Music and Salesmanship

Anyone else remember those pictures of Boris Yeltsin doing ‘The Funky Chicken?’ I can’t decide whether I like Boris more or less after seeing them — sort of the same feeling I got when watching our former President, George W. Bush, funk out with African drummers on the Whitehouse lawn.

Michelle Bachmann recently got taken to task by musician Tom Petty because her crew used his song, “American Girl,’ at one of her rallies. I’m not that familiar with Petty’s “American Girl” pop anthem, but, if memory serves, it’s lyrics might be a bit at odds with Bachmann’s Bible Beater values (something about “making it last all night” makes me think Petty’s American Girl is a bit of a libertine). But I guess since the song has ‘American’ in it, her team feels this gives it relevance. Plus Petty is probably popular with a demographic that doesn’t find much traction in her bible-thumpin’ ways. Anything to appear hip, I guess. But this is apparently just one of a growing number of cases in which a pop star has said to a political candidate, “Hey, stop using my song!”

I remember being a bit taken aback when I heard “London Calling” by the Clash being used to sell Jaguar cars on TV. The context in which I first heard that song seemed greatly at odds with the idea of a luxury automobile. As I recall, the ad just had a few strident guitar riffs and Joe Strummer barking out, “London Calling” and leaving out all those depressing lyrics about the end of the world… perhaps the admen thought that maybe the American ex-punker who had given up on revolution and gotten a career and was now rolling in it would feel the siren song of the half remembered dreams of his former self and head on down to the dealership and buy a really expensive car without really stopping to think about it. Devo as pitchmen for Honda scooters seemed a much better fit.

The world is just getting so fucking weird. Guy DeBord had no idea how right he was.

11 Comments on “Music and Salesmanship”

  1. DRANCE says:

    The ad people are expecting the dumb public to just focus on the surface of the songs, the literal meaning of words and phrases, rather than try to listen for deeper meaning. And unfortunately there are enough dummies to do just that.

  2. I think you (in the general sense) can tell you are the target age bracket for commercials when they start to play the songs of your youth.

    The older I get the more I think Guy extrapolated our present mass media situation pretty well. Society of the Spectacle indeed.

  3. ckutalik says:

    Yep the Situationists definitely got it right about the kind of late capitalism we live in.

    Interestingly Debord was something of a wargamer even going as far as designing a game:

  4. James says:

    Me too, Alex.

    And yup! The world is getting fucking weird! Or, maybe as Israel Regardie put it, Senile.

  5. scottsz says:

    The weird/surreal 'curtain' hanging over America these days makes me think of the scene from Devil's Advocate about the out of control 'spin' of things in recent years.

  6. sirlarkins says:

    I didn't think I could be surprised by any juxtaposition of music and advertising, and then I heard the guitar riff from “Natural's Not In It” by Gang of Four being used to sell Ninetendo Wii. I mean, the damn song's one of the most virulently anti-consumerist ditties ever penned. My jaw dropped. Right up there with Carnival using “Lust For Life” and conveniently ignoring the heroin-centric lyrics.

  7. limpey says:

    There is one bright spot. All of these stories of the machine taking the songs we like and using them against us make Yeltsin's drunken gyrations a bit more endearing. Does anyone know if there is video?

  8. limpey says:

    Sir Larkins: Thanks for that!

  9. Higgipedia says:

    Mr. Schroeder beat me to it. Of course, if you hear the original version of “Born in the U.S.A.,” which I think is only available on the Tracks compilation, you'll find it's a creepy dirgey song that the studios made Springsteen re do into a much poppier sound. I only really like the original.

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