Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sell Out

(But first, a personal note from Tim: Tomorrow we embark on a week-long family vacation so you probably won’t see too many posts while I’m gone. Hopefully I”ll have some stories to share when we get back but in the meantime, maybe you can keep busy with this!)

Back in October, 2008 I posted a British television commercial featuring John Lydon of Sex Pistol’s fame schilling for butter...

Now here’s another punk icon turned pitchman…

As a late 80’s/early 90’s playing-in-a-band kind-of-music-snob type, I was expecting to feel a surge of disgust in my gut from the sight of such disgraceful sell-outs.

But while waiting for that gut reaction I realized it wasn't happening. I just couldn’t gin up the proper indignation which is a far cry from the way I felt when I was in my twenties and thirties.

Back then though, the sell-outs were egregious and easy to spot, occasioning passionate rants against corporate rock and marking the bands and musicians as unworthy of attention of affection. But then it was no great risk to take on shit like this…it was more like shooting fish in a barrel.

Now that we’re almost out of the aughts, the music landscape has changed a lot. The radio industry has consolidated so much that breaking a band on radio just doesn’t happen anymore. It turns out that television shows and commercials have become one of the few vehicles that will give a band or a song national exposure.

(Neither a new or original observation there, I'm just saying...)

In some cases, it’s breaking new acts that benefit from this exposure. “The O.C.” became famous for it. In the clip below, The Dandy Warhols set the mood.

Now that’s not so bad right? George Michael Diet Coke? No, not acceptable. But thirty seconds leading into a scene on a guilty-pleasure TV show? Well, how the hell else are The Dandy Warhols going to get national exposure?

And there it is, the first crack in the wall of righteous indignation.

Sometimes its established acts. Real good acts with unimpeachable credibility. Really, who am I to assail the cred of Nick Drake or Daft Punk?

More cracks in the wall. And if Nick Drake can do it, said Sting to his agent, why can’t I?

And Sting’s agent, who also works with, say, Bob Dylan, gives Bob a call.

And the guys at CAA ask their clients if they’d be interested and sure enough, The Black Eyed Peas ARE interested.

And of all sudden there’s no wall left. Just cracks. Now its perfectly OK for your favorite band to sell soap flakes on TV.

But I still feel a tiny bit rotten (!) about it. Black Eyed Peas? OK, fine. Sting? Who cares? But Bob Dylan? Really? A gigantic fucking SUV?

Alas, I guess all things are cyclical. I found a couple of videos from the 50’s and 60’s that suggest that in an earlier era, the commercial sell-out wasn’t seen as anything to get worked up about.

The Rolling Stones did it…

(Note from Tim: Awesome, right?)

Dusty Springfield did it…

And speaking of Dusty Springfield, I have two radio commercials to present as further evidence. The first features Dusty singing the praises of Great Shakes, a powder that turns an ordinary glass of milk into a milk shake. Then, we’ve got Iron Butterfly (yes, Iron Butterfly) singing about Ban Deodorant. (Sorry for the low-fi nature of this clip but I was in a hurry!)

So I guess it used to be OK…then it wasn’t OK and now it’s OK again. Just like being a Michael Jackson fan!

That’s it for me. We’re off to Block Island for a family vacation. See you soon!

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