S.S.O.S (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

It’s another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tune this time, but you know me, that’s enough to get my dander up.

Picture the scene: a tastefully shot blonde lovely frolics on a beach sniffing a flower. Into shot come a bevy of other beauties, all either wearing the same sort of flower – a daisy, I guess, from the name of the product – in their hair, or sexily kicking the waves up, or writing their name in the sand.

What better way to soundtrack such a wet dream of an event than a song called Teen Age Riot?

Except.

Except, it isn’t. Obviously. Those are no normal teenagers. For a start, they’re on a beach having fun and not moping in their bedrooms, sulking in their misery.

Except, the ad-men have selected the quiet, start-doesn’t-sound-like-the-rest-of-the-song bit of the song in an effort to throw us of the scent.

But I smell you and your not particularly cheap whiff.

Me buying the album this is on was the closest that Llyr and I ever came to a second argument.

I returned from the now defunkt Fopp in Cardiff, clutching a little plastic bag with Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation nestling inside.

Proud of my purchase, I showed Llyr, and, non-plussed, he said:

“Oh, Another album you’ve bought that you think you ought to own.”

I looked at him quizzically. I knew he was trying to get me to bite.

“Have you ever bought an album that you didn’t think you ought to own?”

A pause.

“Fair point. Can I have a listen after you?”

“Course you can.”

Warning: utter tune incoming.

I’ll dedicate this to Greta Thunberg, architect of the school strikes for climate, whilst also waving it in the apopleptic faces of the likes of Toby Young, who have this week sought to undermine Greta by announcing to the world that as her mother was a singer, then Greta must be privileged (this from the man whose father rang up Oxford University and persuaded them to let little Toby in) and therefore her opinion on climate change is somehow irrelevant:

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Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot

More soon.

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S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

If you’re lucky, this won’t have crossed your radar yet.

At Hel and Neil’s wedding last year, as the night drew to a close, I was chatting to a friend who asked me: “What do you think will be the last record of the night?”

“Well,” came my considered response, “if the DJ has any sense, it’ll be….” today’s record.

And that was indeed the last record of the night. Oh yes. Still got it.

On Thursday night, I stumbled across the same song, being used in an advert for a certain brand of cider.

I like cider. It’s my preferred pint of choice. But, without wanting to sound all snobby, real-ale-esque about things, I wouldn’t touch this brand with the proverbial barge-pole.

As is the norm in ad-land, it wasn’t the original version being used. But instead of some dull but winsome lovely, cooing along to a chilled piano melody, this time they’ve gone for a folky version.

Which, if heard out of the context of an advert for what is generally regarded as fuel for wife-beaters, I maybe wouldn’t object to. But it wasn’t, so I do.

It took a few moments for me to realise what I was hearing.

“I know those lyrics,” said my brain.

“Yes, you do,” replied my brain, “but where from?”

The realisation dawned on me.

Dear Strongbow

We do not need you to Mumford-&-Sons up a genuine 80s classic in an effort to try and get us to sup your horrible booze. Frankly, we’d rather hear that bloke massacring Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time to try and sell us broadband than have you commit this assault on our ears. We see you. We choose to drink something nicer.

Love, Jez.

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Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder – Together In Electric Dreams

More soon.

S.S.O.S (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to some of my rants which used to feature here.

I mean, I haven’t mentioned Brexit for ages have I? No need really, it’s all going so predictably swimmingly.

Don’t fret, my illness and hospital stay hasn’t knocked the ire out of me.

No, these days I prefer to reserve my grumpiness for more tricky targets.

For example: Christmas adverts. And the tunes contained therein.

Jeeeeezus, where to start?

To be honest, I can’t really get angry about those which use Christmas records to promote their wares. That seems fair enough.

But there’s a few this year which have taken non-Christmas songs and appropriated them for their own misgotten gains. This is a trend started, I think, by the suits behind the annual John Lewis Christmas campaign, with much success – if creating what I believe has to be called “a storm” on social media can be considered a success. Will there be a man on the moon with a telescope this year? And what song will be used? Questions which demand an answer up until around about mid-November each year when the advert first airs, and we can all let out a collective sigh of relief and relax again.

This year they have employed the servies of one Reginald Dwight and his first ever hit, Your Song (and, I notice quite a few of his other hits in orbital ads – Elton: you have lots of songs and you’re embarking on a last ever tour, we get it already). I’m not saying that implying that Mama Dwight bought Eton his first piano from John Lewis is a cynical attempt to a) claim some part in his success, and b) generate a few sales in the process, but I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where, it would make my disapproval so much more justifiable, but then we are living in a post-truth world, right?) that until this year John Lewis have never sold pianos. Make of that what you will.

As I say, there’s others out there. One supermarket chain has decided to use Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way as the background to their view of a harmonious family scenario. The moment I saw the advert, I thought: “Why are they using that???”

