Rant

It’s Saturday morning, and you know what that means around Dubious Towers: either I’ve written the next part of The Chain (spoiler alert: I haven’t) or I’m about to vent my spleen about something or other that has irritated me this week.

There’s been too much good news recently in my book, what with Biden winning the US election (Pah! So he says!), Dominic Cummings getting kicked out of No. 10 (I thought the news that he’s been offered the gig of turning on the Christmas lights at Barnham Castle was just too delicious to be true, but I hope it is), that a potential cure for Coronavirus has been found, and a new series of I’m a Celebrity…set not in the inhospitable Australian jungle but in what is apparently the UK equivalent: Wales, has started. Personally, I’m looking forward to week three, when the endurance test sees the remaining contestants have to sit through several hours of the Eistedfodd, politely applauding at yet another parade of children in national dress whilst placating someone’s Nana with platitudes about the quality of her home-baked Welsh cakes.

*Looks around for something to shout about*

How about Priti Patel? Nah, too easy. But just in case you’ve not followed the story: this week, a report was released at the conclusion of an inquiry into the conduct of the current Home Secretary, following the resignation of top civil servant at the Home Office Sir Philip Rutnam in March. Rutnam alleged staff felt Ms Patel had “created fear” within the governmental department through her bullying behaviour.

The inquiry was launched by PM “Shagger” Johnson, who placed trusted ally Sir Alex Allan at the helm of the investigation, and the results were, if not damning, then not flattering either.

The Ministerial Code says “…ministers should be professional in their working relationships with the civil service and treat all those with whom they come into contact with consideration and respect…harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour wherever it takes place is not consistent with the Ministerial Code”.

Surprise, surprise, Allam’s report found that Patel had broken the code governing ministers’ behaviour. It says that: “…[she has] become – justifiably in many instances – frustrated by the Home Office leadership’s lack of responsiveness and the lack of support she felt in the Department for International Development (Dfid) three years ago...The evidence is that this has manifested itself in forceful expression, including some occasions of shouting and swearing...This may not be done intentionally to cause upset, but that has been the effect on some individuals.”

(Let’s not forget, of course, that Patel has form when it comes to the Ministerial Code. I won’t go over it all again, but if you want to read something I wrote when these allegations first arose, you can do so here.)

Ah. “Not done intentionally”. There’s your get out clause, right there, which Patel seized upon. Cue a public apology which fooled nobody, where Patel, for once almost managing to contain that trademark smirk as she spoke, said that “…any upset I have caused was completely unintentional…” and that “…issues were not pointed out to her.”

Actually, Sir Philip Rutnam paints a different picture: “As early as August 2019, the month after her appointment, she was advised that she must not shout and swear at staff…I advised her on a number of further occasions between September 2019 and February 2020 about the need to treat staff with respect.”

The report, however, states that “…no evidence that [Patel] was aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the time”.

Sir Rutnam was not asked to give evidence to the inquiry, which might explain that.

What we have here, of course, is a classic example of the NMA – that’s a Not-Meant Apology – which usually includes the phrase “I’m sorry if my actions caused offence…”.

There’s no “if” about it here, is there? Her actions did cause offence, people complained, an inquiry found that she had caused offence, so the element of doubt introduced by the hypothetical “if” is removed.

What I find incomprehensible is that were the busted politician, or whoever, to offer a full apology, devoid of get-out clauses, then they would almost certainly earn the respect of the majority of the public. We’d probably be willing to cut them some slack: they’ve admitted what they did, they’ve apologised, let them get on with their apparently invaluable work drowning desperate immigrants in the English Channel, and we’ll check back in a while and see whether they’ve actually learned anything from the whole experience.

And of course, the outcome of this was PM “Spaffer” Johnson rejecting the findings of the inquiry and announcing he did not think Patel is a bully and he has “full confidence” in her – you know, like he did in Dominic Cummings after his drive-up North during lock-down.

