Typically, that would mean "hit interuptus" ... but you guys seem to be diggin' these commercial sounds so we've got a ton more memories for you over these next couple of days.
Yesterday we told you about Rich Appel and his Hz So Good Newsletter ...
Now comes word from Rich that he's been down this "Favorite Commercials" Road before!
Here (in its entirety ... and with Rich's kind permission) is a piece that he ran in HIS publication back in 2002 ... see how many of THESE catchy musical interludes you remember!!! (Being a Top 100 Countdown, it's a bit long, so we'll split it into two days ... and, as a special bonus, we're also featuring Rich's exclusive interview with Jake Holmes, a guy who knows his way around a successful advertising campaign or two.)
More cool stuff today and tomorrow in Forgotten Hits. Enjoy!
In 2002, Hz So Good ended the year with a countdown of the The Crass 100, the best radio commercial jingles ever, based on pains' votes and my collection. Here's that. Thanks so much.
-- Rich Appel
And now, a word … make that, 100 words ... from our sponsors.
Ah, were they only our sponsors.
Thanks to your suggestions and, well, mine, too, we’ve ‘tallied’ (yeah, right) the first-ever HZ SO GOOD “Crass 100” countdown of the best / catchiest / most effective / I-really-don’t-know-what-our-criteria-was musical radio commercials / ad campaigns of all-time (I hesitate to use the word ‘jingles’ since not all fell into that category) … featuring a special ‘half-time show’ you’re just gonna have to stay tuned for. There’s a switch for you, a break between the commercials.
Whether you’re a collector or fan of classic top 40 radio airchecks, or you just have a great memory for radio over the years, you already know how important those ‘little songs’ were to the overall sound of those stations. Sure, back then most of us, like kids today, hated ads (“get back to the music already!”); some of us were savvy enough to know when the breaks came on ‘LS’ clock so we could switch over to music on ‘CFL. I use that example because one of my favorite airchecks is a homemade job done by a friend who, while growing up in Chicagoland, basically switched back and forth between both top-40 powerhouses one night in December of 1971 lookin’ for the hits. Although I didn’t get to hear the ads on that tape, I was a more patient listener myself in December ‘71, the kid who stuck around for the spots (many of which were, dare I say, as good as if not better than the hits).
The criteria for musical radio commercials making this list wasn’t, as you’ll see, as clear-cut as it was for the songs qualifying for the two earlier big countdowns we’ve done here. But here are a few things I thought were important:
- By ‘musical commercials’ I mean mini-songs, not just one or two musical lines and that’s it. I made a few exceptions along the way for campaigns based on just a sung slogan, where those campaigns were so memorable and so tied to radio that we couldn’t leave them out …
… leading nicely to criteria #2: these campaigns had to be ‘out there.’ The goal here was for you to recognize just about every entry, simply because back in the day there was no way you could have avoided any of them. In my own research I was suspect of anything I heard on only one aircheck, unless I remember having heard it a lot more in my youth. That also meant I had to discard local or regional campaigns, which I hated to do. Having grown up in the Boston area, I had a soft spot for “How does Dinger do it?” and “Meet me tonight at the Red Coach Grill,” among others.
- While I tended to favor campaigns which sounded wonderful up against the music on radio, I still didn’t exclude musical commercials from pre-TV. After all, none of those had the benefit of being double-pumped, so they may have been more effective than later campaigns airing on both radio and TV. And that was another criteria: if the TV campaign really overshadowed that of radio, jingle or no, it was outta there or at least ranked significantly lower than it might have been under other circumstances.
- Consistency and longevity counted. Meaning, one-time-only jingles - such as those Coca-Cola ran for nearly a decade featuring various songs by various artists, great as many of them were (and we’ve covered that in an earlier HZ) - didn’t (make that, they didn’t with one obvious exception). Nor did campaigns with extremely short flights, best typified by the ever-changing shoe outlet spots featuring the latest cheapo fashion footwear for teens. I really hated leaving these out, too, given how great some of the Thom McAn and Miles songs were over the years.
Words of warning:
1) My background not being in advertising, and my knowledge of the actual names or first years of these campaigns therefore slim to none, I’ve relied on sheer memory and guesswork – ah, the American way;
2) Between your great suggestions and my memory being what it is, we’ve surely left out some key musical radio spots, but I’m sure you’ll come back at me on that, as you always do;
3) I did my best to get the words right on all of these, listening to old airchecks and checking websites, but surely I goofed up in many places. Re #3, several pains have suggested that I either attach 100 mp3s or create an audio version of this countdown. That’s an idea I absolutely love; whether we can actually do that remains to be seen.
All of that said … on with the countdown, and # --
100. Halo / ”Halo, everybody, Halo!” (1944) … Proving that this list has as much statistical accuracy as any local radio countdown you heard over the holidays, we kick it off with the obvious. This co-sponsor of CBS Radio’s “Theater of Romance” was first sung by in-studio singers known as “The Smart Set,” but over the years, sponsoring other radio shows, some more famous names took a stab at it, one being this guy Sinatra. Here goes: “Halo, everybody, Halo! / Halo is the shampoo that glorifies your hair / Halo, everybody, Halo! / for softer, lively curls / and brighter, sparkling hair / so Halo, everybody, Halo! / Halo shampoo, Haloooooooo!”
99. Moxie / ”If you’re over 30” (1968) … In the spirit of the name “Crass 100,” I thought this needed to be included, even if it was one of the worst ad ideas ever concocted. I guess that’s why it’s here at the bottom. I’ll let the jingle tell the story: “If - you’re - over 30 / your Moxie days are at an ennnnnnd / Moxie’s for people under 30 / sorry about – that – friend / too bad, too bad / Moxie’s for the groovy set / be glad, be glad / you’re not 30 yet / join the Moxie set.” Well, that would explain all those photos in Life and Look of naked kids drinking Moxie at Woodstock.
