June 24, 2011 - Target Raises its Status with "Matchstick Men"
Do you know which group is the most successful rock band in the history of the British charts next to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones? Hint: They had only two songs make the U.S. charts, and it helps if you're a trivia game aficionado or an obsessive music fan (or hail from England), otherwise you might have a tough time with this question. The group's one big American hit is currently being featured on a commercial for Target stores and it's the most psychedelic track I think I've ever seen on a mainstream, family-oriented ad. The answer is: The Status Quo and their 1968 hit "Pictures of Matchstick Men," all over the TV airwaves just 43 summers after originally saturating the radio waves! And while it's no surprise the band's record sales lag behind the aforementioned Beatles and Stones, their string of 70 chart hits dating from 1968 through late 2010 is the all-time record for a group in the U.K. Thanks, Target...and go Quo!
June 6, 2011 - "A Summer Place" Keeps Pace in Subway Ad, Men Back with a Certain B-Boys Tune
We've got to hand it to Subway for sticking to something! The past few months they've run TV commercials using Percy Faith's number one hit from 1960, "(Theme from) A Summer Place." I think it's a slam on their "greasy fast food" competitors, but my attention span shifts to the song itself once it starts (so to any execs reading this, you may want to rethink your strategy - although with name branding first priority, mission accomplished). The 30-second ad mirrors the run of the 51-year-old hit, which started in the late part of winter, peaked in spring and fell off the charts at the start of summer. We'll know in the next few weeks if the spot fades, or continues its high rotation into the hot weather months.
TNT's Men of a Certain Age, starring Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher, has started a new season, continuing to feature The Beach Boys' "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" as the theme, an inspired choice with lyrics perfectly in sync with the show's premise. I haven't enjoyed the song this much in years.
May 25, 2011 - "Can't Hurry" The Voice, Tom Jones "Not Unusual" in AI Finale
The battle rounds of NBC's The Voice ventured into the '60s just once on the latest installment, with Blake Shelton's girls Serabee and Dia Frampton, two extremely different song stylists, chosen for a sort of oil-versus-water duet on The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" with an unexpectedly favorable end result. Frampton, she of the softer voice, advances to the next round.
The oldies came all at once on the season finale of Fox's American Idol, with the six male contestants, eventual winner Scotty McCreery included, delivering a not-always-smooth medley of Tom Jones' hits, energized by Tom himself who joined in at the end to sing the classic that kicked off his career back in 1965, "It's Not Unusual."
May 11, 2011 - Sarah V., Sofia V. and David B. Beach Tweets, Leiber and Stoller Impact Idol
Here's quite a mashup for ya! The new Diet Pepsi commercial featuring Sofia Vergara (of ABC sitcom Modern Family) doing a Twitter update on a beach sighting of David Beckham (of soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy) includes a treat for fans of songs from Broadway musicals: Sarah Vaughan's 1955 hit "Whatever Lola Wants" (originally performed by Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees) plays throughout, giving Lola's bold demands new meaning.
The second half of American Idol featuring the top four contestants covered a subject near and dear to WBA's heart: the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller! First up was Haley Reinhart with "I (Who Have Nothing)" (first out by Ben E. King in '63), followed by country guy Scotty McCreery's rendition of The Coasters' 1957 hit "Young Blood." Next up it was Lauren Alaina, hesitant but willing to play an "evil" girl with Elvis Presley's "Trouble" (from King Creole), then the all-1950s final half hour closed with a showstopper from James Durbin, turning The Clovers' 1959 hit "Love Potion No. 9" into a monster rocker.
May 5, 2011 - The Voice Takes Some AI Oldies Action
NBC reality music series The Voice has been slow to jump on the oldies bandwagon. On its debut episode, Joann Rizzo auditioned with Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer," but was not selected for one of the 32 slots in the competition. Two '60s songs popped up in week two: Tim Mahoney performed Sam Cooke's "Bring it on Home to Me" and Serabee was briefly shown singing the Dusty Springfield hit "Son-Of-A Preacher Man." Both will move on, competing in coming weeks on the teams of, respectively, Maroon 5's Adam Levine and country star Blake Shelton.
