The Isolation Generation – Commercials and Psychedelics

What we have here are two sides of the same coin. The United States was becoming addicted to both television and narcotics in the Nineteen Sixties. The ultimate goal was to feel better about yourself. Just as Madison Avenue trotted out ad campaigns to make you want a particular car, cigarette, soda, et cetera, word of mouth created a similar buzz for the pills, powders, smokes and liquids of the drug culture.

In both cases, we were being sold: these were the lifestyle choices we wanted to and needed to make. It determined who our friends were, how we made our neighbors envious, what we should spend our money on, how to feed our needs, a way to get love.

Let the selling begin. Again.


Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da – The Beatles: It sounds like a jingle and, yes, it later became a teevee theme. But this is possibly the most ‘commercial’ of The Beatles songs. A rollicking sing along, even if you don’t know the words (“ob-la-di/ob-la-da/life goes on/bra”). The Fab Four take on the “American” dream, marriage, house, kids, fun. It has to be a commercial!

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The Dis-Advantages Of You – Brass Ring: A cigarette jingle turned hit single, this instrumental promoted Benson & Hedges 100’s, and the ‘disadvantages’ of their extra long smokes. Today, it’s just as likely to hear a hit song from the past in a commercial than to hear a song from an ad become a chart-topper. But in the 60’s, if you heard a catchy song often enough (like every commercial break), you learned to like it, and the producers were clever enough to even try to sell that.–The+Dis-Advantages+of+You+Mar+’67–Audio+Only+HQ+Stereo

What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie DeShannon: If love had an advertising campaign during this era, this would have been the theme. You would have heard it playing under the visuals of families on a Florida beach, couples climbing the Rockies or sailing through New York harbor to the Statue of Liberty. Jerry Lewis used this song for years when checking the tote board of his Muscular Dystrophy telethon (“it’s the only thing/that there’s just/too little of”). At this crucial point in history, with venomous hatred bubbling to the surface, selling the concept of love for your fellow man almost needed to happen.–What+The+World+Needs+Now+(1965)

A Swingin’ Safari – Billy Vaughn: Used as the theme to the original “Match Game,” this Bert Kaempfert penned song certainly has that pop music sound that tells you “I’m selling something!” One part lounge music, one part jingle, it’s only natural that TV found this tune and used it for its own profit.–A+Swingin’+Safari+Sep+’62

Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey: “Goldfinger,” the motion picture, is the single reason why James Bond movies are still being made. It is the perfect 007 film. It has the right Bond (Sean Connery). It introduces the most incredible ‘gadget’ of all time (the Aston-Martin DB5). It has a worthy adversary (Gert Frobe in the title role), who has a sidekick who could kill you with his hat (the memorable Oddjob). On top of all of this, there is this incredible theme song, performed by that remarkable voice. The song itself is brilliantly constructed (listen for the classic Bond theme, subtly worked into the piece). Bassey’s powerful delivery is the knockout punch. And, it’s all tied together with a universal theme: greed (“he loves gold”).–By+Shirley+Bassey

Telstar – The Tornadoes: Only during the Space Age could a love song be written to a satellite! Telstar was the first American orbital communications device, launched in the early 60’s. The sounds you hear at the beginning and end of the piece are the actual sounds of the craft as it radioed signals back to earth. But, this instrumental is clearly a delighted celebration of technology, the triumphant organ practically trumpeting the USA as the rulers of both the planet and the heavens. Americans could take comfort in that, even if it wasn’t quite true at that moment.–Telstar

Touch Me – The Doors: The Lizard King and company actually sampled the song’s famed final line from an Ajax commercial (“Stronger Than Dirt!”). The rest of it is an uneven patchwork of an out of control rant (“come on/come on/come on/come on/now touch me babe”) and a tender love song (“I’m gonna love you/’til the stars/fall from the sky/for you and I”). The whole thing is performed by a singer suspicious of a cheating lover. At once angry and caring, it’s Boomer schizophrenia in action.–Touch+Me

Sugar Sugar – The Archies: Much later, used as an artificial sweetener jingle, this song simply turned a group of cartoons into superstars (“you are my candy girl/and ya got me wanting you”). What’s more commercial than that?–Sugar+Sugar+(Cartoon+MV)

Mexican Shuffle – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass: The Clark Gum Company usurped this tune for its “Teaberry” flavor, and renamed the song ‘The Teaberry Shuffle.’ To do it: place thumbs under armpits and tilt your head skyward. Then, with each step you take, lift the opposing elbow to the sky and look in that direction, while chewing your Teaberry gum. Unfortunately, this fad didn’t really catch on, probably something about walking and chewing gum at the same time…–Mexican+Shuffle

Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond: A precursor to televangelists everywhere. Songwriter Diamond presents some great mixed metaphors (“when you’d almost bet/you could hear yourself sweat/he walks in”). It captures that old time Bible-thumping religious atmosphere. Selling Jesus was just starting to catch on in a big way.–Brother+Love’s+Traveling+Salvation+Show

