Jingle Singles: “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”

October 20th, 2014

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Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” - the standard bearer of jingle singles - debuted in 1971, shortly after Budweiser’s “You’ve Said It All.” The commercial had a similar sequence as the Budweiser one, spotlighting a lone female singer who is joined by a growing legion. (The difference: Coca-Cola’s singers are multicultural young adults while Budweiser’s are American middle-aged nine-to-fivers.) The song had a special quality of sounding at once like a commercial, a pop hit, a Christmas song, and a church hymn.

Credited to ad men Bill Backer and Billy Davis along with the the British hit songwriting team of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” hit it big as a 45 released by the Hillside Singers, the same voices used on the original commercial. (Note the early seventies tendency toward child imagery being put to use for their album cover above.) That version hit #13 on Billboard, while a copycat version by Australia’s New Seekers climbed up to #7 in early ‘72.

“Borrowed Tunes” bonus info: The British rock band Oasis, who perhaps deserve a future “borrowed tunes” megapost, were successfully sued for using the opening melody of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for their #11 UK hit “Shakermaker.”

1971 Coca-Cola ad featuring the Hillside Singers

The New Seekers - “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” (1971)

Jingle Singles/Borrowed Tunes: Budweiser edition

September 12th, 2014

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One of the most recognizable American TV commercial tunes is Steve Karmen’s “You’ve Said It All,” written for Budweiser. It debuted on TV in 1970 and featured an ad in which a Dionne Warwick lookalike sings solo and is joined by a growing chorus of cheerfully average people.  The chord change to a flatted seventh in the bridge (:43 in clip #1 below), along with the singers’ emphatic delivery, gives the beer ad an almost poignant, Jesus Christ Superstar aura.

A 45 record of this song credited to the Steve Karmen Orchestra sold well enough in the summer of ‘71 to register in Billboard magazine as a “breakout hit” in Chicago.  Oddly enough, “Budweiser” is mentioned nowhere on the label. Would that have helped or hurt its chances as a stand alone track, I wonder?

In 1972, the Nashville songwriting team of Jerry Foster and Bill Rice served up a song called “When You Say Love” to Sonny and Cher, which appropriated the Budweiser hook outright, giving it new words and a new bridge. I’d always assumed the song, which became Sonny and Cher’s final Top 40 hit (#32), was a knowing spin off of Karmen’s jingle and that all parties had been in on it. No - it was an old-fashioned rip off, credited only to Foster and Rice, prompting the dumbfounded Karmen to (successfully) sue.

As for the adoption of the same Budweiser jingle by the Wisconsin marching band (and the legal aspects), that’s a story you’ll need to get elsewhere.

”When You Say Bud” TV ad (1970)

Steve Karmen Orchestra - “You’ve Said It All (Tuba Version)” (1971)

Sonny and Cher - “When You Say Love” (1972)

Donald Fagen, Eminent Hipsters (2013)

August 8th, 2014


No insights here about Steely Dan LP/cassette song sequences I’ve puzzled over in these pages. Just disarming short essays about the Boswell Sisters, Henry Mancini, Ike Turner, Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics, Ray Charles, Jean Shepherd, NYC jazz radio in the 50s and 60s, Bard College, and Ennio Morricone. This is all topped off with grouchy journal entries from the “Dukes of September” tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. This whole thing was so much fun I’ll likely reread it just for kicks, which qualifies it as an instant Personal Cult Book.

JULY 6. I’m finally back in a civilized hotel, the Four Seasons on Elliott Bay in Seattle…They have a serious spa here and there’s just time enough to get a massage…I drew a girl - let’s call her Naomi - who was young and pretty, which is always nice. But she looked a little scrawny for the job.

Working on the backs of my calves with some minty oil, she asked me if I wanted her to go deeper, so I said sure, a little bit. Suddenly Naomi from Seattle turned into Rosa Klebb, the SMERSH interrogator from the James Bond series. I couldn’t believe the force with which she was driving her knobby little knuckles into my petrified muscles and tendons. It was excruciating, but I have this stupid thing - like, no son of Staff Sergeant Joseph Fagen, veteran of the Big One, is going to whine about a little pain in front of some strange girl. Finally, all greased up and smelling like a Twizzler, I limped into the elevator in my bathrobe, crab-walked back to my room and started to pack for the gig. (Page 106)

I’m still laughing about Fagen’s report from San Antonio on pages 121 and 122.

JULY 18… [T]he ambling ghost of Fess Parker intersects our path. In 1955, the elders of San Antonio, Texas, after noticing the influx of tourists following the final episode of the Davy Crockett series…got some Disney architects to look at the river, resulting, many years later, in a sort of San Antonio Land, which is the present-day River Walk. Our hotel is on the River Walk, and that’s why I was awakened earlier than I wanted to be by a loud mariachi band just outside the window.

…I’m back from the show. The house was a legion of TV Babies, maybe tourists from Arizona. I don’t know. Probably right-wingers, too, the victims of an epidemic mental illness that a British study has proven to be the result of having an inordinately large amygdala, a part of the primitive brain that causes them to be fearful way past the point of delusion, which explains why their philosophy, their syntax and their manner of thought don’t seem to be reality based. That’s why, when you hear a Republican speak, it’s like listening to somebody recount a particularly boring dream.