Meanwhile, on Fox, the American Idol final five are giving it all they've got. According to Wednesday's USA Today and other sources, the show was to feature two songs by each contestant: five total contemporary selections and five from the 1960s. Somehow only three '60s songs (or two depending on your perspective) made it to the broadcast: "Love Hurts," a 1976 hit by Nazareth but recorded originally by The Everly Brothers in 1960 and released as a single the following year by Roy Orbison, was performed (in a style closer to Orbison's than Nazareth's) by Jacob Lusk. Lauren Alaina took on the song that went top ten for Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Roy Hamilton and The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody." Haley Reinhart closed the show with a unique take on The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" and received a standing ovation from all three judges.
April 28, 2011 - It's a Carole King Thing, Goffin Dinged on Idol
Lots of '60s classics on American Idol this week, with a Carole King-themed show featuring solo performances from the six remaining contestants, plus mix-and-match duets. Let's get the gripe out of the way first: All of the 1960s songs heard were compositions King co-wrote with then-husband Gerry Goffin, but unless it happened when I left the room to grab a snack, there was not one mention of Goffin during the 90 minute show! Aarrgghh!!!
Jacob Lusk led things off with Maxine Brown's 1964 hit "Oh No Not My Baby" and James Durbin dialed down the rock energy for a surprisingly good vocal on The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery joined together on The Drifters' classic "Up On the Roof" and Lusk and Durbin closed with a clever, edgy gospel take on Earl-Jean's "I'm Into Something Good," best known by Herman's Hermits. Also, Alaina gave her best performance in weeks with Barbra Streisand's early-'70s hit "Where You Lead" (co-written with King by Toni Stern).
April 19, 2011 - Ethel Merman and Snoop Dogg Together Forever
It seemed unlikely, but Snoop Dogg and Ethel Merman are pushin' Pepsi MAX these days! The latest commercial features two delivery men in a contest to build the best supermarket display, set to the tune of "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)" performed by Merman and Bruce Yarnell from the 1966 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Snoop wins it for his man when he appears atop one display and it's "...to the MAX!"
Another musical number is being used in Tropicana's fresh-squeezed orange juice ad with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor singing "Good Morning," straight off the 1952 movie soundtrack of Singin' in the Rain (the song originates from the 1939 film Babes in Arms). This spot has possibly been running awhile, but is currently getting a lot of play on Tampa Bay Rays baseball games.
April 6, 2011 - Howlin' Wolf Wails While Idol Girls Warble Franklin Sisters Songs
Legendary bluesman Howlin' Wolf is back on the airwaves with a gig he probably couldn't have foreseen: selling Viagra! The latest commercial features his influential 1956 classic, "Smoke Stack Lightning," and it's getting a lot of exposure, something the great Wolf (Chester Burnett) has been worthy of for quite some time!
Eight of the nine American Idol hopefuls went Way Back this week on the show, venturing into rock, soul and country. Pia Toscano delivered her best yet with Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep-Mountain High," while Lauren Alaina was in over her head tackling the Carole King composition "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," made famous by Aretha Franklin. Haley Reinhart delivered a raucus rendition of Aretha's sister Erma Franklin's hit "Piece of My Heart" and as in the past, the judges referenced the more popular Janis Joplin version (without even mentioning Big Brother and the Holding Company). Just once it would be nice if they acknowledged Franklin's original recording of the song.
The male contestants made some intriguing choices: Scotty McCreery put a little less country than usual into a lite-rocking version of Elvis Presley's landmark "That's All Right," Casey Abrams brought out his standup bass for a unique reading of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and The Beatles were represented with George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," sung by James Durbin. In addition, Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" was soufully interpreted by Stefano Langone and Paul McDonald closed the show by putting his off-kilter stamp on the classic "Folsom Prison Blues" from the vast inventory of Johnny Cash gems. If you want to check out how today's young up-and-comers handle the classics of the early rock era, AI is a must-see; they're making interesting choices nearly every week, and most of the contestants this season are very good.