One Thing From 1987 That I Forgot And The Way It Helps Me Spin Specious Theories About Ad Music

The two 1987 Levi’s creatives were looking for the appropriate song for their 1950s ad:

‘For a soundtrack, the team called on rhythm and blues buff Charlie Gillett and his Battersea flat full of records. “We gave him a scenario and he came up with four songs – Stand By Me (eventually used in another Levi’s ad), When A Man Loves A Woman, My Girl and Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.”‘

I’m sorry? And you paid this man for looking through Motown’s Greatest Hits?

OK, perhaps I’m being a bit unfair. Maybe the music search scene was a little narrower than it is at the moment and therefore the choice of those well-known, solid-gold classics was a bit more of a stretch 22 years ago.

Anyway, there’s an article in the new Creative Review where such ad music luminaries as Parv Thind and Peter Raeburn discuss the state of commercial soundtracks today.

They mention how trend-led the whole thing is and offer up a good explanation for the proliferation of plinksome, folksy guitar: it’s nice to listen to and makes you feel all safe and calm while imbibing the commercial.

When you think about it like that, perhaps ad music responds to society. In the years since 9/11, we’ve felt less secure in the world and, perhaps, with the growth of easy money, too rich. Plinky guitar noodling can address both those concerns by being the aural equivalent of a duvet, while simultaneously being cheaply lo-fi, convincing us that we do indeed have places in our heart that are not permanently in thrall to Mammon.

Which leads me back to the 1987 choice of Motown (or rhythm and blues; how quaint). I remember the 80s being a horribly slick decade of Thatcherite over-consumption. Did the down-to-earth soul of the Motor City allow people to feel like they weren’t quite so shallow, that there was a part of them that needed something beyond Stock, Aitken and Waterman?

Then the early Nineties were a kind of political drudge, with the last years of the long Tory rule seeking either escapism in Take That and D:Ream, or authenticity first in Grunge, then in the mainstreaming of what was formerly known as indie (Pulp, Oasis, Blur etc.)

It’ll be interesting to see what these much-predicted times of intense, Dickensian poverty bring us.

Bring on the death metal: