May 222007

Doors’ drummer John Densmore borrowed a great catch quote in his article about a permanent stance of his on greed (that of his bandmates), and continuously having to veto the use of The Doors’ songs for commercial pursuit gains in a past written article for The Nation.

john densmore
John wrote: “Vaclav Havel had it right when he took over as president of Czechoslovakia, after the fall of Communism. He said, ‘We’re not going to rush into this too quickly, because I don’t know if there’s that much difference between KGB and IBM.'”

John Densmore (The Doors) – Article – Riders On the Storm

Is there really any difference between selling your music and selling your music? Wink, wink – right? Is it selling out, or rather, is it just about getting an artist’s music heard and having fun with a “product”?

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings myself when I hear a band I love’s music on the ‘ol boob tube or in a “spot” on the radio. The silliest being The Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season’ being used for Tampax (smirking aside) of all things, and the awe of new and old commercials by hipster-label companies using Pink Moon by Nick Drake (Volkswagen), or Revolution by The Beatles (for Nike, a Yoko OH-NO-YOU-DIDN’T production) and You’re Gonna Miss Me by The 13th Floor Elevators (for Dell). Someone’s already even put together a whole best-of compilation for the songs that have been used to sell certain products, I’m sure – making money off the money makers, so to speak.

Townsman Ismine was so good as to remind me, that while I was writing this – I had to at least make sure that I included The Who Sell Out – and how could I not? The album with its ideas squared firmly around early AM radio ads utilizing catchy music-filled jingles to sell a product. Commercialism in music at its youngest and maybe finest. As if they were daring you to: use our product to sell yours!

She ripped her glittering gown / Couldn’t face another show, no / Her deodorant had let her down / She should have used [insert your choice of deodorant here please – I prefer “Secret”, because it’s made for a man but… well, you know]…

However, what I’d really like to talk to you about today, is BEER. When Mr. Mod originally brought up the article for Motorcycles In Rock, I was already thinking of Beer In Rock. I didn’t know where it could go, and I’m still not even sure that it’s a worthy topic. But, well – here I am.

In the payouts for beer commercials with rock n’ roll flavor in the mid-to-late 80s, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins seem to be the biggest perpetrators in the Beer In Rock category in the shifting of units for their songs “After Midnight” and “Into the Air Tonight” – could this be an alleged Rock Crime? Maybe the songs themselves without the beer constitute the crimes. Then again, where would Crockett and Tubs be without Phil’s theme song – were they kickin’ back with Michelob’s too? But, selling your soul for a lousy beer ad? And not even a good beer or an import at that!

Do we really believe that Clapton was gonna kick back with some Michelob, after a tough night of guitar playing, either around (or after) midnight?! Everyone from Sinatra, to Winwood, to Daltrey did time for Anheuser-Busch. Daltrey’s ad even featured a pretty boy on guitar playing at the club (holstering alert!) and not actually Daltrey himself. Did anyone actually buy more Michelob beer because of this? He may as well be shopping me a Coors. But at least Billy Dee had the balls to do justice to the brainiacs behind the great-named (of-questionable-character Coors’ owned) Colt 45 with the catch-phrase “It works every time.” Sexist in its presentation, yes. But also – funny as hell.

“With a six-pack of that Colt 45, just like I should…”

Then in 2004, there’s the Weezer vs. Miller Rolling Stone advertising snafu. Someone at Miller decides it would be great street cred to have a band on the face of their beer, a live band and a logo in the bottom corner. Simple, right? Of course they didn’t ask for permission. Who doesn’t like beer? Weezer’s beef apparently wasn’t necessarily the beer, but the other artists that they were being associated with who apparently didn’t drink Miller either (Jurassic 5, Unwritten Law, Incubus, Wyclef Jean, D12, Less Than Jake, Trapt, Velvet Revolver, Shinedown, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Tantric, Static-X, Puddle of Mudd and the Strokes).

According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Sept. 29, Miller used the band’s name without approval, and Weezer and members Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell, Scott Shriner and Patrick Wilson claim the advertisements contained beer endorsements from other bands and musical artists that they “do not wish to be associated with in any advertisements.”

I’m just asking that they go back to simpler times, to times when a band actually wrote a theme song or a jingle for a commercial, times when a beer commercial might have actually stood for a bit of … well I don’t know, and not just the latest single or private party invitation to Blind Drunk Date at the Miller Fest.

And here’s the jingle that started it all:

“The beer that can slake any thirst, any thirst
The beer you reach for first
When you want to quench your thirrrrsssst


Play Falstaff Beer Commercial!


