Why do I remember the kids' rap for that "Sun Jammers" commercial?
One of the most cherished memories I have of my childhood is television. I don’t have the stuff now, anymore; haven’t had it for a while. It’s not necessarily due to any sort of attitude fraught with a belief that television is full of inane and mind-numbing garbage which I am completely above and beyond, as I spend my leisurely time dissecting Samuel Richardson’s tome "Clarissa” or finding parallels of my own existence within Rousseau’s “Reveries of the Solitary Walker.” No, no, no, nothing of the sort.
Television’s just too damned expensive, is all, and I cannot afford forty, fifty dollars a month to enjoy all of two channels. But as a kid, I loved television, mostly because we had it in abundance, and Saturday mornings were like a little taste of freedom and independence that nobody, not even our hardworking, disciplinarian parents could take away from us. As they savoured those mornings of sleeping-in, of relinquishing their spanking and wholesome-food duties for just a few heavenly hours of not having to wake up to an alarm, my brother and I would take over the family room and hunker down for many enjoyable hours of animated bliss. The power of television can be demonstrated by this alone: while hauling us out of bed on any given weekday to go to school required various degrees of cajoling, threats, hair-pulling, bribery, or quite simply horrid scenarios of future possibilities if we did not successfully complete our elementary-school education, waking up on weekends took no effort at all. By 7:30 in the morning, my brother and I were wide-awake and downstairs, lugging our heavy, cozy comforters with us, and we took our respective places: he on the long couch, me on the La-Z-Boy, and we wordlessly began our task of watching cartoons. “The Smurfs” was always comforting, “Muppet Babies” was pretty good, while Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was definitely the apex of the morning.
Anything after that (think “The Littles” or "The Snorks") was fairly anticlimactic, but we watched it anyway. It was post-“Pee-Wee” that one or both parents would pad into the kitchen, yawning, to wish us a good morning and fetch their coffee, but neither Andrei nor I could care less.
What stands out to me about watching TV as a kid is the commercials. The programs themselves were potent; the advertisements equally so. Sometimes, actually, I think commercials stay with us even longer and stronger than the damned shows that they’re nestled into.
1.)Nestle’s White Chocolate
I don’t know what it is about this one, but it’s stayed with me since I was an early adolescent. The ad itself features a bunch of brooding models sulking around in various “white” scenes, mostly winter-type ones involving snow and fur and Arctic landscapes, yet occasionally parting their pillowy lips so their teeth can snap a small bite from a square of Nestle’s chocolate. The visuals aren’t what plague my brain so much as the jingle itself: Sweet dreams you can’t resist, N-E-S-T-L-E-S,” croons the male session singer, unironically spelling out the name of the company to whom he is shamelessly shilling his vocals. The tune itself is in a minor-key progression, until we hit this startling shift where he wails, “Creamy white / dreamy white”, and you’re doused with goosebumps by the unexpected major-key transition during this miniscule couplet, but by its end (so soon, and so quickly), you’re back to the haunting, moody minor chords that make this one an absolute classic. It’s been rumoured that Mike Patton covered this jingle live onstage with Faith No More during their heyday, which, uncoincidentally, was around the same time that this commercial was being aired every ten seconds. If this song was available on karaoke lists, it’s the only one I’d tackle, time and time again.
2.) Big Red
I chose this above the Juicy Fruit ad because it means more to me. This one, I’m almost positive, is still around. I don’t know who Wrigley’s has hired to pen their chewing-gum jingles, but the person responsible for their creation is someone we all need to know, because they have tapped into the human psyche and created art out of it, all without being a pretentious jackoff or a cringe-inducing blowhard. Nobody has managed to incite genuine emotion in someone enduring an advertisement jingle like this musical genius, and bonus points if the composer also happens to be the buggering lyricist. Nobody can be that gifted; I’m sorry, nobody. The song for Big Red is miraculous. Somehow, they have taken the experience of chewing gum and turned it into a shy but coaxing ode into being a bit more amorous with the person in your physical proximity, or just being a bit friendlier, a bit more confident, a bit more prolonged in your activity with whomever you’re involved with…all because you have good breath. Who am I to disagree? Particularly when I remember being nine years old and taking swimming lessons with this bucktoothed atrocity who breathed hard, and his exhalations never ceased to smell like rancid peanut butter? Apparently Wrigley’s has kept this jingle afloat since the 1970’s, so clearly, something correct is being done here. I don’t remember exact lyrics, but they wrap up with “So say goodbye a little longer, make it last a little longer, give your breath long-lasting freshness with Big Red!” All accompanied by a catchy melody that takes all sorts of twists and turns and never renders itself stale. You know a jingle is something extraordinary when you find yourself singing along to it every single time you hear it.
