These Songs Are Colossal Sellouts

This album cover from The Who in the 1960s was prophetic -- they have sold out more than any other classic rock band, shilling for several car companies.

The Superbowl comes in five days.  Along with anticipating the epic battle of the Pats vs. the Giants, we also look forward to the equally epic commercials.

No doubt at least one of them will feature a song from the 1960s or 70s, especially if the target market includes middle-aged people with expanded waistlines and wallets.  Watching the ad will take us back to a time when we were skinny and rebellious and cool, and we will feel wistful and nostalgic.

Does anybody else feel a little discomfited when a former rock/counterculture/youth anthem turns commercial?  It’s like seeing your high school crush walking the streets in the red light district, or working at Walmart.  Even Ferris Bueller, who epitomized coolness for those who grew up in the 80s, gets spoofed in a Honda ad on Sunday.  (The ad is brilliant, by the way.)

Indeed, most of these ads are brilliant – we watch because they dazzle us with 21st-century special effects, even as they make us nostalgic with songs from 40 years ago.  Michael Bay directed the Chevy commercial featuring Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” It’s impossible to stop watching.

Yet seeing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in a Cadillac commercial (which during Led Zeppelin’s heydey was a car for gangsters and 70-year-olds) feels sad and crass. Almost as sad as seeing Robert Vaughn (the actor who played “Napoleon Solo” in the 1960s TV hit “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”) shilling for a personal injury law firm on late-night TV.  The Who – which had a 60s album entitled “The Who Sell Out,” have sold out big time, lending their songs to Nissan, Saab and even Hummer.  In a real ironic twist, their song “I Can See For Miles,” from “The Who Sell Out” was co-opted by Sylvania for a headlights ad.

Even one of my favorite songs from the psychedelic 60s – Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” a 45 record that became scratched from my overuse — showed up in an ad for Target last summer.

Maybe advertisers want to give their product some edge with people who are no longer edgy by reminding them of when they were.  The ads rewind us to the thresholds of our adulthood, when we had loads of time and anything was possible, and when we’d scurry to the record store and scan the cubbies of 45s for the latest AM radio hit.

So here’s a list of some of my favorite sellout songs, with a few links to the ads that have forever tarnished their memory…songs that stirred me as a teenager and young adult and that now remind me of how quickly the years have passed.  I’ve also included two sellouts from newer bands.  I first heard these on a commercial and liked them enough to download the entire songs.

So I guess it can work both ways.  Maybe the ads will introduce a new generation of listeners to some great classic rock, and give them one more thing to talk about with their parents.

Please add to this list!  And for more reading about the intriguing topic of music in TV commercials, visit this excellent blog, musicontv.

My List of Top Colossal Sellouts

“All Together Now” by The Beatles (Cover version, for Budweiser)

“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who (for Nissan)

“Do Ya,” by ELO (for Monster.com)

“Happy Together” by the Turtles (for Heineken and others)

“Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf (for Chevy)

“Vertigo” by U2 (for Apple)

“Picture Book,” by the Kinks (for Hewlett Packard)

“Pictures of Matchstick Men,” by the Status Quo (for Target)

And two newbies:

“Chelsea Dagger,” by The Fratellis (for Amstel Beer)

“How You Like Me Now,” by The Heavy (for Kia)

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The Story of Another Jack and Bobby

Jack, left, with his best friend Bobby and his daughters Jeanne (top left) and Sheila. Jack and Bobby have been friends for more than six decades and have kept each other company as Jack battles pancreatic cancer.

Most of us thankfully can depend on family members to support us day in and day out during the worst of times. How many of us have at least one great friend who will do the same?

Last week I spent time with Jack and Bobby, a pair of 74-year-old buddies whose friendship started in second grade and never waned. Now Jack is dying of pancreatic cancer, and while he has a loving family, the visits from his old buddy cheer him the most. My story about their friendship was published in the Marlborough Enterprise.

Like the Kennedy legends with the same first names, Jack and Bobby were often inseparable. The brotherly bond between the two men – a bond that has stayed strong despite competition from their large families, busy careers and many other commitments – got me thinking about how our childhood and young adult friendships evolve as we grow older. The bonds that we forged so long ago never go away, but they become rusty and forgotten as other relationships and commitments divert us. The occasional email or holiday card reawakens fond old memories – the whispered secrets at a pajama party, the long sob-fests following a heartbreak, the rum-soaked revelry at a shared beach house — but we tend to move on when the Christmas cards are thrown away and our lives intervene.

That didn’t happen for Jack and Bobby. I think one reason is that they both stayed in the same community except for the time they served in the Marines. But there’s something more: both frankly admit that the pain of being in troubled families made them cling to each other emotionally from the beginning.

