What does that song mean?

Catchy Commercial Earworms | vol 2

Posted Apr 9th 2023, 15:46 by Penguin Pete

"The first mistake of art is to assume that it's serious." -- Lester Bangs

Carrying on from: “I Could Have Seen This Coming At Me Like An Atom Bomb” back in 2011, this is a list of notably catchy commercial songs and bits which have ingrained themselves into popular culture. But with a less cumbersome title.

Free Credit Report – “pirate” (2007)

I still say the Free Credit Report guy deserves to dominate this category. Never has so ready a talent risen to such a modest occasion and turned an ad spot into a step to stardom. Incidentally, the company itself turned out to be bad news, as this utter assassination of a Wikipedia write-up details.

The singing pirate from the commercial is Eric Violette, but the story gets more complex than that. Apparently Violette, the pictured singer and band-leader, didn’t even get his voice heard in the commercial, but was dubbed over by the ad agency guy who wrote the song.

Meow Mix – “meow” (1974)

Please, not the singing cat again! You might be tempted to suspect, this song could be effective torture if you crank this on a loop on the speakers in your dungeon, full blast, and use it to drive prisoners crazy Clockwork Orange style. No really, somebody actually thought of that first, “The song was used by the CIA during the War on Terror to torture captives,” according to the Wiki entry.

So who wrote the “Meow Meow”? The songwriter is Shelly Palmer, and the meowing vocalist is professional singer Linda November. God knows how she makes it through the rest of her career with “singing cat” on her resume.

Hamm’s Beer Commercials (1979)

So I’m in the Generation X demographic, which is famous for growing up as the last untamed and free range adults. Not only were we latchkey kids independent, but we were expected to put up with Joe Camel advertising cigarettes to us and even having candy cigarettes if we were too young yet.

But wait, it gets worse! We also had the era of alcohol advertising, and it was even more in-your-face. Presenting a series of cartoons featuring bears and other animals hawking beer. Not only that, but the Disneyized “native American” chorus of “FROM the land of sky blue WA-TERS! (wa-ters!)” is impossible to not sing along to. It’s a wonder we weren’t sipping beer out of baby bottles.

The Hamm’s Beer jingle was written with lyrics by Nelle Richmond Eberhart and music by Charles Wakefield Cadman. It was derived from a 1909 art song entitled “From The Land of Sky-Blue Water.” You don’t say! The animated Hamm’s Beer Bear (no name known) was the first cartoon mascot for an alcohol product.

That was surprising to me because I was seeing this commercial well into the ‘80s, the baseball game routine was very familiar, but I could have sworn that some other mascot got there first. No, turns out Hamm’s was using the cartoon bear way back in 1953:

The land of sky blue waters is, of course, Minnesota, where the company was founded. These days, using cartoons to advertise alcohol or tobacco products is a no-no. Not just in the US, but internationally as well.

Toys R Us – “Toys R Us Kid”

Now who could fault generations of kids and adults alike for loving these ads? Millennials and later mourn the closed franchise now, despite the fact that Toys R Us is an international brand and still in a shadow of its former operation (divide between online retailing and several regions where they simply rebranded as another store). Franchises this big never truly die, they just run a website and partner with other retailers to fulfill orders.

We know Geoffrey the Giraffe made his first commercial appearance in 1973, but who wrote the jingle? Are you ready for this? James Patterson – the novelist – used to work for an ad agency before he turned to novels. He is credited with the jingle along with Linda Kaplan Thaler, when they were both working at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

McDonalds – “Trip To McDonaldland” (1969)

McDonalds’ marketing history practically gets its own chapter in Madison Avenue textbooks, but somehow they always skip this page. In 1969, the Summer of Love was so locked-in that marketers thought there was no way to get anyone’s attention without joining the hippies. So they did.

This commercial also hits at the height of McDonalds’ going all in on ripping off H.R. Puffenstuf, as we all learned from the infamous lawsuit. But still, of all the many jingles that McDonald’s has visited upon the TV public over the years, this psychedelic bit of jamming just seems to stick with people the longest.





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