If you were an avid or even passive viewer of television back in the seventies you would have certainly heard your share of advertising jingles being sung during a multitude of commercials for every product imaginable. Burgers. Beer. Bananas. You name it.
They were not only inescapable, but some even became cultural touchstones. Everyone is familiar with such all-timers as McDonald’s “You Deserve a Break Today” (written by Barry Manilow, no less) and “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” which – spoiler alert – figured so prominently years later in the conclusion of “Mad Men.” Those jingles, and a handful more, defined the commerciality of the “Me Decade” as much as anything.
But did you know that occasionally one or another of your favorite music stars back then would anonymously slip behind the mic and let loose on a major-league jingle or two (or three) in return for a fistful of green stuff? (Dollars, not dope, in case you were confused.)
Yep, and for the most part, the public never knew. Though if you wondered why some jingles just sounded so good, so preposterously singable – well, that was a big part of the reason. Those were pros at work doing what they did best, surreptitiously crooning “ear worms” that you just couldn’t get out of your head.
So, how about an example, right? I’m glad you asked! Below is a TV commercial I culled from my personal archives that features the famous ponytailed frontman of a major hit-making American ‘60s/’70s rock and roll band (that no longer exists) extolling the virtues of a product, in this case a car brand, that also no longer exists. Any guesses as to who the gifted vocalist was/is? Well, if you came up with the name “Mark Lindsay,” then you clearly know your stuff.
Yes, the lead singer (and often producer/arranger/writer) of many a memorable Top 40 smash for Paul Revere and the Raiders also did solo work. And not just on hit singles of his own like “Arizona,” “Silver Bird,” and “Miss America.” Mr. Lindsay sometimes additionally contributed his talents toward helping us all know a little bit more about what we ought to buy. Or at least consider. Think Yamaha motorcycles, Levi’s blue jeans, and Kodak film. He cut a bunch of ‘em.
In the current instance, as you will hear, Mark is in smooth, full-on Adult Contemporary mode, as opposed to rocking out. Both of which he was equally adept at doing, by the way. Just put on some headphones or AirPods and crank up the Raiders’ giant hit “Hungry” from 1966. It’ll make your hair stand on end. The man simply OWNED every last fevered note on that classic. Growling, cajoling, pleading. Letting the world know in no uncertain terms that whatever he wanted was gonna be his for the taking – just try and stop him. Is it any wonder that Quentin Tarantino featured the song in 2019’s blockbuster film “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”?
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Note that during the jingle Mark sings about freedom being “just another name for Datsun.” Which is interesting, at least to me, since his label mate (and in-studio drinking buddy) on Columbia Records, Janis Joplin, opined on vinyl so convincingly and famously just three years earlier (in 1971) that, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Hmm… well, if both statements are true, then I guess that doesn’t say very much for the value of a Datsun, does it? No wonder they went out of business (actually the company morphed into what became Nissan).
Okay, here we go—please enjoy the exceptional (and exceptionally rare) vocals of Mr. Mark Allen Lindsay in a commercial from May of 1974 (just click on the image below):