Both spoke of the need to escape their parents’ drinking problems and fighting at home, when they were just little kids. Bobby said they both had plenty of other friends, but Jack was the only one who understood what he was going through. As the years went on they remained there for each other – chipping in for gas, doing home improvement projects together, serving as honorary uncles to their growing families, helping each other to be better fathers because they wanted their own kids to have a better family life than they did.

And in their twilight years, they drove each other to the hospital for surgeries, checkups, chemotherapy. Over the past few weeks Bobby has been sitting beside Jack’s hospital bed, sharing stories about boot camp and making him laugh.

If we’re lucky we have buddies like this in our lives. I feel blessed to have my own great friends, some of whom go back to toddlerhood. Others are our neighbors, book club friends, college friends, work friends, terrific adults we met when our children became friends. We trade gossip and child-rearing tips, watch the big game together, bring them casseroles when they are sick, pick up their children at school when they’re stuck. We are there for each other.

Still, no matter how great a friend we try to be, we can always be inspired by the depth of Jack and Bobby’s friendship. It was forged in their childhood pain and it has sustained them in good times and bad over more than six decades. It will continue even after Jack draws his last breath.

Jack’s daughter Jeannie says, “We take good care of him but there’s nothing like the emotional support he gets from Bob. We value him as a dad but having Bob here validates him as somebody else.”

A ‘Versatile Blogger?’ Me?

Thanks to Kevin at http://voicesofglass.com/ and to http://trippingdifferently.com/, both of whom were kind enough to nominate me for a “Versatile Blogger” award from WordPress over the past week. I am truly touched by this honor from my newfound blogging friends. I have discovered that the blogging universe is filled with many talented and nurturing writers whose adventures and insights inspire me every day.

OK, as a new honoree I need to do several things. First is thank those who nominated me. Kevin, from voicesofglass.com, is chronicling his journey back from mental illness and is one of the bravest bloggers I’ve met. Trippingdifferently.com is a very enthralling blog about the life of a Singaporean family living in Switzerland (where we, too, have family, in Geneva.) Thank you both!

I also need to share seven random facts about myself, so here goes:
1. I have six children and stepchildren, including two beautiful daughters named Rachel.
2. Kraft macaroni and cheese is a guilty pleasure.
3. I can’t remember what you told me yesterday but am a savant with lyrics to obscure rock songs and B-sides.
4. At age 4, I got a safety pin stuck between my teeth.
5. I love playing Beatles on the piano. My 13-year-old son just learned to accompany me with his trombone on “Got to Get You into My Life” and my heart is bursting with joy.
6. I am married to a brilliant, kind, funny and hardworking man who also does my dishes. 🙂
7. I am outwardly neat but my closets are a disaster.  This is a metaphor for many other facets of my life.

Finally, I’d like to pass this award along to 15 wonderful bloggers! Here goes:

http://lifewithblondie.wordpress.com/

http://veggiesandwichgeneration.wordpress.com/

http://mostlybrightideas.wordpress.com/

http://youarenotsosmart.com/about/

http://raisingmyrainbow.com/

http://pastaprincessandmore.wordpress.com

http://afterthecommercial.wordpress.com

http://mushandmarzi.com/

http://lanceschaubert.org/

http://whatweatetodayuk.com/

http://thefoolishtruth.com

http://torilynn42.wordpress.com/

http://mikaleebyerman.wordpress.com/

http://nonstepmom.wordpress.com/

http://robinhardman.wordpress.com/

Auto-Biographies: Our Vehicles, Ourselves

One does not "get out of" this Rolls; one "emerges" from it.

Going to the New England Car Show in Boston last weekend was like going to a huge family reunion. Within each clan – the Chevys, the Volvos, the Fords, the exotic relatives from Italy and Germany – one could see see how each bloodline has evolved over the years.

Some of these newborn models don’t look anything like the ancestors that I remember from my more than four decades of driving and noticing cars. (The Mustang is a happy exception). The car companies probably want it that way, as they tweak their designs and their marketing to appeal to a new generation of car buyers. Along with adding new features, they surely study the emotional attachments that people have to their cars and the psychology behind their buying decisions.

But as we grow older, does anybody else have a hard time shaking long-engrained images of a brand?

Sexy car; not so sexy brand name (Dodge).

No matter what kinds of sleek new designs the company unveils, the brand name “Dodge” still evokes the image of a car that your least-favorite teacher used to drive in the early 70s. It sounds too much like “stodgy.” Dodge had a sweet-looking retro version of the Charger at the auto show, and it did attract a lot of onlookers. But it is still a Dodge.

