But destined to take the place of the mudshark in your Mythology

We all know that sex sells.  Humor is memorable and indirectly sells too.  Another key emotion that advertising pulls on is nostalgia.  On Mad Men, Don Draper is always pulling out concepts that bring back happy memories to induce consumers to the products he is marketing.  Music is one area where nostalgia has lived for a long time.

When I was young, I had thought “the Fool on the Hill” a Petula Clark song.  Please forgive me I was 6.  I’m over it.  But it was a Beatles cover.  More fool me.  That’s how I learned about cover songs.  Granted, it was long after the original.  When I was 16 there was a new band.  They did a cover of “You Really Got” by The Kinks.  Of course that was Van Halen in 1978.  At the time I thought it was clever that they picked such an old song; It was 14 years old at the time.  No one disputes Eddie Van Halen’s guitar chops, but I’m sure the exercise of remembering the original and contrasting it with the late 70s production and sound was part of the appeal.

I often wonder what would make a good cover.  I think about songs in the 10-15 year age range. Of course there was only 7 years between The Rolling Stone’s “Connection” and the Montrose cover (you are all closet Sammy Hagar fans, right?)   I realize that many songs I think of for covers are much older than that.  Closer to 20-25 years.  I think as rock and roll ages, it stays fresher longer.  The distance from the Kinks to Van Halen (or The Pretenders) might be larger than the distance from REM to Rise Against. I keep thinking it’s time for someone to cover “Me in Honey” or “Up in the Neck.”  I am sure I am alone in those thoughts.

Music does funny things to people.  As I was growing up, my parents often politely said, “Lee please turn your stereo down.”  I’m paraphrasing of course.  It was closer to, “Shut that Crap OFF!”  It didn’t matter if it was the majestic sounds of Rush, the heavy beat of Led Zeppelin, the driving urgency of UFO or the Baroque tone of Yes.  My parents hated it all, especially at the volumes I chose.  I think they would have been prouder had I adopted The Ray Conniff Singers as my teenage soundtrack.  In 1995 the old man bought season tickets to the Oakland Raiders.  I probably went to a game every year with him.  It was always amusing to me to see him “rocking out” to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” when the team took the field.  Previously this was a band he hated when it came thumping through my bedroom door, but there he was bopping and cheering to the music.  Who knew?

The feelings evoked by music have long been an arrow in the quiver of advertizing firms.  I recall the row that erupted when Michael Jackson licensed The Beatles’ “Revolution” to Nike.  We often forget he had enough money to buy the rights to the Lennon-McCartney catalog.  A few years ago, Cadillac licensed Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” for their CTS commercials.  Call me silly, but I believed that was the 2nd sign of the apocalypse.   The men responsible for the Cry of the Mudshark lent their talents to sell rich old men luxury cars.  It was sad.  Of course “Rock and Roll” is the 2nd most overplayed Led Zeppelin song, so I had no trouble tuning it out when it came on the tube.

There was roughly 33 years between Led Zeppelin 4 (or Sticks or whatever you and your friends called it) and the Cadillac campaign.  This year, there is a movement afoot to tie late early 80s music to back to school sales and office (school) supplies.  First, we have Target with the Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat.”  Of course everyone loves the infectious nature of the song. Perfect for Miss Prissy Pants Teacher to be singing with cute kids.  Me?  I’m thinking about the song as a battle cry for Belinda and Jane to pick up make groupies to abuse.  You knew they made most male rockers look like altar boys right?  Now you do.  Think about that next time you see that commercial.  Changes things doesn’t it?

Staples decided to use Depeche Mode in their back to school sales ads.  When I think of Depeche Mode (and I’m not the world’s biggest DM fan) I think, “Electronica with thinly disguised BDSM themes.”  I don’t have a problem with that.  But I bet others will when they realize that their children are being seduced and tempted into the lurid world of “office supplies” where they “just can’t get enough.”  I know, like you needed me to point this out, but that’s my job.

The latest Target (I call it TAR-Jhzay) ad features Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science.”   Seriously?  It doesn’t matter what lyrics they’ve changed the ad to.  Everyone hears the original in their head – it’s the overwhelming familiarity and nostalgia that pulls at the strings of your emotions. Do you think Target means savings with these lyrics?

As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony

I don’t’ think so either.  Perhaps next season someone will want to use Grace Jones’ “Warm Leatherette” or Khia’s “My Neck, My Back”  as their call to arms.  Maybe that will be Chick-Fil-A.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

     /  August 3, 2012

    My musical ephipany came earlier when I became aware of how many radio hits-found on albums by white singers-were written and performed by black singers/groups. Music has a power and potencey-magic-that go far beyond notes on a page.

    Reply

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