Music To Watch Girls By – Andy Williams: From the Diet Pepsi commercial, here’s Andy, sounding his grooviest! Originally done as an instrumental in the soda spot (with la-la-la’s like Williams offers toward the song’s end), this version sports the explanatory lyrics you need to be hip to the scene (“guys talk/girl talk/it happens everywhere/eyes watch/girls walk/with tender loving care”). No, it’s not sexist, it’s swinging!–Music+To+Watch+Girls+By+(Year+1967)

Bubbles In The Wine – Lawrence Welk: The Champagne Music Maker’s Television Theme. It features all of the Welk tricks: muted trumpets, accordion flourishes, vocal ahs, and the organ that sounds like a harpsichord. Easy going, non-offensive, this was the original teevee musak.

Five O’clock World – The Vogues: We are slaves to our jobs, as the singers point out here (“trading my time/for the pay I get/living on money/that I ain’t made yet”). As with “Monday, Monday,” there is a hatred of working displayed: it gets in the way of living and loving (“and there’s a long-haired girl/who waits I know/to ease my troubled mind”). The Boomers work because they have to, but they’ll give you an earful about it. And, doesn’t that make the rest of us want to?–Five+O’clock+World

No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach Is In) – The T-Bones: Just like “The Dis-Advantages Of You,” this instrumental was a commercial jingle first, and then jerry rigged into a hit song. As you might guess from the title, it’s an indigestion aid (Alka-Seltzer). It has a surf sound, but here, you’re shooting the curl on gastrointestinal acid, not the ocean.

Morning Girl – Neon Philharmonic: Today, product placement in pop music is practically a part of record contracts. Not so in the Space Age. Also, a pop song without a guitar during the Rock Era? But, that’s what you have here, with this adorable wake up call (“put your dreams away/and read your box of Cheerios”). It’s a gentle, charming trifle.

Little French Boy – Burt Bacharach: The folks from Drake’s Cakes in the Northeast took this jaunty instrumental from “Casino Royale” and used it to promote its products (Yodels, Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, Coffee Cake). That makes this a double commercial theme.

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Lady Madonna – The Beatles: Give high marks to The Beatles for being visionaries: they even predicted the most commercial artist for the 1980’s some twenty years in advance! In reality, this was a religious paean, albeit mocking, about the problems of our commercialized society (Lady Madonna/children at your feet/wonder how you manage/to make ends meet”) and about the compromises people are forced to make to make it. “Madonna as Whore” is the implication here. Even religion takes a backseat to the Almighty Dollar.


Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles: The initials said it all.

Judy in Disguise (With Glasses) – John Fred and His Playboy Band: A parody of the above Beatles hit and, in fact, a more popular song. But what exactly was JDG?–Judy+In+Disguise+(with+Glasses)–1967

A Whiter Shade Of Pale – Procol Harum: references to Chaucer, Spanish dancing, all those vestal virgins and the organ playing processional music… very heady.–Procol+Harum

Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf: Flying high. If there’s ever a rock n’ roll theme park, this is the coaster with the longest line.

Good Morning Starshine – Oliver: “Gliddy gloop gloopy/nibby nabby nooby/la la la lo lo/saba sibby saba/nooby abba nabba/lee lee lo lo.”

The Rain, The Park And Other Things – The Cowsills: It’s not “Bus Stop” (raindrops falling on her/she didn’t seem to care/she sat there and smiled at me”). She’s the flower girl and when she’s there (or, when she’s not) the singer is ‘happy, happy, happy!’–The+Rain+The+Park+and+Other+Things.avi

Crimson And Clover – Tommy James And The Shondells: The end of this song makes you feel like you’re having an acid trip, if you play it loudly enough.–Crimson+And+Clover+(1968)

Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones: Ultimately an anti-drug song by Mick and the Boys. It decries Mom’s taking of her uppers and downers. The clear message: “That generation doesn’t know about using! Our drugs are the best drugs!” (“What a drag it is getting old.”)–Mother’s+Little+Helper

Along Comes Mary – The Association: This very catchy tune, which seems innocuous at first listen, is filled with narcotics references, religious criticism, tales of unwanted love and the requisite mind trips, if you can follow it.

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You Showed Me – The Turtles: According to rock legend, this song was supposed to be played in a faster time, but the organ’s stops were slow to react, so the whole piece was slowed to match. And, what a hypnotic effect resulted.–You+Showed+Me

Marrakesh Express – Crosby, Stills & Nash: Yeah. So, why go to Marrakesh? And why on an express? Could “blowing smoke rings” be a reason?

Incense And Peppermints – Strawberry Alarm Clock: “Turn your eyes around/look at yourself.”–Incense+And+Peppermints

Somebody To Love – Jefferson Airplane: Grace Slick. The Space Queen. The Haight. Tubular.–Jefferson+Airplane–Surrealistic+Pillow+1967

Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles: Reversed music. “Nothing is real/and nothing to get hung about.” Totally twisted and wild.

More to come…


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