Various Artists

Things Go Better With Coke

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This 61-track, 73-minute blank-label CD is either the ultimate collector's treasure trove or the worst piece of ersatz ever to pass itself off as a serious CD -- or it could be both. During the 1960s, it wasn't unheard of for rock & roll groups and music performers to lend their voices to commercial jingles; several decades later the closest one got to that sort of thing (apart from the licensing of classic rock & roll songs for use in commercials) was when acts like the Rembrandts recorded the theme for the TV series Friends or the Presidents of the United States of America's version of Ian Hunter's "Cleveland Rocks" was used on The Drew Carey Show. But in the '60s, artists of surprisingly high stature were willing (and artists of surprisingly middling stature were asked) to lend their talents and skills to the cutting of product advertising jingles. (The Who's little plug for Roto-Sound strings on The Who Sell Out is another example probably more relevant to rock 'n roll.) Any act with lesser stature than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones was fair game to be approached by an advertising agency with some hope of success.

This collection shows off the Bee Gees (in their 1967-1969 incarnation), the Moody Blues (doing three different plugs each showing a different permutation of their psychedelic-era sound), the New Vaudeville Band, Los Bravos, the Troggs, the Tremeloes, Tom Jones, Lulu, the Easybeats, the Left Banke, the Box Tops, Leslie Gore, the Vogues, Roy Orbison, Gary Lewis, Freddie Cannon, Vanilla Fudge, Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye each singing and playing plugs for Coca-Cola. It may seem monotonous -- most of the spots include the phrase "Things Go Better With Coke" -- but the variations are fascinating, and it is a chance to hear these acts having what can only be considered fun with their respective sounds. The Moody Blues applying their Mellotron sound to a plug for a soft drink might've broken the spell of their seeming mystical orientation (like, what part of the astral plane did that generate from?), but the plug also might've leavened their incredible seriousness just a bit. One isn't sure about the ad agency's wisdom in recruiting the Troggs for this kind of work -- Reg Presley's voice wasn't necessarily the vehicle for endorsing a food product. Freddie Cannon, Jan & Dean, and Gary Lewis & the Playboys are a better fit; in fact, almost any Liberty/Imperial act before the Hour Glass might've worked (they were that kind of label).

There is a kind of surreal fun to be found in these sounds -- many of the tracks run well over a minute and are done in each artist's straight style, whatever that might be. The second of three Roy Orbison numbers here, for example, is in his hardest rocking style of the mid- to late '60s, while the third blatantly imitates "Oh, Pretty Woman." Acts like Tom Jones, Vanilla Fudge (whose presence also makes one wonder what some ad executives were thinking), the Box Tops, Marvin Gaye, and even the Bee Gees completely absorb the Coca-Cola lyrics into their own respective sounds. A few of the jingles, such as the two by Petula Clark, have surfaced in legitimate formats on compilations devoted to the artists. The quality throughout is generally good to excellent, although the American material is slightly lower in fidelity for the most part. The Box Tops' tracks reveal some surface noise, and seem to be the only tracks taken from sources other than tape.

This CD was originally prepared by an ad agency for professional and internal use only, and was grabbed up by some enterprising soul and put on the market; it is now out of print and, as of the end of 2000, getting harder to find and more expensive to buy by the day. The packaging lists 64 cuts but only 61 are here; the missing ones are by Jay & the Techniques and some act listed as Come Alive (which seems like a potential -- perhaps unintended? -- in-joke, since "Come Alive" is the theme of the Pepsi-Cola advertising of nearly the same era).

Track Listing

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blue highlight denotes track pick