98. Alka-Seltzer / ”Plop plop, fizz fizz” (1977) … Perhaps as proof that their classic TV spots of the early ‘70s failed to move the product (think “Mama Mia, that’s-a some spicy meatball”), Alka-Seltzer brought back the 1950s “Speedy” character combined with one of the catchiest jingles in ad history. Although “plop plop, fizz fizz / oh, what a relief it is” was heard plenty on radio, the accompanying massive TV campaign surely diluted its effect, hence its lower ranking here.
97. Black Label / ”Mabel” (1956) … Over the years this ran, there were all sorts of jingles built around “(whistle) / Mabel! / Black Label / Carling Black Label beer” – such as slipping the line “there’s nothing too good for gooooood company” in the middle of the above in this early version - but of course that by itself is enough of a gem to let it sneak onto the “Crass 100.”
96. Amstel / ”95 calories” (1981) … While this guy sang as if his entire life depended on discovering a good imported light beer, “95 calories / never tasted so imported / ’til they imported Amstel light” sure was tough to shake after the first hundred times you heard it.
95. Alpine / ”Who did it?” (1961) … Hard not to like this period piece, sung by a band of macho men only the Village People could love: “Who did it? / how did they do it? / what in the world did they doooooooo? / who put the ‘men’ in ‘menthol smoking’? / Alpine - that’s who! / (female:) who? / Alpine – that’s who!” I’m certain, were I old enough in 1961, I would have stayed awake nights wondering when a cigarette company would answer my plea for a menthol cig’ that wouldn’t compromise my heterosexuality.
94. Contac / ”Give your hand” (1973) … Simple, effective and light enough to match the latest Helen Reddy smash: “give your hand to a friend / give your heart to your love / but give your cold (sneeze SFX) to Contac.”
93. Maxwell House / ”Good-to-the-last-drop feeling” (1981) … Man, that Ray Charles could sell condoms to John Wayne Bobbitt. Ok, better example: I’ve never liked coffee, and I almost came around every time I heard “Mornings seem to start much better / you seem to start much better / when you start your day together / Maxwell House and you / get that good-to-the-last-drop feeling / with Maxwell House, only Maxwell House / gives you good-to-the-last-drop feeling / Max-wellllllllllll House….yeah.” There’s the payoff, by the way, Ray’s “yeah.”
92. Canada Dry Ginger Ale / ”Tastes like love” (1971) … Love WAS all around in ’71, and not just in Minneapolis, Mar’. The movies gave us “Love Story,” “The Love Bug” and “The Love Machine,” and art gave us the “love sculpture” (you know, the L-O on top of the V-E). So this didn’t sound out of place in the least on radio that summer: “love us all or love just one / don’t miss love, you’ll miss the fun (repeat) / ginger ale tastes like love / Canada Dry ginger ale.” By the way, were that actually true I’d send it back.
91. Mexico Board of Tourism / ”Stay with me Mexico” (1989) … After having recorded the Grammy-winning “Canciones de Mi Padre,” Linda Ronstadt was perhaps considered a natural to do this commercial, which really sounded like the pop Linda most of us knew and loved. ”Like a dream you call to me / in my heart you stay with me / you always touch my soul / and the memories unfold / ooh-ooh-oooooooh-ooh, you stay, you stay / you stay with me, Mexico.” Makes you almost want to drink the water.
90. Lava / ”L-A-V-A” (1944) … Not much to it, but it sure packed a punch. The jingle of this longtime sponsor of CBS Radio’s “The FBI in Peace and War” was simply a husky male voice singing the above in quotes twice over a bass drum, to carry the message that this was tough, pumice-based soap for washing dirty filthy hands of hard-working men - MEN, damn it. The tune is similar to any “let’s go (insert team name here)” stadium cheer, just a whole lot more sinister.
89. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish / ”Here’s our jingle” (2000) … A late entry, but I’d say a worthy one, especially in this ‘no jingle’ age we’re currently in. No doubt inspired by the theme to TV’s “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” (“This is the theme to Garry’s show / the opening theme to Garry’s show / this is the music that you hear / as they roll the credits”), here, it’s: “Here’s our jingle for Goldfish / The radio jingle for Goldfish / Close your eyes and try to picture crunchy little Goldfish / That is unless you’re driving / Oh yeah, now that reminds us / (Spoken:) Goldfish Brand Crackers are great to munch on in the car / Here’s our jingle for Goldfish / Did we mention it’s for Goldfish / Oh good we’re at the part where we say that they’re baked and not fried / Did you know they’re made with real cheese / Even though they look like fishies / The snack that smiles back. Goldfish.” Later radio spots may have been wittier, by the way, but the original’s still the greatest.
88. Wildroot / ”Get Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie” (1946) … In the ‘let men sell a man’s product’ department, this “Adventures of Sam Spade” sponsor’s jingle would be as PI as they come these days. ”Get Wildroot Cream Oil, Chaaaaaar-lie / It keeps your hair in trim / you see, it’s – non-alcoholic, Chaaaaaar-lie / it’s made with soothin’ lanolinnnnn / you’d better get – Wildroot Cream Oil, Chaaaaaaaar-lie / start usin’ it today / you’ll see that – you will have a tough time, Chaaaaaaar-lie / keepin’ all the gals away / (Spoken:) Hiya baldy! / Get Wildroot right awaaaaaay.” Steve Thompson reminded me of the other later life this one had: “I remember that ad more from newspapers than from radio, 'cause the ads used Fearless Fosdick (the Dick Tracy parody character from ‘Lil’ Abner’) as a ‘spokesman.’"
