From TV Commercials to the Top of the Pops

September 16, 2019

Some of the most memorable songs ever written are commercial jingles — that catchy tune about Folgers being the “best part of waking up” certainly helped move product. Some ad songs were so well done that they became hit songs in their own right…and we all forgot that they were originally made to sell things.

The Song:

In 1971, a folk vocal collective called the New Seekers scored a #1 hit in the U.K. and a top 10 hit in the U.S. with “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” a hippie-era gentle call for peace, love, understanding, and brotherhood.

The Ad:

There’s a stray line in the song about “buying the world a Coke,” a nice gesture but a major hint about the song’s origins. It appeared in a Coca-Cola commercial depicting a multicultural group of young (and singing) people on a sunny mountaintop.

The Song:

In 1970, the ultra-laid-back brother-sister pop duo Carpenters (no “the” — they’re just Carpenters) hit #2 on the pop chart with their second-ever single, “We’ve Only Just Begun.” It’s a sweet, optimistic song sung from the point of view of a person in the early stages of a relationship with someone they know is “the one.”

The Ad:

It’s a cover of a song Richard Carpenter heard in a commercial for Crocker National Bank of California. That ad shows a wedding (they’ve only just begun!), and implies that the bank can help out with all of a young couple’s financial needs. Carpenter wanted to record the song and tracked down one of its songwriters, Paul Williams (he’d later write standards such as “Rainbow Connection”), and asked for permission.

The Song:

“Music to Watch Girls By” has been popular in multiple forms. A bouncy, very-1960s number, it’s one of the best known and most successful instrumental pop hits of all time as recorded by the Bob Crewe Generation in 1966. It hit #15 on the pop chart, and hit the top 40 again when crooner Andy Williams recorded a version with specially written lyrics.

The Ad:

A composer named Sid Ramin wrote the tune in the mid-1960s for use in an early commercial for Diet Pepsi. (In retrospect, it’s a little creepy, showing a guy hiding in a tree and taking photos of women he finds attractive…who apparently maintain their figure with Diet Pepsi.) Crewe heard the song in that ad, liked it, and recorded it.

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