Blown Away Guy with restored audio.

During the 1980s, Maxell achieved iconic status in pop culture through its famous “Blown Away Guy” advertisements promoting its line of audio cassettes. Originating as a two-page spread in Rolling Stone magazine in 1980, the campaign transitioned to TV commercials in 1981 and continued to captivate audiences throughout the decade.

Photographer Steve Steigman and Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” provided the visual and auditory elements, respectively. In the UK, the campaign featured Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” The ads showcased a man seated in a (Le Corbusier) high-armed chair on the right side of the screen, facing a JBL L100 speaker on the left. The immersive sound from Maxell’s speakers caused his hair, necktie, lampshade, and even the martini glass on the adjacent table to be dramatically blown back, emphasizing the audio precision of Maxell’s product.

Despite the intense auditory experience, the man, defiantly donning sunglasses, held onto the armrests, calmly rescuing his sliding drink. Television commercials visually demonstrated the powerful sound waves by pushing the chair, glass, and nearby lamp away from the stereo.

This image became the standard for those who believed in their stereo equipment’s transformative power and accuracy, impacting the perception of audio quality. The UK ad campaign is believed to have featured musician Peter Murphy from the Bauhaus group, while the US campaign starred the makeup artist hired by photographer Steve Steigman.

The cultural influence of the “Blown Away Guy” campaign endures, with recent parodies on the animated show Family Guy and various others, including one in the film Stay Tuned and another in Jackass 3D, where Ryan Dunn sits in a chair experiencing a blast from a jet engine that sends the set blowing away.

Blown Away Guy with the original audio.


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