published: 10 /
In the first in his 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' column, Benjamin Howarth explains his aggrievement at bands who allow their music to be used in TV adverts
Miffed. Pipped. Irked. Riled. I am feeling all these things. Yes, I am certainly most aggrieved.
'What has caused this?’ You are entitled to ask. One can’t just drop anger like this into the first column of a new year without some kind of an explanation.
Of course, there are many things that could have wound me up - the recession, my lingering student debt, Kevin Pietersen’s suicidal departure from the England cricket captaincy or the fact that we’ve run out of tea bags in the flat. But no, this time it’s musical, which means it really matters. You can’t have people mucking about with the music you love.
The music in question is ‘Oh Mandy’ by one of my favourite bands, the Spinto Band. Awful name, granted, but their debut album, ‘Nice and Nicely Done’ (released when I was at university) is fiendishly and irresistibly catchy. I may have underappreciated its charms at the time of its release, but having spent three years playing it incessantly, I am no longer in any doubt. They actually had a new one out last year, apparently, and I’m sure I’ll be buying it at some stage.
‘Oh Mandy’ is the band’s best song. Although it does have the slightest dose of melancholy, (given that it seems unlikely that the Mandy in question will be getting married to the band’s singer any time soon), the overall tone is impossibly jolly. In fact, it all seems foolishly straightforward - it just bursts straight into a glorious chorus and stays there. In a saner and better world, this would have been Number One for weeks and weeks and weeks.
But here is where the problem begins. Because as it turns out I have been able to hear this song repeatedly on television in recent weeks. Alas, not at number one, where it belongs, but rather as the music on an advert, where it most certainly does not. Every time I hear it trying to sell me things, I get more and more irate.
You see, the Spinto Band haven’t been very successful. To be honest, I had been fairly ambivalent about this. Of course, I remain bemused by the public’s imbecilic inability to appreciate rare talent, but I had also been quite enjoying keeping this song all to myself. Last year, I could discretely place ‘Oh Mandy’ onto a mix CD, safe in the knowledge that its sheer tunefulness would dazzle anyone with ears. If I did that now, all I would be doing is playing a jingle.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. For example, I find myself having to skip over the Fall’s ‘Touch Sensitive’ - one of Mark E Smith’s best songs - because of horrible memories of hearings its opening guitar riff over and over again advertising cars in the cinema.
Being rational for a second, I can’t really blame the Spinto Band. Like most mid-level musicians, they were almost certainly horrendously in debt, and a large cheque for doing no work at all must have been their waking dream. But in the long run, giving away their best song will do them no good. Just look at the Dandy Warhols, who idiotically sold ‘Bohemian Like You’ to the highest bidder and have seen their career in pieces ever since.
Ultimately, we can’t help but think of certain pop songs as our own. ‘Oh Mandy’ was mine, and another might be yours. But watch out, because any minute some awful person in marketing might decide that it belongs to HSBC.