The world’s favourite fast food restaurant chain first opened its doors in Woolwich on October 1 1974. To celebrate this 40th Anniversary it launched a five-spot TV campaign designed to reinforce the message that a Big Mac can transform modern life’s little rituals into moments to savour forever.
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, of course, and McDonald’s ad agency resisted the temptation of presenting us with a series of costume dramas designed to invoke the atmosphere of the early Seventies. Instead they’ve relied upon the soundtracks to create any sense of temps perdu – and these serve to remind us that, musically speaking, those were strange days indeed.
It was still an era, for example, when Radio One pandered directly to the Mums and Dads’ audience and a boy girl act consisting of a blind crooner and and a former chorus line hoofer could top the singles charts and be given a TV series all of their own.
We’re talking about Peters And Lee who, in 1973, parlayed down-the-bill appearances on the chicken in a basket circuit into a million selling Number One single Welcome Home via seven straight wins on ITV’s then hugely influential Opportunity Knocks talent show.
They specialised in saccharin ballads with a capital B, and before finally breaking up in 1980, Lennie and Dianne went on to have four more Top 20 entries including Rainbow, which stalled at Number Three in 1974 but underpins McDonald’s timeless film about the miseries of camping in the rain.
Some things never change and moving house was and still is reckoned to be one of the most stressful things in life. Unless you’re the happy family in the next spot, down on the call sheet as Moving In, who seem to regard it as loads of fun thanks, in part, to Melanie’s 1972 smash Brand New Key which is playing in the background.
Melanie Safka, whose puppy dog eyes peeked prettily out from under a flowerchild fringe, was already a post hippy era pin-up before the 1960s came to an end.
Signed to Buddah, this one-time Greenwich Village folkie – who had performed at Woodstock but didn’t make it into the movie – finally crossed over into the US pop market with the anthemic Candles In The Rain followed by a whimsical cover of The Stones’ Ruby Tuesday.
Then Brand New Key came along. It took her a quarter of an hour to write and went Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic despite, or because, of lyrics which were deemed to be a bit too risqué by some radio programmers.
Chartwise Melanie’s fifteen minutes of fame effectively ended there. But she has since continued to receive writer’s royalties from a list of compositions including What Have They Done To My Song, Ma? which was recorded by the likes of Ray Charles and Nina Simone, kicked off The New Seekers alarmingly successful career in 1970 and was most recently covered by US TV star Miley Cyrus.
Moving on from the anodyne to the (almost) awesome brings us to Minnie Riperton whose background as a backing singer at Chess in the middle 1960s has been well-documented in the pages of RC.
Since putting the creepy Ronald McDonald out to pasture, his bosses have been responsible for some surprisingly poignant ads and the use of Riperton’s unique faltering falsetto in her signature song Lovin’ You provides a pitch perfect soundtrack for the teenage romance depicted in the Nervous First Date film.
A chart topper in the US on Epic, it peaked at Number Two over here and should have marked the beginning of a string of distinctive hit singles had Riperton not been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976, finally succumbing to the disease three years later.
AOR star Eric Carmen, on the other hand, did enjoy a handful of hits before effectively retiring from the pop scene in 1991. His All-American good looks had been the focus of attention in top teenybop rock band The Raspberries whose four Capitol albums spawned a handful of massive US singles such as Go All The Way and Let’s Pretend.
In 1975 he went solo, signed to Arista and, with the weight of Clive Davis’ hit-making machinery behind him, sold a million copies of his debut release All By Myself, which was based on a classical theme by Rachmaninoff.
It didn’t fare quite so well in the UK, where it stalled at Number 12. But it remains a much loved track with Gold radio DJs and advertising agency execs alike. So how was it chosen for an ad about a little girl grieving the death of her gold fish? The clue is undoubtedly in the title of the song.
Finally it won’t have escaped readers that, for a decade which boasted so much iconic rock, virtually every piece of music on this list could be described as MOR.
Luckily McDonald’s redeem themselves with Thin Lizzy’s gangbusting The Boys Are Back In Town. Gracing a winsome clip entitled Just Passed Your Test Drive-Thru, this is the 1976 Top 3 hit which, with the briefest of nods to an emergent Bruce Springsteen, lifted the Dublin rockers out of obscurity and turned their late lead singer Phil Lynott into a legend in his own lunchtime.
Unlike the majority of their heavy metal peers, Lizzy were not regarded as a boring old farts by the nascent punk movement. Further tracks like Dancing In The Moonlight and Waiting For An Alibi revealed a deft ability to create a twin guitar sound which somehow embraced the both styles and appealed to mainstream pop radio too.
Back in the day when the term fast food was still rarely heard, Thin Lizzy were without doubt the Real Deal.
Or should we say: Meal Deal?