Return to The Marconi Experiment Home Page Original Internet Free-form Progressive Radio



The Ad Remains The Same


Comedian and actor Robert Wuhl used to end his stand-up act with a routine about how some people wanted the state of New Jersey to make Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run the official state song. As he recited the lyrics, it was obvious these people had never really listened to them, because the song is really an exhortation to get out of Jersey while you can! I’ve noticed recently that some ad campaigns are using popular songs that, upon close lyrical scrutiny, are not exactly supportive of the product, or at least not the best choice…

Take the long-running ads for a cruise ship line that use Lou Reed’s “Lust For Life” under shots of all the spiffy stuff you can do (omitting getting seasick, stuffing your face with food, surviving the odd 70-foot freak wave, etc.). Now, this is a song that, in part, extols “liquor and drugs.” Liquor, of course, is the happy tonic for long, boring nights on board a boat filled with senior citizens (the only folks who have enough time and cash to take cruises extensively), but I don’t think the “drug” reference is all that desirable (except that the younger travelers might need them after a few days at sea).

There’s also a cruise line ad using “Beyond The Sea” as a theme song, no doubt spurred by Kevin Spacey’s Bobby Darin flick. If my mind serves, doesn’t that song end with the singer promising “never again I’ll go sailing?”

And there’s the SAAB car campaign that sticks a Who instrumental riff (“Pinball Wizard,” which makes no sense) under their logo. You’d think a Swedish car company would at least use ABBA (“Take A Chance On SAAB, takeachance, takeachance, takeachance…”). The Who’s greatest hits have primarily been co-opted by the CSI TV franchise (I get Who Are You? [CSI]. And Won’t Get Fooled Again [CSI Miami] sorta works. But Baba O’Reilly [CSI New York]?). Cadillac has Led Zeppelin-ed up its image to attract those swingin’ 55-year-olds who still remember which one was Page and which was Plant.

Commercialization of hip music used to be a bit harder to do, as bands actually wanted to keep control over who used their tunes. The story goes that back in the late ‘60s, ad agencies wanted to use some of The Doors’ big hits and would pay handsomely, but leader Jim Morrison steadfastly resisted, not wanting to hear, “Come on Buick, Light My Fire.” Since the group had decided that everyone in the group had to OK any use of Doors’ songs, Morrison’s veto won out. Alas, he’s dead now, and I swear I heard “Break On Through” in an ad recently. Of course, all their songs are probably owned by Michael Jackson these days, and he needs the money for legal fees…

The real loser in all this song-borrowing is the commercial jingle-writer. Many a big hit composer made his or her first good money by writing ad music or TV themes. Now it seems you have to write a hit song for the Black-Eyed Peas to give it enough hipness for a Green Giant ad.

But whatever you do with the background music, there are still too many ads that make me dive for the remote (“Living with genital herpes…” <click!> “Bob has a new feeling of confidence with Enzyte…” <CLICK!>). Cue Zeppelin – LOUD!!!

The Ad Remains The Same

Smoke Screen
Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that cigarette

This Horrible Day
The September 11th aftermath

Who's this
"Uncle Johnny guy?

Uncle Johnny's Corner features occasonal random thoughts (approximately whenever the spirit moves Uncle Johnny to write omething new)

Uncle Johnny's "day job" is as an audio engineer and producer/writer. He lives and works in New York City.

John and David used to be partners in a syndicated radio production firm.
They remain close friends.