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"Come on baby, buy my SUV"
October 5, 2005 10:35 AM   Subscribe

" Jim's ghost was in my ear, and I felt terrible". Like all top classic-rock franchises, The Doors can exploit a lucrative afterlife in television commercials. Offers keep coming in, such as the $15 million dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song "Break On Through (to the Other Side)" to hawk its luxury SUVs. To the surprise of the corporation and the chagrin of his former bandmates, drummer John Densmore vetoed the idea. He said he did the same when Apple Computer called with a $4-million offer, and every time "some deodorant company wants to use 'Light My Fire.' "
posted by PenguinBukkake (119 comments total)

 
"People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music," Densmore said. "I've had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn't commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent."
That not only sets the Doors apart from the long, long list of classic rock acts that have had their songs licensed for major U.S. commercial campaigns, it also has added considerably to Densmore's estrangement from former bandmates Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, a trio that last set eyes on one another in the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse last year.
"Everyone wanted him to do it," said John Branca, an attorney who worked on the Cadillac proposal. "I told him that, really, people don't frown on this anymore. It's considered a branding exercise for the music. He told me he just couldn't sell a song to a company that was polluting the world.
"I shook my head," Branca said, "but, hey, you have to respect that. How many of your principles would you reconsider when people start talking millions of dollars?"

posted by PenguinBukkake at 10:36 AM on October 5, 2005


Good man. When I first heard a Shins song shilling for McDonald's I was pretty bummed.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2005


I would buy a Cadillac if they used that "Father, I want to kill you / Mother I want to fuck you" Morrison jingle. You know, for the Spring line.
posted by Peter H at 10:40 AM on October 5, 2005


You go, John Densmore. Good move on two fronts. I agree with your principled stand, number 1, and I don't have to listen to 20 seconds of the rock I grew up on shilling corporate shit. That goes double for Jaguar's use of London Calling. In that case, they gave 'em too much rope.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2005


When I look at things like this, I always think of what the person could do to help other people with their cut. In this case, it looks like his cut would have been 5 million dollars. If he does not want the money himself, it would seem to me that the social good he could do with 5 million dollars would substantially outweigh whatever harm to society he thinks using a song in an advertisement will do.
posted by flarbuse at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2005


thankfully, there are musicians like Densmore who have principles, stand by them in the face of enormous amounts of money, and still have a say over their creative product.
posted by NationalKato at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2005


flarbuse, don't point the finger at Densmore. point it at Cadillac and the other corporates who throw 3 times that much money at 30-second pomp and circumstance. your sights are off target.
posted by NationalKato at 10:44 AM on October 5, 2005


Stronger than dirt, damn betcha.
posted by alumshubby at 10:47 AM on October 5, 2005


I heard M.I.A. in a car commercial last night. What the hell?
posted by glenwood at 10:47 AM on October 5, 2005


It's good to see the Doors (or Densmore, at least) taking a stand against it. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" in a Cadillac ad.

On preview, what NationalKato said.
posted by Godbert at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2005


Fantastic. I'm impressed with Densmore. Very few people would be able to stand by their principles indeed for that much money.
posted by grouse at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2005


sorry to triple-post, but another addition to flarbuse's idea:

from the LA Times article:
Densmore relented once. Back in the 1970s, he agreed to let "Riders on the Storm" be used to sell Pirelli Tires in a TV spot in England. When he saw it he was sick. "I gave every cent to charity. Jim's ghost was in my ear, and I felt terrible. If I needed proof that it was the wrong thing to do, I got it."

So, it seems Densmore's probably the most level-headed of the remaining band members.
posted by NationalKato at 10:49 AM on October 5, 2005


In related news ... Simply Red are going the way of Moby, seeking to profit off of their music catalogue being featured in advertisments and films:
"Simply Red are re-recording their entire Warner back catalogue in order to get around copyright issues. Singer Mick Hucknall and his band have already completed new versions of half the 80 or so tracks that the group released during their time with Warner. The new recordings of global hits such as 'Stars' and 'A New Flame' will be owned by Hucknall's own label, simplyred.com...The band hope to use the recordings for advertisements and films." [Guardian Unlimited | September 27, 2005].
posted by ericb at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2005


respect and rock on!
posted by dabitch at 10:54 AM on October 5, 2005


Don't grease my palm with your filthy cash
Multinternationals spreading like a rash
I might stick around or I might be a fad
But I won't sell my songs for no TV ad
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:55 AM on October 5, 2005


flarbuse writes "When I look at things like this, I always think of what the person could do to help other people with their cut. In this case, it looks like his cut would have been 5 million dollars. ...the social good he could do with 5 million dollars would substantially outweigh whatever harm to society he thinks using a song in an advertisement will do."


As Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. $5 million isn't going to change that.

But not paving over our cultural heritage to make a sales lot for Cadillacs means something. As Densmore argues, pimping the song to sell cars pollutes and dilutes memories that really matter to a lot of people.

In fact, if you have a special memory that's associated with a Doors song, why not send John Densmore a measly dollar to thank him for not ruining your cherished memory with greed?

Send the man a dollar, and send Corporate America the message that they can't buy and sell, slice and dice, our shared culture.
posted by orthogonality at 10:55 AM on October 5, 2005


They did allow "Peace Frog" to be used for an episode of Entourage, although it was a pretty respectful and accurate use of the song and not the sort of shilling the Cadillac commercial would have been.
posted by destro at 10:57 AM on October 5, 2005


you know, the more i read of that article, the more Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger are sounding like complete sell-outs.

at one point in the article Manzarek comments about their equal split on all Doors-related profits, including the $8 million earned from the Doors of the 21st Century tours, which Densmore was not a part of and which is now being audited in order to give him a share: "John is going to get about a million dollars for doing nothing," Manzarek said. "He gets an equal share as us, and we were out there working. A free million bucks. That's a gig I'd like."

well, i wonder what kind of 'doing nothing' he attributes to himself for accepting $5 million for shillling Cadillacs? sure, you're old and really no longer important in the grand scheme of current rock n' roll...but as counterculture icons, how about a little backbone?
posted by NationalKato at 10:57 AM on October 5, 2005


I am confused -- I thought the big media conglomerates had bought out and appropriated most licensing rights, thus the flood of "real music" being used in ads.

