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Mashed Notes

Meatloaf Sells GM

As part of its new "test drive the car overnight" program (also known as the "commit multiple robberies of convenience stores in cars that are extremely difficult to trace" program), GM is flogging the deal with an excerpt from the Meatloaf / Jim Steinman musical monolith "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." As we are treated to what's meant to be a soothing shot of GM vehicles sitting contentedly in a luxurious driveway – and if you've got that much driveway, buying a GM vehicle, any GM vehicle, is something you do out of pocket change, the man the New York Times once famously called "Mr. Loaf" begs the listener to let him sleep on it, announcing that he'll give you an answer in the morning. One wonders, however, if anyone at GM Marketing actually bothered to listen to the rest of the song. It doesn't take a lot of textual analysis to realize that "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is all about the horrific long-term consequences of being locked into a relationship because of one night's worth of heavy-breathing infatuation. If that's not a metaphor for the GM purchase process, I don't know what is, but you'd think the marketing boys would want to disguise that fact a little bit. On the bright side, though, the car probably doesn't come with a voice-over from Phil Rizzuto. One can live in hope, at least.

The New Hyundai Brick

You have to hand it to Ian Anderson, stilt-walking frontman for the increasingly zombie-like Jethro Tull. When Hyundai came calling, wanting to use "Thick as a Brick" for a car ad, Anderson not only signed on, but he re-recorded the forty-five seconds of flute solo that the company wanted for the ad's soundtrack. Now, bearing in mind that Thick as a Brick is a dense, multi-layered work that spans two sides of an LP and takes 44 or so minutes to play, and also bearing in mind that no one remembers 43 minutes, 15 seconds of it – in other words, anything but that flute solo – Anderson did pretty well on this one. Presumably, Hyundai did take him aside to make sure that the lyrical bit where he spits "Your sperm's in the gutter, your love's in the sink" didn't make it into the re-recording, no doubt because some nervous marketing executive didn't want the latest sedan referred to as "the spoogemobile" by the American public. Or at least that tiny percentage that admits to having once bought Jethro Tull albums, anyway.

The Clash Sells Out

Now that all of the heartfelt tributes from rock critics who haven't liked any album in twenty years have finally died down, we can face the truth bravely: Joe Strummer's dead. Officially, cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but let's face it: Joe Strummer could not live in a world where "London Calling" was used to advertise Jaguars. Not just cars. Not just expensive cars. Jaguars, or, as the Brits pronounce it, "Jag-yoo-arrs". We're talking the very epitome of the class divide that the Clash assailed so brilliantly in songs like "White Riot" (Note the mandatory reference to the Clash's back catalog. Anyone writing about the Clash is forced by union regulations to mention either "White Riot" or "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" or else risk having your license revoked by large, angry, shaven-headed men who used to play fullback for Arsenal. Mention that the Sandinista and Cut the Crap albums pretty much sucked, and you're taken out back for a beating). And to add insult to injury, the commercial takes "London Calling" and slathers it over a retro fantasy of Austin Powers-style "kewl Britannia", the very sort of cozy middle-class Ealing Studio fiction that the Clash, in theory, detested. But now that their place in history as eternally angry young men is assured, no one seems to mind. It's quaint, it's ironic, it's nostalgic – but it just feels wrong. Somehow, the jeans commercial using "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" wasn't quite so bad. Somehow.

The Automatic Richard Thompson Album Review Generator

Richard Thompson, much-beloved guitar virtuoso and founding member of Fairport Convention (also mandatory to mention, I've found), has a new CD out. This happens roughly once every fifteen or so months, and like clockwork the reviews are sprouting all over. Music critics the world over love Thompson for his superb songwriting. They admire his brilliant lyrics, which are biting one moment and tender the next. They drool in awe over the pyrotechnics of his guitar playing. And they sigh in relief at the fact that he's only got about a four note singing range, which confirms the fantasy that they could sing this stuff, too, if they really wanted to. But a funny thing happens on the way to the page. Every Thompson review is like every other. "Blah blah long awaited new album, blah blah much better than the last one which was overproduced, blah blah this is the masterpiece which will finally introduce him to a mass audience." Now, if this is your first experience reading a review of a Thompson CD, you nod, smile, take it in, and believe it. But if you've been a fan for a while, you say "Hmm." You go online. You dig up the reviews of the last CD, in this case Mock Tudor. And you find that they say that it's the long-awaited new album that's much better than the overproduced last one, and that it will be the one that will finally break Thompson big time. Then, if you're feeling really brave, you look for the reviews for the album preceding that, and you find the exact same thing. Song titles change, but otherwise it's lather, rinse, repeat clear back to the Henry the Human Fly album, back in the early 70s. I'm glad critics like Thompson and make an effort to get him a little exposure. I like the fact that they're waxing rhapsodic about the latest disc which, if the tracks he played live at a recent show are any indication, is damn fine. And I love the fact that I could pad my freelance income nicely by writing one Richard Thompson review and sell it over and over and over again.

