Sunday, January 28, 2007

Suicide is Painless? Ads need many changes...

I am by no means the first blogger to highlight the absurdity of commercial use of popular music out of context or toned town.

Probably the most glaring example is Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's use of Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life". The tune is there, big and bold, but the lyrics skip from "Here comes Johnny Yen again" to "With his lust for life" and thus bypass "With the liquor and drugs, And the flesh machine, He's gonna do another strip-tease...Well I am just a modern guy, Of course I've had it in the ear before, 'Cause of a lust for life." The whole thing is laid out nicely at Dick Mac's blog.

The incongruity has had a lot of people who respect Iggy's music outraged, amused, bewildered, and more (on the other hand it may have turned some folks on to Iggy, which would be a good thing). Still it was hard for some to accept the punk counter-culture subverted by commercial interests. But this is nothing new. The sixties were not over before the free love vibe was subverted by advertisers serving major corporations. Indeed, a lot of the cultural history of America over the last forty years has involved the commercialization ands mainstreaming of what began as anti-commercial, anti-establishment.

Remember how the biting 1970 anti-war movie M.A.S.H. became a TV sitcom and everyone was humming the word-less theme song blissfully unaware [in 99.9% of cases] that the title of the song, and it's refrain, is "Suicide is painless"?

p.s. The lyrcis to "Suicide is Painless" were written by Michael Altman, son of the late great Robert Altman who directed the movie. You can read them here.

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