On another note, both myself and my wife are offended by corporate America's "slicing and dicing" of our young memories, and it does polarize us strongly against the products being pitched. I can't believe these ads don't backfire, but I guess people like whatever's on the tee-vee.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2005


Elvin & Me
The Doors' drummer, John Densmore, remembers his hero, Elvin Jones (1927-2004)


If he does not want the money himself, it would seem to me that the social good he could do with 5 million dollars

I hear you man, but I bet that many Vegas casino would give lots of cash to the Dalai Lama if he agreed to work for them even part-time, you know, greeting gamblers at high-profile poker games. or, say, how much money could he get if only he agreed to star in a Hooters commercial? with all that cash he could help the poor, yes, but...
posted by matteo at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2005


It sounds like they're almost trying to rationalize the use of these songs for corporate commercials: "Look the Rolling Stones, and Zeppelin are doing it, and they're still cool!"

It's nice to see someone who appreciates what his music meant to people, and doesn't want it diluted by endless repetition on TV.
posted by splatta at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2005


to Densmore, not slimy red!
posted by dabitch at 11:04 AM on October 5, 2005


Unless you're an out-of-work jingle writer I don't understand the problem with rock songs being used in commercials. The first band used in a commercial that sort of freaked me out was the Buzzcocks for some SUV 4 or 5 years ago. But then I realized that Pete Shelly was getting a nice paycheck (which was OK with me since the Buzzcocks never got the commercial success I felt they deserved) and that while watching TV I would actually get to hear a bit of the Buzzcocks, which was nice change of pace.

I'd have a problem with the commercialism of it if artists started writing songs specifically for commercials and then put that same song on their album.

I can't think of a song that commercials have ruined for me. There a few that I burned out on during the commercial's run, but I burn out on songs quickly anyway and hearing a song on the radio too much would have the same effect. None of my memories have been tarnished by having a song I associate with those memories used in a commercial either.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2005


I always think of what the person could do to help other people with their cut

you can balance that out with the irrepairable damage done by selling bunches of SUVs. much more than $5 million worth of damage.

go john densmore. it's about time an old hippy stood firm. remember "the greening of america?" that book which said, just wait until all us hippies come of age and control things? ha.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2005




I can understand the need to keep music "pure" and memories intact, but think of it this way: there is a pretty large group of people out there that might /not/ have heard the tunes that are used in the ads, and they might be good tunes, and they might just be the right way for people to listen to songs that might mean something to them... and I don't mean I'm going to run out and buy their product, since I know I'm of the mold that I tend to dissociate the tunes I hear from the shill their shilling. Lots of people out there aren't particularly cool and uber-plugged-in, so this might be the only chance for us to catch bands and tunes that we might like.

Case in point: I'd never had heard of le Tigre (used to hawk Telus products here in Canada) without, and now I bop to them continuously (admittedly there's no real "emotional" tie to the music, so maybe I'm making a bad argument with this... someone back me up!)



(having said all that, I heard lou reed's perfect day was used in some cruise line ad.... if true, then yes, moderately disturbing)
posted by ktalent at 11:15 AM on October 5, 2005


Why does Cadillac think this is a good use of 15 million dollars? I can't imagine that song is going to sell too many cars. IANADF, but won't most Doors fans be turned off, while the rest of the car buying, ear having population simply wouldn't care? Couldn't they buy about 15,000 really catchy jingles with that money? I'd like to see them design some sort of mascot to get to the baby boomers. Maybe some kind of octopus. Or jellyfish. Jellyfish + jingle = much better use of money.
posted by underer at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2005


I wonder if hip hop was the fastest to sell out.

Then again, there is the smooth jazz as demographic creation thing.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:18 AM on October 5, 2005


Unless you're an out-of-work jingle writer...

Good point, the reason all of these corporations are looking to corrupt old songs for advertising is because they are officially out of musical ideas themseleves. Nobody makes jingles anymore. Gone are the days when companies had to make their own creative expression. Who knows how they even afford to spend $5 million for a song in an advertisement. Do their investors know about this?
posted by destro at 11:18 AM on October 5, 2005


I remember seeing an ad for HP digital cameras that used "Pictures Of You" by The Cure. It made me feel old.

At risk of sounding snobbish, to an extent I believe that artists who see absolutely nothing wrong with selling their art to corporations to be appropriated into advertisements are artists for all the wrong reasons.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2005


If he does not want the money himself, it would seem to me that the social good he could do with 5 million dollars

There's the concept of tainted money, though -- if the money is ill-gotten, then it doesn't matter what good you use it for, it's still not right to take it. Whether you could call corporate shill money tainted is open for debate, but if Densmore feels that it is, then I think he is doing the right thing not to take it.
posted by JanetLand at 11:23 AM on October 5, 2005


I owe my discovery of Nick Drake to Volkswagon.

I wonder how many people here are pro Creative Commons but at the same time gack at the thought of Doors songs selling cars? When things are freed some people will do things you don't like with them.

At risk of sounding snobbish, to an extent I believe that artists who see absolutely nothing wrong with selling their art to corporations to be appropriated into advertisements are artists for all the wrong reasons.