  20 Responses to “The Cream Ale & The Crock: Beer Commercialism in Rock and Other Stuff…”

  1. Didn’t the Young Fresh Fellows write “Beer Money” after the Del Fuegos did their Miller Beer sell out?

    I’m reminded of the great Bill Hicks and his phrase “… sucking Satan’s cock” describing those who work in marketing and actors and musicians who “sell out”…

  2. Let it all hang out Townsman Mr. Clean;) I for sure don’t remember that YFF Beer Money song, but the Del Fuegos ring a bell! I’ll have to check that out –

  3. general slocum

    I, too, am revolted by the use of certain songs in ads, particularly when it would clearly annoy the piss out of the artist – and moreso when said artist is deceased. But I love Hendrix’ little jingle for Radio 1. Very cute. I think more musicians should make songs specifically for the ad. To me that is fine. I am a big fan especially of those forties-style jingles that reduce a whole pop jazz tune to 12 seconds. After Neil Young’s rant about this, he should have written some pure and simple jingles, just to clear things up. And doesn’t Clapton drink Michelob?? Have I wasted several decades of Michelob drinking over such perfidious standards in the music and alcohol industries? The Rheingold Girls never led me astray like this!

  4. Yes, the YFFs song was the first thing I thought of, too:

    “So you could say that we sold out
    But that’s just the way it goes
    Cause the beer is free and we’re on MTV
    And we’re opening up for the Del Fuegos”

    Naturally, in the liner notes to that album, Scott MacCaughey says quite seriously that they’d be happy to sell out if anyone would ever ask them.

    Two things:

    1. Dell, like Roky, is Austin-based, and the Dell commercial used “You’re Gonna Miss Me” specifically because it would put some money in Roky’s pocket. That’s good corporate citizenship.

    2. Colt 45 was never owned by Coors, but by a bargain-basement company called G. Heileman, who were famous for buying up failing regional breweries (Rheingold, Lone Star, Rainer, Grain Belt, etc.) and then putting their brand names on genuinely crap, poorly-made beer.

    And although the Coors family themselves were pure right-wing evil of the “Hitler was just misunderstood” variety, the Coors company of today actually isn’t that awful. Although Coors Light is about the most lame-ass beer ever.

  5. saturnismine

    great article sally!!!

    the first thing i thought of when sally and i had this conversation was that “slow hand” did a new version of “after midnight”…all slowed down and bloooozeh…for a beer ad.

    and i also thought of Gang Green, the so-called “King of Bands” from boston. they had stickers that looked like Budweiser labels. they also got a shitload of skate company endorsement money, but i can’t remember if they got any beer $$.

    one of the remarkable thing about ‘the who sell out’ is that they really wanted to sell advertising space on that record. they were also using them to try and get freebies (rotosound strings, premier drums, and an a capella ad for an auto dealer where they hoped to get free wheels).

    like slocum, i think that band jingles are great. there’s that awesome “potato chip” song by the “shadows of knight”, and “great shakes” by the Yardbirds. other examples???

  6. BigSteve

    I don’t even like the Doors, but Densmore is my new hero.

  7. Don’t forget the Electric Prunes for the Vox Wah-Wah Pedal.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Great stuff, Sally C! I remember that De Fuegos ad. Man, to this day, all my associations with that band are negative – and that includes the Zanes guy who’s presently milking the Woody Guthrie of kids’ music routine. I just saw some little write-up by him in GQ on him thinking his kids wouldn’t understand The Beatles so he decided to play them the “timeless, mystical” music of Dylan and the Band’s The Basement Tapes.

    Hey, I’ve got another episode of The Sopranos on in the background, and yet again, half the script is psychobabble. Does the FDA have to review their scripts?

  9. great48 sez:

    And although the Coors family themselves were pure right-wing evil of the “Hitler was just misunderstood” variety, the Coors company of today actually isn’t that awful. Although Coors Light is about the most lame-ass beer ever.

    Wow, thanks for setting me straight on that Great48, I totally stand corrected on the Coors bit, I actually added that bit in at the last minute because I swear to God I saw something connecting them (bad fact-checking on my part). But I see now that the Colt 45 is totally Pabst-related. And phew, do I feel relieved. Actually – when I was living in Flint, Coors was still getting pretty bad slack over their political leanings – you can see the petition that I was handed not too long ago here:
    Ismine sez:

    and i also thought of Gang Green, the so-called “King of Bands” from boston. they had stickers that looked like Budweiser labels. they also got a shitload of skate company endorsement money, but i can’t remember if they got any beer $$.

    I haven’t heard Gang Green in forever! They were one of the Taaang! bands:) And for some reason it got me thinking of Green Jello too. Thanks again for your great assistance and letting me run my ideas past you, Art!
    slocum sez:

    And doesn’t Clapton drink Michelob??

    Actually – just reading now from a Jan ’07 report that Clapton is currently still a recovering alcoholic! Burn! “Rock legend ERIC CLAPTON threatened to pull out of a concert in New Zealand over the weekend (27-28JAN07), after seeing a bottle of wine bearing his name. The singer, who has battled with alcohol addiction in the past, is reported to have become angry after finding the 2007 Eric Clapton special edition wine on sale in Hawke. Mission Estate Winery immediately withdrew the offending bottles from shop shelves when it emerged the guitarist was disgusted by his association with the beverage. The winery’s chief executive PETER HOLLEY says, “On legal advice, we elected not to make the wine available for sale.
    “The matter has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.” The concert at Hawke’s Bay Mission went ahead as planned.” Actually – here’s a great blog page, When Celebrity Endorsements Go Bad! The Clapton one is up there too! As well as that nutty Flintstones for Winston cigarettes one that was banned in the 60s (I shudder!)