What is the point of launching an inquiry into a set of allegations, putting your own man at the helm, and then dismissing the findings because they weren’t the ones you wanted? Bit Trumpian, isn’t it? The inquiry cost the tax-payer money, which would have been much better spent being handed over to an MP’s brother-in-law’s best mate, who runs a newsagent in Bristol Temple Meads, but reckons he can secure all the PPE the NHS needs for the next ten years.

It makes me wonder: was the term “bully” the term used for a member of The Bullingdon Club? In which case it’s no wonder Johnson doesn’t recognise Patel as being one: there’s no way a woman of colour would ever be allowed to enter The Club unless they were part of the catering team.

And of course, the person who loses their job as a result of this is…you got it: not Patel, but Sir Alex Allan, who quit after learning that Johnson was going to take absolutely no notice of the report’s findings. Of course it wasn’t Patel: we all now know that the only way to get Johnson to fire you is to say something unkind about his girlfriend.

So perhaps Patel’s behaviour should be encouraged: let her bully, shout and swear at as many people as she likes. The law of averages says that of every, say, 10,000 expletives, one is going to refer to the mother of one of his children, and so it’s only a matter of time before she gets to the current one (whoever that might be at the time).

But we’re not talking about Patel this morning. I have something much more worthwhile to rant about: adverts.

Regular readers will know this is a topic which grinds my gears a lot, but usually it’s because of them appropriating (read: being given permission to use) a song I love for some poxy campaign or other.

But that’s not what is getting right on my tits at the moment; for a start it’s the fake sincerity of some of the adverts, the ones where they pretend they’re not really after your money, they really care about you.

I’m thinking predominantly of the tag-line which appears on the advertisements or any of the many gambling websites which now exist: “When the fun stops, stop”. This slogan was introduced by the gambling industry-funded responsible betting body Senet Group in 2015, but seems to be more prevalent recently.

And it’s bullshit.

By which I mean, the advice is sound, but do those using it really mean it? Do you really think Paddy of Paddy Power fame really wants you to spend less money with them? Do they heck. They want you to think they care, but of course they just want your money:

Because if everyone who gambles stopped betting the moment “the fun” stops, the gambling sites and bookies’ profits would be drastically reduced. The fun stops the moment you lose money. But those with addiction issues find it near impossible to walk away: play one more hand, and I can win that money back, they convince themselves. And then they lose that, but carry on, now even more desperate, and so on, and so on, until they’re broke, sleeping in a bus shelter and shouting at pigeons (who probably deserve it).

And I say this from personal experience: in my first year at Polytechnic Uni, I became friends with a chap who loved playing quiz machines and fruit machines. I would often stand at his side when he played the quiz machine in the Students Union bar, chipping in with an answer every now and then. And then he would shift to the fruit machine, and a big crowd would gather, because they knew if he was playing it, it was probably going to pay out. And I would play the one next to him, with a considerably smaller crowd (i.e. none) as my pound coins rattled through at a speed that would make Usain Bolt blush, until my pockets were empty. I was so constantly skint during that first year -not to mention thin, my God, I was thin – my parents were convinced that I had taken up guzzling heroin. My mate, however, would finally win the £20 jackpot and walk away. “Are you up?” I would ask; “Broke even, in the end,” he would reply, which is gambler’s code for “No, I lost, but it could have been worse.”

Coming from a screaming leftie, this may sound odd, given the relaxing of the rules about advertising gambling sites and shops on television happened under the last (as opposed to The Last, I hope) Labour government, but they got it wrong and it needs to be redressed.

This idea that companies advertising care about you goes further. During Lockdown #1 you will have seen countless adverts which included webcam footage (not that sort, you mucky pup), of employees of firms, and most of these were banks, it seemed. Unsaid, the message was this: “Look at us. We’re working from home, just like you. We’re the same, you and I. Because we’re so similar, perhaps you should think about maybe giving me some more of your money to look after…?”