You sound more dictatorial than snobbish.
posted by srboisvert at 11:30 AM on October 5, 2005


By the way, my comments above are not criticizing John Densmore for not taking the cash. As the artist, it's great that he's standing for something he believes in. especially a band with an anti establishment legacy like the Doors. It'd be weird, like seeing the Sex Pistols or Manic Street Preachers signing off on commercials.

Also, I understand that Cadillac is, in essence, cheating. They're hoping to take a song by the Doors and transfer consumer's emotions associated to that Doors song to Cadillac. I'd like to think that consumers are smarter than that, but I'm sure Cadillac has some expensive internal report that says otherwise.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:31 AM on October 5, 2005


Real songs on commercials are toxic. When 'Rock and Roll' or 'Revolution' comes over the speakers, you're no longer thinking carefully about what's being advertised. Instead you're enjoying the music and bathing in all the emotions and associations that the tune evokes. It's a kind of bait-and-switch, offering a particular emotional moment but really selling you... a car. A pair of pants. Insurance. What a crock. You don't even hear the entire song and you don't hear it on your terms. The music isn't shared between you and the artist (record companies notwithstanding), whether in the privacy of your home or at a concert; it's in the hands of a company that's holding a few seconds of the tune with one hand while the other fishes in your pocket.

You can tell that the companies aren't interested in the songs by the way they edit the tunes for the ad spots. The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" is a complicated reflection on death and beauty. The car commercial neatly excises all references to death and presents a snippet that guts the meaning. Likewise, the chorus of children singing "The Times They Are A'Changin" for a financial company (forgot who it is) ignores the meaning of the words so thoroughly that it ends up inverting the tune into something kind of sinister. The companies who put these ads out clearly don't like these songs or care about them. Why should we reward them for this?
posted by palinode at 11:31 AM on October 5, 2005


Cadillac thinks its good use because they'd be (realistically) the first to use the Doors in an ad. Think of how numb we all are to Beatles songs. I love the Beatles and think they're great but they've been systematically raped by marketing to the point where they are basically backround noise.

Now I don't believe that The Doors are anywhere near Mozart levels, Jim Morrison was 95% performance (and what a performance it was!) but I have to applaud them for this. Hearing the song, even passively, 14 times a week is annoying. The song no longer has its charm, magic. If an artist wants to sell his songs, I'm all for capitalism. I'm glad that there are those out there who value the artistic integrity more than any monetary value offered. It's no so much that commercialism is inherently bad but marketing by its very nature preys upon our emotions. When you hear "Break on Through" in a commercial it'll trigger a memory, the same memory you'll actively seek out by queueing up the song on your iPod. The difference is the constant repitition anaesthetizes us to that memory and sysematically deconstructs things that we hold dear.
posted by geoff. at 11:32 AM on October 5, 2005


No, he sounds like an artist.
posted by NationalKato at 11:32 AM on October 5, 2005


I wonder if hip hop was the fastest to sell out.

The Black Eyed Peas managed to sell out before they got famous. Those guys turn selling out into an art-form. That said, hip-hop certainly doesn't have the anti-wealth materialist aspects of the beatniks/punks who came up with rock and roll.

Will Eminem, Marlin Manson, System of a Down be shilling hydrogen powered flying cars in 20 or 30 years? Perhaps "Prison Song" will help signify the freedom you feel flitting around in your Lexus rocket plane!
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on October 5, 2005


Also

"There she goes, there she goes again..." Perfect song for a commercial about a product that keeps women 'regular'. What? It's about Heroin?

And I just can't complaineyeyeyeyain!
posted by delmoi at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2005


While the argument can be made that more people might be exposed to the music, wouldn't it be better if they were exposed to it for the first time in a better setting? I see he allows them to license it out for movies, so it's not like they aren't making money from it. They also sold more records in the past fifteen years than a lot of popular bands did. I'd say their legacy is fine, and their cash flow can't be hurting too bad either.

I used to be sick of hearing good music used to sell stuff, then I got a DVR from my cable company and ceased to hear any at all.
posted by inthe80s at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2005


srboisvert : I wonder how many people here are pro Creative Commons but at the same time gack at the thought of Doors songs selling cars? When things are freed some people will do things you don't like with them.

I'm very much pro-CC, and I completely understand that people can and will do things I don't like with music I do. I don't really understand what CC has to do with this, though--the songs in the Doors catalog are still controlled by the surviving members of the Doors. If they had released them freely, and then Densmore tried to block Cadillac from using one of them, that's a lot different than this situation. I certainly don't advocate forcing anyone to give up their rights to a song, nor the discretion about who can use it for what.
posted by Godbert at 11:39 AM on October 5, 2005


In the case of "The Doors" it gets somewhat complicated since one member is dead, and the remaining members aren't united around anything in perticular. With joint rights like this, yah, it's always gonna suck for someone if they don't all agree on the same subjects. Right or wrong isn't an Issue I wish to speak to right now.

However, if an artists... Let's just use myself as an example... Writes, composes, and copyrights a song, it's my choice on how that work of art should be appreciated. Just because you don't like artists who "Sell Out", doesn't mean I have to give a shit what you think. Your opinion of what I "Should" do with my art is completely useless.

Again, i'm not argureing right or wong on the intial post's content. I'm just saying that the art belongs to the artist, not the people, and the artist can do what they want with it. Anyone who thinks otherwise might ought to rethink their station in life.
posted by DuffStone at 11:39 AM on October 5, 2005


oddly enough, there's an askmefi answer with DJ/rupture's blog in it--yesterday he wrote about being offered the corporate cash.

How would we feel about some cool band selling out to, say, the Red Cross (not to imply that Coldplay is cool or anything)?

3.2.3: maybe I'm just way out of the loop, but would 30 seconds of The Doors actually sell five million dollars worth of SUV's? Do iconographic jingle-blips actually work? This sounds like an interesting bit for a study of some sort, but I'd have no idea where to look.
posted by hototogisu at 11:41 AM on October 5, 2005


And I just can't complaineyeyeyeyain!

