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A Listener's Guide

And Now For a Tune
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Swingin' the Jingles, Sascha Burland (Riverside)
Big band arrangers Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan reworked ten tunes from commercials, most written by Burland, for a small jazz combo that included bebopper Howard McGhee on trumpet, Bobby Jaspar on tenor and alto, and Dick Hyman on keyboards. Burland had a Top 20 hit in the mid-1960s when the T-Bones released his tune for Alka-Seltzer, "No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In" as a single.

Tune in, Turn On, Benny Golson (Verve)
Lord knows why Golson, an alto sax player and killer jazz composer and arranger, recorded this series of tunes from mid-60s ads, but be glad he did. He puts a swinging, upbeat, goofy spin on numbers including Sid Ramin's "Music to Watch Girls By" (Diet Pepsi), "The Magnificent Seven" (Marlboro cigarettes), "The Swinger" (Dodge Dart Swinger), and "Cool Whip." One of the best albums of the "now sound."

The Madison Avenue Beat, Lester Lanin and his Orchestra (Columbia)
Society band contractor Lanin recorded tens of albums for Epic to help fill in gaps in their catalog. As usual, Lanin lays down over 40 tunes in 5-6 medleys per side, only this time, they're melodies from radio and television ads. Not too many are recognizable to younger listeners--Chiquita Banana, Maxwell House Coffee, maybe. Three different covers for this album. If you're lucky, you'll find the one showing the boss and his secretary in his office, music coming out of a radio. Caption: "Listen ... they're playing our song."

Music Used in Many Popular Commercials, Various Artists (Folkways)
Folkways? The label for anthropologists' parties? I guess this, too, is social science. Hear the music sans pitch from over 20 commercials from the mid-1960s.

Colors, Ken Nordine (Philips)
The Fuller Paint Corporation hired word jazz artist Ken Nordine to write and record a series of radio spots about individual colors. The popular response to these ads was tremendous and Nordine collected them on this album. Some see his "Yellow" as a commentary on the Vietnam war: nasty Green wants Yellow out of the world, but Blue befriends it and helps find a harmonious resolution.

Music for Better Living, series (RCA Victor)
Ten records RCA tossed in with their hi-fi sets in the mid-1950s. At the time, RCA had the finest talent roster in the business--so why'd they hire hacks like Hill Bowen for this? A few of these are mildly funny for their stereotypical 50s home scene shot on the front, but I've yet to hear one that's worth the vinyl it's stamped on.

[Corporation] Presents Music to [Build/Sell/Use] [Product] By
At one time, somebody thought it was a great marketing idea to put a bunch of songs together and package it with the company's logo and a scene of people enjoying the product on the cover. Not sure what they thought the result would be--brand loyalty? Well, this was a time when music was considered part of the furniture. Anyway, there are gobs of these records out there. Sometimes the only relationship between the company and the music was the cover. In other cases, the songs are all on the theme of whatever the product is. And in a few cases (see Ken Nordine above), the company commissioned an original creation.

Johnny Spots, Private Ear, Heller-Ferguson
Heller-Ferguson was the leading radio ad firm on the West Coast, and this delightful album purports to be the story of Johnny Spots, a gumshoe who job is to come up with jingles and catch-tunes for radio stations around the country: "Whenever something is missin', I listen." Now, most of the spots on this record are bland beyond belief, real period pieces from the golden days of [Mom and] Pop radio. But the mock private-eye patter than links them together is priceless. Like Johnny says, "Man, the sound is really gettin' 'round."

Music from Marlboro Country, (United Artists Special Products)
A terrific album, and one you can buy now without worrying about profits going to those cancer-mongering tobacco companies. Seven different variations on the Marlboro cigarettes theme, A.K.A. Elmer Bernstein's theme from "The Magnificent Seven," including a nice bossa nova take, mixed in with cuts from Bernstein's score for "The Return of the Seven."
For more about advertisement and product recordings, see this excellent post to the Exotica mailing list.

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