financially. But, if I don’t mention that there was an issue, then you might think that there wasn’t a problem, or that no one noticed.

    I look forward to your next episode.

    Thank you,

    Justin

    1. 99pi

      One of our team is going to email you about this – we weren’t able to replicate the problem on our end!

  4. David Cantrell

    Until I listened to this podcast yesterday I had never heard the “I’d like to buy the world a coke” song. I now have it as an earworm.

    DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!

  5. Noah

    You said there was a link on your website to part 2 of this piece— where can I find that?

  6. Loyd McIntosh

    I thought this was a great topic and for the most part enjoyed the narrator, Clive Desmond, tell his personal story, but MY GOSH he could lighten up a little. I’ve heard people give eulogies for loved ones after a long bout with brain cancer who were cheerier than this. Seriously, cool topic and great stories, but I promise it’s okay to smile once in a while!

  7. Joe Garcia

    I loved this episode and also your contribution on the Movie Crush episode that you were on with Chuck. However, I think you missed the point about Quint’s hatred for sharks in Jaws. The second time the audience sees Quint is where they are loading up his boat for the shark hunt. Throughout Quint’s shop, you can see lots and lots of shark mandibles, the only part in a shark not made of cartilage. My theory is that Quint removed his tattoo to keep him from remembering the time he was in the water after the Indianapolis sank. I felt that he hates sharks because he lost a lot of friends back then and now his life’s mission is to kill sharks. I think they borrowed this from Ernest Hemingway’s life since he was noted to hate sharks and would often hunt them down with a machine gun. My $0.02

  8. James Downing

    Wow, this was a long episode, and by extension I agree with Loyd McIntosh’s comment above… Clive is a good narrator for short stuff. He’s refreshing at first, but 56 minutes of him is rough.

    Since I’m already being critical, let me get this off my chest. You guys have been really focused on the design of radio and architecture lately, but there are SO many other areas of design. Isn’t that what made 99PI great to begin with? You covered the small decisions that designers make throughout their creative processes. That shouldn’t limit you to architects and radio producers! What happened to episodes like the flag design episode. That was epic and a standout.

    I’d love to hear another episode about product design. The last one that you did, I think, was the sport bra episode. That sort of episode is the exception lately, not the rule. If you need ideas, take a chapter out of the book “The Evolution of Useful Things” and bring it alive for us. Cover how website design has changed over the years. Cover the stages of product design. How designers do research into the market place, sometimes referred to as capturing the “voice of the customer” (a little radio lingo, eh?). Please don’t pigeonhole yourself into “radio and architecture”, I can only take so much.

    1. 99pi

      I think you’ll find a good variety of shorter, single-topic stories in a pair of episodes being released at the end of this year and beginning of next year. Also: you may want to check out some articles on the website which often cover everyday designs!

  9. Leslie Engel

    I wish I could have finished this podcast. Topic and history are great, but I’m shocked that a VO pro had to read this so ploddingly slow, with overly long pauses and absolutely monotone. Could have gotten in all of the content and made it :20 min shorter. I love 99PI, but cannot recommend this one, which is a bummer given the great content.

  10. Brad

    The delivery on this episode was languid and hypnotic, and not in a good way. There were some interesting nuggets to be sure, but I had to work to be patient enough to get to them. Not sure the juice was worth the squeeze on this one.

  11. Brian S.

    Just wanted to balance out the negative comments a bit, thought this was a great episode!

  12. Scott M.

    Great episode. Those who find themselves annoyed by advertising might enjoy knowing that Stan Freberg was often quite frustrated by the world of advertisers. He had his own radio program lasting for all of 1 season. But unlike most other radio programs his had no advertiser, one episode revolved around himself being the “product” being sold, complete with fake ads. You can listen to it for free on the internet archive (it’s episode 14). https://archive.org/details/stan_freberg_show

  13. Polka

    Wow..
    I’ve been listening to 99% for years, for all the reasons listed above, I hope this is not an indication of the direction you are aiming to take the podcast.

  14. Sam

    Great episode!

    What’s the song that starts around 32:20? Doesn’t seem like it was in the credits.

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