The perfect accompaniment to the Seven-Up flicker light circa 1972 was a room full of black light posters, along with WLS on the radio. Now, according to That 70’s Show, marijuana smoke would also be a part of the ambiance. But I grew up in small-town America, and while pot smoking was certainly something we had heard of, the fact is that junior high students in northwest Arkansas simply didn’t commonly engage in the act.
But we did love turning the bright lights off in our rooms at night and laying back and enjoying some good music, with the black light making our posters glow beautifully, and perhaps a candle or incense completing the perfect sensory experience of relaxation.
Black lights first appeared in the 60’s. According to BrainyHistory.com, the first black light was sold on May 27, 1961. Hmm, I guess it would be as hard to argue with that factoid as to prove it. But by the mid 60’s, concert posters frequently featured fluorescent colors that looked great in regular light, but shined like beacons under the influence of ultraviolet light.
UV light can be weakly produced by an incandescent bulb. That was the first experience many of us had with black lights. It simply required a purchase of a special bulb for about three bucks, and unscrewing the old 100-watt job in the desk lamp, and replacing it with the tiny 40-watt generator of purple photons.
But that little bulb made a world of difference in how Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones looked on those posters. However, the ULTIMATE black light experience required the purchase of a fluorescent fixture.
My older brother worked at an electrical supply outlet after he was discharged from the Navy, and he was kind enough to provide me with a 4′ light fixture, complete with black light bulb, that absolutely horrified my parents. But they tolerated my little journey to the wild side, and my room was turned into a perfect mellowing-out spot to lay awake at night and listen to great tunes on the radio and think about a certain brown-eyed young lady who shall remain nameless.
Today, black lights continue to entrance teenagers in love, but they just don’t have the sex appeal that they did in our youth when they were wild, new, and perhaps slightly shameful.