50 years ago today, one of the most ass kicking songs ever laid down on wax, the classic, seminal “Shout” was recorded by the Isley Brothers for RCA Records. Written by the brothers themselves, the lead vocals were handled by Ronald Isley with brothers O’Kelly and Rudolph singing back up. Even though the song never reached any higher than #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 and never did much on the R&B charts, “Shout” eventually became their first gold single simply on the basis of its lingering popularity. In 1999 “Shout” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The Isleys originally sang gospel, but by 1957 they had switched to doo-wop, left Cincinnati, and moved to New York City where they first recorded for Teenage Records. In 1959, RCA signed the group after catching them as an opening act for R&B legend Jackie Wilson.
“Shout” was their second release for the RCA; their first, “I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door” failed to chart. Initially “Shout” didn’t make much of a dent on the national stage, but after being covered by other artists, like a 15 year old Lulu, and the king of the Peppermint Twist -- Joey Dee and the Starlighters -- the song found an audience. RCA re-released the Isley’s original version in 1961 but once again the single didn’t catch on, peaking at #92. With that failure, the Isleys were released from their RCA contract. No problem, they would chart dozens of singles for the next 5 decades for labels like Wand, Tamla, T-Neck and Warner Brothers.
As for “Shout,” it has been recorded by a wide range of artists like Johnny O'Keefe (his version reached #3 on Australian charts in November 1959), The Shangri-Las, The Beatles, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Alvin and the Chipmunks (Simon sang lead), Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, and the Temptations used to do it live, as did The Who, Panic At The Disco and Green Day. Of course, the most famous version is by Otis Day and the Knights from the 1978 movie Animal House.
In July 1969 David Bowie released "Space Oddity" (see original video below) and now, forty years later, anyone can remix the song on their iPhone or iPod Touch with the Remix David Bowie Space Oddity Application powered by iKlax which was very recently made available for purchase. This marketing launch, of course, strategically ties in with the 40th anniversary of Man's first steps on the moon. According to the marketers,"'Space Oddity' has become cult material, marking David Bowie's career forever. Moreover, the track was broadcasted along with the live images from the moon landing by the BBC as Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong made history. By choosing the iKlax multitrack iPhone application for "Space Oddity"'s own 40th anniversary, David Bowie provides a unique experience to his fans.
The remix application contains the original soundtracks for each and every instrument used in the song, letting users vary the volumes of the voice, the 12 string guitar, drum & bass, mellotron, organ, violin and orchestra, as well as save each new remix. Oh yeah, and it also has a fun feature whereby you can shake the iPhone to get new sounds, as shown above.
Artists' music being used in commercials was once a touchy subject. And it is still is, but to a lesser degree nowadays than in bygone decades, it seems. It also depends on what context the music is used and what exact song by which artist is being utilized. Some commercially popular music is just geared to be a jingle. But traditionally the typical "serious" artist felt lending their art in exchange for cash as the soundtrack to some shallow TV commercial geared to sell (the word "pimp" would often be used) cars or washing detergent was the ultimate sellling of your soul to "the man."
And of course, if said artist's music is reactionary, revolutionary, anti-authoritarian, protest type music, it really is contradictory to have it included in a cheesy TV ad -- hence the reason Jello Biafra fought so hard against his litigating former friends/bandmates who he insisted were trying hard to make a quick buck by selling the rights of the Dead Kennedys' song "Holiday In Cambodia" to be used in a Levi's commercial.
But even less politically overt artists than Biafra are against their music being used in commericals. Still, there are exceptions to every rule. A good example is Jack White, who has long been opposed to the White Stripes' music being sold for use in a commercial. Reportedly over the years he and his bandmate have been approached many times and turned down the offers to use the Stripes' music in commercials. But he wasn't opposed to composing a whole new song for a TV commercial a few years ago; he penned the sixties Brit psychedelic inflected tune called "Love Is The Truth" (reminiscent of the Small Faces' hit "Itchycoo Park") with the repeated lyrics "Love is the truth/ It's the right thing to do," to be used in a Coca Cola ad.