    I’m not really a Dan Zanes fan either, Mr. Mod – that Smile, Smile, Smile song drives me nuts. I’ve had to hear a lot of kid-related songs in the past few years because of working for a kid’s clothing company – I actually really love Ida, who do great folky kid music under Elizabeth Mitchell’s name. And that Little Miss Moffat CD that you have – she’s one half of a kid’s project too, called The Wilderbeats. Why the hell wouldn’t kids understand the Beatles? What a dope. My earliest memories are replaying “Here Comes the Sun” and “Octopus’s Garden” over and over again and dancing with my younger sibs. By the time we were done with it, it was scratched so badly – no cover, Fisher Price had had her way with those grooves. I had a lot of irreplaceable kids vinyl that tragically was thrown away last year accidentally by one of the new teachers I was working with at a daycare in Flint. I quit shortly thereafter. The daycare that I was at was so inner city, that she was reprimanded heavily for throwing away my stuff, and a bunch of other library resources like record players and cassette players thinking they weren’t being used when she did a clean-up after becoming the new teacher in our room. It’s a long sad story. The kids in my room especially loved the French language records that I had.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    According to Zanes, kids can’t get The Beatles because they sing songs of romantic yearning.

  11. That’s ridiculous in so many ways. I’d like to sit in on the conversation when it comes to him explaining Tears of Rage or Please Mrs. Henry. What a weirdo.

  12. Geez! Dan Zanes haters!

    We actually have several of his kids CDs and they’re about the only “kids” music we could like. I was never a huge Del Fuegos fan (“I Always Call Her Back” is a great song though…) but I do like Dan’s current efforts.

    I hadn’t heard his ideas on the Beatles and kids before but I might be inclined to agree a little. I can’t get my 8 year old to like them…

  13. I just can’t handle Zanes after hearing it so many times. I’m up for other suggestions though. I’m always looking for little gifts to send to my friend’s kids and my younger cousins that are interesting, I’m probably more like the auntie who would want to take them to Pancake Mountain though… Although we did take our littlest cousins to go see Blue’s Clues about five or so years ago in Detroit and I would sure go see The Muppets any day. I tried to like Zanes, he looks so darn cheery, but he just came to bug the heck out of me.

  14. saturnismine

    btw, an aside:

    mod, this is a possible poll question: which wiggling is better?

    -charlie’s pre-show wiggles.
    -pete townshend’s “i can see for miles” windmill wiggles.

    you have to watch both of these youtubes…i can decide which is more absurd, but i was struck by the absolutely exaggerated nature of townshend’s, which i hadn’t noticed before.

    this is the really important rock stuff…forget about this trivial endorsement matters…

  15. Re Clapton & Beer – Aroud the time of those Micheloeb ads there was also this short-lived rock awards show that was also sponsored by Micheloeb. What a coinky-dink that Clapton and Collins (and whoever was a spokesperson) won. I think it may have been the Rock MVP awards or something stupid.

    Re – Zanes: I remember the Bud ad had a quote from Zanes saying “I play folk music – music for folks” or something lame like that

    Re – Vox Wah Wah pedal – God, I haven’t thought about that ad for a while. I had it on one of the Nuggets records. i can still hear it my “minds-ear” crystal clear

  16. ismine, are you going for cute wiggles or rock n’ roll wiggles? the minute I said cute you were all voting for townshend;) seriously though, this is very serious. so how did this beer topic turn into kid’s songs and bum wiggling? zaaaanes, right. i think art posed a question before I got all lengthy on everyone –

    ismine sez:
    like slocum, i think that band jingles are great. there’s that awesome “potato chip” song by the “shadows of knight”, and “great shakes” by the Yardbirds. other examples???

  17. BigSteve

    Townshend’s seem more exaggerated when you remember that he’s miming. I guess it a pop art concept or something.

    Did you notice he starts miming his guitar solo a verse too soon?

    I love The Who, but I Can See For Miles has never been one of my favorites, though I can’t really put my finger on the problem with it. Did they ever play it live? Unlike some of their other early singles (Substitute and I Can’t Explain for example) it seems not to have made the transition to the arena.

  18. Re – Vox Wah Wah pedal – God, I haven’t thought about that ad for a while. I had it on one of the Nuggets records. i can still hear it my “minds-ear” crystal clear

    One of my favorite obnoxiously insular hipster jokes on an album is that the British twee-pop band Death By Chocolate did a dead-on recreation of that ad on one of their albums. I love it mostly because it’s one of those things that’s clearly only going to be funny to about 12 people hearing their album.

  19. Hey, I just voted for Beer in the poll and received a pop-up message telling me to “Stuff the ballot box elsewhere.” The fuck is up with that? I even read this whole post and all the comments.

  20. BigSteve

    Yeah I got that the other day. I thought it just didn’t like me. Now I feel better.

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