Selling with a Pop!
Steve Karmen – Hit Jingles
Mentioned recently in a Post that Cyrkle band member Tim Dawes worked on the updated Alka-Seltzer “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz” jingle in 1976 and fellow band member Don Dannemann had a hand in 7-Up’s “Uncola” jingle and commercial.
A fellow by the name of Steve Karmen was behind several popular commercials including “Carry the Big Fresh Flavor” for Wrigley Spearmint Gum, the New York State song titled “I Love New York” and perhaps most famously “When You Say Bud” for the major brewer.
Karmen was New York born (The Bronx) who started off as a Calypso singer and then as a composer of motion picture sound tracks. In 1969 he wrote “Nationwide is On Your Side” for that insurance company and in 1972 composed “It’s Right For You” for R.C. Cola. 1974 saw him deliver “Aren’t You Glad You Use Dial (Don’t You Wish Everybody Did?)” and 1977’s contribution was “It’s Time For A Tic Tac”.
All in all he composed several dozen commercials for big name companies.
In his early days singer/composer Barry Manilow came up with a few jingles which helped pay the bills before the big bucks started rolling in. One of his early ones was Band Aid’s “I Am Stuck on Band Aid Cause Band Aid is Stuck on Me”. Then he delivered State Farms memorable and lasting “Like A Good Neighbor State Farm is There”.
Manilow would compose jingles for Kentucky Friend Chicken (“A Finger Lickin’ Good Day”) and beauty product Stridex (“Give Your Face Something to Smile About”) and then delivered a monster jingle, “You Deserve a Break Today” for Ronald and company!.
In 1971 the famous “Hilltop” commercial appeared on TV introducing Coca Cola’s “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” and it started off as “Buy the World a Coke”. The commercial depicted a group of well-scrubbed and wholesome teenagers ascending – yes – a hill – providing us all with a sense of world peace being achievable. We just needed to pop the tops on a few Cokes!
High On a Hilltop – World Peace at Last
The song’s origins lay in an earlier composition from Brits Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway along with Bill Backer – an ad executive for Coke – which had been recorded by Susan Shirley in the Spring of 1971.
Cook and Greenaway you might recall recorded in the mid 1960’s out of England as “David and Jonathan” covering Lennon and McCartney’s “Michelle” in 1965. After recording together they turned their talents to composing for others and hit with “You’ve Got Your Troubles” (1965) for the Fortunes, and the Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” (1972). Other Roger/Roger songs included “”Softly Whispering I Love You” by the Congregation (1971), and the curious “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith in 1967.
Then there was “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys in 1966, “My Baby Loves Lovin” in 1970 by White Plains, another Fortune hit “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (1970). No doubt that Cook and Greenaway’s involvement with their Coke hit, led to the Fortunes recording an entire long play for Coke which included the title song and jingle “It’s the Real Thing”, composed by ad man Bill Backer – released in 1969.
Roger Cook co-wrote Crystal Gayle’s “Talking in Your Sleep” (1978) with Bobby Woods and “I Believe In You” for Don Williams in 1980 with Sam Hogin.
After undergoing the conversion to the Coke jingle, it’s appeal lead quickly to 45 releases by “The Hillside Singers” (number 13 in November of 1971) and right on it’s heels the more known “New Seekers” who reached the number 7 position a month or so later.
The Hillside Singers were a very short lived assemblage of young people who faded very quickly – charting one additional time with the meager showing of “We’re Together” at number 100 in early 1972. Interestingly “We’re Together” was composed in part by Sid Woloshin who the next year co-wrote “Take Life A Little Easier” for Jack In The Box and popularized by child singer Rodney Allen Rippy. The tune managed a number 112 peak chart appearance in the Fall of 1973 recorded when Rodney was a mere 5 years old. He moved on to a career in acting for a time and then founded his own marketing firm.
The New York-based vocal group The Tokens turned to commercial work after their recording careers slowed down and took one of their minor hits “She Let’s Her Hair Down (Early in the Morning)” to Clairol in 1970 and their classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was used by more than one sponsor. Further, the Tokens recorded jingles for Pan American Airlines, Adams Sour Gum, Etch-A-Sketch (1973) and Great Shakes all featuring the unmistakable Token harmony.
No Matter What Shape
The instrumental “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach Is In)” was lifted from an Alka-Seltzer advertisement in 1965 with the intention of seeing if a commercial could be turned into a hit song. The idea came from jazz musician and band leader Dave Pell who employed the famous Hollywood “Wrecking Crew” for the recording session. His idea paid off with the recording soaring to the number 3 position on the Billboard Charts.
This created an immediate need for a T-Bone tour to promote the song. The Wrecking Crew weren’t interested not wanting to lose out on valuable studio sessions back in California and so a touring “T-Bones” was quickly assembled with members recruited being Tommy Reyonolds, Joe Frank Carolla, Gene Pello, Judd Hamilton and Dan Hamilton.
Dan Hamilton was a good choice having played with the Ventures for a time – and had composed a song called “Diamond Head” for the group. His brother Judd later continued on with Joe and Frank to form the popular pop trio “Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds”.
A Few More Ads go POP!
Sonny and Cher’s “When You Say Love” (for Budweiser) – Number 32 – 1972
The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” (for Crocker Bank) – Number 2 – 1970
The Bob Crewe Generation “Music to Watch Girls By” (for Diet Pepsi) – Number 15 – 1966
Paul Anka’s “The Times of Your Life” (for Kodak) – Number 7 – 1976