87. Score / ”Gives you good-looking hair” (1968) … Update #88 twenty years and you get this. A Jim Morrison sound-alike appeals to the sort of man who reads Playboy with “Score gives you no outrageous promises / Score gives you good-looking hair / (repeat) / use it with water, it mixes with water / Score gives you good-looking hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair! / Score gives you no outrageous promises / Score gives you good-looking hair / gives you good-looking / Score gives you good-looking / hair, gives you good-looking … (fade).”
86. Schlitz / ”Once around life” (1972) … As you may recall, their ‘60s campaign eventually morphed into: “Once around life / once around living / once around beer and you'll keep around Schlitz / when you're out Schlitz / you're out of beer.” I remember Kenny Rogers & the First Edition’s take on it, and RC Price remembers “the O'Jays’ version cooked so much that [WCFL / Chicago’s] Larry Lujack even gave it a ‘whoo.’" That’s high praise right there from Superjock.
85. Juicy Fruit / ”Pick a pack” (1974) … Over the years, most of this Wrigley gum’s campaigns have been ‘TV-first’; remember the images attached to “strrrrrretch your coffee break” or “the taste is gonna move you”? IMHO … ”pick a pack, what a happy feeling / Juicy Fruit, what a happy flavor / let’s pick a pack / of Juicy Fruit gum / let’s pick a pack / from the Juicy Fruit tree / ’cause the flavor’s so good / you gotta get some / just pick a pack and you’ll see” was the best of the Wrigley :60 radio jingles during the ‘70s. Chew on that.
84. HFC / ”Never borrow money needlessly” (1960) … Back when moneylenders were all over radio, this spot made these guys out to be the nicest, if that’s possible. “H-F-C / says never borrow money needlessly / just when – you must / borrow them where loans are a specialty / from folks – you trust / borrow confidently from H-F-C.” Yeah, I know they tweaked those lyrics around as the years went on.
(Makes you wanna call Friendly Bob Adams 'tho, doesn't it?!?! Where is this guy when I really need him?!?!?) kk
83. Ben & Jerry’s / ”There ain’t no Haagen” (1987) … Talk about getting right to the point. “There ain’t no Haagen, there ain’t no Dazs / there ain’t no Frusen, there ain’t no Gladje / there ain’t no guy named Steve at Steve’s / but there are two guys at Ben & Jerry’s.” So it won’t win any poetry awards, but I get it, or, got it. I never knew whether most people really cared whether their ice cream had a human face on it, especially one with a scraggly beard, but this was clever.
82. TIE: HyperPhase / ”Today’s the day” and TheraBlem / ”Zits, zits, zits, zits” (1970) … The counterculture actually cared about pimples; who would’a thunk? Listening to “Today’s the day / today’s the day / HyperPhase can wash it away / the news is out (yeah) / it’s fun to shout (yeah) / HyperPhase is here to stay” you’d swear you’re at a love-in … with sponsorship. RC Price reminded me of the Kurt Cobain-like TheraBlem spots out at the exact same time, also designed to take an “FM” approach to the product. What those ads lacked in lyrics (“Zits, zits, zits, zits / I don’t like zits / you don’t like zits” sung to the tune of “Volga Boatmen” in one spot, “I want TheraBlem / you want TheraBlem / I’ll buy TheraBlem / you’ll buy TheraBlem” in another) they more than made up for in pre-punk-era attitude. Made you forget all about the one invented by a pharmacist for his own kids (ok, I really didn’t forget, that was PropaPH).
81. Stri-Dex / ”Give your face something to smile about” (1975) … And here, the gold standard of the zit spot world, and it took Barry Manilow to reach it.
80. Pan Am / ”Makes the going great” (1967) … Short (the entire jingle’s at left) but unforgettable.
79. Tijuana Smalls / ”You know who you are” (1970) … Taking a tip from Tiparillo (like that?), this brand kicked off a mini-trend just as cigarette ads left the airwaves. “Tijuana Smalls / it’s something new, baby / for you, maybe / you know who you are / it’s a little cigar” was the jingle that threw down the gauntlet for men to decide whether these were ‘man enough’ to smoke. I may be a sample of one, but all I know is, all those shots of women smoking ‘em in Playboy and Penthouse at the time were incredibly sexy. Anyone out there remember Tiffany Bolling?
78. Manischewitz / ”Man-oh-Manischewitz” (1953) … Look, no one I know can stomach the stuff, either, but you gotta give ‘em points for the song: “Man-oh-Manischewitz, kosher wine for me / Man-oh-Manischewitz, sweet as wine should be / Manischewitz wine is palate-sweet, you see / yes, the best there is / is Manischewitz’/Man-oh-Manischewitz, what a wine/what a wine!” The ’53 arrangement, by the way, cooks, opening with a plinky piano and featuring a mostly female chorale, one of whom does such a sexy job on the last line that you know she’s never been to a Seder.
77. Diet Coke / ”Just for the taste of it ‘90” (1990) … Some, like me, would argue that Elton John and Paula Abdul could have very easily turned this into a 3½-minute smash, even if it did owe a debt to Toto’s “Hold the Line.” Captain Fantastic and Ms. Phe-nomenal go back and forth on ”Not for the way it goes down easy / not for the way it puts a smile on your face / not for the way it quenches a big thirst / not for the way it won’t show on you / just one reason, just one reason / just for the taste of it / the real, real taste of it / just for the taste of it / Diet Coke.” If not for their in-your-face TV spot with the exact same track – the one where Groucho Marx drinks a Diet Coke, then does his trademark dance – this would have placed a lot higher. Still, it might as well be “I Got Diet Coke, Babe.”