Ah, yes. From the days when drink boxes were the norm (are they still? At my advanced age, I have positively no idea, since all I see young people do now is dress in low-slung jeans, babble into cell phones, lurk outside of Liquor Stores waiting for a “boot”, or all of the above. I’m also waiting for my hip-replacement surgery, and I lost my cane the other night). If you shove aside all the associations that Kool-Aid has with over-the-top cult leaders in Guyana and cyanide , then you have yourself a smiling, life-sized jug of childhood merriment and promises of normalcy. Kool-Aid was always just a beverage consisting of alarming amounts of food colouring stirred together with water and about a kilogram of sugar, but back in the late eighties, the company decided to make things a bit more convenient and offer it to children as the beverage of choice for their packed lunches. Whatever they tasted like, I never knew and I’ll never know: my folks were the type of parents who granted us “pop day” every Friday (that meant one can of soft drink, and one only, every Friday) and whose idea of occasionally purchasing “sweet cereal” was Golden Grahams (though they would mix the entire contents of it in a Tupperware container with Corn Bran), so Kool-Aid Koolers never found their way to our cupboard. The commercial and the accompanying song was great, though: I remember it was all skateboards and neon and sunglasses and technicolour liquid, with a snappy, ADHD-inspired jingle that had lyrics such as “You can splash it, pour it / Snack it or just six-pack it / Icy-fruity, super-juicy / Kool-Aid Koolers make it cooler!” Knowing I’d never be able to sample this excitement, I felt left out of something major, but considering I’m hovering on the age of 31 and still get routinely I.D.’d when I try to buy cheap shiraz, maybe my folks knew something I didn’t. What that has to do with Kool-Aid is beyond me, but this is my website and I have bragging rights if need be.
I probably even spelled that incorrectly. This commercial is one that sticks in the mind of people my age who grew up in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. I included it because it was so odd, yet so effective, and we saw it all the damned time. What was it advertising? I think it was a furniture store; in fact, I could be almost positive it was a furniture store. Yes, actually, it had to be. Now that I’m recalling the deeper meaning of the lyrical content, there’s no way that it couldn’t be an advertisement for a furniture store. As a child, it was just an astonishing, mesmerizing array of visuals, accompanied by a few scant lines of dialogue containing words that were meaningless to me, as I didn’t understand them. Allow me to illustrate: an ebony-skinned man with a large smile, wearing a white suit and white gloves and matching white top hat, slinking around a darkened environment. A rather husky, though subtle samba beat starts in the background (gently punctuated by the odd bass note), and the host of this commercial repeats this refrain several times: Get Malacca for the money / rattan TO GO. Leave an eight-year old alone to interpret the words “Malacca for the money” and “rattan to go” by his/herself, and you’re not really going to get much more than a lifetime’s worth of bewilderment, possibly frustration, and an infinite number of interpretations of what the entire spectacle actually represented. I can’t really explain it much more than that. I suppose every county has its own idiosyncratic and locally-lauded enterprises that churn out their own television spots, but this one has seared itself onto my memory for all time. I have spoken with peers who recall this advert just as clearly and as incredulously as I do.
About two people I know remember this commercial, and I’m half of that number. The other half is married and living somewhere in Pitt Meadows and we haven’t spoken in years. Yet it’s funny how, a while back, we were talking about commercials from our childhood that left an impact, and this was one of them. Circa 1984, Chipoppity was one of those trial snack foods that didn’t last long (another one I recall was Jellilicious, nothing more than a Jell-O-like substance in a plastic tube), but its commercial was astounding. The goodie itself was just a packet of miniature cookie-type snacks; perhaps revolutionary at the time, but it was cause enough for an explosive television debate. The premise, the plot, the characters of the ad…I remember it all. It began with a loping, aw-shucks sort of country-western singer warbling out the most basic of lines: “Chipoppity, Chipoppity, a candy or a…cookie.” Cut immediately to a heavy-metal singer screaming out almost exactly the same thing, except in a screeching alto range and reversing the order of the proposed debate: “ChiPOPPITY! ChiPOPPITY! A COOKIE OR A CANDY!” Suddenly, we knew that there was going to be a showdown over what, exactly, this new treat was. Much like the Campbell’s Chunky Soup “fork or spoon” argument, the makers of this snack were attempting to introduce a similar dialogue. I simply recall the commercial concluding with the rube and the rocker face-to-face, with the former crooning out “Ca-a-a-a-andy” and the latter countering with a guitar-laden “COOKIE!” Needless to say, Chipoppity didn’t find itself in the midst of any sort of substantial social discourse, and we’re all stuck now with Oreo Minis for the rest of our pathetic, Nabisco-saturated lives.