Zeppelins and Cadillacs

Cadillac, a subsidiary of GM (and clearly part of the General Motors Ministry of Guys Who Like Guitar Rock But Just Don't Get It) is now using Led Zeppelin to advertise its entire line of lumbering automotive behemoths. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, because what says "hedonism, rebellion and rock'n'roll" like a titanic land yacht that gets 9 miles to the gallon and costs the GNP of Namibia to purchase? Mind you, the Cadillac Escalade is to gasoline what Zep was to drugs and fourteen-year-old groupies, but I'd say that's about as far as the relationship goes. You wonder how many Caddy drivers will proudly spout off the trivia tidbit that the young Jimmy Page made a habit of dating girls confined to a local mental institution for compulsive masturbation. Knowing that will definitely add some prestige to your overburdened, overwide, hideously ugly ride, don't you think? Then again, in the next commercial we may see Jimmy Page shoving a live red snapper up an SUV's tailpipe. Now that would forge a connection...

Because Ben Affleck's Moved On

Ever since she unraveled her Yentl-issue breast-compressing bandages in Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow has been canonized as what can only be called "the thinking man's hottie of choice." Never mind that most of her films are unwatchable, or that there are any number of other highly intelligent, highly attractive actresses in Hollywood – Gwyneth got nekkid in a movie about Shakespeare, and that's enough to give her Emma Thompson's abandoned crown as "actress we liberal writer types don't feel bad about drooling over." And now, Gwyneth is supposedly getting all lovey-dovey with the lead singer of Coldplay, whiny human bobblehead doll Chris Martin. According to one recent press report, she's even taken to packing his lunches, though I'm not sure quite how that works when the band is touring – "Honey, I made you lunch!" "Great, I'll swing by London to pick it up between the shows in Dubuque and the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds." Now, one can applaud Martin for his luck, talent and perseverance. After all, Coldplay's managed a remarkable trans-Atlantic success story, their music is judged by many folks to be interesting, and the band's managed to do it without having any members who could even remotely be labeled "attractive." So we can only take the fact that Martin's ladykilling prowess is proof that the universe demands one Billy Joel-Christie Brinkley coupling at a time. Lyle and Julia, you had your turn. Now it's Gwyneth and Chris, at least until they go kablooey and we're suddenly treated to stories about Moby canoodling with Christina Aguilera or some such. But one is all that's allowed, always and forever. Alas, alas for us all, but at least we have Shakespeare in Love on DVD, and that's forever.

The Who Assail Snot

Once upon a time (though you wouldn't know it), The Who was dangerous. Relevant. Edgy, even. Let's face it, the subject matter of Tommy is not exactly Thomas the Tank Engine material. Once upon a time they mattered, and they sang about stuff that no one else in the genre dared to touch. You know, child abuse and other fun rockin' stuff like that, never mind whatever the hell an Eminence Front is supposed to be. And now the opening chords to Tommy are attached to Clarinex, in a series of hokey faux-regional commercials ("Every day, millions of people in the south wake up to allergens!" Well, yes. That's because things grow down here. They don't have hay fever in the Sahara, but they probably have other issues.). Listen to the Who; you won't get snotty. Once upon a time, getting snotty – and angry, and not going away when someone pointed that out - was the whole idea.

Presumably They're Not Talking About the Aftereffects of the Chili

Applebee's is using Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as the theme music for its current ad campaign. Having eaten repeatedly at the local Applebee's when I lived in Atlanta (no doubt in a cleverly disguised attempt to commit suicide by means of changing the blood-grease ratio in my arteries to the point where I spontaneously combusted), I have no comment here beyond the obvious. You know, someone had to get fired over this. At least, I can hope so.
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