76. L&M / ”Unlocks the flavor” (1960) … I never saw or knew of a TV commercial for this, but if they’d done one, I hope it’d been true to my ‘theater-of-the-mind’ interpretation, which is that 1700s fife-and-drum painting come alive. That’s pretty much the arrangement for this spot, with whistling replacing the fife, all this to send out the incredibly important message that “L&M has found the secret / that unlocks the flavor / unlocks the flavor / unlocks the flavor / L&M has found the secret / that unlocks the flavor / in a filter cigarette.”
75. Gentle Care / ”A young girl’s hair” (1968) … A knockout arrangement rivaling the pop hits of the moment, with a pop star of the moment, Lulu, on vocals. “A young girl’s hair / needs Gentle Care / to keep it soft and shining / (repeat) / Gentle Care / for shining hair / so natural and silkyyyyy / a young girl’s hair / needs Gentle Care / to keep it soft and shi-ninnng.” Ok, not much in the lyric department, but the music and Lulu is what grabbed you here. I admit it, I used to wait around for this one.
74. The Gap / ”Fall into The Gap” (1975) … Possibly the best ‘punchline jingle’ in radio history, although it’s actually what I believe is known as a ‘sting’ (which would therefore make this a ‘stingle’?). It didn’t begin that way, though: there was an entire “fall into The Gap” jingle ending with the above, which was soon replaced by the brilliant Dick & Bert :60s, all of which ended with the goofy version of the slogan sung by a Melvin-Franklin-of-the-Temps-like imitator.
73. Kent / ”You’ll feel better” (1961) … Maybe it’s the irony of all those cigarette ads that made their jingles so appealing. “You’ll feel better about smoking with the taste of Kent / Kent with the micronized filter / refines away harsh flavor / refines away hot taste.” That little flute thing made this the perfect antidote to all that raucous rock’n roll.
72. Marlboro / ”You get a lot to like” (1959) … Now, here we go: not only one but three big reasons to join the smokers. “You get a lot to like with a – Marrrrrrl-boro / filter, flavor, flip-top box / fil-terrrrrr / fla-vorrrrrrrr / flip-top box.” A little lounge piano and you’re there with ‘em.
71. Wendy’s / ”Ain’t no reason” (1981) … Not only was this the standout fast-food jingle at the time - vs. McDonald’s’ “nobody can do it” and Burger King’s “make it special” – but it was also the only real jingle the chain’s ever done. Gave this type of ad a much-needed dash of humor, as in “Wendy’s (mm-hmmm) / ain’t no (uh-uh) / reason to go / anyplace else / you get your hamburger hot off the grill / that’s another reason, if you will” (in another spot those two lines replaced with “you get individual attention/that’s another reason we could mention”).
70. Dodge / ”Depend on it” (1972) … Cute. “Who got the deals / on your kind of wheels? / Dodge – depend on it / who wrote the book / on styling and look? / Dodge – depend on it.” I’m assuming the writers didn’t have the Dart in mind.
69. Panasonic Toot-A-Loop / ”Toot-A-Loop” (1973) … Based on my careful research, most radio spots for fad products just weren’t that interesting. RC Price pointed out the exception to that, the song for this ugly thing: “It’s a loop inside a hoop you can scoop / it’s a thing around your wrist / it’s a radio that you can twist / Panasonic's Toot-A-Loop (Toot-A-Loop!) / it’s a scoop inside a hoop that you can loop / it’s a ring around a ring that you can string / it’s an “S” (it’s an “S”!) / it’s an “O” (it’s an “O”!) / it’s a crazy radio! / it’s Toot-A-Loop!” As donut-holer Chuck Leonard would explain, “It looks like a big letter ‘O’ until you twist it open, then it’s a big letter ‘S’!” Price recalls the aforementioned Lujack saying, "Is that cosmic or what?"
68. Almond Joy / ”You can share half” (1971) … Shortly after a guy name of Jake Holmes got to #29 in Cashbox with “So Close,” he’d entered the ad world and did this cute take on Peter Paul’s 2-bars-in-a-pack treat: “Do you remember that special candy / your friends would always ask to share it / you could never have just one bar / you could call your own / but there’s two whole chocolate coconut allll-mond bars / in every Peter Paul Almond Joy / with Al-mond Joy / you can share half and still have a whole.” It starts folky then gets big and brassy at the “with Al-mond Joy,” which makes a whole lot of sense given the words. Also a whole lot more sense that most radio ads were making back then. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
67. Burger King / ”It takes two hands” (1969) … The best of this series of radio spots (“it takes two hands to handle a Whopper / the two-fisted burger at Burger King / ’cause the bigger the burger / the better the burger / and the burgers are bigger at Burger King”) was sung by a kid who sounded like he wouldn’t have been able to fit one in his mouth. I was lucky if I could down one of those dinky McDonald’s hamburgers at that age myself.
66. STP / ”The racer's edge” (1968) … That’s all it took, five seconds at the end of every spot (“S-T-P……is the ra-cer’s edge”), although for awhile there were also :60s which used that jingle throughout. Price loved “not just the chorus but the whole shebang, especially the ‘Andy's the name’ part. Turned a portly guy in an overcoat who spent his life working with petroleum lubricants into a high-energy Top 40 icon. Not to mention Dolly; the Granatellis were truly the Sopranos of the ‘60s-‘70s.”
65. Old Spice / ”Means quality” (1958) … That catchy little tune that was only whistled in those ‘70s TV ads began life as a salty set of radio spots peppered by “yo ho, yo ho” at both the open and close of most. But you always got “Old Spice means quality / said the captain to the bosun / so look for the package / with the ship that sailed the ocean.” I had to look up “bosun,” too: that’s short for “boatswain,” who’s the officer in charge of the ship’s crew. Possibly the guy who got the constable to come and take away the drunken first mate in “Sloop John B,” but I digress.
