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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Surrender (your youth)
TV ad songs sell it back to you.

"My blood runs cold, my memory has just been sold..."
- J. Geils Band's "Centerfold," 1981 (Freeze Frame)

Now I know I'm getting old. Not only can't I stand most new music today, but the songs I used to like more than 20 years ago are being thrown back at me in TV commercials.

I should have expected this after Michael Jackson sold the rights to the Beatles' "Revolution," over the objections of George Harrison and Paul McCartney, so it could be used to pitch Nike sneakers to overweight jogging yuppies back in 1986.

However, hearing what I once considered my generation's music used to shill products has blindsided me.

Who would have thought in 1980 that New Wave geniuses Devo would eventually agree to rewrite their song "Whip it," the band's satire on "a society dehumanized by industry and commercialism," to sell Swiffer - the newfangled broom/mop?

Guess where I'd like to crack that whip now?

Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh Swiffered up the money without any afterthought last year, telling AdAge.com "it was so absurd. We like messing with the boundaries between art and commerce."

Getting a fresh paycheck from a song nearly a quarter century old doesn't hurt either I guess, unless you were a fan of that band.

Like I was once a fan of Cheap Trick.


"Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away..."
- "Surrender" by Cheap Trick, 1979 (Heaven Tonight)

Remember the first time you saw a picture of yourself from the '70s and cringed at the clothes you were wearing. It doesn't matter if you had on a polyester leisure suit and silk shirt, or a pair of Toughskins corduroys. You wanted to burn the photo, right?

That's exactly the feeling I got a few months ago when I first heard Cheap Trick's "Surrender" being used to sell vacations to Universal Studios in Florida.

I was born in 1967 and grew up on classic Rock. For me, this song helped stick a fork in the ass of Disco, which I truly despised. The anthem even provided some wry social commentary on the impact war can have on families.

Sure the chorus sounds great in the TV spot. But did the Universal folks actually read the rest of the lyrics before they agreed to it? I think not.

"Mother told me, yes, she told me I'd meet girls like you.
She also told me, 'Stay away, you'll never know what you'll catch.'
Just the other day I heard of a soldier's falling off.
Some Indonesian junk that's going round."

Let's see: Heroin, the clap (AIDS wasn't envisioned yet), watching your parents have sex, and mom once served as a WAC in the Philippines (Kids, get out your history books to understand that joke.). Not exactly my idea of a fun-filled vacation in the sun.


"It's been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It's been a long time since I did the Stroll."
- Led Zeppelin's "Rock & Roll," 1970 (Led Zepplin IV)

I was still a toddler when Led Zeppelin first recorded that hit. But the album was one of the first I bought less than 10 years later. (If I remember correctly, you washed the album sleeve with water and it changed colors.)

Heck, my generation even lovingly ripped on the album in the Sean Penn classic movie, "Fast times at Ridgemont High."

Led Zepellin once drove packed arenas crazy with that song. And now what is it being used for?

To sell Cadillac Escalade SUVs.

I'm only slightly comforted by the thought that if you're old enough to afford to buy and drive one of those behemoths, it may have actually been awhile since you rock and rolled. (Unless, you're a rap star or a pro athlete.)

As fast as you can physically put a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac (Don Henley's "Boys of Summer," from the 1985 album Building the Perfect Beast), Jaguar has countered Cadillac's blast from the past with an equally mismatched one of its own.

The new Jag commercials currently inundating the TV airwaves feature the opening lines and chorus of Queen's "I'm in love with my car," from 1975's A night at the opera.

"The machine of a dream
Such a clean machine
(The comercial cuts out these two lines)
With the pistons a pumpin'
And the hub caps all gleam"

I wonder if the marketing folks at the venerable British car company ever bothered to listen to the song's next lines:

"When I'm holdin' your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When my hand's on your grease gun
Oh it's like a disease son"

The sound at the end isn't an engine revving, it's Freddie Mercury spinning in his grave. Now that he's gone, the surviving members have no problem selling out for big bucks.

Queen and the Rolling Stones have also signed contracts to lend their songs for Coke's new low-carbohydrate line of soda, C-2, according to Queen's official Web site.


"The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
So let's get together
Before we get much older"
- "Baba O'Reilly" by The Who, 1971 (Who's Next)

I'll admit I thought it was funny when the surviving members of The Who agreed to sell their song, "Who are you?" to CBS so it could be the theme for the TV show Crime Scene Investigation (CSI).

But Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry have gone too far now, selling an instrumental-only version of their classic anthem "Baba O'Reilly" (commonly referred to as "Teenage Wasteland") to Hewlett Packard.

It makes you wonder what the marketing guys at HP were smoking before they made that call.
I listened to that song nearly every day on the school bus growing up (Thank you WMMR!). And let me tell you, when I think of angst-ridden suburban teenagers experimenting with drugs and sex, the last thing I think of is buying a computer.

It's too bad the band that coined the phrase "I hope I die before I get old" nearly 40 years ago ("My Generation" in 1965) didn't heed their own advice and just fade away.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

May 31, 2004