Is this a case of life taking a leaf out of the pages of Record Collector? No sooner does your favourite monthly music mag run a feature on the inestimable Edwyn Collins than here comes the nation’s favourite clothes store Marks & Spencers harnessing his timeless 1994 smash A Girl Like You for its Autumn campaign.
Taking Edwyn’s Girl… as our theme, we throw the rest of this month’s MTWTAB page over to a selection of fine female artists who might otherwise not get all the attention they deserve. Like the near-legendary Edith Piaf, for example, whose career-defining Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien figures prominently in a 100% CGI film for Toyota’s stylish new GT86 coupe.
Christened Edith Gassion, she earned the soubriquet Piaf – meaning Little Sparrow – while singing in the cafes and cabarets of Paris as a teenager in the 1930s. La petite Piaf became a symbol of French nationalism during and immediately after WW2, and then developed an international career, touring Britain and the US on the strength of signature songs like La Vie En Rose and Milord.
But it may surprise readers to learn that Regrette… itself was not born of the immediate post-war era. It was written in 1956 by occasional Jacques Brel collaborator Charles Dumont and Piaf didn’t record it until 1960 when it became massive European hit on the EMI-owned Pathe label. Not quite her swansong, since she kept working until shortly before her death from cancer in 1963, but Piaf’s Regrette ... must surely rank alongside Frank Sinatra’s My Way (also penned by a Frenchman) as one of the greatest laments – not to mention one of the most covered titles – of all time. It must be something in the wine.
The list of artistes who have lined up to sing Come On-A My House is also pretty impressive. It starts with Rosemary ‘Aunt of George’ Clooney – who took the title to Number One on the Billboard charts in 1951 for Columbia – and then includes divas like Ella Fitzgerald, Kay Starr, Julie London and Eartha Kitt while Madonna winds her waist up to it in the eminently forgettable 1974 movie Swept Away directed by her then husband Guy Ritchie.
In Sheba cat food’s latest commercial, it’s Desperate Housewives’ star Eva Longoria who does the dancing to a version of the song by gospel singer turned TV personality turned preacher Della Reese, more famous for her belting ballad Don’t You Know which went to Number 2 in the USA 1959 on RCA.
For those who care about such things, Come On-A My House was written by one Ross Bagdasarian who, also in 1959, achieved fame – or should that be notoriety – for creating Alvin And The Chipmunks and their Children’s Family Favourites hit Lonesome Cowboy Joe: a triumph of tape-driven studio-technology which drove parents mad when it went Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.
But we won’t go there because there are two Google Chrome commercials more demanding of our attention. Both tell 30 second long stories using all the things today’s tablets can do. The first, called Second Chance, is a mini-romcom and features a happy/sad little ditty entitled The Porch Song by a US band called The Meemies, released on their own eponymous label in 2007. The Meemies are the brain child of one Charlie Hilton who has history on the LA DIY pop scene – but you’ll have to dig deep into the web to find it.
The second is Cambridge Satchels, apparently a reality TV tale about the building of a successful cottage industry making and selling…well, satchels and shoulder bags. Velvet Elvis is the soundtrack to this one and it comes courtesy of Alex Winston, another off-the-wall but rather more artistically ambitious US artist whose debut King Con album was issued over here by V2 in April. She’s worth checking out too.
Both spots look decidedly low-key compared to insurance company Direct Line’s latest offer. Gone are those cartoon telephones and their irritating ringtones. In their place is a high concept, highly choreographed epic boasting a cast of hundreds dressed in Direct Line red carrying firstly umbrellas, then iPads, followed by what looks like mini-riot shields ( or could they be replacement windows?) and finally pet dogs!
The groovy modern electopop soundtrack here is a snippet of Disparate Youth, as lifted from US fusion artist Santigold’s second Warner Atlantic album Master Of My Make Believe which made the Top 40 in the UK charts in the Spring. Over the last five years Santigold has supported a veritable who’s who of top names including Coldplay, M.I.A., Bjork., Jay-Z and Kanye West. No stranger to the ad breaks, her tracks were licensed for commercials by VO5 styling gel in 2009 and Diet Coke in December last year.
Which brings us finally to The Shirelles, one of the greatest of all girl groups and the first to top the US pop chart with the epochal Goffin and King teen ballad, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in 1960. As far as the ad breaks are concerned the NY quartet are forever the bridesmaids and never the bride. Back in 2007 RC readers may remember their Baby It’s You was re-recorded as part of the soundtrack to a hugely expensive Peroni Beer ad which replicated La Dolce Vita by cult 1960s Italian film maker Frederico Fellini. This time it’s the rather more obscure Bright Shiny Colors, originally released on Scepter in 1967, which has been reproduced by a session band named 99 Trees for a rather odd Ikea ad. It involves a lady in a leotard who hops and skips through a number of tableaux each supposedly designed to evoke a great movie. We’ve recognized Yellow Submarine and Flashdance. How many more can you see?