KING PLEASURE, BETTY HUTTON, ETTA JAMES: MORE THAN A JINGLE


King Pleasure: Moody’s Mood For Love
From Golden Days (HiFiJazz, 1960).

Betty Hutton: Blow a Fuse
From ? (?, 1948). Also on Somebody Loves Me (as “It’s Oh So Quiet”).

Etta James: A Sunday Kind of Love
From At Last (MCA/Chess, 1961)

I’m not to proud to admit that I learn about certain songs by watching television commercials. Of course, this was back before Tivo, before I could 30 second jump my way through everything and thus, miss out on the *cough cough* magic that is modern advertising (oh, all those hee-lay-rious beer commercials I’m probably missing out on). But seriously, ad agencies, on rare occasions, actually hire people who have good taste in music (though I do have to say that weird cover of “Express Yourself” I recently saw on some women’s product ad threw me off a bit).

One of the earliest, vivid memories I have of this was watching a Christmas time ad for the Gap that used what I later discovered to be King Pleasure’s cover of “Moody’s Mood For the Love” (the original “vocalese” recording of the song belongs to Eddie Jefferson and the “Moody” in question here is jazz artist James Moody). I was so taken with it, I actually took a bus (this is before I had a car in the Bay Area) to get to a record store that said they had it on 45. It was well worth the trip. People argue over who has the best version and I’m not trying to make a definitive statement about that here. All I do know is that it is a great song (by King Pleasure or otherwise). I know if you do a google search, Jefferson’s version is credited for the Gap ad but far as I know, I’m pretty it’s this King Pleasure version, from Golden Days. By the way, there is a considerable mystery as to who the woman singing on this version is – she’s not credited on the album itself and so far, Betty Carter and Blossom Dearie have been ruled out.

I’ve always known “Blow a Fuse” as Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and it wasn’t until I saw promo ads for the final season of Sex and the City that I realized: oh, Björk remade someone else’s song…duh! It turned out to be Betty Hutton’s “Blow a Fuse,” what I presume is a showtune from 1948 though, for the life of me (and Google), I can’t figure out what original album this appears on (might be Dream Girl) but I’m not sure. To make it more confusing, a 2005 compilation of her music lists the song as “It’s Oh So Quiet,” presumably in deference to Björk’s cover. No disrespect to Hutton but much as I like her original (and it is quite good) but Björk does a fine cover and hey, Hutton didn’t have Spike Jonze directing a video for her.

As for the Etta James…ok, so…I learned about that from a Dockers commercial. I’m not sure why I’d be more embarrassed to admit that over, say, Gap or Sex and the City but it’s hard to make Dockers seem that sexy. That said, their San Francisco-based commercials have gotten quite a fan base (even if they make SF look whiter than Salt Lake City). Their “street car” series used Madeleine Peyroux’s “Don’t Wait Too Long” to good effect. The latest (which isn’t quite as visually enticing) uses the James song and admittedly, I had never heard it before (yeah, I know, I should really pick up the At Last album) and I was happy to make its acquaintance. It’s not quite at the level of “At Last” (but then again, what is?) but seriously? It’s as good as anything else I’ve heard of late. The arrangement and James’ vocals are absolutely stellar. By the way, if you want the beejeezus scared out of you, watch a very young Xtina belt this out.

Your favorite songs you learned about from a commercial? (Automatic disqualification for Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”/VW ad. Too obvious. Bonus points if you can name which ad used Eddie Bo’s “Hook and Sling”).

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