When Car Commercials and Rock and Roll Collide

Categories: 1-2-3-4!

seger may2 b.JPG
Photo By Jay Lee
King of the Car Commercials, Bob Seger
This weekend is the big Houston Art Car Parade, where children and adults of all ages can gander at their fellow Houstonians' labors of car love. Each car is a marvel of the ingenuity and the insanity of this race known as the modern Texan.

The Art Car festivities have cars on our brains.

Rock and roll and cars go hand in hand. From Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys, T. Rex, The Clash, ZZ Top and even Rob Zombie, they make great lyrical fodder. And most of the time girls come with cars, or you can can get girls with cars, and sometimes you can lose cars because of girls.

It stands to reason that advertisers and car companies would try to marry the two in sweet, acrimonious matrimony, so fans can scream "Sell Out!" Even still, a few hundred grand for one of your songs to be used in a car ad sure does help with the whole guilt issue. If someone's kid gets to go to college, then more power to them.

Nissan has had deep pockets when it comes to using rockers for ads, enlisting The Ramones, Blur, The Who and others for adverts.

Perhaps the first and most popular use of modern rock music in an ad was Chevrolet's use of Bob Seger's "Like a Rock," which became synonymous with Chevy trucks in the '90s. I hope that Seger's kids all get new Corvettes for their birthdays.

Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" skyrocketed back to prominence following an appearance for VW. Sting's awful "Desert Rose" was used for a Sting-starring, Sting-ruining Jaguar commercial, which was so bad that it shuttered the company for good and the CEOs burned down every factory in disgust and now their families all live on the street (dammit, Wiki).

"London Calling" by the Clash was later also used for a Jaguar ad, to the consternation of punks all over the world. But look at Mick Jones now -- he just looks like he would own a Jaguar. This wasn't even the first or last time that the only band that matters would be heard in an ad.

Lots of indie-rockers have been selling off their songs for car ads lately too, but (yawn) I would rather someone use a Motörhead or Mötley Crüe song to get me to buy a car than Phoenix or Wilco. Seriously, if someone used "Ace of Spades" for a truck advert, I would at least take a test drive.

But before you make a car purchase, you should also make sure you are insured against any damages to your vehicle or others. Here's an Iggy Pop ad from the UK for Swiftcover, because when you are looking for fast car, home or travel insurance, get Swiftcovered.

And if you are really good at driving fast, hear Radio Birdman's "New Race" for this ad for Indy racing on cable.


The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" helped Toyota sell a few Rav4's a few years back.


Electric Six, "Danger! High Voltage"


The Pogues, "The Sunnyside of the Street"

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The Orange Show

2402 Munger, Houston, TX

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3 comments
R. E. Davis
R. E. Davis

The Subaru ad with If I Should Fall From Grace With God always makes me laugh. This one trumps it, though. You really have to wonder if anyone at Cadillac actually listened to the lyrics. Actually, you don't. They read the song title and signed off.

And thanks to that, we have a luxury car ad that features Shane McGowan singing about his heart full of hate and lust for vomit.

Life is good!

The Woodlands Biotch
The Woodlands Biotch

Back in 2010, Lincoln had an ad for the MKT that featured a cover of "Under The Milky Way" by The Church, performed by Sia. It was beautiful, and the car wasn't bad, either. heh. I wrote about it at the time: http://wp.me/pVaEy-8W They also used Shiny Toy Gun's cover of "Major Tom (Coming Home)" for the MKZ that same year. Prior to that, the 2009 MKS ad featured David Bowie's "Space Oddity" covered by Cat Power, who sadly didn't release a full version. Seems they had a thing for Major Tom that year. I don't know who their ad agency was at the time, but had I had a little more green in the bank and faith in the Ford cousins (and, more importantly, not just bought my new car the year before) I would have totally test driven at least two of three of these.

Mustang
Mustang

My new favorite rock & roll car ad: Ted Nugent's Stranglehold for VW CommercialAlso years ago the one with Janis Joplin singing Mercedes Benz!  Who would have thought!

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