I think Dodge should create a brand new subsidiary to make cars with a cooler-sounding name and hide the fact that they own it, like Gallo did with their “Turning Leaf” wines.

Our son Jesse spent a lot of time around the Volvos, since he owns three vintage models. The brand attracts a large and devoted brand of aficionados like Jesse, who likes to tinker with them and can do most of the repairs himself. (Jesse has been a motorhead since birth, often going to sleep with a Matchbox car clutched in each hand.) But the Volvo will forever remind me of the middle-class suburban Philadelphia neighborhood where I once lived. When a new Volvo appeared in a neighbor’s garage, usually a move to a tonier swim club came around the same time, and the for-sale sign went up in front of the small house about a year later. The Volvo was the harbinger of a new, more comfortable financial stage, like a pre-teen boy’s jump in shoe size just before he grows taller.

BMW will always be the first word in the phrase “-driving yuppie scum.” My least favorite executive at the company where I once worked drove one. His second trophy wife was usually with him. Even though my beloved brother-in-law has one I can’t shake that first image.

Toyotas and Hondas seem to be the vehicles for the proletariat; solid, dependable and unglamorous. But I have a special attachment to Toyota because my dad drove them 20 years ago; they were more glamorous back then, especially the Cressida. It was a far cry from the old Pontiac Rambler station wagon that he once drove, later announcing that it was “the worst car I’ve ever owned.”

This car reminds me of the Calgon bath oil beads commercial when a lady takes a bath in a tub in her back seat.

The Hyundais, which a few years ago had a pretty tinny image, has been making cars that are both solid and stylish now (full disclosure: I drive one.) Their new luxury “Equus” is so big that the back seat includes an adjustable footrest. It reminds me of that old Calgon bath oil beads commercial when the lady takes a luxurious bath in a tub under the floor of her back seat. She presses one button to draw a curtain and give her privacy from her chauffeur; and another to retract the floor over the tub.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom, the nearly $500,000 car on display at the car show, reminded me of “King Joppi,” the James Earl Jones character in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America” film. King Joppi emerged from one of these (you don’t “get out of” a Rolls; you “emerge” from it) preceded by attendants casting rose petals before him.

“If you own a car like this,” remarked Jesse, “you don’t drive it yourself.”

Jesse’s girlfriend Stephanie was drawn to a tuna can-sized Fiat that looked like it could park sideways in a parking space. I was appalled at the back seat, which looked barely big enough for our guinea pig. But I could picture Stephanie, who looks a bit like the young Elizabeth Taylor, tooling around in it like a heroine of a Fellini movie. A Fiat makes me think of Rome, where my sister and I saw thousands of them when we visited decades ago.

Whether it’s a proletarian Honda or a stunning but repair-prone foreign sports car, our vehicle preferences are at least half emotional. Consumer Reports and J.D. Power may influence us, but our long-engrained memories will last longer than the new-car smell.

And speaking of which, does your favorite car name pass the “anal” test?

Jesse told us about this popular pastime, which involves taking the name of the car and adding it to the word “anal.” Try this with the Ford Probe, Fiesta, Explorer and Fusion.

When Aging Parents Re-Marry

About 20 years ago my friend Laura lost her mother after a lingering illness.  Within a few months, her father’s old friends fixed him up with Maggie, an attractive divorcee.

A whirlwind courtship followed, and Joe and Maggie, both in their late 60s, were married within a year after the mother had died.  Laura and her brothers were stupefied, especially when they saw their father doing things that looked strange to them:  dressing differently, vacationing in Palm Springs, becoming less and less like the man who shared their pain of losing their mother.  They would squirm when Maggie would talk effusively about how great it was to have a “lover” in her life.  When Joe died a few years later, his children felt a mix of grief; relief that Maggie was out of their lives; and outrage when they found out how much Joe left her in his will.

I bring this up because over the past month several acquaintances have talked about their mixed feelings about their older parents “moving on” to new relationships. On one hand, they feel glad that the parent has the chance for companionship as he or she moves into their twilight years.   On the other hand they may mistrust the new partner, especially if the parents’ relationship ended in divorce or they are still grieving over the other parent’s death.  They may not like the new partner, especially if he or she is very different from the first one.

And as with any relationship, money can complicate things.  Some children mistrust the motives of the new spouse, who may or may not want to influence how their inheritance is spent and might be called upon to make decisions about the parent’s long-term care.  While Anna Nicole Smith was vilified for her share of her husband’s estate – after one year of marriage – she maintained that she gave him one of the happiest years of his life.