64. Turtle Wax / ”Gives a hard shell finish” (1973) … The first use of reggae in a commercial that I can recall. For most of the ‘70s these spots featured the short “Turtle Wax gives a hard shell finish / Turtle Wax” or variations thereof (“Anything else is just mock turtle / Turtle Wax” at the end) woven in-between either voiceover hard-sell for hard-shell or comedians doing shtick about Turtle Wax with dreadful canned laughter. In 1983 the ads got shorter and more to the point, with a series featuring an annoying phone-caller singing the jingle without the words.
63. Dr. Pepper / ”The most original soft drink” (1976) … Another one voted in by the irrepressible RC Price, and he’s right when he says it “tweaked the world-harmony aspirations of Coke and Pepsi with it's ‘just a soft drink’ message. Plus, it brought Hank Snow and B.B. King back to regular rotation on Top 40 radio.” Not to mention Chuck Berry on the version I’m listening to right now. ”It’s not a cola / it’s something much much more / it’s not a root beer / there are root beers by the score / drink Dr. Pepper / the joy of every boy and girl / it’s the most original soft drink ever in the whole wide world.”
62. Heineken / ”Come to think of it” (1980) … Actually, the “come to think of it” line came several years into this campaign, but it’s in the best-known version of this jingle: “one day soon the best will come / rich rewards for all you’ve done / starting now you can begin / with the best beer, Heineken / great taste you will find / the number one of its kind / come to think of it / I’ll have a Heineken.” After which you’d hear a shotgun ID and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
61. Irish Spring / ”Like taking a shower in Ireland” (1972) … Another great example of a radio spot that wasn’t dwarfed (or, in this case, leprechauned) by its TV counterpart. That spot didn’t use a jingle at all, but the radio version did and was the better for it. One big jig. “With a bar of Irish Spring in your hand / it’s like taking a shower in I-re-land / a manly soap that’s really new / a double deodorant system, too / soooooooooo - / with a bar of Irish Spring in your hand / it’s like taking a shower in I-re-land.” Of course, if you were reading the news in ’72, even showering there was risky.
60. McDonald’s / ”Big Mac” (1973) … One of several examples of a ‘spinoff campaign’ on the “Crass 100.” This started out as just another in the series of “you deserve a break today” spots but soon became a national craze, with everyone trying to sing “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese / pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” My high school’s annual variety show did a sketch on it (which was not my idea).
59. LU / ”Please don’t call them cookies” (1984) … A heavily-steeped-in-R&B musician friend of mine used to love this one, as there’s a very hot sax break in there, even if everything else about it is, well, pretty white. Nonetheless, “a cookie is a cookie and a LU is a LU / both are good but one is toooooooo - / good to be a cookie so we call it a LU / please don’t call them – cook-ies” made a sale with me.
58. Mountain Dew / ”Gimme a Dew!” (1982) … This sounded like it was tailor-made for those very-tight-playlist-album-rockers so prominent during this time, where so many of the groups and songs had a similar sound to them. That version of this opens with a by-the-book guitar intro and the vocalist really feelin’ it with an “uh-huh-uh-huh-yeah / gimme a mountain / and nothin’ to do / gimme the sunshine / gimme a Dew / gimme something simple and true / all I need is sunshine / and cool re-fresh-ing Moun-tain Dew, yeah! / gimme a river / gimme a Dew / gimme my good friends / gimme a Dew / gimme the sunshine / gimme a Dew!” Actually, if you listen close, it’s a rocked-up version of Music Explosion’s 1967 hit “Little Bit O’Soul.”
57. Revlon / ”Natural Wonder Un-lipsticks” (1968) … Since I gave extra points to any radio ad without a TV counterpart – at least without one getting decent exposure beyond just Saturday’s “American Bandstand” – this campaign that can only be described as ‘very 1968’ makes it on. As pop music changed radically that summer, few commercials sounded as good up against the likes of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Born to Be Wild.” This was, in effect, an acid trip about lipsticks, lipsticks with flavors you’d surely only find on acid trips. The woman singing “come hither, Georgie Peach, great Granny red, sweet potato” (yes, those are the lipsticks) even sounds like the one on those anti-drug filmstrips they showed us in middle school. And just to seal the deal, they double-track her voice speaking in tongues behind her vocal. Moral: drugs are bad, lipstick is worse.
56. Chewels / ”Smack dab in the middle” (1984) … Possibly the best radio spot from the ‘80s to sound like it. These guys doing the quirky take on “smack dab in the middle / smack dab in the middle / smack dab in the middle of the gum / is the secret to Chewels’ sugarless fun / a delicious center filling where others have none / smack dab in the middle of the gummmmmmm” could have been Men Without Hats or Re-flex or the The Fixx for all any listener back then could have cared.
55. RC / ”Escape” (1967) … Why is this up here? Because it was the poor man’s cola ad in every way, and they just didn’t care. Not one of the celebrity singers could boast one pop hit, save for the already-long-in-the-tooth-by-then Dino, Desi & Billy. Even the jingle couldn’t hold a candle to what either Coke or Pepsi were doing at the time (and we’ll get to each of those). Still, “Escape / come over / to Royal Crown Cola / it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad co-laaaaaaaa / RC! / the one with the mad, mad taste” is so bad it’s good. Although I can’t say the same for RC Cola itself. They still make this stuff?
54. Gillette / ”To look sharp” (1944) … This was originally known as the “fight song” from the Gillette-sponsored “Friday Night Fights” on radio (yes, even boxing was on radio at one time) but certainly outlasted that, being updated for TV through the early ‘70s. The original version featured the boxing ring bell sound effect, represented by the “ding!” in the following: “To look sharp (ding!) every time you shave / to feel sharp (ding!) and be on the ball / just be sharp (ding!) in Gillette blue blades / for the quickest, thickest shave of alllllll!” Not for nothing, but this also became a drum-and-bugle-corps favorite over the years.