I thought it was "contaieyeyeyeyain". Now, with that nit picked - it's about heroin? Do Sixpence None the Richer know about this?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:41 AM on October 5, 2005


Densmore should be glad they all agreed on a unanimous vote in 1970-- this sounds a lot like what Jello Biafra got sued for by the rest of the Dead Kennedys.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2005


artists who see absolutely nothing wrong with selling their art to corporations to be appropriated into advertisements are artists for all the wrong reasons.

None but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2005


DuffStone, Morrison might be dead, but before he died they all agreed that any licensing would be decided unanimously or not at all - this, after a car company wanted to shill their cars with a Doors song.

So at this point, only Densmore is honoring Morrison's desires.
posted by NationalKato at 11:46 AM on October 5, 2005


contain it is.

Kudos on Dinsmore (though I remember reading a virtually identical article about 8-9 years ago ...)

My two most offensive rock commercials are CCR's "Favorite Son" selling designer jeans (Hilfiger?) and Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" selling (ick!) Coors. Nick Drake's Volkswagen was a bit of a kick in the nuts too, as was Bloc Party's Target stunt.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:47 AM on October 5, 2005


None but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

Are you calling me a blockhead? Grrr.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:48 AM on October 5, 2005


John Densmore has been feuding with the other two surviving Doors since he sued them from using the name "The Doors" during the 2002 "reunion" tour. Now they tour as "Riders of the Storm" without Densmore.

Either way no Cadillac commerical can make me more tired of hearing a song that commercial radio has played 9billion times already. Densmore may as well cash in. It's only rock n' roll.
posted by StarForce5 at 11:49 AM on October 5, 2005


You go, John Densmore. Good move on two fronts. I agree with your principled stand, number 1, and I don't have to listen to 20 seconds of the rock I grew up on shilling corporate shit. That goes double for Jaguar's use of London Calling. In that case, they gave 'em too much rope.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2005


I'm just saying that the art belongs to the artist, not the people, and the artist can do what they want with it. - DuffStone

Agreed. What a challenging situation for the guys in the band, though. Because two of them want to put in the ad, but the third guy is able to veto it. If you're gonna get famous in a band, better hope you REALLY like and know and trust the other people in it. It's like a marriage where you have kids together. Even if you divorce, you will constantly still be in each other's lives and affecting each other even if you hate each other - pretty much forever. Of course once you're good and rich, you can do all the bickering through high-priced lawyers. But you're still in each other's lives.
posted by raedyn at 11:53 AM on October 5, 2005


You know, you could just not watch commercials.
posted by bshort at 11:55 AM on October 5, 2005


posted by Peter H I would buy a Cadillac if they used that "Father, I want to kill you / Mother I want to fuck you" Morrison jingle. You know, for the Spring line.

I was thinking for a Cadillac SUVs rollover-safety spot they could use lines from Five To One--"No one here gets out alive."

I was bummed when I heard "London Calling" in the Jaguar ad and The Ramones being used to sell SUVs. Nice to see someone from a band I always liked with principles and a backbone--I'm surprised Manzarek is so eager to trade in his hours for a handful of dimes.

Way to be, John.
posted by fandango_matt at 11:56 AM on October 5, 2005


None but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

Don't worry. You may not be remembered for much after you're gone, but your money will surely comfort you.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:57 AM on October 5, 2005


Morrison might be dead, but before he died they all agreed that any licensing would be decided unanimously or not at all ... So at this point, only Densmore is honoring Morrison's desires. - NationalKato

I don't think you can fairly speculate on what a dead guy might have done these years later if he wasn't dead. People change. Now he's dead and doesn't get a vote anymore. But they are honouring the agreement - since it isn't unianimous, they don't do the deal.
posted by raedyn at 12:01 PM on October 5, 2005


When Neil Young's 'This note 's for you' gets turned into an advertisement, do we get to declare the '60s counterculture movement a complete failure?
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:02 PM on October 5, 2005


Slack-a-gogo writes "Unless you're an out-of-work jingle writer I don't understand the problem with rock songs being used in commercials. The first band used in a commercial that sort of freaked me out was the Buzzcocks for some SUV 4 or 5 years ago."

What about Chevy Trucks, Like a Rock? That campaign is like from the mid 80s at least. Seger sold out before the Buzzcocks did. Incidentally, I dislike Seger strongly (live in Michigan, the classic rock stations play waaaay too much Silver Bullet Band depressing tripe, burned out on it very quickly) so the truck campaign just annoys me. Lust for Life in a cruise commercial though, that pisses me off. And I'm damn sick of The Who popping up everywhere. When I hear the opening strains of Baba O'Reilly I want to NOT immediately think of CSI. Fuckers. (Besides, if The Who want to make money from their music through corporate licensing, why not actually use the songs from The Who Sell Out, which contains commercial jingles to begin with?)

Slack-a-gogo writes "I'd like to think that consumers are smarter than that, but I'm sure Cadillac has some expensive internal report that says otherwise."

More like evidence that we can discriminate jingles from "real" music, and have an easier time tuning out the jingles. Because of the aforementioned memories associated with the rock songs, it's harder to tune out.

I have a lot more respect for Densmore for taking a stand. Manzarek I pretty much have been annoyed with ever since he dubbed Kurt Cobain "an American poet". I'm not saying Cobain was a nobody, just that it pissed me off to see Manzarek throwing the phrase around like that. Nirvana was not The Doors.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:03 PM on October 5, 2005


(You know, somehow I interpreted that as "the first band I remember hearing sell out" instead of "the first time it freaked me out to hear it". Sorry, Slack-a-gogo, feel free to ignore that first part of my comment.)
posted by caution live frogs at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2005


bshort : You know, you could just not watch commercials.

