It's 14:59 Somewhere

When These 2 Bands Did A Beer Commercial, They Traded The Top 40 For A 40 Ounce.

The Long Ryders

Beer or Records? This was one of the biggest dilemmas I faced during the early to mid-eighties. I could buy records and talk about girls, or I could go to a bar and buy beer and talk to girls (about records). The message we get here citizens is, when you combine beer and records, you have to give something else up. The Long Ryders combined the two and gave up career momentum.

The Long Ryders came out of a California music scene so crowded, there were labels for everything (Roots Rock, Paisley Underground, etc). In a pool this populated, it was hard to garner attention from anyone in radio or the record industry. The Long Ryders album "State Of Our Union" was midnight bar fight too earnest to ignore. B
ristling with distorted power, it was the perfect counterbalance to the shopping mall new wave and poseur arena rock flooding the airwaves. "Looking For Lewis And Clark" showed a band full of promise and guile, determined as gunslingers to save us from a bleak synth pop future. Then they did a commercial for Miller Beer and ironically took it in the can.

The key to surviving having a sponsor is to distance your band far enough away from the product so no one thinks you actually use it. Does anyone think that The Rolling Stones splashed on a little musk before hitting the stage in 1981 when Jovan sponsored the tour? Or that The Who ever opened a Schlitz beer on their "first" farewell round? No. Because of it, those bands live on, while you couldn't find anything left from those brands no matter how long you looked through the recycle bins.

Guilty by association, the band were not only "branded" but scarred as "sell outs" by the same people who chant "Hey-Ho Let's Go!" at the ballgame or thought that Playing a Trio song while watching some dorks in a VW was cute. Undaunted, The Long Ryders let the the wounds heal and released a solid record in '88 ("Two Fisted Tales") and have recently reformed for some tour dates.

Listen to "Looking For Lewis And Clark"

The Del Fuegos

The Del Fuegos were a solid blue collar rock band from Boston with a sound and a pedigree that
seemed to have a perfect image for a beer commercial. Miller Beer initially enlisted the band to do a song for a compilation album (with other bubbling-under regional bands like Fayrewether, Joe "King" Carrasco, Son Seals and The Producers) in 1984. So, when it was time to shoot an ad featuring bands and beer, The Del Fuegos were the logical 1st choice.

This was an honest band and that is what hurt them in this case. Anyone that watches any amount of television knows that there is no place for truth in a television commercial. Secondly, this band had not established a national credibility yet. If you have credibility, you get a pass for perceived errors in judgment (Robert DeNiro in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" movie). Without credibility, you get passed over (everyone else in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" movie).

The Del Fuegos deserved a better fate for what was seen as a lapse in judgment. But what could they do? Rock radio at this time was infiltrated by made-over established bands, shiny dance rock, or a combination of both. The college stations that did play the records had signals that barely reached the city limits. Miller came with cash and nationwide television exposure. The band wanted people to hear this record...

The people that did, heard a heart on their rolled up sleeve, pure rock record. One part Rockabilly sideburns, 2 parts broken heart with all the gimmicks and effects thrown in the dumpster behind the building that housed what remained of the J. Geils Band. "Don't Run Wild" kicks off the LP "Boston, Mass" with an uneasy build up to critical mass mirroring the structure of an actual discussion of the topic of "running wild". The band was a throwback in sound but ahead of the pack in the marketing department. With all the bands that have music in ads today, was it really so bad? Judge for yourself:

The Del Fuegos for Miller Beer

Listen to "Don't Run Wild"

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Sometimes Taking The Wrong Side Is The Right Move.

Robert Plant

Unreleased B-Sides are the musical equivalent of finding the last beer in the back of a refrigerator at a party. It could be it is back there for a a Zima. However, if it's a legitimate beer, the satisfaction of having the last real drink in the house is better than the actual beer itself. When you are Robert Plant you don't need to be fishing around some stranger's ice box for stray brews, so why release a non album B-Side not once, but 3 times?

Being in a big name band will create initial excitement about a solo album, however, if the record's no good, the excitement will only last about as long as it takes to fold a 12'' vinyl platter and flush it down the toilet. Plant was wise enough to know for every Pete Townshed solo record, there are 5 Greg Rolie and Jimmy Destri flops (WHO?...exactly). With this understanding, Plant knew he had to make an album that would make his own mark without alienating the existing fan base, as well as providing the clout to go in other directions in the future.

Plant eventually started playing around London with a band that carried the foreshadowing name, The Honeydrippers. During this time, he started to write and record with the band guitarist, Robbie Blunt. Blunt gave Plant a powerful sound to accompany his hookah smoke covered lyrics, and his guitar playing style was adept and different enough from his predecessor to give the record the cache it needed.

All this brings us to why "Far Post" was not included on the "Pictures At Eleven" album. The answer is: I don't know. Good enough to be a single, it was the B-side of the 12" "Burning Down One Side/Moonlight In Samosa", It was the B-side to the 1st single ("Big Log") off his next album and was included on the "White Nights" soundtrack. Like a baby you find waiting for you on your doorstep, this song's playful mystery finally found a home on the re-released version of "Pictures At Eleven".

Listen to "Far Post"

The Cars

In 1984 The Cars were poised to become one of the biggest bands in the world. Starmaker "Mutt" Lange was about to do for The Cars, what he did for AC/DC and Def Leppard--give them a multi-platinum across the board smash album. That summer when people flocked to see The Cars perform live, they saw a show with all the excitement of watching a steak cook at room temperature. Everything they played sounded just like the record and no one in the band moved from where they were standing. You can't be the biggest band in the world if you introduce every song by saying "you're getting VERY sleepy..."

While The Cars' live show could never be described as "putting the needle in the red"--the glossy, but dark, pop record "Heartbeat City" could. Reoccurring underlying themes of the perils of drug use, make the needle in question not for RPM's but for "H". "Hello Again" leads off the album as a wake up call to someone out of touch with reality due to a chemical vacation. You have the self-medicating tone of "Drive" and the title track plus the song about going from the monotony of the bad, to excitement of the worse "Breakaway"

"Breakaway" was rightfully left off of the album because it did not sound like anything on Heartbeat City. The production polish was not there either, leading me to believe it was a leftover from Rick Ocasek's solo effort "Beatitude" ("Drive" also came from that session, but it fit better with Ben Orr's vocal style.), or possibly they need some more songs about girls...

"Breakaway" was released as the B-side to "Why Can't I Have You". Radio programmers looking for something upbeat to play from this album gave the song a run of about 2 weeks.

Listen to "Breakaway"

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