53. Pabst Blue Ribbon / ”What'll You Have?” (1950) … Originally heard as sponsor of radio’s “Wednesday Night Fights,” this took on many forms over the next four decades, including a strange series of :60s in 1988 done in then-current genres (one was a just-ok Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al” imitator). One of the best was possibly one of the original bunch: “When bowlers bowl a spare or strike / that smoother taste is what they like / what’ll you have? the answer’s clear / pour me a Pabst Blue Ribbon be-er / what’ll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon / what’ll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon / what’ll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon / Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.” By the way, each of those “what’ll you have’s” were voiced by different barkeeps, or keep-ettes. I don’t recall the ‘70s versions, but our pal RC does: “most memorable singer on this one was another mellow-voiced soul guy (a la Arthur Prysock, Lou Rawls) doing a cool, soft and sexy sit-around-the-fire-and-get-blitzed take.” So, this was a journey through the Pabst, if you will.
52. Doublemint / ”Adds to your fun” (1968) … You might say it was just another cookie-cutter Wrigley’s campaign, but it sure brightened things up during a pretty awful time in America. “Doublemint adds to your fun / double pleasure all in one / so delicious, great to chew / you will love it – millions do / makes your mouth feel fresh and clean / after meals and in-between / Doublemint adds to your fun / Doublemint / chewing gum.” Come on, who can argue with that?
51. Chevrolet / ”The heartbeat of America” (1986) … There’s not much to this, but what there is is absolutely riveting. Those opening beats under “listen to the heartbeat … of America,” followed by, in most cases, Scott Muni in the donut hole, and then the big finish, “the heartbeat of America (choral: Chev-ro-let) / that’s today’s – Chevrolet.” And then you get it – that burst of guitar, the hook that stays with you all day. Possibly the best hook in the “Crass 100,” even.
A few HZs back we tried a little something we called 20 Questions (how amazingly original), where we grilled ABC Radio’s Rob Frankel about his laboratory of aircheck restoration. That was cool stuff, and it worked so well we thought we’d give that idea another go.
So who could we get that would best represent the colliding worlds of this issue – pop music, radio, commercials? How about the only ad writer ever inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, that on the strength of campaigns such as “I’m a Pepper” (for Dr. Pepper) and “Be All You Can Be” (for the U.S. Army)? A guy who’s sang, never mind written, so many radio ads it’d make your head spin, and probably did, listener that you are? A guy who, on the recorded music side, if you didn’t know better, you’d file under ‘one hit wonder’ – which would therefore make him the only one hit wonder to say he’s had his material done by both Frank Sinatra and Led Zeppelin, and to have worked with both Harry Belafonte and the Four Seasons? So, then, a guy who’s more than qualified to do the halftime honors here on the “Crass 100”?
If you said Jake Holmes, you picked up the little clue from earlier, and, well, you’re right. These days, Jake’s a partner at Three Tree Productions (http://www.3tree.com/main.htm) here in NYC, a ‘music house’ whose work extends way beyond the advertising world. You can find out even more about what Jake’s up to at http://www.ascap.com/playback/2001/october/holmes.html.
1. Ok, let's get this out of the way: are you all that you can be?
No, never have been. And, matter of fact, the truth be told, when I was feeling very depressed, and I was walking in New York, and I walked into a store that had the radio on, and I heard myself saying “be all you can be,” it snapped me out. I thought, yeah, what the heck’s the matter with me, I should struggle to be all I can be. So, actually, the message got back to me for at least once. But, no, I don’t think I’ve ever been; I hope to continue to be more than I can be each day.
2. Listening to radio all these years, I’d always imagined that the radio advertising song world was like a parallel universe to the music business. Am I delusional, or can you shed some light on this?
It’s changed quite a bit in the last fifteen years. Awhile back, it was very much like the record business, because a lot of commercials were – you’d take successful bands and you’d run a campaign, one song, say, through all different kinds of ramifications - so you’d end up having a country band do it, a rock band do it, folk people do it, pop people do it. Now everything is much more in-house; everybody has synthesizers and they send their mp3 files in. It’s much less what it used to be in terms of a community; it’s more separate people feeding in, it’s gotten extremely digital. But it’s still to me a huge, vast, uncharted source of creativity because it’s cheap. You can still do very interesting music and be ‘out there’ and it’s not costing you a fortune to do.
3. Is it me, or is the advertising song – dare I use the word ‘jingle’ - less prominent on radio today?
Yes, although it is coming back again. And it’s not only on radio, it’s in television as well. There was a period of time about ten years ago when creative people in agencies thought that corporate jingles were sort of déclassé: you didn’t want to use them because they were just stupid and old-fashioned and silly and ridiculous. But it’s coming back, the idea of using music, songs. By the way, the word ‘jingle’ is ok, it’s just that it refers to things like “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener” – that to me is a jingle. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been done commercial-wise that doesn’t sound like jingles. I don’t think “The heartbeat of America” sounds like a jingle. I don’t think “Be all you can be” sounds like a jingle. It’s coming back because people realize there’s a great deal of power in song, in a song that actually fits a product, not some song that’s taken from a hit and thrown onto a product. I think people are getting tired of existing songs and are beginning to say, let’s try doing original stuff. I don’t ever think that it will be like it was, where every product had a jingle with a little hook.
4. In Will Shade’s interview with you on your website, you talk about your musical influences and how you fell into this business. In terms of advertising, are there influences there as well? Are there certain campaigns that you hold dear? Seeing as this is the “Crass 100,” what are your own favorite musical radio commercials, whether you did them or not?