It's surprisingly difficult to avoid commercials, if you go out and do things. Plenty of bars and restaurants have TVs on (with commercials), so if you go out to dinner or for a drink, you still get the exposure (you don't have to watch, but the audio is still there). Plenty of other stores I've seen have TVs on, too, from small mom-and-pop stores to supermarkets. Or when you go to a friend's house and they have the TV on.

I don't watch that much TV now (I think I've seen all the old episodes of Law & Order by now, and the new episodes of L&O/CSI ... suck) but when I do, I make a point of muting the commercials and not paying attention. It just doesn't work when someone else "has control" of the TV (i.e., it isn't your set).
posted by Godbert at 12:07 PM on October 5, 2005


Beatles' 'Come Together' for a Nortel commercial was a little surreal for me, and not in a good way.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:09 PM on October 5, 2005


For me it was all over when I heard Iggy Pop for that cruise line. I know he probably really did need the money, but still . . .
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:13 PM on October 5, 2005


Didn't any discussion on this topic become moot once we heard Janis in the Mercedes ad?
posted by mkultra at 12:14 PM on October 5, 2005


The first band used in a commercial that sort of freaked me out was the Buzzcocks for some SUV 4 or 5 years ago. But then I realized that Pete Shelly was getting a nice paycheck (which was OK with me since the Buzzcocks never got the commercial success I felt they deserved) and that while watching TV I would actually get to hear a bit of the Buzzcocks, which was nice change of pace.

Reading this made me feel sick to my stomach (sorry Slack-a-GoGo). As someone who has been in bands for quite awhile now, this whole issue really sticks in my craw & the way this sort of selling out has 'become mainstream' just makes me hate humankind sometimes. Are people really this appathetic and stupid?

Despite what ad execs would have you believe, nothing's changed. It's not cool to sell your songs to companies to help them sell crap to people. It's disgusting, and IMHO negates your credibility & insults your audience (not that I'm completely opposed to insulting your audience...). It's just gross really. One more reason I never watch TV anymore.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:16 PM on October 5, 2005


Not to be repetitive but I'm not disputing the issue specific to the surviving "Doors". The agreement they have is theirs to have, and they exercise it how they wish (or previously agreed upon).

My issue is with those who enjoy art, who think they own the art, because it somehow means something to them. When the reality of the situation, is that the artist (or whomever bought the rights or shares of rights) owns the work of art, and they can do with it what they want. Being a fan, or being moved, or having it shape a generation doesn't change the fact that the work of art ultimately belongs to those who either created it, or sold it's rights. common folk don't, and shouldn't have a say in it.

Sorry for the hard line on this, but when it comes to my rights as a musician, I'm pretty hardcore about it being "My" property and not subject to public scrutiny.
posted by DuffStone at 12:17 PM on October 5, 2005


not subject to public scrutiny. - Duff

Probably ought to clairify this by saying that if that means I don't sell any albums, so be it. It's my choice to make, not yours.
posted by DuffStone at 12:19 PM on October 5, 2005


Wait, how much say do artists actually have in the licensing and usage of their work? Do they maintain full creative control over their work, or do the record companies own the rights? I remember Frank Zappa buying back the rights to all his songs from the record companies--how does this work, exactly?
posted by fandango_matt at 12:19 PM on October 5, 2005


I'm glad he didn't do it, just because that's a few less times I'll have to hear another Doors song in my life. The thing is, it's easy to take a 'principled stand' when you can afford to. It's easy say 'do it for the art' or because of it's mythical status when you already have millions in the bank. If he's so concerned about the art he needs to go to every mall record store and get rid of the shirtless Jim Morrison posters, or the millions upon millions of shirts, hats, pins, etc that he's sold and made millions off of. If it's all about the art.
posted by petri at 12:20 PM on October 5, 2005


when it comes to my rights as a musician, I'm pretty hardcore about it being "My" property

Interesting. I'm a musician, too, and I'm pretty hardcore about it being "the world's" property, in that there is not an interval, chord, or musical trope I've ever used that was not inspired by something else.

I feel strongly that all the songs I write are "implicit" in my culture and its history, and that I'm just the guy who pulled it out of the air. My favorite songs I've written, the most "inspired" are also the ones that "feel the least proprietary," if that makes any sense.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:26 PM on October 5, 2005


Fandango:

It's all in the contract buddy. It's where having a savvy manager or a lawyer really makes a difference.

I for instance, don't deal with labels, I have 3 songs that are "Poor Man Copyrighted", whereas I composed, recorded, mixed, produced, mastered my own works, then committed them to staff (as best as possible), basically documenting as much of them as possible. Then I mailed them to myself. The last one I sent certified (Yah that's a laugh)...

short of joining up with ASCAP, which (if I remember correctly) requires you to be published before they'll accept you as a member, you really have to work to secure your rights to musical works. I have the "Correct" documents and procedures, but it's a huge pain.

To your question though, the label can take care of ALL of this for you, they publish you, they register the property, and they retain a share of the ownership. Generally this is how it works. They also can front groups money so they can afford to have their music professionally produced.

Like I said, it's all in the deal.
posted by DuffStone at 12:26 PM on October 5, 2005


sonofsamiam-

I completely respect that. Most of my music is so personal that only a few have heard it, and I protect it diligently. Partly cause I think it sucks, and am embarrased to share it (yah, I'm a musician with major confidence and stage fright issues), and part because it really does mean something to me that transends what it actually is. that being music.

I'd feel the same if I wrote words instead of music. It's just who I am.
posted by DuffStone at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2005


srboisvert : I wonder how many people here are pro Creative Commons but at the same time gack at the thought of Doors songs selling cars?

