Has anyone else noticed that the beloved, body-swaying, even head-banging songs of my youth are being used to sell me things?
I’ve just noticed recently. I was sitting on the couch, thinking about my dinner (it was good) and watching a reality TV show about people who have stupidly and, for some time, spent far more than they’ve made, people who are now willing to tell the viewing public their lazy-assed stories in exchange for 1.) being shown the errors of their ways; 2.) given a well-laid plan to get out of debt and become fiscally sound; and 3.) monetary recompense.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is the two commercials that came, one after another, using “Let the Sunshine In” by the Broadway cast of “Hair”.
The first commercial was for a car with selling points such as Precision Steerology and Cabinocity, a tongue-in-cheesy-cheek stab at other cheesy-cheeked stabs.
And then, the very next ad – the very next ad! – there is a commercial for an investment firm pimping retirement funds, also using “Let the Sunshine In”, contented-faced senior citizens fly fishing, chuckling indulgently at squeaky clean grandchildren, inexplicably naked and in bath tubs overlooking the city. Well, no, not that last one. That’s the other “I’m Growing Old Much Better Than You” commercial, the one involving horny seniors being interrupted pre-coitus by various and sundry neighbors, children, salesmen – you get the idea.
“Let the Sunshine In” was a perfectly good song. I’m hoping I do not eventually connect the song with whatever it was they were trying to sell me. What were they trying to sell me, anyway?
There you have it.
My father told me on my 16th birthday that I would know I was old when the songs I loved in high school appeared on the Oldies stations. I laughed at him, as only a 10th grader can, with the smug knowledge that Hall and Oates would always be cool.
When did it begin? What was I doing the day I heard Muzaked Tom Petty in the grocery store? Because I have. Oh, yes I have.
Back in my day commercials had their own music. They were called “jingles”. Jingles were useful in many ways, including sparking fond memories of childhood and giving us something to sing as adults once we’ve gotten drunk enough to sing. There’s a good chance that we can’t make it all the way through the Star-Spangled Banner but by God I’ll bet we can all sing I Wish I Was An Oscar Mayer Weiner.
I sat on "hold" at a Help Desk yesterday and found myself almost unconsciously following the horn-and-strings stylings of some lounge act. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out why I knew the words, but I knew them.
And then it hit me.
It was “School’s Out”. Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”. And it was being sung by Pat Boone. Yes. That Pat Boone, He of the White Florsheims. He was in a “metal mood”, as I discovered on my subsequent search for this album. Pat sang to me for the full 50 minutes I was on hold.
He gave me a lot to think about.
“School’s Out”. Now wasn’t that a cool song? I mean, how cool is the line “I can’t even think of a word that rhymes?” This song is indivisible from thoughts of my teenage summers. That song was played on the last day of school, right over the loudspeakers and throughout the halls. And yes, we ran out of the building howling at the top of our young, pink lungs: “School’s out for summer! School’s out forever!”
And what have they done with Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin? The thundering herd of bass and drums, the bending arcs of guitar play, the thoroughly adequate wailings of the singer. "Rock and Roll" sells Cadillacs now, a car out of the range and/or reaches of my wallet. And I had a poster of you on my wall! I made my first toilet-paper pot pipe while listening to Houses of the Holy! I believed in you! Was it all just a hedgerow for the May Queen?
What I find incredible is that a lot of the songs being used for commercials now were actually written in quite a different vein.
“Fortunate Son”, for example:
"Some folks are born to wave the flag
Ooh they're red white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief"
Ooh they point the cannon at you Lord.”
It is a protest song. Being used for Wrangler Jeans.
I can hear John Fogerty grinding his teeth from here.
But I am amused, too. Iggy Pop’s song “Lust for Life”. “Lust for Life” is being used for a cruise line commercial. Iggy Pop, the wiry, the flexible, the man who wants to be your dog, encourages you to bring that lust for life to the high seas. You can picture it – the beaming faces of attractive couples as they “rediscover” each other, children running in the surf, parents no where to be seen. Don’t you wish they’d let the song run all the way, past the “Lust for Life” chorus to “we’ll dance like hypnotized chickens” and “of course I’ve had it in the ear before”? How sweet would that be? I mean, who doesn’t equate family vacations with heroin addiction?
So what’s the criteria? What next? Are they looking at song titles only? Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” advertising paint? Will we be hearing Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” in commercials for half-way houses? Should I be expecting Tampax to appropriate Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “I Am So Into You”?
Sound does indeed travel slower than light. What my father said to me almost 30 years ago? I saw his lips move, but I’m only hearing it now: You will know you are old when the songs you listened to in high school are on the oldies station – or used to sell you prescription drugs, cars, vacations, cosmetics and just about anything else you can think of.
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