One of the reasons I started this blog is to serve as a place for adults to talk about how their relationships (with parents, spouses, kids) evolve as they grow older.   I’d love to hear from some of you about your experiences and candid thoughts about an older parent’s remarriage.  My plans are to publish a blog on this topic around Valentine’s Day.  And it goes without saying that names and other details would be disguised to protect your identity (as I did with Laura’s story.)

My hope is that we can all learn from one another’s perspectives.  Feel free to comment below or send your thoughts privately to my email – catherinebuday@gmail.com .  Thank you!!!!

What We Can Learn From Guys in Tights

My son's idol, Edge (left), with his own idol, Hulk Hogan. Photo courtesy of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Our son John joined the middle school wrestling team (in part) because he wanted to be Edge, his World Wrestling Entertainment idol and a former heavyweight champion. The chiseled Canadian — known for his menacing sneer, anthemic theme song, oak-like quadriceps and a finishing move called “the spear” — was “the Rated-R Superstar” on the Monday and Friday night wrestling shows until an injury forced his retirement last year. He trash-talked his enemies on camera, brandished his garish world champion belt and carried on a doomed “marriage” with Vickie Guerrero, the brassy and strident onetime general manager of the WWE juggernaut (the relationship turned rocky when a “hidden camera” caught Edge making out with their wedding planner.) But most colorful were his tights…which looked like an LSD trip spray-painted on his thighs.

Of course we all know that that professional wrestling’s backstage dramas, backstabbing and back stories are as scripted as the matches themselves. Yet millions of kids, teens and adults tune in every week and willfully suspend their skepticism to watch this mix of faux violence and telenovela.

What’s interesting is that Edge’s real story is far more interesting than his swaggering on-camera persona. Born Adam Copeland, he used wrestling as an escape from a childhood of poverty and tragedy. His father was not part of his life. His idolized Uncle Gary died when Adam was a boy and left him heartbroken. His single mother never had enough money for luxuries or even a decent place for them to live. After winning a contest entitled him to free wrestling lessons, Edge embraced the sport and never looked back, surviving years of lonely road trips to small-time tournaments before he hit it big.

John knew when he joined the wrestling team that classic wrestling has nothing to do with the pugilistic peacocks he watches every week. It is an ancient and venerable sport in which technique, discipline, fair play and toughness count. It has more to do with the persistence of young Adam Copeland and less to do with the swagger of Edge. We talked about this, and John recognized this in his mind but his heart still yearned to win all his matches. He talked about which hard rock songs he’d want for his own entrance music.

He was flushed and sweaty after his first few practices, but eager to get back. But by the third week he felt discouraged because the other guys on the team were more experienced. Some had honed their skills in wrestling programs in towns that offered them for younger athletes. Others were just more natural athletes. He was in tears after one practice in which he was repeatedly taken down. Still, he wanted to continue, and his coach – a gentle giant of a guy – told Bob that John was doing just fine.

Then came the first match last weekend, at a school gym about a half hour away. About 200 young wrestlers, from Chihuahua-sized third-graders through hulking heavyweights, showed up to be weighed, ranked and paired up. The spectators were as diverse as the wrestlers, a far cry from the Hilfingered throngs at your average football game…I spotted scary tattoos, 80s-style big hair, and homie-style skullcaps along with the Gap-clad dads with their video cams.

And then, there were the tights.

The schools did not have enough uniforms for all the wrestlers, so about half of them got to wear the baggy shorts and basketball jerseys they had put on at home. The other half – including John – squeezed themselves into the unforgiving spandex. I watched him, looking vulnerable and anxious in his green tights and headgear, on the sidelines as his teammates took their turns in the spotlight.

John was paired in three matches. In his first, a more experienced wrestler pinned him in about 10 seconds. I could see my son’s face crumple as he left the floor and moved to the sidelines, where Coach Cody spoke with him gently. My mother’s instinct to run over and comfort him wrestled with the suspicion that he would not want his wrestling buddies to see him being hugged by his mom. I stayed put. Bob left the stands, walked over to John, draped a fatherly arm around his shoulders and calmed him down.

Something interesting happened in the second and third matches. The second match lasted about 20 seconds; the third went longer. John still got pinned but he put up much more of a fight. His head was higher when he left the mat. He had lost but he had still improved.

His mood on the way home was thoughtful but not defeated. He later hung out with his friend Greg, an outstanding swimmer who has competed at the state level. “Nobody wins the first time,” Greg told him.

I thought for a while about how my own son had inspired me, too.  Although I am decades older than him I have a hard time recovering from slights and setbacks.  I do get up and move on, but sometimes I brood too much first.  I wish I could get back to the mat sooner.