Many years ago there was a commercial done with an a cappella vocal group, maybe the Four Lads, and I remember thinking, that’s really cool, it doesn’t sound like a commercial. Steve Karman and Joe Brooks did some great commercials; Steve did “I love New York.” I don’t know if I was influenced by them but I certainly respect them. I definitely think “The heartbeat of America” is one of [my favorites]. My ex-partner did “Reach out and touch someone” which is also strong. One that doesn’t use an original song is the Chevrolet truck campaign using Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” – that’s an incredibly good use of existing music. Another of my favorites was the 7up commercial “all for un” – “it’s the nothing that makes us something, it’s what we miss that hits the mark.” That ended up in a book of Zen sayings.
5. Is there something special about commercials for radio, that is, is there a certain sensibility you have for creating campaigns for radio vs. other media?
Oh, yes. What I think happens in radio a lot are you get these cute studio-repartee things, and it all sounds like it’s in a studio. I always feel like radio should sound like it’s outside; like in a movie, it should have this environmental aspect to it. It’s like in old movies when you saw people driving in cars with the screen behind them: you knew they weren’t actually driving on a road. It’s kind of like that on radio: you hear people and you know they’re not where they are. Even with music, there should be a sense of space and place so you can imagine where you are. We did a spot for literacy where we sat in a classroom for a whole day. There was this kid where the teacher said ‘come on’ and he didn’t want to come to the board, and it was this wonderful real-life thing where he was afraid because he couldn’t read and write, and she was trying to get him to write on the board. We took it back to Three Tree and added music and put stuff underneath it to give it drama, and we cut this piece out and it was brilliant because it really sounded like this was really happening, it was like a movie. The way I look at radio is the way a movie director looks at a movie, thinking about what it looks like. When you’re listening to radio, and you’re hearing it, what does it look like?
6. Of all your creations, of which are you most proud?
There’s one called “Little Old Ladies” [for Lipton tea] that I really love. There’s something wonderful about the juxtaposition there. I think “Be all you can be” is really strong as is “I’m a Pepper” and “The softer side of Sears.” There’s some ones that you may have never heard: one for Crystal Light with some very vocal African kind of stuff. I spent some time in Africa and did an album with [Harry] Belafonte in Johannesburg. I actually did a couple of spots with African music in them.
7. So you’ve been able to marry these worlds, to take music you’ve created outside of the realm of advertising and bring it in?
Yeah, and also taken stuff I’ve done in advertising and bring it out. I’ve learned a lot from being in advertising about how to manipulate sound and play instruments and constantly being forced to listen to new things. I feel like I’m always learning, and this business is a great teacher because you get the chance to do all kinds of different things. So it works backwards and forwards. And, no, I’m not an anomaly: there are a lot of writers who do both. And some who, this is just all they do. There are those who don’t particularly like to do commercials, but that’s changing: even now a lot of celebrities are doing commercials where twenty years ago they wouldn’t be caught dead doing them.
8. What about skeletons – are there campaigns you worked on that you’re still trying to forget?
There was one campaign I worked on that I didn’t actually do, which was for douche. And I said, “I can’t write a song about that.” About a year later somebody came in with a demo reel, and on it somebody had actually written a song about douche, and now I know why I didn’t do it. There’s a lot of stuff where I cringe when I think about it; thank God a lot of it didn’t make it to the air. In the old days, I had a lot of silly stuff that for some reason was successful, but that I didn’t particularly like doing. Like “Mr. Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-ble in the tub-ub-ub-ub-ub-ubble.” We were sitting in the back of this limousine - the Creative Director, my partner and me - discussing whether it should be “Mr. Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-ble in the tub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bubble” or “Mr. Bub-ub-ub-ub-ub-ble in the tub-ub-ub-ub-ub-ubble,” and I thought to myself, this is ridiculous, we’re in the back of a limousine. This is huge amounts of money being spent on this silliness. Why isn’t it being spent on poetry, why isn’t it being spent on brain surgery? That was a big awakening. Needless to say, not much has changed in terms of the advertising world.
9. Years ago, I recall having a particularly bad day and buying myself flowers when I heard the – was it FTD? – spot where you said to do just that, you know, "say hey, the smile’s on me today.” Do you get other stories like this from people you know who were affected by your ads?
My sister told me she heard two kids outside her classroom singing “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper.” Another guy in our office wrote the song for Country Time that sounded like an old song. And some woman calls to say, “oh, that song was at my wedding thirty years ago.” That song didn’t exist thirty years ago, and she somehow got it into her head that it was this song that had been written for her wedding.
10. Was the current post-grunge version of “Raise your hand if you’re Sure” (another Jake Holmes creation) your idea? Is is strange to hear one of your creations go second generation? Can we expect more of this, say, Nelly doing “right now I’ve got to have 100 thou”?
[The “Sure” thing] was another agency’s idea. Actually, we were up for that, and ours wasn’t grunge-y enough, I guess. And yes, it’s strange, but it’s kinda nice to think it has those kind of legs. A lot of people don’t realize that a song, when it has a certain solidity, it’s usually very easy to take that song and change it into other machinations and to morph it into other things. Nowadays, people think, “well, once a song is like this, it can’t be anything else,” so it’s nice when people realize that something has enough power to be able to be redone and still have the original power. I’m not in control of [my old campaigns]; the agencies are, so they decide. But I think there could all of a sudden be this resurgence of old jingles in new ways.
11. Do you think that guy doing the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish spots is stealing your act?
I did an article on that in Shoot magazine about the fact that the power of commercials is proven by that, because, what started as a parody became, over a period of a few years, no longer a parody: it’s its own thing, it’s now a jingle. And they’re realized that that thing has a lot of selling power and it’s selling little Goldfish right off the shelves. So as stupid as it may sound or as silly as it may be, it’s effective, and my point in the article is to say, jingles are very effective. I’ve done a lot of silly stuff in my time – I’ve got this goofy side to me – but I much prefer the stuff I’ve done that sticks, that’s really got some meat-and-potatoes to it.
