The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… A Tale Of The Eighties

Elsewhere in these columns, I have written of how the publishers’ copyright ID computer programmes brought an end to new musical compositions around 1980.

But not only did this begin the descent of Pop, it also spelled the end for TV themes and jingles. And it is this last wot this piece is about.

For decades, the ad men had relied on catchy pieces of original music to move their employers’ products – but when that dried up, they began to look elsewhere.

Thus it was that in 1985, the creatives working on a Levi ad decided to use something evocative for their œuvre.

They came up with Marvin Gaye’s 1967 recording of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – but when they approached Motown records for clearance, the latter got SNIFFY.

And so they came up with an alternative. They assembled a Marvin Gaye impressionist and a musician who had been THERE when the track had been recorded.

With his help, they acquired vintage mics and equipment from specialist museums – and recreated the original line-up.

After a few takes, they were pleased with what they had done – but something was not quite right. Suddenly, the ex-Motown musician had a ‘eureka’ moment – he leapt up and yelled “HISS!”

He told them that the track had originally been laid down in a studio that was notorious for hiss. The producer said, “Oh yeah; I’ve got a mint-original copy of Marvin’s ‘That’s The Way Love Is’ – the hiss is CHRONIC on that one.”

“Well,” the engineer replied, “if you all bugger off and get a coffee, I can soon fix THAT.”

And so they all duly trooped off – and returned fifteen minutes later, to find a now-smug-looking engineer waiting.

He explained what he had done; ramped up the volumes to 11 on several of the mics, recorded five minutes of hiss onto a spare track – and mixed it in.

“I had to clear the studio,” he explained, “as just breathing would have been picked up – and if anyone had coughed, these cans would have blown my ears out. And I need my ears – I’m a recording engineer. It’s all I know how to do.”

He then proceeded to play their track back, with added hiss.

And in due course, it accompanied the Levi ad and made a star of Nick Kamen (who was only a model then).

But when the ad came out, Motown was shocked to discover that the public was clamouring at the doors of record shops (they still existed then) asking for copies of the record.

At which point, they hastily re-issued it and nearly twenty years after its original release, it sailed back up into the Top Ten.

And so a new fashion began. Now ALL ad men sought out classic tracks to accompany their wares – and most record companies were understandably happy to oblige.

Meanwhile, other record companies who had similar material but had not been approached – decided to jump on the band-waggon and re-release gems in similar veins.

But there was a problem; it was the Eighties – and you needed a MODERN VIDEO to accompany ANY single you released – or the all-important MTV would not play it.

However, Marvin Gaye had been shot by his psychotic father, who frowned on Marvin’s life-style, Jackie Wilson had died on stage – thanks in no small measure to Dick “Head” Clark – and Nina Simone had never been photogenic, even when YOUNG.

But after the success of the Levi ad, “…Grapevine” had again been used for an ad. This time, California Raisins – which had used CLAYMATION.

Thus this old tech suddenly found itself reborn – along with another; stop-motion.

Here are a couple of examples from MY uploads: first, Jackie Wilson’s “I Get The Sweetest Feeling” – (that’s Jackie on the TV) and then Nina Simone –



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