As restrictions eased, those same companies and banks changed tack: now it was all about how they were doing their best to help you maintain social distancing should you ever, y’know, fancy popping into one of our stores/banks. Because they understood us and our concerns, they alone know what we want, and wouldn’t you just know it, whatever it was, they had it to sell you at a terribly reasonable price.

The tipping point came, I felt, in an advert I saw recently. Where previously, the effort to sell had been subtle and empathetic, suddenly there was a gear change with an advert which said – much as I did recently (without trying to sell you anything) – that people will be judging where you live when you’re doing your Lockdown #2 Zoom calls, and your kitchen is, frankly, shit, but it’s okay because we’ll sell you another shinier, newer one.

I preferred it when they were trying to be subtle and devious, I think, rather than blatant and exploitative. The only people who should be cashing in on Covid are those companies who have something to contribute to the cause, by which I don’t mean all of those handed contracts by the Government, of course.

It’s around this time of year, of course, that we all moan about Christmas adverts appearing on TV way too early, but I’m not an idiot, I understand the economy needs a massive boost, and purchasing Christmas presents and food and drink and all the rest is probably going to be the shot in the arm needed.

That was until I saw the Tesco ad campaign this week.

The ad shows lots of different people, confessing to their lockdown sins. I wouldn’t normally do this, because it’s a tad contradictory to slag an advert off but then give them free advertising, but I think it’s important that you know what I’m talking about here. So, here you go:

On the face of it, it’s a great idea: 2020 has been an absolute shit-show, so this year Santa isn’t going to be compiling his usual list of people who’ve been naughty and those who’ve been good. No, this year, we’re all absolved of our failings (see Priti, Santa says you’re off the hook too!), so long as we go to Tesco’s to buy our Christmas indulgences.

And it’s has an absolute banger (I was going say pig in blanket, but somehow that seems insulting) of a tune:

So there’s Tesco, encouraging us to visit their stores, and telling us that no matter what we did wrong this year, we’re forgiven.

There’s a flaw in this logic, isn’t there?

Perhaps the soundtrack to the advert should have been this:

Remember folks: there’s no naughty list this year! Fill your boots at Tesco!!

To be honest, the Christmas campaigns could have started in July for all I care because I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry this year, and that’s not the outrage racist Sainsburys shoppers have displayed at the not-as-posh-as-Waitrose supermarket chains’ having the audacity to feature a black family in this year’s advertising campaign…oh wait, not seen this?

OK, well, here’s their advert:

And here’s some of the delightfully enlightened comments left on Sainsbury’s Twitter feed:

There were many, many more, most of which were deleted when the tide of responses, thankfully, turned against them. Still, pretty safe to say that Chris, Chez and Tom are all hoping for a White Christmas. Enjoy shopping at Aldi, who have a much more palatable family of carrots in their adverts.

Anyway, I mean the still unanswered question about where we’re all going to be for Christmas in 2020.

As it stands, Lockdown #2 is due to finish on December 2nd, but the data at the moment is not showing any great improvement. And then you see headlines like this:

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather our PM listened to the experts than battled them. We’ve been here before, of course, with the premature and contradictory easing of restrictions after Lockdown #1.

To me, if the experts say Lockdown #2 has to be extended, and that goes over Christmas, then so be it.

We’re not the most Christian of countries anyway, so Christmas is really just an excuse for families to get together. It can be done later, when things have got better.

I’ve never spent Christmas on my own, but if that’s what we’re told to do, then that’s what I’ll do. But don’t get me wrong: I love my family very much, and there’s nothing I would like more than to be able to go and visit my parents over Christmas. But if the choice is between doing that and possibly finishing them both off, or delaying seeing them for a few more weeks, then I, reluctantly, choose the latter.

Such a dramatic statement requires an equally dramatic soundtrack:

Now, I didn’t want to kick the weekend off with such a downer, so I had intended to include my favourite ever clip using that song. And it turns out it’s this, from Friends, when Joey and Chandler are trying to cope with living apart:

But what I wanted it to be was this, until I realised I had misremembered which song this auditionee was trying to perform: a different one to the one I’ve just posted:

I’m sorry if the mix-up has caused any offence.