Later we talked to John about managing his expectations. “If you continue to work hard, you will be a better wrestler,” we said to him. “That’s what matters.” He seemed to agree. In his heart of hearts I think Edge would too.

John's second wrestling match. You can see part of his leg behind the guy in red spandex on the mat.

I’d like a “Word” with you…

This game has made me totally indecent.

The social calendar is as barren as our front lawn; the early-setting sun is making everybody sleepy far too early; only a steady infusion of hot tea can keep me warm until April.

Still, something compels me to throw off the down quilt at 6 a.m., pull on my robe and dash downstairs each morning. It’s a small beacon of pleasure in this otherwise bleak season, the size of a pack of cigarettes and every bit as guilty.

Within six minutes, Mr. Coffee is humming and sighing in my ear and I am getting ready to pummel my brother-in-law. Not physically – he lives 4,000 miles away, in Switzerland – but with words. More specifically, Words With Friends.

For the uninitiated, Words With Friends is a wildly popular pseudo-Scrabble game made by Zynga for smart phones. You can start games with individual friends and play them from anywhere. They’ve changed the point values of the letters and rearranged the locations of the double- and triple-word spaces just enough to avoid legal hot water with Hasbro. I splurged $1.99 for the version without the ads for Zynga’s other games, which include annoying characters that look like Bratz dolls.

Unlike regulation Scrabble, which requires a lost turn if you try to play a word that isn’t a word, WWF is more forgiving. It simply calls you on the bullshit word and makes you try again, without losing a turn. So you can fearlessly push the etymology envelope, and the game can easily devolve into a rugby-ized version of Scrabble. We’ve learned about many words that we never knew were words – such as qi, suq, qat, and za. Don’t ask me what they mean…we play them without looking them up.

WWF is so addictive that Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane because he could not stop playing. I am addicted as well, and my ever-growing list of competitors and fellow addicts now includes my book group friend Amy, brothers-in-law Tom and Rich, mother-in-law Lois, cousin Lorraine, husband Bob and four of my six children – Rachel, Ryan, Ben and John.  People whom I haven’t seen in years, and acquaintances of acquaintances, are trying to hook up with me for some WWF play via Facebook.

It certainly has brought out a side of everyone that I hadn’t seen. My sister in law Linda confides that mild-mannered Tom stays up late studying his growing list of WWF boards and dreaming up strategies for destroying his mother and me. “He’s taking too much childish pleasure in his winning streak,” she emailed before encouraging me to “please take him down a notch.”

And Lorraine…my sweet cousin, the one I played hide-and-seek with around the old neighborhood? As “Little Carmela,” (her user name for WWF) she is as scary as a Soprano. Despite having many years writing for a living, I constantly lose to my daughter Rachel, who works in a biotech lab…go figure. And my saintly husband Bob, after cheerfully doing the dishes after dinner, retires to the couch, where I soon hear the familiar tinkling music that heralds that a WWF word has been played.

“Was that the game against me?” I ask plaintively. “I just (expletive) you!,” he chuckles triumphantly.

Our 13-year-old son, John, who asks many questions about spelling when he’s writing a paper for school, seems to have no trouble coming up with words like “bowery,” “qi,” and “jeed.” After getting trounced by him a few times I have decided not to cut him any more breaks.

As we speak I am trying to recover from a blow struck by mother-in-law Lois, who just pulled ahead of me. She too is a rabid competitor, not above playing words like “weewee” in order to score a few shameless points. This game was so close that she only had to play the word “tea” to pull ahead. What’s frustrating is that I have enough for a “bingo” (a 30-point bonus for using all of your seven letters) but no place to put it. I have a blank tile so I can play “slanted” or even “insulted” if I can find the right place on the board to play it.

So I fume, and in my frustration at the game with Lois and my continued losing streak I strike back at John, my youngest competitor. When the chance to play a bingo – the word “vinifera” – against John presents itself, I don’t hesitate. I remind myself that he played the word “jeed,” so he is not as helpless as he looks.

But, with 52 ill-gotten points now added to my score, I feel like the Cowardly Lion, chasing Toto and yelling, “Well, I’ll get you, Peewee!” But then, I haven’t felt any shame in this game for weeks. Shame evaporated when the word “dildo” cropped up in a game against my older son.

While I am thoroughly addicted, with 12 ongoing games and counting, I’ve resisted taking my addiction to the next level. Zynga will offer you the “zipless” experience (you Erica Jong fans will know what I mean) of being paired with a stranger for some anonymous WWF acrobatics. So far I have resisted. So far.