12. As a kid hearing your late-1970 spot for New Hampshire skiing on the radio (“goin’ to New Hampshire, gonna ride the mountains, I’m goin’ where the ski people go”), I remember thinking to myself, this could be the follow-up to that “So Close” song. Was moving from recorded music to advertising then as natural a transition for you as these two pieces of music made it sound?
I may have been one of the first [to make that transition], and it was not me that did it. My first boss had a philosophy of, he didn’t want to use people who wrote commercials to write commercials, he wanted people from outside. But it turned out that I happened to be very good at it, and he couldn’t not use me. For a long time that wasn’t my living, I was doing that as a side thing. But I always took it seriously: I always wanted to do [commercials] as well as I did my own songs. I’ve never felt in my whole life that there’s any difference in the quality that you put into something. It sounds more important when you’re doing a song than it does when you’re doing a commercial for a product, but it’s the same craft, and I have the same standards.
13. Can you compare the creative challenge of writing a three-minute hit song vs. a thirty-second commercial, or is that a ridiculous question?
It’s very interesting, because there’s two sides to it. If you’re doing a song for yourself, you have the freedom to do and be whatever you want to be – which is great, but it’s also terrible. You can sit there with a blank piece of paper saying “now what do I do?” And then on the other side you have this limitation, where you have these barriers that you have to stay within – and that’s good, and that’s terrible. Because when somebody tells you that you have to write something, you’re forced to finish the project, and you’re also forced to think very creatively how to get around all of the things that you can’t do, and so you become very creative within a very small thing. One gives you a lot of freedom but it also makes it very difficult to focus, and the other one keeps you narrow but it makes it very easy to focus.
14. Are the checks still rolling in on “So Close”?
The oldies station in Boston played it once last spring and I know CBS-FM here spins it now and then. I’ve actually had three hits: one called “Dazed and Confused,” “So Close,” and I had a hit in Europe called “How Are You.” “So Close” was a very big hit on the East Coast, but I had a lot of problems with that record because it was one of those records that took two weeks to break and in those days, a lot of radio stations only gave a record a week. The stations who stuck with it, it went through the roof. It was also a time when there were five or six major ballads going on. The Drake stations were where I really got screwed: the Drake station in L.A. took it off after a week. If I’d had it in L.A., and in a couple of other cities, I think it would have broken really big. There was this station in Pittsburgh that was gonna go off it, and this kid who was totally whacked by the song and was a promoter went out there and went to the radio station and said to the guy “you gotta keep it on!,” and he did, and it took off there. That’s been the story of my life: for some reason it takes a little time to get to know me as an artist.
15. Going back to that other hit … in terms of writing credits, how dazed and confused is Jimmy Page?
I actually finally put a stop on it at ASCAP because I was getting very annoyed with him. I’d written him a bunch of letters saying, look, you guys [Led Zeppelin] took it and made it even better, I liked the version you did, but you should still give credit. It’s been so long, and there’s also statute of limitations problems, and every time I get help from a lawyer it just never turns out the way you hope, so we’ll see.
16. In that Will Shade interview, you recall in amazing detail your days touring with the likes of Van Morrison, the Doors and of course the Yardbirds, among others. Is there evidence to suggest that you’re the only musician to actually remember anything from that era?
You see, my problem was I tripped on grass, so I never was much of a drug person. I was a little older than most people in the ‘60s, so I was a little more mature; although I was totally crazy, I guess I was less crazy. But also I remember those things because they were so interesting, although there were a lot of experiences I’ve had that I don’t remember. Someone was talking the other night about us being at a club and seeing B.B. King, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and Eric Clapton jammin’ at one time. When he remembered it, we both remembered it, every instant of it. It was amazing, those were historical moments.
17. Most HZ readers might be surprised that you’ve recorded five albums aside from the one with “So Close.” Tell me about the new one, “Dangerous Times”; what’s Jake Holmes the musician up to these days?
I’m trying to do more poetry on this album. I do a thing called “Miles” which is a cappella, almost like rap but more like jazz poetry. I did all of the stuff in my studio at home and then brought in some musicians and singers that I love and added on to that.
18. Given your impressive list of credits, what’s left on your to-do list?
Lots of stuff. I want to do an album and go as far out as I can possibly go in terms of what I have to say about organized religion, which is one of my big bugaboos right now, as it’s causing all kinds of disasters all over the world. And I have a couple of theater projects I desperately want to do. I’m writing a lot of short stories; I’ve had a theory since I was a kid that you write twelve short stories in a year, and then go write a novel. So that’s my goal. I’m up to four. And I’m working on another album with Belafonte, and that’s gonna be very interesting because it’s gonna use a lot of celebrities.
19. You’ve spent a lot of time in New York. Is this Schaefer City?
Now…that’s an example of a good spot killing a bad product. There’s an old adage, if you have a bad product, don’t have good advertising. What happened with Schaefer was that [after those ads] it really went through the roof, people buy the beer, and… [find out] it sucks. And then the word spread. Because it was such a big product, the advertising hurt it.
20. For you, what’s the real reward in this? Is it more a client’s achieved results or just the sheer creative accomplishment?
I have a couple of spots that never ran that make me feel good every time I hear them because I know I did a great job. I did a Mercury spot that was one of my favorites I ever wrote, and it never went. And I feel like, how stupid that they didn’t know how good this was, but at the same time, it’s the feeling of knowing that you nailed something, like when you hit the ball and get the sweet spot. When you do that, that’s the best feeling in the world. It’s not the success of the spots, it’s the success that you know you’ve had when you’ve done something really good.
And there you have it. Big thanks to Jake.
And now back to the countdown, meaning we therefore go from class back to “Crass.”
And you'll find the REST of this countdown on tomorrow's Forgotten Hits Web Page!!! Stay Tuned!!!
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