In 2018, we witnessed the marketing of a Japanese, luxury, crossover vehicle with a Motorhead cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” If that’s not jumping the shark on selling out, I don’t know what is. They might as well have painted that Acura RDX like the General Lee.
And yet, it didn’t really create headlines. Nowadays, everything is commodified and likewise, everything is for sale. Beyond the odd grumble and eye roll, nobody much cared. Rock ‘n’ Roll had embraced its inner Gene Simmons, and like the Boomers raised on it, gave up any last shred of principle long ago.
But there was a time when this was all far more contentious. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson infamously feuded, in part, due to Jackson’s purchase of the Beatles’ catalogue and subsequent selling of “Revolution” rights to Nike to sell shoes. Mick and Keith letting their cherries be popped for three million of Microsoft’s dollars back in 1995, allowing “Start Me Up” to promote Windows 95, was front page news. And who can forget Neil Young’s rebellious “This Notes for You” perfectly mocking the whole, unseemly spectacle.
It played in reverse too, most notably with “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” which started as a 1971 Coke jingle before becoming a full-fledged pop hit. I mean, come on, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll was always about money.
I, myself, have long since stopped caring about which song is exploited by which corporate giant. I loathe advertising but as a writer with ads slapped all over my blog, recognize it’s a necessary evil. And, hey, money. But I won’t outright shill literally anything for a buck and I like to think I’m (mostly) immune to marketing’s consumption-inducing charms.
That was not always true. Case in point, this Levi’s commercial from 1990, shown here in its original form with the audio removed because (how deliciously ironic) the band filed a copyright infringement grievance against the uploader through Youtube.
I was a broiling, hormonal, pseudo-adult that summer and haven’t forgotten this commercial in the thirty years since. I suppose that is music to the ears of Levi’s promotional department, but it wasn’t the jeans I remember. I honestly don’t think it inspired me to buy a single pair of Levi’s at all.
Nor did it inspire me to buy a yellow bathing suit, though there can be little doubt the heavenly creature wearing one is part of the reason this ad has remained emblazoned in my mind for three decades. Good God, that is an in-freakin-incredible specimen of the species. Seriously. Just look. Pause it, if you have to. No, not him. Her! In the bikini. Sorry, but that is perfection.
Anyway, that ad did inspire one specific purchase; a cassette tape. A Greatest Hits collection, in fact. At 18, the song in this ad really clicked for me and for a brief moment, I was a fan of the band that performed it. That tape spent many a day stuffed into my Walkman, volume cranked. Another song, “Feel Like Making Love,” would become my favourite. The rest were mostly forgettable.
Today, I’d like to kick off your weekend with the song from that Levi’s commercial. The song that made me, however briefly, a Bad Company fan. I can’t say that fandom lasted long. It certainly hasn’t lasted to today, unlike, say, my appreciation of that woman and that bikini. Gee! Zuz!
From their self-titled 1974 debut, this is “Can’t Get Enough” by Bad Company. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some internet image searching to do. Please knock before entering.
Original Commercial with Alternative (cover band) Audio: