Monday, July 24, 2006


Here with the first entry in what I hope'll become a running gag: The Depressingly Inappropriate Cool Song Use In A Crappy Commercial, or when I'm feeling especially bitter, the "DICSUCC." Many of you remember the brouhaha back in 1987 I believe, when Nike used the Beatles' "Revolution" in one of its cheesy sneakers ads. The hand-wringing from the artiste crowd was impassioned, and the excuse-making response from the "Make A Buck At All Costs" crowd was cynical.

Seeing now how completely the latter group defeated the former, it's hard to believe there was actually a debate at one point. For every Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young that refuses to pimp out his portfolio, there's a Led Zeppelin song for Cadillac (ironically off an album from which no singles were released back in the day!), or the ubiquitous & revolting use of "Blitzkrieg Bop" for any product line pushing it's "rebelliousness." Rebellious gum, rebellious soap, rebellious diet soda, there's no limit.

Oh, by the way, I'm not suggesting that anything "should be done" about this. Songwriters should be free to cravenly peddle their art, and advertisers have never operated within any culturally-accepted framework. Quite to the contrary, it's advertisers who continually "move the line" from what's acceptable to what will be acceptable soon even if it's not right now. It's the way it is, and it ain't changing.

No, as usual, I just wanna make fun. So, with no further ado, the first two entries in what I assume (if not actually "hope") will be a running gag here. Yes indeed, ladies & gents, I present to you the first two DICSUCCs:
1. Magic Bus, The Who -- Nissan: In a rather clever commercial, a young boomer couple drives around with their children, enjoying the freedom of the road, cruising through one cool vista after another, as the jaunty rhythms of the Who's late-60's ode to psychedelia & capitalism plays. Yes, capitalism too. It's actually that underbelly to the original tune that makes it so effective for advertising: "I want it," "can I buy your Magic Bus?," "can't have it," "think how much you'll save." The song is filled with elements of consumerism, and it works. Hell, I almost went out and bought a damn minivan!

I'm making no sort of commentary here on Pete Townshend (he wants to buy you leather, remember?), nor on the 60's, not even on the obvious fact that the counter-culture ultimately referred to the "check-out" counter. Nah, no time for that. It's just despressing, that's all. But not nearly as much as . . .

2. One Way Or Another, Blondie -- Swiffer: Yeah, that is depressing, isn't it? Almost too much to let you realize how funny it is. Debbie Harry, the ultimate hot & bad babe of my early adolescence (sweet body, short skirts, sneered on camera, and said "pain in the ass" in a popular song when I was eleven years old) being used to sell the most mundane of household items. The irony is as thick as the riff from the rhythm guitar.

And that, my friends, is what drags it from bizarrely funny straight to depressing: this was Blondie's most ass-kicking song. A straight-out rocker, guitars coming right at you, about unbridled lust. (Or stalking; you decide). And now we get to hear it as we watch a pretty actress-as-housewife clean her floor with a disposable mop.
One Way Or Another, indeed. More of these to come I'm sure.


Blogger DED said...

The title of this post had me LOL. The content is sad but true. There's even a Peter Gabriel tune being used to sell something, though I can't remember (fortunately) what it is.

There's a corollary that should be brought up. In some cases, the artist doesn't own the rights to their songs. Michael Jackson bought alot of the Beatles catalog and was thus able to sell the songs to advertisers as he saw fit. Why? Jealousy perhaps? Or maybe the Elephant Man needed a fresh dose of formaldehyde.

Sadly selling popular songs for commercials has been going on at least as far back as the 60's. It's a trend that won't die, but I wish it would.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Heh. Sideshow Bob just had a post on this same subject the other day. Must be something in the air.

My nominations for worst song use in a commercial:

1) Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a song that thoroughly mocked commercialism, consumerism, and television and was, of course, used by Nike for a TV ad.

2) Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz," a baby boomer classic song that very obviously mocks MB owners as shallow, superficial twats and was, of course, later used by MB to sell the cars to aging baby boomers.

3) CCR's "Fortunate Son," a song that mocks the empty patriotism of conservatives at war, which was used by Ralph Lauren after 9/11 as a way of making a jeans purchase into a patriotic statement.

As I said at Bob's place, these ads always remind me of the Bill Hicks routine. "Anyone here from marketing and advertising?" he asked the audience. "Yeah? Go kill yourself. No, there's no joke coming. Go kill yourself."

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Otto, I don't know which of those three is more . . . {insert appropriate adjective}.

I think Janis may be the best/worst.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Mike - good stuff.
TD Bank Financial something or other is using pieces of Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve Pipe. The song is a downer (it was at the end of "Cruel Intentions" a Dangerous Liaisons for teens). First time I heard it I was like WTF? TD Bank is talking about how we do not know them yet. Wierd choice.
The Magic Bus in the Nissan commercial floored me. Dad raised me on 60's music, so I love The Who. Kills me that they sold out. I know Pete needs cash, but jeez, just tour again.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

he wants to buy you leather, remember?

Oh, I remember...

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Excellente, Senor Furioso.

I was thinking of you when I typed that this morning. Glad to see your keeping your eye on me!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

The worst of those three, to me, is the CCR tune. And I am sure that was killing John Fogarty. At least Joplin wasn't around to hear hers.

I say that was killing Fogarty, because, if I recall correctly, through some bizarre contractual agreement from way back when, John Fogarty has no control over the CCR music. It's why until very recently he had never played any of it since that band broke up.

That and the fact that misappropriation for faux-patriotism these days sends me quickly to a boil.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Cadillac fired their agency, and the Zeppelin days are over. Oddly, I was behind that campaign all the way...

3:10 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

I say that was killing Fogarty, because, if I recall correctly, through some bizarre contractual agreement from way back when, John Fogarty has no control over the CCR music.

Yeah, the label went so far as to actually sue Fogerty for supposedly plagiarizing himself, because "The Old Man Down the Road" sounded too much like CCR's "Run Through the Jungle." Unreal.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Yes! That's right! Sublime.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Saw the swiffer ad last night. I don't think I ever wold have noticed the music if not for this thread...

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I'm not whether that deserves a "thanks" or a "sorry" from me.

I'm going with sorry.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous phillykev said...

Ed in Westchester... it is not the Verve PIPE, nor oasis, nor coldplay, that you heard. a classic 90's song so well known should not be confused by so many people, yet it is! I guess because it is a one hit wonder.

2:40 PM  

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