“Every day you see a new commercial on TV where some song from your past has been sold to a car company or a restaurant chain, as if it’s to be automatically assumed that it’s just a commodity. . . ” In the quote above NYCO touches on a subject that has been a particular concern of mine for quite some time: the commercial use of rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Some people don’t seem to mind much (my wife loves to tease me by calling out “California Raisins!” everytime “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” comes on the radio.) Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book “Conquest of Cool” that studies the whole phenomenon of counterculture as consumer culture. So I shouldn’t freak out so much, right?
But I do. Rock music means a lot to me. Some tunes rekindle memories of happy times in my life. Some music just makes me want to get up and say YEAH! Some music makes me reflective and introspective (think Pink Floyd on headphones after midnight.) Some songs tap into other genres and cultures, educating me about folks quite different from myself. Oh, and did I mention the tunes that make me want to get up and say YEAH!
So, while I can follow the intellectual argument that rock ‘n’ roll is the new soundtrack of acquisition, it doesn’t make it any less painful to hear The Ramones shilling for Pepsi. (The Carbona glue folks really missed their chance!) Hope I die before I get old and become Pete Townshend, who argues that the Who songs are his and he can sell them if he so chooses.
Rock purists can sit back and guard their memories, compose mental lists of products to boycott and take comfort in folks like Bruce Springsteen (who refused hundreds of offers a day during the 1980’s to license Born In The USA) and Neil Young:
“Ain’t singin’ for pepsi/Ain’t singin’ for coke
I don’t sing for nobody/Makes me look like a joke
This note’s for you.”