When you’ve written a song which is universally recognised as a classic, and which has been covered over 150 times, then when you announce which your favourite cover version is, I would imagine the person responsible for the cover must feel pretty chuffed.
Such a little nugget was dropped on this week’s edition of Guy Garvey: From The Vaults, a show currently airing on Sky Arts, which has recently become a free-to-air channel (I’m not sure if this is a permanent arrangement, although I suspect it might be as it’s been given it’s own channel number on my tellybox, and another one shunted out of the way). It’s a channel – and a TV show – worth checking out, because they generally show gigs on a Saturday night, by the likes of Nick Cave and Pulp, to name just two.
As for From The Vaults, it features the avuncular Elbow singer introducing clips from ITV’s music TV vaults, not somewhere I would have thought particularly blessed with valuable content, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The first episode included some wonderful, never seen before footage of Kate Bush from when she first toured at the end of the 1970s, so good that I wished I’d made more of an effort (read: been able to afford) to go and see her when she finally got round to playing her second set of live dates a couple of years ago.
The classic song that I mentioned at the top of this post popped up in this week’s edition was this absolute beauty:
And here’s the footage they showed, snaffled from an appearance on The Russell Harty Show back in 1975:
You won’t be at all surprised to learn that the reason I mention all of this is not just to nudge you in the direction of a really good pop music archive show, but to give me an excuse to post the version of Make Me Smile that Mr Harley likes best out of all of them, as mentioned by Garvey on last night’s show (and he wouldn’t make it up, now would he?),from their 1990 3 Songs EP:
Regular readers will know that a pet hate of mine is TV adverts, and the songs that are hijacked and inserted into them.
In the past, I’ve written several posts where I attempt to deconstruct the advert in question, and explain why the song they’ve chosen to soundtrack it is not an appropriate one.
I’m wondering, though, if perhaps it might be better if I offered some more constructive criticism, and maybe ways to improve it.
So let’s give it a go.
There’s an advert currently airing in the UK which I imagine you’ve all seen. Here’s how it goes: a hipster-bearded middle-aged man leaps from his bed where he and his lady partner have just exchanged happy, satisfied glances (and doubtless much more). He dances, struts and swaggers his way from the bedroom, down the stairs, where his partner joins him for a brief dance before he goes outside into the bright sunshine. The camera pans up to the blue sky as voiceover man announces “4.3 million men in the UK experience erectile problems” before the product being advertised fades into shot.
Yup, it’s Pele’s favourite: Viagra.
(4.3 million sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Although, I think it’s probably a conservative estimate. I mean, presumably they’re basing that figure on the amount of sales achieved when it was a prescription-only product, when blunted swordsmen gave in and visited their GP to seek help with their little problem. And men are notoriously reluctant to go the GP at all, let alone when they have to go through the embarrassment of explaining their current predicament, often preferring to stumble on using a rudimentary winch and pulley system fashioned out of a couple of elastic bands and a lollipop stick instead.)
Anyway, in the background (of the advert, not in the GP’s surgery), this is playing:
See what they did there? They made a joke. Well, (ahem) a semi one. Viagra. Up. Do you see? It’s very clever.
But I reckon there’s a better way this could have been done.
I think that there are two types of advert which are most effective. The first is where there is a series of adverts, each a new episode following on from the last, which tell a story. Perhaps the most famous example is the late 1980s/early 1990s ad campaign for Gold Blend coffee.
For those of you too annoyingly young to know what I’m referring to, the ad campaign in question ran from 1987 to 1993, and starred Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan as Tony and Sharon, a couple who begin a slow-burning romance after she moves into an adjoining apartment to him, and knocks on his door to ask if he has any coffee she can borrow to satisfy her dinner party guests.
Here’s that first ‘episode’ in all it’s naff glory:
The Gold Blend Couple advert ran for a total of twelve individual adverts, and as the series progressed, each drew more and more attention from the media, drawn into the “will they/won’t they” plot. So, essentially: free advertising on top of the paid-for advertising.
The second type of advert which I think is often effective is the one where you’re not quite sure what it is that’s being advertised. These also often form part of a sequence of adverts, but usually the additional adverts are shown if not within the same ad break, then within the ad breaks interrupting the one programme.
In my proposal, I’m not suggesting a sequence of twelve adverts – attention spans are not what they once were. Instead, I’m suggesting four “episodes”, each with a different, appropriate song to soundtrack it. Four adverts would sit quite nicely within one sixty minute television programme (in the UK anyway), as there are generally ad breaks at around the 10-15 minute mark, another at around 25-30, a third at 40-45 and then the final one as the show ends.
So I’m suggesting a combination of the two types of advert I’ve mentioned, where a story is told over those four adverts/episodes, but where you are not entirely sure what is being sold until the third one.
Even better, my ad campaign would bring back Tony and Sharon from the Gold Blend ads. Let’s face it, it’s over thirty years since the original Gold Blend ad campaign first aired, so Tony (and I must stress at this point, in case any lawyers happen to be reading, I categorically mean the character Tony and not the actor Antony Head, who I’m sure is among the most virile of men) is bang in the age group likely to need the services of the little blue pill. Also, this way there is no need to worry about dialogue or introducing the characters, we all know who they are: it’s Tony and Sharon from those old Gold Blend adverts. Our minds go back to that golden age when the nation was captivated by their budding romance. What have they been up to since then? How nice to see they’re still together and going strong!
Here’s how the ads would run.
Ad 1: The camera opens on a close-up of Tony’s eyes, viewed from above. It pulls back and we can see that he is laying on his back on one side of a double bed. He is clearly naked, but has a sheet across his lower half to protect his modesty. Not a word is spoken, but it is evident from the look on his face that he is worried, upset, embarrassed. The camera stops just as it becomes apparent that there is someone laying alongside him; there is a hint of a form, a shadow, but crucially it does not reveal who this person is.
Ad 2: The camera opens on a close-up of Sharon’s eyes, viewed from above. It pulls back and we can see that she is laying on her back on one side of a double bed, the other side to the one we saw Tony laying on earlier. She is also clearly naked, but has a sheet across her to protect her modesty. Not a word is spoken, but it is evident from the look on her face that she is disappointed, frustrated, embarrassed. A wicked smile plays across her lips, and she glances in the direction of the person laying in bed next to her (who we still do not see, but we all know it’s Tony). She reaches over to her bedside cabinet and opens the drawer, but crucially we do not see what is in there or what it is she is reaching for.
Ad 3: We rejoin Tony, the camera in exactly the same place as at the end of Ad 1. Not a word is spoken, but we can hear a buzzing noise. Tony sits up, looking disbelieving, offended looks towards the other side of the bed. He flops back onto the bed, before a look of steely determination takes over his face. He reaches to his own bedside cabinet, and pulls open the drawer. This time, we do see what is in there: a packet of Viagra.
And to soundtrack this ad (with the music kicking in as he opens the drawer):