Tuesdays With Ricki - week one / Rock & Roll Stars Selling Their Songs (and Souls) in Commercials

When I first came up with the idea for Tuesdays With Ricki – in which I will endeavor to entertain and/or bother the Pencilstorm readership with a semi-regular Tuesday column – I ran the title “Tuesdays With Ricki” past my lovely wife Debbie, saying, “It's a play on Tuesdays With Morrie, that John Steinbeck travelogue book.”  (Steinbeck is one of my three favorite authors.)  Debbie just looked over and said, “John Steinbeck didn’t write Tuesdays With Morrie.  That book was about a sports writer visiting his old professor.”  “Uhhh, I don’t think so,” I replied, “I’m pretty sure it was Steinbeck.”

It didn’t take Google long to straighten me out that I was thinking of Travels With Charley by Steinbeck, and the professor in Tuesdays With Morrie is losing his memory, so I’m probably definitely closer to Morrie than Steinbeck.

Anyway, Tuesdays With Ricki will be a hodge-podge of topics – my late-night TV rundown (literally), some music, some books (the Springsteen auto-b comes out September 27th, I’m hyped for that), movies, rock stars selling their asses to the highest bidder to get their songs into commercials (obviously a continuing boil on the skin of my universe), some Ricki C. rock & roll stories, etc. – whatever I feel like babbling about that week.  Let’s see how many Tuesdays I can get in before I drop the ball or Colin decides he’s had enough of my guff.


Rock & roll stars selling their songs (and souls) in commercials.

It’s getting so I can’t get through a single evening of television viewing without being confronted with my favorite rock & rollers selling out their birthright to the Lowest Common Denominator of network commercials.  Actually, in the case of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” being used by fucking PETSMART for God’s sake, we’ve actually found a way to go BELOW the Lowest Common Denominator – something my fifth-grade math back at St. Aloysius tells me is impossible, but here we are.

I fully realize I’ve bored readers with this subject before, but now it’s not just alt-rockers & pop stars peddling their asses to the Highest Bidder, it’s the BIG THREE of bands I formerly loved – The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Clash – offering up their tunes on the altar of the Big Bucks.  Of course this is nothing new, Pete Townshend has been selling out The Who tunes for DECADES (and, in fact, called an album The Who Sell Out back in 1967, but back then he was being all arty & ironic, it's only now we realize he was merely peering into his future).  Just last night in the course of one evening of TV I caught “Eminence Front,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” being trotted out to sell Disposables to The Masses.  Even by Pete’s rather dubious commercial standards, this might be approaching overkill.

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” was formerly my FAVORITE rock & roll song of all time.  I find now I can’t even listen to it when it comes on oldies radio in the car, let alone put it on my stereo at home.  And I fully realize that many Pencilstorm readers will say, “Jeeez, Ricki, it’s just a commercial.  It’s only rock & roll.  Lighten up.”  But I find as I grow older I find I CAN’T lighten up on this topic.  It’s hard to explain to regular people just HOW MUCH these songs once meant to me, and HOW HARD it is to hear them being used to sell dog food.  “Sympathy For The Devil” for Petsmart?  HOW BADLY could Mick Jagger & Keith Richards have needed that money?  It’s one thing for Mick & Keith to sell “Satisfaction” to whatever commercial that’s in, it’s quite another to peddle their paean to The Prince of Darkness to Petsmart.  What do cute cartoon puppies, “The Secret Life of Pets” and Satan have in common?  How many millions is too many millions?     

Which brings us to the next point: I’m thinking that all of a sudden we’re hearing Clash tunes – “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “London Calling,” etc. – in commercials because Mick Jones and whichever widow of Joe Strummer’s has control of his publishing have finally signed on the dotted line.  I still have a problem with The Clash – who actually BACKED UP their early radical political leanings with action, the Rock Against Racism shows & such – being used as fodder for hotel reservations, but someone who married Joe Strummer probably still has his kids to raise, so maybe that woman gets a pass.  Do I believe we would have heard these songs on commercials if Joe Strummer were still alive?  Lord God Jesus, I hope not.  

Okay, one of my self-imposed limits on Tuesdays With Ricki is that no post will go over 750 words and we’re coming perilously close that barrier so let me just say two things: 1) Artists are fully entitled to do whatever they want with their creations, but just don’t come crying to me for my Concert Buck after you do.  You made your money, you lost my respect, I guess we’re even.  2) The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Clash all used to believe in something – the righteous power of rock & roll – and now they don’t.  I still do.  How quaint.  – Ricki C. / September 4, 2016.