Depending on the CC license, you can license stuff to the Commons while prohibiting it being used in commercial ventures.

mrgrimm: My two most offensive rock commercials are CCR's "Favorite Son" selling designer jeans (Hilfiger?)

Fogerty had no control over that. Blame Zaentz.

caution live frogs: Nirvana was not The Doors.

Yeah, Nirvana was good.
posted by keswick at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2005


"People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music," Densmore said. "I've had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn't commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent."

Sorry to be repetitive, but he really says it all right there.
And all those people in the article and the thread saying "get with the times", "so and so does it", don't get, never did, never will.
posted by signal at 12:32 PM on October 5, 2005


...don't get it, never did, never will.
posted by signal at 12:32 PM on October 5, 2005


Sorry for the hard line on this, but when it comes to my rights as a musician, I'm pretty hardcore about it being "My" property and not subject to public scrutiny.

But consider: the Doors would never have been accepted, back in the day, if people had known the emotional investment they were making in the music would later be turned around and used to sell them things. Their credibility would have been less than zero, their success wouldn't have happened, and the current value of their music would be precisely nothing.
posted by scheptech at 12:39 PM on October 5, 2005


Partly cause I think it sucks, and am embarrased to share it

You wouldn't believe me if I told you how hard it was for me to actually get up there and do the performance thing (and I've still got a long ways to go) but stick it out, man. People always enjoy hearing original music. It's a lot easier to share than original poetry ;)

I do worry about conflicts like this in the future with my other band members, though. I guess we should hash it all out before it ever becomes an issue.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:41 PM on October 5, 2005


what's more depressing/hilarious is recognizing that the choice of music is purely the result of a search for a particular phrase in the lyrics, context be damned. i remember laughing out loud a few years ago when a commerical for some football league played "32 Flavors" by Ani Difranco.

It's like the phrase-level manner in which some people 'interpret' say...the Bible, or the Constitution.
posted by arialblack at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2005


Didn't any discussion on this topic become moot once we heard Janis in the Mercedes ad?

DING! That was the other one. My jaw dropped when I saw that commercial. "Do they know what that song's about?" However, it disappeared rather quickly, if I remember correctly.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:01 PM on October 5, 2005


i_am_joe's_spleen: None but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

sonofsamiam: Don't worry. You may not be remembered for much after you're gone, but your money will surely comfort you.

Yeah, it's a good thing Samuel Johnson got rich, because otherwise nobody would remember him.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:11 PM on October 5, 2005


Well, hell. What is this place that I keep getting put in?
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:16 PM on October 5, 2005



Didn't any discussion on this topic become moot once we heard Janis in the Mercedes ad?


The all-time best was Microsoft touting Windows95 with the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up"--the song with the refrain, "You make a grown man cry!" Ha.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:18 PM on October 5, 2005


petri: There's a considerable difference between promotion (meaning posters and tees to sell a band and its image, which are about as innocuous as concert shirts) and a television commercial that absconds with the music's original intent and, indeed, subverts it. If you genuinely believe that a band can survive without a single form of promotional publicity, then I truly wonder what laughable universe you live in.

Even Fatboy Slim managed to find a way out by creating the requisite music video for "Weapon of Choice" without revealing his likeness, all while not compromising his music (in that context, anyway) or his desire to be some kind of vapid telegenic personality. The result? A fantastic video in the process.
posted by ed at 1:29 PM on October 5, 2005


(his desire not)
posted by ed at 1:29 PM on October 5, 2005


Wake me up when they start using GG Allin or Jandek tunes in commercials...
posted by AJaffe at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2005


I still think Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell," would be a great Taco Bell ad.
posted by jonmc at 1:32 PM on October 5, 2005


a television commercial that absconds with the music's original intent and, indeed, subverts it

I think that's the sticking point for those of us who hate popular songs in commercials.

The song itself means one thing (or many different things to many different people). The particular snippet of that song that gets in the commercial, accompanied by visual clues as to its portent, means something else entirely. Does that new meaning have any value to listeners? I think not.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:34 PM on October 5, 2005


None but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

Are you calling me a blockhead? Grrr.


If I were wittier I would have said GOOD GRIEF!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2005


I don't believe that promotion is bad at all and this isn't about the Doors' survival. What I was getting at is that Densmore is trying to make the Doors into this mythical, pure art that it's just not, at least anymore, if it ever was. The amount that the Doors as a brand has already been sold out en masse to the public, I think, takes away from some of that purity or import that Densmore seems to think it has.
posted by petri at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2005


Didn't any discussion on this topic become moot once we heard Janis in the Mercedes ad?

This Janis?

The closer I get to death the more I come to realise that marketing/advertising is a pollutant, and those who refuse to prostitute themselves to Satan's little helpers deserve my respect.

Ironically, I hate the doors and truly believe if Jim Morrison was alive today he'd be a corporate whore the likes of which would make Jagger and Sting blanche.
posted by fullerine at 1:37 PM on October 5, 2005


(I think I've seen all the old episodes of Law & Order by now, and the new episodes of L&O/CSI ... suck) - Godbert

But did you see the CSI episode(s) that Tarantino directed? It was much better than the usual ones. Sorry - saw it for the first time last night and was impressed.


/completely off-topic
posted by raedyn at 1:38 PM on October 5, 2005


Every time I see a new commercial or TV show using a Who song, I know that Townshend is running low on cash again, and the trigger for their endless Farewell Tours is when Daltrey's bank account is looking sketchy.

That said...

I dunno, nobody ever heard my music because my record deal fell through before it really even got started. If someone offered me a couple mil to use one of my tunes in a commercial, I'd take that deal without hesitation at this point. Being poor sucks - my income potential is better than average but it's not going to make me rich, and since I work in entertainment I could be jobless next week and broke shortly thereafter - and my retirement fund isn't exactly brimming over. Plus, if people responded well to the song I might be able to find a market for my music that I just make anyway.