…The crowd sat through our versions of some of the great sixties soul tunes, hating them, waiting only for the amygdala-comforting Doobie Brothers hits that Michael sings, Boz’s dance numbers and the Steely Dan singles that remind them of high school or college parties…Toward the end of the show, during McDonald’s piano introduction to “Takin’ It to the Streets,” I think I really made [backup singers] Carolyn and Catherine uncomfortable by walking back to their riser and telling them, as a way of venting my rage, that I’d been imagining a flash theater fire that would send the entire audience screaming up the aisles, trampling each other to get to the exits, ending up in a horrible scene outside on the sidewalk with people on stretchers, charred and wrinkled. When things aren’t going well, the girls, standing just behind me, have to listen to my insane rants. If they’re singing, I’ll rant to Jim Beard, playing keyboards on the next riser, or, if he’s busy, I’ll walk across the stage and harass the horn players.

Jingle singles: “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing” (1973)

August 4th, 2014

The 1973 Mazda commercial above prompted a 45 release on Capitol Records by the jingle’s writer/producer Dan Dalton (credited to “The Hummers”). Without previous exposure to the TV ad, I doubt listeners would have had patience for “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing,” which featured a confusing narrative scrubbed of any Mazda references. Then again, “Old Betsy” did run on fumes of sexual innuendo, which, during the blue early ’70s, might have been enough to push it toward its Billboard peak position of #104 in late ‘73.

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The Hummers - “Old Betsy Goes Boing Boing Boing” (1973)

Tom Doyle, Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s

August 3rd, 2014


The following account (p. 38) also appears in Howard Sounes’s Fab (2010). Can’t help but be curious about this Mormon girl who got under Beatle Paul’s skin.

As the spring of 1971 turned to summer, the strangeness that came with Paul’s extraordinary fame began to creep back into the McCartneys’ lives…Determined devotees would make the long pilgrimmage to Argyll, since it was no secret now that the McCartneys spent much of their time near Campbeltown….

More worryingly, a young girl, a Mormon from Utah, had taken to camping on the edge of some woods just beyond the boundary of High Park, so that she could get close to Paul without trespassing on his land. The McCartneys often saw her, partially hidden by the trees, watching them through binoculars. One day in the summer of 1971, Paul apparently snapped and, according to the girl, came out of the house, drove toward her in his Land Rover, and angrily emerged, shouting and swearing.

The girl claimed that she couldn’t remember much of what happened next, except that in the aftermath, her nose was bleeding. The implication, obviously, was that McCartney had assaulted her, which Paul denied. “I have been asking her politely - pleading with her - to leave me and my family alone,” he stated. “She refuses to recognize that I am married with a family.”

Jingle singles: “Cinnamint Shuffle” (1966)

August 2nd, 2014

There’s a whole category of hit singles that charted because of their involvement in TV ads, like the Johnny Mann Singers’ “Cinnamint Shuffle,” from 1966. “Cinnamint” was a flavor of Clark’s chewing gum (along with “Teaberry”) and commercials for both of these featured consumers popping a stick of it into their mouths and dancing a two-second shuffle before carrying on with their business.

The ad campaign’s song was a familiar one: “Mexican Shuffle,” written by Sol Lake, which was a keynote track on Herb Alpert and the Tijanana Brass’s South of the Border LP, a Billboard Top Ten hit in 1964 (the “Mexican Shuffle” single hit #88). The Johnny Mann Singers’ 1966 version of the song, sporting the new title of “Cinnamint Shuffle (Mexican Shuffle),” managed to squeak into Billboard’s “bubbling under” chart, peaking at #126. (Johnny Mann was the musical director for the Joey Bishop Show, incidentally.)

Armchair carbon dating: I’m not thinking the ad in the YouTube clip above is from 1961, as listed at the beginning. That would be a full three years before Herb Alpert’s version. Also, the car at :13 is looking like a ‘66 Buick Riviera and the art at :32 looks a tad countercultural.

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Johnny Mann Singers - “Cinnamint Shuffle (Mexican Shuffle)” (1966)

Bonus: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - “Mexican Shuffle” (live)

Bonanza view masters, 1964

July 13th, 2014

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Bird count: 4.

Borrowed Tunes: The Osmonds - “Hold Her Tight” (1972)

July 11th, 2014

Because no video/audio of the Osmonds’ teamup with Led Zeppelin is readily available (see previous post), I’ll share my favorite clip of the Osmonds’ “Hold Her Tight,” which channels Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and shows where the brothers act was heading before family business priorities squelched it. I don’t expect Zeppelin to be getting litigious over it.

The Osmonds sang “Stairway to Heaven”

July 10th, 2014


From Jay Osmond’s Stages (2011), p. 38: “Also in the 1970s, while in England at Earl’s Court (a large arena in London), we were honored when Led Zeppelin invited us to sing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ with them. It was a surreal moment for me as I played congas next to John Bonham.”

Katfish, “Dear Prudence” (1975)

June 23rd, 2014

I subbed today for Rush Evans on his Off the Beatle Path show on KOOP. What a glorious opportunity it was to air “Dear Prudence” by Katfish, a #52 hit in ‘75.