Boomers Watch the Commercial Beat Go On

Well, it’s happening again, not that it ever stopped. Lately, there has been a rash of commercials using boomer music in them. Even locally, an area hospital is using Brenda Lee’s version of Baby Face (1959) to advertise their pediatric surgery department, and a regional supermarket chain has enlisted Roy Orbison’s You Got It (1989). Mister Boomer still isn’t sure how he feels about this particular form of cultural appropriation, and has written about this before (see Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma and Boomer Music: Here, There and Everywhere).

Yet with this latest batch, Mister B has to wonder … wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder. Why. Wha-wha-wha-wha-why? It seems plausible that commercials are now written by Gen Xers and Millennials for Gen Xers and Millennials, yet they choose to use boomer music rather than tunes from their own eras. This latest batch though, has a new out-of-the-ordinary twist in that the pairings of song to product seems to lean to more than a little bizarre. Take a look at some recent song usage that Mister B has seen in his area:

Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf (1968)
Was the song used for motorcycle insurance? Hair curl control? Or maybe … nope. How about Pampers diapers for babies? Now Fire all of your guns at once/ And explode into space has a whole new meaning.

Summertime, The Jamies (1958, re-released in 1962)
Mister B has to admit that McDonald’s has employed this summery ditty in a fun way. Pointing out the challenges of summer such as sunburn and bug bites, the commercial offers a McDonald’s meal as an something easy for summer, all to the strains of Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime …

Summer In the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
The ironic twist in this BMW car commercial is that the song says summer in the city, but the people driving are in the great expanse of the southwest. Try getting your neck burnt and gritty in a modern air-conditioned car.

To Love Somebody, The Bee Gees (1967)
Another odd paring, The Bee Gees are singing out for Facebook Groups. Yup, the venerable social media giant is advertising on TV, and using a Bee Gees tune to do it. The commercial tugs at the heartstrings, showing a father/daughter group heading to a baseball game. Mister B has to wonder whether the idea was generated by one of Facebook’s artificial intelligence engines.

I Think We’re Alone Now, Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)
HP computers is using the Tommy James tune with a nudge and a wink-wink. The crux of the commercial is a new feature on the computer that locks out the camera, barring any possible hacking. The premise is, this lock out is so no one will see you when you are doing the eccentric things you do when no one is looking — like toe nail clipping or posing in front of a mirror. Tommy James, however, isn’t singing about that at all.

This begs the question of why stop there? Certainly more strange pairings are ripe for the taking. Mister Boomer has some advice for companies looking to utilize boomer music:

• Hey Viagara and Cialis, ever think about acquiring Eight Days a Week by the Beatles (1964)? Can’t get the rights? There is always Me and My Arrow by Harry Nilsson (1970).

• Bathfitters, you are aiming your product primarily at homeowner boomers, so how about appropriating a song boomers have misheard for years anyway? Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising (1969) has been heard by millions to be, There’s a bathroom on the right. Throw enough money into it and maybe you can get John Fogerty to do a cameo.

• Is Robert Wagner still hawking reverse mortgages? Drop in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Our House (1970) for a lead-in and fade-out for that instant boomer connection. Not to your liking? How about Barry Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) from 1959?

What songs have you heard in commercials lately, boomers? Any suggestions of likely or unlikely pairings you’d like to add?

Boomers Bopped to the Beat of Outer Space

Mister Boomer still has the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon running through his head. Aside from the fact that we’ve lived a half-century since then, it is still amazing to look back and remember the sense of wonder and awe we all had at this historic feat. As Mister B has said many times through the years, what was a constant for boomers throughout their formative years? Music. Sweet music; there was music everywhere. There was swinging and swaying and records playing, and there was dancing in the street (with apologies to Martha and the Vandellas). So that got Mister B thinking about his favorite moon — and outer space — songs of the era.

Blue Moon, The Marcels (1961)
Written by Broadway legends Rogers and Hart in 1934, Blue Moon is a song that spanned the decades leading up to the Boomer Generation. Billy Eckstine recorded it in 1949; Mel Torme did a jazz version that same year, and Billie Holiday recorded it in 1952. Elvis recorded the first rock version of the song in 1954. Although each hit the charts with a measure of success, it was not until The Marcels gave us their doo-wop version in 1961 that the song reached the top spot on both the Pop and R&B charts.

Mister Boomer does not remember the first time he heard the song, but certainly remembers the bop-bada-bops and the dip-da-dips that made it so unique.

Telstar, The Tornados (1962)
This song, written by Joe Meek, was an instrumental tune that Mister B, and probably many other boomers, thought was by The Ventures (nope). The single by the English band, The Tornados, was released just one month after the Telstar communications satellite was launched into orbit. It caught the imagination of both the British and American public, and rocketed to number one for three weeks. As such, The Tornados became the first British group to ever hold the number one spot on the U.S. charts, a harbinger of the British Invasion yet to come.

Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra (1964)
Originally written by Bart Howard and released as In Other Words, Kaye Ballard was the first singer to record it in 1954. In subsequent years, it was recorded by a number of artists, including Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Eydie Gormé and Peggy Lee. After singing it in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, it was Peggy Lee who convinced the songwriter, Bart Howard, to officially change the name to Fly Me to the Moon, as it had become popularly known.

For boomers, the version that may best be remembered is the one by Frank Sinatra. By then it was estimated the song had been recorded more than 100 times. Quincy Jones arranged Frank’s version, upping the tempo and sending the song to new heights. It was played onboard Apollo 10 while the astronauts orbited the moon, and became the first song played on the surface of the moon when Neil Armstrong played a cassette tape of the recording after his historic first steps.

Mr. Spaceman, The Byrds (1966)
Written by Jim (aka Roger) McGuinn, the song was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at extraterrestrial life. Three years away from Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the country had experienced hundreds of UFO sightings and some close encounter abductions. Rather than fear the visitors, The Byrds song implores, Hey Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride.

Space Oddity, David Bowie (1969)
The single of this tune was released the week before the launch of Apollo 11. Major Tom is Bowie’s fictional astronaut character in the song, about an astronaut heading out into uncharted space, never to return.

Here am I floating ’round my tin can, far above the moon. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.

Rocket Man, Elton John (1972)
Inspired by a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story of the same name, the song explores space travel like it had become just another profession — a far cry from the way it was looked at by the Boomer Generation.

She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.

Elton John played the song at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.

Of course, there were many. many more songs and references to outer space within songs throughout the boomer years. What’s your favorite moon or outer space-themed song, boomers?