A lot of the aging rock stars have big bills to pay, have gotten "accustomed to a lifestyle," paying alimony and child support etc. etc. I'm sure each one that agrees to license a song to a corporation has different motives.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:39 PM on October 5, 2005


I remember seeing an ad for HP digital cameras that used "Pictures Of You" by The Cure. It made me feel old.

On a related note, HP blew it big-time in an earlier ad for that same product line wherein they used "Picture Book" by the Kinks. You know, the one with the refrain:

Picture book, of people with each other, to prove they loved each other a long time ago.

and

Picture book, when you were just a baby, those days when you were happy, a long time ago.

It's like some asshole at the ad firm just googled for "photo album" and there was Ray Davies with a smile and legal bills to pay...
posted by joe lisboa at 2:36 PM on October 5, 2005


... I retract my snark if the aforementioned asshole was deliberately targeting the "old and miserable" demographic.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2005


Glenwood: M.I.A.'s Honda commercial noted, with dismay.

Not all sell-outs are equal. The Clash selling out to Jaguar, and M.I.A. to Honda, are more galling b/c of those acts' stated political beliefs.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:50 PM on October 5, 2005


I weep for the legion Britney fans out there. In 30 years they'll be listening to old Brit signing about laxatives, panty shields, and mydol and all for such lousy music in the first place. At least the Doors, Kinks, Stones, Who fans had something original and inspired by something other than raw commercialism going on for a short while there when they were young. Eh, on second thought they'll probaby find it easier...
posted by scheptech at 2:52 PM on October 5, 2005


I remember (perhaps even correctly) when The Stranglers were offered a bunch of money to use 'Golden Brown' in a bread (?) commercial. They said sure and everything was go, until someone told the commercial people that the song was about heroin. They dropped it.
More often than not when I hear a good song used for a commercial, I can remember all the lyrics and just think "wow, you're using a song about sex and/or the plastic culture we live in [Buzzcocks' Why Can't I Touch It?] to sell a freakin' car? christ you're stupid, and so's your product."

I quite liked when Chumbawamba sold their "song [Pass It Along] to General Motors for $70,000 -- but give the money to activists' campaign against the firm." Using a system against itself, and with a nice twist of humour in it too. Admittedly it seems to be slightly different than using 'Break On Through', as they (the Doors) don't seem to have any ulterior motive, aside from money. Except for Densmore, who is, apparently, made of steel. Good for him for sticking to his guns.
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:53 PM on October 5, 2005


Here's a letter by Tom Waits to the Nation, which he wrote in response to the article Densmore wrote about this event after it first happened in 2002. Densmore's article is also linked from the above and makes a good read.

Waits himself has had a history of vigorously opposing commercial appropriation of his songs, in particular in a case against Frito-Lay, and just recently suing GM for allegedly hiring a sound-alike for some of its European ads. Oddly enough, the circumstances of the recent suit seem almost exactly the same as those in the Frito-Lay case.

"Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad -- ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor," Waits said in a statement. "While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers."

He's my hero.
posted by whir at 3:04 PM on October 5, 2005


[Buzzcocks' Why Can't I Touch It?] to sell a freakin' car?

Just a minor point, but it was What Do I Get It? that was used in an SUV commercial. Why Can't I Touch It? was used to sell VH1.
posted by jonp72 at 3:05 PM on October 5, 2005


Densmore actually wrote an article about this back in July 2002, in the Nation, where the "People lost their virginity..." quote first appeared, and where Manzarek is portrayed as the greedy prick and Krieger is somewhere in between. Densmore's Rant was greeted with high praise from Tom Waits and contains Densmore's whole philosophy on the issue.

BTW the Nation article produced at the time (it would, wouldn't it) a MeFi post, where the same themes were discussed, yet it seems that there were somewhat fewer Mefites critical of selling out than now - which is as far as I'm concerned a good thing.

BTW: where I live Patty Smith is used to sell cell phones, which isn't nice at all.
posted by talos at 3:07 PM on October 5, 2005


Eh actually the "Lost their virginity" is said in a different manner and isn't a direct quote... but it's the same argument.
posted by talos at 3:12 PM on October 5, 2005


Good for Densmore.

I like Tom Waits' take on this. He wrote a letter about it to The Nation:

"Corporations are hoping to hijack a culture's memories for their product. They want an artist's audience, credibility, good will and all the energy the songs have gathered as well as given over the years. They suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product."
posted by marxchivist at 3:13 PM on October 5, 2005


jonp72 - Ah ok... I watch very little TV, so couldn't remember which song went with what. It still seems that my "cockbiters not listening to the lyrics before using the song" still stands, both for the car and VH1. Heh.
"I only get sleepless nights
Alone here in my half-empty bed
For you things seem to turn out right
I wish they'd only happen to me instead
What do I get
Oh oh what do I get"

posted by Zack_Replica at 3:16 PM on October 5, 2005


Does any one else laugh at the "cruise" line that uses Iggy's Lust for Life as their theme?
posted by beelzbubba at 3:17 PM on October 5, 2005


It's hard not to hold Densmore's position under a bit of suspicion, seeing as he tried to keep his ex bandmates from working. Not just from using the Doors name, but from actually working, and then when he couldn't stop them from working he wanted a cut from their shows, while he stayed at home doing nothing because his limited chops weren't holding up & the tinnitus had set in (the reason why he declined when Manzerak asked him to come along for the 2nd ride). He wasn't the sole founding member, and sloppy addict Jim couldn't keep his shit together, so I say let the ones who had what it took to remain standing do whatever the fuck they want with their own product/legacy. As for the trauma of hearing an old song in a tv advert, well, one's youthful memories should still hold up without a soundtrack attached.
posted by zarah at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2005


beelzbubba - especially since the song was used so well in Trainspotting that for me it constantly brings up images of crazed junkies vaulting cars and running into things. A cruise line? No, just the intravenous injection, please!
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2005