It’s a bit like when Donald Trump ‘adopted’ (without his permission) Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA¬†in his 2016 election campaign, despite the lyrics actually being the antithesis of his Make America Great Again slogan.

Let’s be clear: Go Your Own Way features on the Rumours album – an album which is very well known for being a ‘break-up’ record, in that the band had split from the coupled into individuals who now actively disliked each other. Each song contained therein is a moment of a breakdown captured.

Only if you buy into the idea that Christmas with the family is something to be endured rather than enjoyed (in which case: have a fun festive time, Scrooge McDuck), is this an appropriate song to soundtrack your advert.

Unless the message is: “Here’s your Christmas dinner, now isn’t it time you were fucking off and leaving us to quaff the Baileys?”, which seems rather an odd position to take, thank you very much Mr (or Mrs) Food Chain.

Time to reclaim it:

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Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way

More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Stop right there, Mr Ad Man!

You’ve gone too far this time.

Whose wretched idea was it to butcher an absolute stone cold classic to try and convince us into releasing our equity (whatever that means)?

And by “absolute stone cold classic” I mean this, of course:

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Bernard Cribbins – Right Said Fred

I not just indignant about the appropriation of this wonderful record (and it isa wonderful record, and if you disagree, then you’re not allowed to carry on reading) to try us lure us into murky financial shenanigans, but because the use of it just makes no sense whatsoever, even if they have changed the words to fit the sales pitch.

Here’s why: pretty much everybody in the UK knows the original. It’s a song which many of us heard as kids on radio shows like Junior Choice with Ed “Stewpot” Stewart; it’s a song which is engrained into our very fibre, our very being. Changing the words does not make us forget all of that, it makes us think about the original Right Said Fred, or about our youths, or sometimes we even can’t stop ourselves from conjuring up an image of 90s novelty band and slap-head sanctuary Right Said Fred. So already, we’re not paying attention to what you’re saying.

When this advert comes on, I can guarantee you that in not one household does anyone lean in towards the television, thinking “Oooh, this sounds interesting, tell me more!”, or uttering “Oh, I like what they’ve done there. Hand me the phone, Margaret, I’m gonna get me some equiry released!”.

No, we’re thinking “What the fuck have you done to Right Said Fred and why are you doing it on my TV in the middle of Tipping Point?”

But that’s not all. The song Right Said Fred, as you will know, is about three delivery men attempting to deliver an undisclosed object to a property, having to gradually dismantle it to try and get it into the house, which they then manage to part-demolish, before finally giving up. All of this action is, of course, punctuated by numerous tea-breaks.

In other words, it’s a song about failure. And tea. And the working classes. But mostly failure. Why would you want people to see your advert and think of failure? Why, Mr Ad Man, why??

Ahem. Deep breaths.

Still, at least we all know what song we’re going to have pinging around in our heads all day now, eh?

I might see if I can help you with that in a bit. If you’re nice.

In other words: More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Wake up! It’s Rant o’clock!

If you live in the UK, and are of a “certain age” the word Nationwide used to mean this, a¬† magazine current affairs show – a prototype The One Show, if you will –¬†which ran from 1969 until 1983, airing on BBC1¬†every weekday evening straight after the news:

Ask anyone born after 1983 what Nationwide means to them, from a cultural point of view,¬†and they’ll probably say one of three things:

  1. It’s a Building Society, or
  2. It’s a Building Society responsible for foisting those godawful singing sisters upon us:

Answer: neither of you. She moved house years ago and has never told you where she is now, leaving you to record these hostage videos performed via a twee Glee-filter in an attempt to reconnect with her, just so you can get your greasy mitts on your inheritance.

(Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post the advert in question here, but these are so utterly irritating, I felt compelled to. You’re welcome.¬†Count yourself lucky I chose a really short one.)

Or:

3. It’s a Building Society responsible for foisting¬†really bad poetry upon us.

I could have picked any one of this seemingly never-ending series¬†to post here – they’re all absolutely shockingly bad. This one was the absolute Everest of irritating.

For a start, it’s such a piss-poor effort at poetry, that they even have to add a caption at the start to tell us it’s a poem.

It doesn’t rhyme (yes, I know it doesn’t need to rhyme to be a poem),¬†and it doesn’t scan either (yes, I know it doesn’t…etc etc).

“Laurie” and “Toby”¬†probably think an iambic pentameter is a Scandinavian device used for measuring shapes.

And then there’s the¬†face pulling at the end, saying “Look at us! (We think) We’re so cool and quirky and a hipster!”

I hate them.

Before I watched that advert, I’d never imagined an occupied¬†photo-booth being dropped from a great height into a metal crusher, so at least that’s one thing I’ve gained from it. Every cloud, and all that.

