Many years ago, I used to get guitars thrust at me at house parties, and be asked to play a song. Now, being an arse as I am, rather than doing some beautiful, meaningful, self-penned love song in order to win the hearts of every girl in the room, or even some popular hit of the day, that would get me the approval of my peers, I would invariably sing some tv theme tune, or advert, in order to get a cheap laugh. It turned into its own bizarre kind of routine, and in a way, I am still doing it twenty five years since I began.
Now this is all well and good, but since there is now an entire generation of punters, all old enough to be in licensed premises where I may be playing my amusing, not-quite-comedy songs for small and faintly insulting sums of money, that have no idea why I am singing about shake and vac, I am encountering a problem. Modern adverts are just not funny enough. Whereas in 1996, Lean Against the Washing Machine could play a huge heavy metal intro before launching into ‘I feel like Chicken Tonight’ I feel that if we were to do the same trick now with ‘We buy any car, dot com’ it would not be as funny.
It could be that it wasn’t actually that funny in the first place, I am getting old, and the puerile jokes that my 18 year old self made don’t work on thirty seven year olds. Some of that is undoubtedly true, it is equally true that I don’t bother watching much commercial TV now, thus the songs from adverts might be passing me by. I don’t think so though. I think that the current swathe of adverts now try to be funny, and as a result, really aren’t. You have the terribly ironic, knowing, ukulele tinged bollocks of Hive is busy controlling your heating at home, or that dick on the train platform, also with a ukulele, or the twats in the second hand shop that don’t seem to believe that the Godfather part 3 is a godawful load of shite that should be purged from cinematic history. Um Bongo, Um Bongo they drink it in the Congo it is not.
I could maybe have a try at those, but I have a feeling that launching into ‘wooooooaaaaaah, bodyfo-orm’ will still get the bigger laugh. At least from those in the room that are old enough to know what the hell I am on about. Same with TV theme tunes, you could happily do the Rainbow theme tune, get a few giggles, then drag them across to the A-team theme, do a quick chorus of ‘He Used To Bring Me Roses’ (theme tune to Prisoner Cell Block H) and the Minder theme tune and finish them off with the snooker theme. Sadly, nobody under thirty is going to get any of that now. Not even the snooker, and that’s still on, but you’re less likely to be stuck watching it on a sunday afternoon with your Gran now, because you’ll have satellite TV with a million choices, or an iPad full of movies and youtube clips to watch instead (which is a good thing for you kids, I am just jealous).
There are a lot fewer cultural references that everyone can get now, like the snooker, or the A-team. I mean, everyone has seen Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, or whatever the new must see TV show is. Even those ‘oh no, I don’t have a television’ holier than thou guardian reading tossers. Because they all have iPads, and they all watch endless TV boxsets on them anyway. Smug twats, but that’s a whole different rant. But I doubt they will evoke the same misty eyed nostalgia as ‘I ain’t getting on no plane fool’. And none of us are watching them all at the same time, you have to wait until your friends have finished before telling them that you are the one who knocks (and lots of people don’t get it, as it is mostly just a subsection of twats who watch this shit).
TV theme tunes are now more knowing, or just songs from proper bands, who give them away for peanuts, ‘for exposure’ and it works. The songs you hear on adverts, and on TV shows stick in your head, and people like them now, and they go and buy a copy, or download it for nothing. And the exposure that they have given their music away for has given them a hit single. Sadly, it’s usually just the one, as the song being on an advert has made most people utterly sick of them, and they never want to hear them again (see Stiltskin, Babylon Zoo, and whoever wrote that godawful Hey Ho thing recently). So it’s technically a good thing, as adverts and TV are less crap, and bands get the exposure that radio and TV no longer bother giving them.
Ever since Friends used that Rembrandts song, and changed the face of sitcoms forever (for better, or worse? You decide) my life has been a sadder place. I liked Dennis Waterman writing and singing the theme tune, plus, if I did a version, it got a laugh. I was much happier when a show like the Fall Guy had it’s utterly straight faced and marvellous Unknown Stuntman theme tune, but I am running out of punters that recognise it, along with the Good ol’ boys from Dukes of hazzard. The last advert that I managed to do an amusing version of was the ‘everybody get into a big canoe, and row on down to phones for you’ one. And that was funny without me helping, sadly.
I do hope that it’s just that I am not seeing the adverts and Tv shows that don’t know they’re funny, and it is just that I am old, and my references are out of date. But I have a feeling that the modern world, with all it’s very knowing irony, and slickly produced, excessively expensive adverts leave no room for a piss-taking git like myself. It is much easier to grab a recording of an unknown band and stick it on your advert than to pay some poor failed musician a small amount of money to write a classic like Waffley Versatile, and yes you end up with a classier product. But you lose valuable laughs in the process, and nobody will remember the words to your advert a quarter of a century later.