What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

Dead president's corpse in the driver's car
The engine runs on glue and tar
Come on along, not goin' very far
To the East to meet the Czar


Successful hills are here to stay, Everything must be this way
Gentle streets where people play, Welcome to the Soft Parade
All our lives we sweat and save, Building for a shallow grave
Must be something else we say, Somehow to defend this place
Everything must be this way, Everything must be this way, yeah

The lights are getting brighter
The radio is moaning, Calling to the dogs
There are still a few animals, Left out in the yard
But it's getting harder, To describe sailors, To the underfed

We need someone new, Somethin' new, Somethin' else to get us through
Better bring your gun, Better bring your gun
Tropic corridor, Tropic treasure, We're gonna ride and have some fun


When all else fails, We can [they will] whip the horse's eyes
And make them sleep, And cry

posted by swlabr at 3:56 PM on October 5, 2005


he trigger for their endless Farewell Tours is when Daltrey's bank account is looking sketchy

I saw The Who's first farewell tour. In 1982.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:35 PM on October 5, 2005


More often than not when I hear a good song used for a commercial, I can remember all the lyrics and just think "wow, you're using a song about sex and/or the plastic culture we live in [Buzzcocks' Why Can't I Touch It?] to sell a freakin' car? christ you're stupid, and so's your product."

Volkswagen used a Psychic TV song about both the Tate/LaBianca slayings and Roman Polanski's enjoyment of little girls to hawk their wares once. That was pretty awesome.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 4:37 PM on October 5, 2005


Holy crap you're right!! I'd totally forgotten that. I remember staring and gaping at the TV and shouting at the girlfriend that Psychic TV's using Volkwagen to push their music and Polanski's unusual sexual tastes.
We laughed... PTV on TV - very awesome indeed.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:56 PM on October 5, 2005


I just remembered something--according to No One Here Gets Out Alive, Buick once approached The Doors, asking to use "Light My Fire" in a commercial. Morrison's reasons for declining back then are the same reasons John Densmore is now giving today.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:13 PM on October 5, 2005


said John Branca, an attorney who worked on the Cadillac proposal. "I told him that, really, people don't frown on this anymore. It's considered a branding exercise for the music.

Oh, fuck you. What a load of crap. Someone needs to kick John Branca right square in the nuts.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:17 PM on October 5, 2005


"Viewers have a way of remembering the celebrity while forgetting the product. I did not know this when I paid Eleanor Roosevelt $35,000 to make a commercial for margarine. She reported that her mail was equally divided. 'One half was sad because I had damaged my reputation. The other half was happy because I had damaged my reputation.'"
posted by Slothrup at 6:12 PM on October 5, 2005


I've read this whole bloody thread and I didn't come across a single argument that persuades me to believe that using artwork in a manner that subverts its original meaning is hunky dory.

palinode

mr.grimm

Both well spoken.
posted by recurve at 6:42 PM on October 5, 2005


Densmore is not a whore like McCartney and the Stones and Townsend (Hummer commercials to Happy Jack?!?!?!?) and the rest of his old band. Good for him. . I actually came in here to post this thread but fortunately did a search first.

My wife worked with Densmore's daughter. . .so I have been hearing about this for some time. . . I am really glad for his stand and I hope he stays strong in the face of all this ugliness.
posted by Danf at 6:51 PM on October 5, 2005


Now, I'm depressed. This makes me think I won't be able to convince Fugazi to let me use Merchandise for the new Gap commercials. Or Styrofoam for those retro McDonalds commercials I was thinking about.
posted by effwerd at 7:03 PM on October 5, 2005


Speaking of Fugazi, here's a somewhat related story about Minor Threat's artwork being ripped off by Nike. It's similar to the two Tom Waits cases in that the ad agencies just decided to manufacture their own ersatz versions of the art in question instead of actually licensing the art in question.
posted by whir at 11:23 PM on October 5, 2005


"cockbiters not listening to the lyrics before using the song"

"Cockbiters" is especially appropriate here, given how the Buzzcocks have lots of coded homoerotic lyrics. Ad execs have probably not picked up on the gay implications of Orgasm Addict or Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen in Love With.
posted by jonp72 at 4:26 AM on October 6, 2005


Count me in on thinking that the cockbiters should actually know the song. Whenever I saw the HP "Pictures of You" spot, it just made me think about being in high school and crying over pictures of my ex instead of buying a printer.
posted by superkim at 5:40 AM on October 6, 2005


I've read this whole bloody thread and I didn't come across a single argument that persuades me to believe that using artwork in a manner that subverts its original meaning is hunky dory. - recurve

Self-selection bias. This crowd doesn't tend to admit to appreciating or being taken in by crass commercialism. Unless it's Mac related commercialism.
posted by raedyn at 8:18 AM on October 6, 2005


"Cockbiters" is especially appropriate here, given how the Buzzcocks have lots of coded homoerotic lyrics.

"Why Can't I touch It", indeed. The ad people trying to be cool-and-hip and not only failing miserably, but succeeding in standing with their pants down because they don't know the real implications of the song makes me happy. Like Chumbawamba selling their song, and taking all the money and giving it to people who are fighting the company, now with their own money. Beautiful sedition. Also makes me never want to buy their product.
I'd never read that piece by Mr. Waits - thanks for the link.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:04 AM on October 6, 2005


Generally I hate it when songs I recognize at all get used for ads. But I did get a kick out of it when a beer commercial used "Locomotive Breath" a few years ago - carefully cutting off just before the lyrics began, of course.
posted by dilettante at 6:00 PM on October 6, 2005


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