Don’t get me wrong. I like (some) poetry. But frankly, I’d rather listen to this chap:

And these adverts must have a detrimental effect. Surely the point of paying for advertising is to try and persuade people to buy your product, subscribe to your service, join your club, vote the way you want them to. If it isn’t, then Vote Leave could have saved themselves a whole lot of money – the¬†¬£7 million which they were allowed to spend in the build up to the 2016 referendum, the additional (almost) ¬£500,000 they spent¬†on top of that anyway, or¬†the ¬£61,000.00 they were fined on Wednesday, not to mention¬†the possible (if unlikely) jail sentences awaiting some of them.

But I digress. (No, you’re right. I couldn’t go a whole post without mentioning it).)

The point I make is that these adverts have the opposite effect to that intended. I simply cannot imagine that anyone has ever seen either of those adverts and immediately transferred all of their savings into a Nationwide account. Instead, many have moved their cash elsewhere rather than be associated with them (probably).

I suppose I should be grateful. At least we’re no longer subjected to adverts where¬†scantily clad women fellate¬†chocolate bars in an over-flowing bathtub whilst a lizard crawls over a telephone.

Indeed, “poetry sells” seems to be the new mantra in advertising executive land, for just like mould on a week-old Split Tin, it’s spreading.

Look, here’s another one, this time¬†for a telecommunications company:

There, did you hear it?

Not the poem,¬†which incidentally wasn’t written by the girl in the advert, but by some bloke from the Rattling Stick advertising agency. (Yes. I did some research.)

No, not the poem, but the song playing on the car stereo, which seems to have been specifically chosen to make us think she wrote it. It’s by a feminist punk/new wave/goth icon, living legend and national treasure, and yes, she must have given permission for it to be used in the advert, but I really don’t think that when she wrote the lyrics to Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie Sioux was thinking “one day, maybe this will be used to authenticate words written by some prick in a pink shirt with the collar turned up.”

As it goes, we know exactly what she was thinking. This:

“I’ll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the ‘Hong Kong Garden’. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say ‘Leave them alone’, you know. It was a kind of tribute…I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from ‘The Avengers’ and kick all the skinheads’ heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill.”

Fast forward to 2018. Right-wing extremists are on the rise again, in a country where¬†shaven-headed¬†thugs¬†give Nazi salutes at female Asian bus drivers¬†whilst knuckle-draggers protest that the founder of the English Defence League¬†was wrongly imprisoned (even though he had¬†pleaded¬†guilty for contempt of Court, after he live-streamed from¬†outside Leeds Crown Court –¬†which had the potential to cause a major trial to collapse – when he was already subject to¬†a suspended prison sentence for doing exactly the same thing at¬†Canterbury Crown Court).

Perhaps now is not the time to¬†associate Hong Kong Garden¬†with¬†a mobile phone network. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should¬†remember what¬†Hong Kong Garden actually represents instead, and then perhaps, just perhaps, we should¬†reflect that maybe we haven’t come quite as far since 1978 – when Hong Kong Garden was released –¬†as we thought and hoped we had.

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Siouxsie & The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden

Oh and by the way. If you’re going to use Siouxsie in an advert, at least have the decency not to use her as mere¬†background music. Nobody puts Siouxsie in the corner.

More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Given how much TV adverts get on my tits, I’m not sure how it turns out that it’s been over three months since I wrote one of these.

There’s much to despise about adverts in my book, and doubtless I’ll probably cover some of the other things I hate over the coming months because, let’s be honest, with the World Cup starting today, I’m going to be watching a much larger proportion of¬†the commercial channels than usual for the next few weeks, so they’re bound to wind me up enough to feel the need to vent my spleen here.

But for now, I’ll return to my usual gripe: the use of records I love to sell stuff, especially when the stuff being sold has absolutely sod all to do with the song, which inevitably has¬†every last drop of credibility squeezed from it as a result.

I don’t really subscribe to the Bill Hicks You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever” train of thought:

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Bill Hicks – Artistic Roll Call

To my mind,¬†a¬†spot on the shelf-life of celebrity is a precarious, self-employed¬†one:¬†they never know quite how long they’re going to be there, or how demeaning¬†their fall from grace is going to be, so I have no issue with those lucky enough to be in the position where they’re¬†offered money¬†to endorse a product, or do a voice-over, adding some notes to their pension fund and taking the corporate coinage. It doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out and buy whatever¬†they’re selling –¬†in fact, it’s more likely to make me more determined not to –¬†but I have no problem with them doing it.

That said, when a record is crowbarred into an advert where it has no business in being, just to add a veneer of credibility, that’s when I get annoyed.

Chanel. If you’re not the biggest fragrance and fashion house in the world, then you’re certainly in the top three.¬†Your status, reputation and class has been built up for over one hundred years. Getting Steve McQueen (not that one) to direct your latest advert for men’s fragrance is fitting: he’s a class act, and so are you.

