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The Good, The Bad And The Weird: Songs From Adverts (AU Magazine, Issue.39)
October 25, 2009, 4:20 pm
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The Good, The Bad and the Weird

Songs from the Adverts

“My dream” Old Man Levis would say to Mamma Levis “is that every living man, woman and child shall one day know my durable denim work pants but by their tie-in chart single”. In between the time Jack Bauer gets tortured and Jack Bauer escapes and safely disarms a nuke that is also a plane filled with deaf children, are the adverts, the commercials the Yanks call them. Ever since Levis mined cosmic profit by pairing a demographic-bating pop tune to crisp white boxer shorts, a wash-board stomach and blue jeans, the ad-men have sought to synergise their product with a hip sonic counterpart for sometimes very entertaining, sometimes shitty results. Before the main feature is the A.U. guide to those meticulously market-researched 30-second zaps of creativity and the music that loved them; the good, the bad and the weird. Lights please.

The Good

Hairy Milk

Tune / Product: ‘In the Air Tonight’ – Phil Collins / Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (2007)

The Pitch: 2007’s most infamous advert. Featuring a monkey drumming Phil Collin’s enigmatic track which as legend was written about a tragic drowning he witnessed when he was a child. Much of the advert’s success can be attributed to Collin’s iconic drum sound which took producers 18 months to recruit and train a gorilla to an requisite standard in order to reproduce. Nah only kidding, its a guy in a suit.

Best Bit: Nostrils flaring, Monkey Collins psyches himself up for some bitchin’ tub-thumping.

Quite Interesting Fact: Wonderbra are to release a parody with Gorilla replaced by a lovely in underwear.

Over and Over

Tune / Product: ‘Acta Saloza’ – Vein-mean / Smirnoff (1996)
The Pitch: A man and a woman are chased through a string of ever-changing movie scenarios, both futuristic and retro, by the same evil villian. Showcasing Michel Gondry’s preoccupation with perspective and circularity (think of Gondry’s video promos for Daft Punk’s Around the World or Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar) its a bravado and conceptually radical bit of advertising utilising ‘bullet-time’ technique 2 years before The Matrix hit our screens.

Best Bit: The scenes warp from one to another with the Smirnoff bottle acting as the gateway. The man’s legs begin to flail as he is sucked up a spaceship’s tractor beam. Once again Gondry’s hyperactive gaze takes us through the bottle. The man’s flailing legs are now carrying him down an alley way pursued still by his nameless maurauder Visual wizardry.

Quite Interesting Fact: Gondry’s best buddy Spike Jonze homaged the effect in Being John Malkovich, this time as a chase through Malk-a-traz’s mind.

You Tube

Tune / Product: ‘Phat Planet’ – Leftfield / Guinness (2000)

The Pitch: Guinness’ most celebrated advert of recent times. Leftfield’s juddering drum-line repeats as a lone soldier scours the swell for his greatest wave. He waits and waits (tick follows tock follows tick) until finally its time. Shot in stunning Chiascura black and white, as the crew battle a thirty foot wave towering white stallions rise forth from the foam galloping amongst the surfers in a jaw-dropping melee of elemental chaos and power.

Best Bit: Last man standing ‘Rocky’ outruns the best that God himself could muster. Standing 100-foot high with arms raised to the heavens he lets loose a primal howl, like the first monkey to sparked the flint and created fire.

Quite Interesting Fact: The original idea for the ad was only to film the waves and the horses. It was only when the crew met four gnarled and aging surfers at the Hawain shoot that they cast them to tame the beast(s)

The Bad

Sympathy for the Devil

Tune / Product: ‘Start Me Up’ – The Rolling Stones / Microsoft Windows ’95 (1995)

The Pitch: Obviously struggling to make rent the Stones decide to sell the last thing that wasn’t fastened down; their soul.
And so we find the band that no less than embody the spirit of rock and roll, soundtracking the launch Bill Gate’s flagship launch of evil (but handy) software. It was difficult to tell the difference between band and conglomerate as the Baby-Boomers repackaged their own youth culture and sold it back to their children. Before you can say I’m Lovin’ it Bowie is peddling airline tickets, Bolan’s Children of the Revolution are shifting video-mobiles and The Killers are in talks with J.D Sports. They were cueing up. In the words of the late Bill Hicks “Is nothing sacred to these fucks?”

Worst Bit: Its a merry-go-round of imagery. Clean-cut 20-something males grappling happily with a joystick, thriving business types chat casually, their oak desks graced with spiffy P.C’s, doe-eyed kiddie winkles crowd around monitors, laughing joyously. Cute Chinese girl? Oooohhh, nail that global village dollar.The Nazis didn’t lose the war, they just saw a future in I.T and acted accordingly.

Quite Interesting Fact: Not content with aircraft hangers full of money The Rolling Stones sued The Verve sucessfully for unauthorised orchestral sample from ‘The Last Time” on Bittersweet Symphony’. Richard Ashcroft retorted by saying that it was the best song the Stones had written in 20 years. Jagger then sold it to be used at the end of banal teen flick, Cruel Intentions in 1999.

