Boomers See Lighting Striking Again (and Again and Again!)

It continues to happen. Mister Boomer has chronicled the abduction of boomer-era music by the powers-that-be in the world of TV commercial advertising for several years, and now here is a fresh batch. Mister Boomer has spotted these in the past couple of months:

Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf (1968)
There are no babies on motorcycles, but the song is utilized to sell Pampers diapers. Really? Why not Depends?

My Way (written by Paul Anka in 1967), made famous by Frank Sinatra, (1969)
Performed by some unknown musicians in a Verizon ad, we can thank our lucky stars they had the wherewithal not to use either the Frank Sinatra or The Sex Pistols version (1978). Even though it came to be known as Sinatra’s signature song, his daughter, Nancy, said he hated it. The song was also recorded by Anka himself (1969) as well as Elvis (1977) and a host of others. One interesting tidbit is, the song is the most requested song to play at funerals in the United Kingdom.

You Don’t Know What’s It’s Like, The Bee Gees (1966)
In a Facebook Groups ad about fathers and daughters the song tries to evoke that lovin’ feelin’ between a father and daughter, but don’t they listen to lyrics? This song is about romantic love, not paternal warm and fuzzies, man! Facebook Groups is on a roll, using other songs from our era as well.

I Think We’re Alone Now, Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)
An HP computer ad is using the song to advertise its camera-blocking software. The song wasn’t about technological peeping toms, bro. That beating-heart drum now takes on a very creepy tone.

Turn Around, Look At Me, The Lettermen (1962)
Written by Jerry Capehart, the song was Glen Campbell’s first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (at #62) in 1961. The Letterman’s version a year later hit number five. It was also recorded by The Bee Gees in 1964, which failed to chart, and The Vogues in 1968, which peaked at number three on the Adult Contemporary chart.

You Got It, Roy Orbison (1989)
OK, the song was released well beyond the boomer era, but come on — it’s Roy Orbison for Pete’s sake, and it was released shortly after his death. Figuring prominently in a Stop ‘n Shop commercial (a northeast supermarket chain with over 400 stores), strains of “anything you want” in a supermarket hardly seems the best way to celebrate the talent of a legend.

In the Midnight Hour, Wilson Pickett (1966)
Party City is using this one, but should we give them a pass since it’s a Halloween ad? Hmmm. The song was selected for historic preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2017. Now it’s selling costumes and party goods. They’ve used Michael Jackson’s Thriller in the past, too.

As if these weren’t bad enough, the merry marketeers have now officially crossed a line in Mister Boomer’s eyes. Celebrity Cruise Lines somehow got the rights to use White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane (1967)! Mister Boomer’s jaw dropped the first time he saw it. How dare they take an iconic anthem of the Psychedelic Era and reduce it to background fodder to a red-head’s (what’s up with that?) Alice-In-Wonderland fantasy aboard a cruise ship! The song does in fact reference Alice-In-Wonderland — but it is about drugs, man! Who writes these commercials now, anyway? Are they Gen Xers? Millennials? Have they no sense of history, let alone no sense of shame? Besides, in Mister Boomer’s humble opinion, Grace Slick is the premier rock singer of all time, and the Surrealistic Pillow album is on his Top 10 list. She could sing the phone book (if there still was one) and Mister B would listen. But geez, Beav, what have they done to my song?

What do you think, boomers? Does this latest salvo amount to unforgivable boomer-culture appropriation or Ob-La-Dee, Ob-La-Da, life goes on?

Boomers Had Amazing Teachers

Did you have an influential teacher in your life? One who went out of the way to help, offer a memorable life lesson, or deliver the kind of encouragement you needed at the right time? Most boomers answer to the affirmative.

For Mister Boomer, she was one of his seventh grade teachers, Miss Downey. She taught English, and her class was not Mr. B’s home room. While of a short, fireplug stature, she commanded attention and respect by being both a strict disciplinarian in the classroom, wielding an aluminum yardstick with all the finesse of the Marquis De Sade, but was never above having a good laugh, or talking about comic books or pop culture, either. Yet when a student would show a comic or cartoon in class, she was also quick to recommend James Thurber cartoons and stories.

She was unusual in her fashion sense in that she almost exclusively wore black dresses with flounced sleeves and touches of white lace, flat shoes and hair shorter than most women in Mister Boomer’s neighborhood. In that regard she very much fit into the Mod look coming out of London’s Carnaby Street around the same time, but muted as if viewed on a black and white television.

Though her presence was memorable in itself, like many of Mister Boomer’s teachers — it was the 1960s after all — what made her top-of-mind to this day was the vocabulary she taught the class. Each week, she would add a selection of words to the list. Her intent was more than providing a spelling challenge, as she discussed the meanings of the words for young minds to digest. Mister B and his classmates would dutifully take notes, knowing that they would be quizzed on these very words a week or two later. While there was nothing unusual about a seventh grade teacher providing a vocabulary list to her students, the words themselves are what echo through the canyons of Mister Boomer’s aging mind. Miss Downey had evidently decided it was time to inject real, multi-syllable words into her classroom of impressionable minds; words with the heft of literature behind them, words that would speak years later, when reading a paragraph and that flashlight bulb of recognition blinked for students a distant memory away.

Here is a sampling of words presented to Mister Boomer’s seventh grade class by Miss Downey, that Mister B has to admit, fifty-plus years later, find their way into his speaking and writing at an opportune regularity that seems beyond coincidence — which was one of her words:

gossamer
sophisticated
juggernaut
quintessence
quiddity
centrifugal
verisimilitude
coup d’etat
modus operandi
coincidence

Following her lead, Mister B found a genuine appreciation for James Thurber cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, and began his lifelong interest in science fiction, beginning with reading the novels of Jules Verne in her class. Mister Boomer sends a heartfelt “thank you” to Miss Downey, and all who teach. The juggernaut of time cannot erase the quintessence of her verisimilitude.

Did you have an influential teacher in your life, boomers?