So why the need to use this as the soundtrack to the advert?

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David Bowie – Starman

I could maybe understand it if it had some relevance to the product in question. It’s a men’s fragrance, so there’s a man in the advert – tick! – but as for the ‘star’ part…well in a 60 second advert, there is one shot, lasting no more than one second, which features a starry sky, and that’s about five seconds before it ends.

You get the impression that the Chanel Marketing Department commissioned McQueen to shoot the ad, and then when he presented it to him, they told him what they wanted the music to be, so he had to crowbar a star reference in to give its use some weight.

What I’m trying to say is this: Bowie is dead. There’s no need to tarnish his memory by using his songs to sell stuff. You’re better than that, Chanel.

More soon.

And there’s no need for anyone to suggest the advert which features a certain New Order tune for a future post – that’s very high on the list indeed.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Richard Branson, eh? What a guy.

A true British eccentric. When he’s not crashing hot air balloons into the sea, he’s popping up doing cameos in shows like Friends (where he played a London souvenir salesman) or in the 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days (where he played a hot-air balloon operator). Or maybe taking part in a photo-shoot to illustrate just how British and eccentric he is. Look, here he is:

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Haha! Look! He’s wearing a suit made up of lots of Union Jacks! And he’s waving a big Union Jack! What a guy!

Plus, he made his first fortune¬†releasing records, so us bloggers really like him. And his record label – Virgin Records, in case you didn’t know – not only launched the career of Mike Oldfield (erm, yeh, thanks for that, Dickie) but also signed the Sex Pistols along with other such universally lauded luminaries as UB40 and Paula Abdul. No really, straight up.

Here’s some other companies he has set up under the Virgin Group¬†banner: Virgin Games, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Vision, Virgin Holidays, Virgin Airship & Balloon Company (nope, never saw that one coming), Virgin Classics, Virgin Megastores, Virgin Publishing, Virgin Radio, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Money, Virgin Brides (I’m sorry, what was that one again…?), Virgin Trains (which I’m pretty sure he only set up because he thought it would be funny to hear people say they were going to “catch a Virgin”, which quite rightly, nobody ever has), Virgin Mobile, Virgin Active, V2 Records, Virgin Energy, Virgin Cars, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Fuel, Virgin Media, Virgin Racing, Virgin Trains East Coast, and Virgin Voyages.

It’s like he flicks through a leaflet, spots something that he doesn’t already own a version of already, and sets up a company to try and flog us his version of it. I’m reminded of this:

All this is, of course, pure jealousy on my part. What can’t be doubted is his patriotism. Look at his suit!

And now he’s in an old phone¬†box, you know, just like the ones that used to work and didn’t smell like wee back in the good old days! Even if he is using a mobile phone, ha ha, that’s a really clever twist. I bet he’s on Virgin Mobile, the clever old self-promoting bearded wondermogul!

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Could he be any more British and proud to be British?

Well…..actually…in 1971, Branson was convicted and briefly jailed for tax evasion, having fraudulently obtained export documents for records to be sold on the domestic market in order to avoid paying VAT.

Pah! Is that all you’ve got, I hear you cry, a spent conviction from almost fifty years ago?

Well….how about the fact that he gave up his British citizenship to save paying millions in tax into the country’s coffers? In 2013, he described himself as a “tax exile”.

And how about one of the companies I missed from that list: Virgin Care.

Ask practically any UK citizen what it is about being British that makes them feel proud, and doubtless the NHS will be pretty high on their list. But in 2016 Virgin Care sued the NHS after it lost out on an £82m contract to provide children’s health services across Surrey. The matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in 2017.

The phrase “undisclosed sum” can mean only one of two things: it’s surprisingly small, or eye-wateringly large. Given the size of the contract Virgin Care lost out on, I’m going for the former. I’ve seen unconfirmed rumours that it was ¬£2 million. But no matter how large or small it was, it surely could have been better spent being invested in the actual NHS rather than lining Branson’s Union Jack print pockets.

Meanwhile, in January 2018, it was announced that Virgin Care Services ended the last financial year with a £8.16 million profit from a turnover of £204 million up on the £7.28 million profit it made in 2016 on a turnover of £134 million.

And yet…it paid no corporation tax. This was because it’s parent company – you guessed it, Virgin Care – announced a ¬£19.3m loss for the same period. Mmm-hmm. Sure.

Then, the other day, I turned on my TV to find a Missy Elliott track being used to advertise Virgin Media, and the vein in my forehead started apoplectically pumping with even more outrage than usual.

Let’s claim it back:

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Missy Elliott – We Run This

Branson: you don’t run this, you ruin shit.

And stop wearing that suit, you jingoistic shyster.

More soon.