Woo Pooh

Tune / Product: ‘Woo Hoo’ – The 5 6 7 8’s / Carling (2004)
The Pitch: A kitche all-girl Asian surf guitar band became instant cult after they appeared in the Crazy 88’s drinking hole before the climactic end battle of QT’s Kill Bill. So far, so cool. Then Carling put the tune in an advert featuring 100’s of men chasing a football around the streets of Glasgow, just in time for Euro 2004. The next weekend you get crowds of lairy monkeys woo-hoo-ing between banging heads. That whole Budweiser ‘Waaaaaasssssup!’ phase really wasn’t so bad after all. Kind of cool even, when you think about it.

Worst Bit: Advertising for the ‘Zoo’ magazine masses – fighting, gold chains and Burberry. Hairy topless builders mixing with topless underwear models.

Quite Interesting Fact: Literally scores of companies across the globe have used the song to hawk their product owing to the fact it because it features no other lyrics other than ‘Woo Hoo’ and so has the ability to transcend language barriers.

Tearing the Ass

Tune / Product: ‘I See you baby(Fat Boy Slim Mix)’ – Groove Armada / Renault Megane (2003)

The Pitch: Multiple charges of advert-winging can be levelled at G.A (the iconic M&S “This isn’t just….” adverts features ‘ At The River’) but blame cannot be attributed to the dance set-up for the sheer over-kill Renault have undertaken with their ‘Shakin’ that Ass’ campaign. Its been four years now and the ad is still regularly making prime-time slots . Shake your ass somewhere else Euro Trash scum

Worst Bit: Promo girl just can’t help skakin’ that ass. Ad man gets frustrated. We know how you feel pal…

Quite Interesting Fact: Groove Armada have sold five of their tunes to The Man including ‘If Everybody Looked The Same’ and ‘Superstylin”. They are second only in sell out terms to Moby who had all 18 of the songs on ‘Play’ commissioned for adverts.

The Weird

Rubber Soul

Tune / Product: ‘Venus in Furs’ – The Velvet Underground / Pirelli Tyres (1996)

The Pitch: With The Velvet Underground’s avande garde masterpiece raging, car and driver swerve to avoid a calvacade of freaky leather-clad sado-masochist deviants, spliced with bizarro Imagery of kind of like your taxi home on a Saturday night. Featuring freaky twins, spikey-headed gimp man, giant clanging gongs, gartantuan pearls of splashed rain water it was hard to know what the whole trippy artistry it had to precison-designed tyres. There has since rarely been a campaign quite crazy

Weirdest Bit: An inky-eyed top-less sumo / buddha-type painted gold from head-to-toe cackles at the viewers at home. Whats so funny man? Put some clothes on.

Quite Interesting Fact: The weirdest sound within Velvet Underground’s experimental majesty is Lou Reed’s unremitting ‘Ostrich Guitar’. A effect made by tuning all six of his guitar strings to the same note. groovy.

Tears of War

Tune / Product: ‘Mad World’ – Gary Jules / Gears of War – X-Box 360 (2006)

The Pitch: Ever since Sony identified the ‘kidult’ demographic (big kiddies like consoles too) Playstation and the competition have been thinking outside the box when they came to market their games. But never in quite such abstract terms as Epic’s launch of their first-person shooter ‘Gears of War’. The ad featured only your stock ultra-violent super-marine dude wondering through the ruins of a dystopian future city looking for meaning amongst the ruins while Gary Jules’ cascading lulluby coos in the backround. No actual gameplay shots, no voice-over man, just angst and dispair. Eh?? Where are the exploding heads? After he’s finished quietly weeping do you get to rip that guys spine out?
Weirdest Bit: Killing machine army man dives for covers as the meanies open fire. As the melee subsides he looks towards camera with terror in his eyes, almost pleading to be saved from his existence. Don’t look at us buddy, your the one with the Automatic Laser Pulse Rifle.

Quite Interesting Fact: Jules’ Tears for Fears 2003 cover will almost certainly count as the most depressing Christmas No.1 of all time. Featuring the lyrics “I find it kinda funny / I find it kinda sad / that the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I ever had”. Mmm, break open the Quality Street.

Up the Oizo

Tune / Product: ‘Flat Beat’ – Mr Oizo / Sta-Prest Levis (1999)

The Pitch: Levis abandoned the pouting male supermodels lugging tyres to introduce the world to yellow scamp ‘Flat Eric’ a totally dope, tatty-furred puppet. Him and his buddy ‘Angel’ would drive around in a retro motor with thumping French house music blaring out the windows. Lost on the public however the pair were actually being pursued by the law, they were just very casual. Adults and children alike celebrated in Eric’s funky Blaupunkt headbangin’. Some even tried to do impressions. It didn’t work out.

Weirdest Bit: Well the video consists solely of Flat Eric and his pal cruising the streets, but if you don’t think puppet-man lo-riding to minimalist electronica is weird enough you might want to seek the advice of a loved one or your local G.P.

Quite Interesting Fact: Flat Eric’s name comes from the original idea for the ad that included having a car run over his head and flattening it. The idea was not used but the name stuck.

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