Frank Gutch Jr: Product Placement and the Things We Sometimes Miss, Plus Notes…..
You’re sitting there watching television and all of a sudden music starts seeping into your subconsciousness and you think what the hell, because some elephant has entered the room but you can’t see it, but it dawns on you that you can hear it. You think.
It’s happened to me more times than I can remember and I think it has to do with music placement, whether it be during a commercial or an actual program. Rich McCulley might have had that experience just a couple of nights ago but he missed it. The day after Just a Few Miles To Go was used as background music in an episode of Breaking Amish, he received a phone call from a friend telling him. So Rick posted this on his FB page:
“As I was on my way to write with the Herf (Todd Herfindal) today I got a call informing me our song Just A few Miles To Go was on TV last night, on the show Breaking Amish on TLC.
The song we wrote today is cool! So is the other…here is the video if you don’t already know the song!”
Take a listen…
I have come to the conclusion that product placement is bigger than I thought it was, music placement too. I should have known when bug box stores became storage facilities for certain megacorps, rows and rows of Pepsi and Coca-Cola pushing variety right out of the varietal playbook. Why not have 24 rows of Pepsi with another 24 of Pepsi-distributed products? Makes sense, doesn’t it? You never know when that nation-wide run on diabetes-producing soda pop will come along. And what real American wants Jolt! Anyway? Fuck ’em. Which is exactly what Snapple/Dr. Pepper did to Dublin Dr, Pepper.
Product placement. Is it that important? Did McCulley and Herfindal gain sales from the insertion of the song on Breaking Amish? I have no idea but I do know that certain exposures have worked in the past. At Peaches in Seattle, we carried one each of each Luciano Pavarotti title available in the early eighties. Then NPR featured him and we couldn’t keep enough in stock. For a few months. Then it was back to one each again. I would say that NPR had had an enormous impact. Gregorian chants. NPR featured one album of Gregorian chants and the next day every store in Seattle was sold out. Not of Gregorian chant albums, but of the one featured. A few years later, I was at a girl’s house and asked to look through her meager collection of albums. There it was amongst the Journeys and the Eagles and the Hearts. One Gregorian chant album as featured on NPR. I have often wondered why and how such things work, but I know they do. On occasion.
I think of all the artists who have sold albums through exposure on the media (Roger Whittaker, through ads actually placed on TV; Josh Groban, The Beach Boys, John Denver…) and have no clue as to why one sold and another did not. I myself was turned on to one of my favorite bands, Hem, through a Liberty Mutual ad.
It popped lout of nowhere and I found I couldn’t get it out of my head. Totally unlike anything I would have expected from an insurance company ad. Sally Ellyson holds a special place in my heart for the songs her voice enhanced. He Came To Meet Me fills my eyes with tears every time I hear it and I don’t know why.
In terms of oddities, the biggest shock involved Carolyn Arends. I had been listening to KPAM out of Portland Oregon and they had Arends’ Feel Free album in heavy rotation. I was enthralled, especially by a track titled Father, Thy Will Be Done, a choogling rocker with instrumental ride a la Jeremy Spencer & The Children (It’s the guitar sound). Every time they played it, I would crank up the radio and, unknowingly, press on the pedal more than was needed (my radio in those days was limited to vehicle, unfortunately). Well, I’m sitting at home one evening watching an episode of Providence (you remember that program, don’t you?) when my head began to tilt like Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy. After a minute or so, I realized that far in the background, the incidental music being played in the bar was the aforementioned Arends’ song. Wish I had a clip of that scene to post, but I couldn’t find it. Here’s the music just the same. It sounds as good as it did back then. Fell out of my chair, swear to God.
The biggest placement victory for music in recent years involved an artist who had never had any real semblance of success— Nick Drake. True, his music was a constant in many of our lives and Island Records, Drake’s original label, refused to allow the records to remain out of print too long at any one time, but he was one of those incredibly unique performers and songwriters who deserved instant fame, and lots of it. When Volkswagen okayed the deal which placed Pink Moon on TV screens all across North America, Drake finally gained recognition. Not enough, to my mind, but I have been known to be prejudiced when it comes to his music. Here is the commercial with a second video of the song which made me a Nick Drake fan for life.
