As Seen on TV: “I’m a Pepper”

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Hey, y’all!  I’m back!  It hasn’t been that long since I posted, and it’s not like I don’t have some ideas (I got some new music, and there’s always the massive collection living in my closet after all.)  But I’ve been saving my posts up because I became a Pepper for the month of November.

The lovely and wonderful Rarasaur (who is just as lovely and wonderful in three dimensions as she is on the interwebs) has recruited myself and a number of other bloggers for Nano Poblano, an easier to say name for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo. . . or something like that; her name is so much better).  The goal is to post something every day for the month of November.  This is good for me, because I have fallen out of the habit of posting regularly.  I like to keep the jukebox stocked with great music, and my lack of posts has been weighing on me a little (not too much, to be honest).  I’ve heard it takes about a month for something to become a habit, so I’m going to make the most valiant effort to post every single day this month.  That may mean a lot of reposts and quickies, but so be it.  I am determined to be an active part of the blogosphere again.

I chose this classic little bit of advertising cheese from the seventies because it relates to the quality of being a Pepper, not because I drink Dr. Pepper (it’s not bad; I just prefer Coke).  This is one of those classic commercial jingles that they just don’t write anymore–it’s another dying breed along with the great TV theme song.  David Naughton really sells it, too.  It was probably one of his earliest paying gigs as an actor, and it showed his potential.  After all, if he could convince people to buy a weirdly flavored soda, then he could do just about anything.  (“Just about anything” for Naughton turned out to be a great turn as a werewolf in An American Werewolf in London, but that was also pretty much the peak of his career.)  People of my generation grew up on this commercial, so I hope others feel just as fondly for it as I do.

As Seen on TV: Go See Cal

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It’s weird how something as simple and stupid as commercials can embed itself into your psyche.

Cal Worthington died yesterday.

You won’t know who the hell Cal Worthington was unless you lived in Southern California (or, apparently, the Houston area, since my dad reported seeing Cal’s commercials when Dad lived in Houston).  But if you grew up here in the 70s and 80s, and watched a lot of TV (especially late night TV), then you know exactly who I’m talking about.

Worthington Ford commercials were as ubiquitous as sunshine out here.  Everybody knew the jingle.  “If you need a better car, Go see Cal.”  The plucky, Bluegrass style banjo and guitars were as familiar as anything in the Top Forty.  You’d be up late watching some Japanese monster movie, or action-packed adventure, and when the station broke for commercials, chances are this would be the first thing you’d see.  As a kid, I would always watch to see who his “dog Spot” was in this version.  It was almost never a dog.  (Once.  I remember seeing a dog in the commercial with him once.)  This clip has a pretty good sampling of the animals he did ads with.  I also remember a camel, and maybe a zebra.  They were amusing commercials, and I’m sure they brought him plenty of business.  After all, if you can remember the commercials, you’re more likely to try the product.

It seems sort of silly to get worked up over a used car salesman.  But Cal was still making ads up until a few months ago.  He didn’t wrestle bears anymore (he was 92, for goodness sakes), but he did advertise pretty decent prices.  He was a presence in my life, and I will always remember him fondly.

As Seen On TV: And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

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I thought about subjecting y’all to this hideous commercial, but I’m just not that cruel (click on the link at your own risk).  And besides, even my love of bad 70s music doesn’t extend that far.

Actually commercials have become a new way to discover music.  A few years ago, U2 debuted their song “Vertigo” in an Apple iPod commercial; I also discovered Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” that way.  Volkswagen has long been the master at incorporating previously little known songs in their commercials, making mostly forgotten artists like Nick Drake suddenly popular.  So I always keep an ear on the TV during the breaks, just in case.

So a few weeks ago when this ad began airing, I found myself drawn to the gently plucked guitar and baritone voice.  It didn’t hurt that the visuals were interesting, too.  (This is an actual video of a little girl named Lotte growing up from birth to 12, which I think is just an amazing way for a parent to say “I love you.”)  It only took one Google search to find out that the song is from Alexi Murdoch’s 2006 debut album, Time Without Consequence.  And it is even lovelier without the commercial.

It’s like falling rain, this song.  I can hear the drops hit the ground, smell the earth turn dark and moist.  This is love as revelation.  Not fireworks and passionate embraces, but that moment when you turn around and see your partner standing there, doing nothing special–maybe folding towels or weeding the yard–and your breath catches in your throat.  Because you know right in that moment that this is where you were meant to be, who you were meant to be with.  It’s the moment when even the most ordinary things become magic, “and even breathing feels alright.”

And Now for a Word from Our Sponsors. . .

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Not really.  I don’t have any sponsors.  But I might take this thing commercial someday.  Blogging is fun; it would be okay to get paid for it.  For now, I’ll settle for playing around with someone else’s hard-earned advertising dollars.

Generally speaking, I’m against using rock/pop/country/classical/whatever music to sell stuff, unless the artist who created it is the same person who licensed it.  I’m all for making an extra buck or two off your own work.  That’s kind of what America is all about (that, and going as deeply into debt as quickly as possible).  It’s hard to know who’s responsible for what, though.  U2 helped make “Vertigo” off of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb a hit by letting Apple use it to sell iPods.  But I still won’t buy Nike products because they used “Revolution” to sell sneakers back in the 80s.  (FYI: Nike was really the first to use a popular song in their commercials, so we have them to blame for all of this.)

Volkswagen has long been the master of pop music in commercials.  They’ve managed to make some songs hits long after their initial release.  Remember this one?  (I sort of love that someone went out of their way to record a commercial on VHS.)

Or how about the utterly ethereal and enchanting ad that featured Nick Drake’s ethereal and enchanting “Pink Moon”?

We had a VW Bug when I was a kid.  It was dark green with black vinyl seats.  I named it Motor because of how it sounded when we drove in it.  So I’m probably a little biased in favor of this company.  I think VW does make pretty good cars to go with their really good commercials.  I’m not saying anyone should go out and buy themselves new Volkswagens right this minute, but you could probably do worse next time you’re in the market for a car.

Right now, VW is showing this really awesome commercial with Rush’s “Fly By Night.”  I dislike Rush (they’re good, but not my thing), but I get such a kick out of this guy with the air drums.  I wonder if they put out a casting call for Rush fans when they decided to make this one.

Of course, my current Favorite Commercial of All Time is also a VW ad, but it doesn’t feature a song at all.  It doesn’t even feature a car.  It’s just some people and a wonderful piece of advice.