More soon.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Adverts.

I hate them.

The first thing I need to say is that the other day I went onto my blog to see if I had posted a song before, and I was shocked to find lots of adverts popping up within the text of whatever I had written.

Please, don’t ever click on to those adverts. They’re nothing to do with me.

But also: have you noticed that thing they now do on Channel 4? (Maybe on ITV and 5 too, but I never record anything on those channels so I can’t say for sure.)

Okay, so picture the scene: you have recorded a programme on Channel 4. There is an ad break, so you fast forward through them. You look for the signal that the show you’vee recorded is about to start again. And that signal is this: a Channel 4 advert for an upcoming Channel 4 show.

You press play.

But they’ve started putting these in the middle of the ad break, so that you press play thinking your recorded programme is about to start again. But it isn’t, it’s just a way of getting you to watch the second batch of adverts.

Cunning bastards.

Anyway, much as I hate adverts, and their appropriation of songs I like, sometimes I do have to concede that at least the song in question has been chosen well.

For example: I love this song, and initially bristled when, having pressed play too soon, I found it had been hijacked for an advert.

It’s in an advert for a range of mattresses, so through very gritted teeth, I had to admit it was at the very least an apt choice. (And as someone whose very stock is based around choosing a vaguely fitting songs to illustrate a point, it would be somewhat churlish of me to object anyone else doing the same.)

Anyway, here’s the song in question:

Moloko – Pure Pleasure Seeker

As an aside: is it just me, or has the amount of companies trying to sell us artisan mattresses massively increased over the past year or so? And for each of them, the USP is the same:

  1. You can (literally) sleep on your purchase for a while, and if you don’t like it, you can return it, and
  2. It comes in a box and magically unfolds, like a pop-up tent, when you open it.

Have you ever tried to pack away one of those pop-up tents? They’re utter, utter bastards, steadfastly refusing to be packed away again, so God knows how difficult it is to try and cram a mattress back into a box.

If you listen to podcasts regularly, you’ll have become familiar with these sorts of products some time ago, for they are one of a select band to have adopted popular podcasts as their weapon of choice.

You’ll have noticed the same companies popping up on a carousel between them. The main cuplrits are: mattress companies, Harry’s (the razor company), Beer52 and The Economist, all of whom proffer a special offer or discount if you go to their website and enter a special code…and I find myself thinking: it can’t be that special, it was on No Such Thing as a Fish last week.

But I digress.

As I was saying, much as it boils my piss to have songs I love inserted into an advert to sell something, occasionally I have to tip my hat and concede they have chosen well (And then find another way to slag them off, as you have just witnessed).

But then sometimes I find myself thinking: what the flipping flip is this song doing here?

For example: what is it about The Connells really quite lovely 74-75 that made some advertising smarty-pants think it was an appropriate record to soundtrack the bathroom section of DIY hardware store B&Q?

The Connells – ’74 – ’75

If you’re looking for a tune to soundtrack the sale of bathroom features and fittings, then surely this would be a better choice?:

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Up Around The Bend

Actually, now I think about it perhaps not: when selling bathroom fixtures the very last thing you want to advertise is that things might come back up and around the (U-)bend, post-flush…

Ewwwww……

*hastily rewrites CV*

More soon.

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:

sonic youth

Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot

More soon.

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.

electric

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:

Cover

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:

268x0w

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.

S.S.O.S. (Stop Spoiling Our Songs)

Back now to our trawl through songs which have been debased by being used in adverts, and your suggestions are coming in thick and fast.

But before we look at any of your suggestions, one of mine which has been annoying me for a little while now.

You could probably excuse the use of Pixies’ Where Is My Mind? had it been used in, say, an advert promoting mental health.

But it’s in an advert for chocolate.

And it’s not even the original, it’s some godawful tinkly piano version.

It’s horrible.

This, the original, from their seminal Surfer Rosa album is not:

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Pixies – Where Is My Mind?

More soon.