To my knowledge, there has never been a resurgence of popularity bigger than that of Big Star, possibly because they had never surged in the first place. Their two albums had pretty much remained under the radar since release, though the shores were steadily brushed by the waves of fans finding them a few at a time. Until… until That 70s Show. Again, sitting in front of the boob tube to watch this new show TV had been hyping, just to see what it was, you know, and the lead-in was a Big Star Track. In the Street, to be exact. I felt like I’d been bludgeoned by a 2 X 4. I don’t think it was Big Star, truth be told, but I was so excited I thought it was. The only thing I could think was, sonofabitch. Someone finally got one right. You remember it, right?
There have been other songs. The many instances shows used Gary Jules‘ Mad World. For a time, you couldn’t have a scene on TV involving some sort of traumatic incident without hearing this in the background.
Joan Osborne had One of Us all over TV for awhile.
Jeez, I’m getting all nostalgic here. Tell you what. Let’s knock this off right now. I have a few new ideas I am working on for next year— interviews with musicians you have and have not heard about—- new music—- documentaries. I will let you rest up. You’re going to need your energy.
So for now, what say we get to what most of you are here for anyway…..
Notes….. I’ve mentioned Joe Doerr a few times in this column and thought I knew a little about the guy. That sums it up. A Little. Churchwood and The LeRoi Brothers is what I knew and it would have been enough, as much as I dig both bands, but Joe has been around the block a few more times than I was aware. With at least two bands of which I had not heard: HOG and Hand of Glory. Both rockers, both impressive. Joe says they were a matter of public records, but I was evidently not privy to those. Here is a video posted just recently of Hand of Glory. Thank the musical gods for film and video tape and audio tape and every other way we have of saving the music for posterity.
I have heard this song numerous times. Never have I heard it quite like this. This is what happens when Tom Mank and Sera Smolen team up with musical peers, this time Ron Kristy and Terry Burns. Mank is one of the few songwriters I pick apart because there is always something beneath that next layer. I guess if I really want to enjoy a show, I need to head to The Netherlands or Belgium.
I can’t get enough of the rockumentaries about important bands from my past. Today I was pointed toward one about a band which was a true one-hit wonder, Richard & The Young Lions. Open Up Your Door was a monster hit in my mind back in, what was it, ’66? A classic right up there with Sean & The Brandywines‘ She Ain’t No Good and The Live Five‘s Hunose. Excellent combination of pop and garage. Forgive the overabundance of hype on this trailer. I chalk it up to the guy being as big a fan as myself— maybe bigger. Sometimes it is hard to hold back, you know?
I was in the Army September of 1969, drafted, my only contact with the outside world through the post or the radio. I had heard this band the summer before I went in, and a song called No Time, which got a lot of airplay in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Guess Who, they said. Of course, by then it was The Guess Who (as far as the fans were concerned) and they were about to blitz North America with a long string of of songs mixing pop and psych in just the right quantities. The version of No Time I had heard is this one, longer, less produced, more edgy. The later version, the one redone for the American Woman album, would break them out Stateside. I still like this one better. Toward the end of basic, the band released Undun and I was a goner. You know those people who ask if you have a song of which you have never tired? Pick any one from this period of The Guess Who and they would be on my list. To this day, my ears perk up. Even for Shakin’ All Over. Trust me, the Army was a hell of a lot easier to take with Guess Who doing the soundtrack.
Rumer has a new EP out titled Love Is the Answer. Four songs recorded in the studio— songs which she had been performing live and decided they needed a studio touch. I would look for a video, but I don’t think you could do much better than this video recorded live at Daryl’s House. It don’t get much better than this. Yes, the studio version is on the EP. And would somebody please tell me who that guitarist is?
Greg Laswell is way too big to need me writing about him, but there is something in his writing style I cannot shake. Here is his latest.
If I go country anymore, it has to be at least this good and nothing out of Nashville seems to qualify. Too slick. Too loud. Now, this strikes a note. If you’ve seen the video before, don’t blame me. I lose track and I would rather error on the side of too much. For the stuff I like, anyway.
Here’s a Christmas tune from someone you will be hearing a lot about next year— Daniel Martin Moore. With that, a very Merry Christmas to you all!
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
Contact us at email@example.com
“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”