Eric Clapton, Gerry Rafferty and jingles

Eric Clapton's finest

Layla Album Cover 1970

I recently visited an old friend at Publicis in London.

Publicis is a large French advertising agency, and has offices in Baker Street. Michael Winner, who, apart from being a long-standing and successful film producer, writes restaurant reviews for the Sunday Times.

He recently wrote, “I hate Baker Street. It’s a nothing street that starts near Oxford Street (another horror), goes in a straight line north, leads you one way or another to St John’s Wood (don’t like that either) and then goes on through Hertfordshire (nice), the north (strange) and Scotland (adorable) and ends up at the North Pole. I suppose, if it had the energy, Baker Street would carry on down the other side of the planet and go to the South Pole.”

I feel rather the same, but my reason for not being very happy about Baker Street is markedly different.

In the 1980s, musicians and record labels started to make their music available for use in advertising. This was bad news for writers of advertising jingles. Their business was killed overnight. What it led to was the launch of  Microsoft’s Windows 95 using Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones and the birth of a new business, that of reselling hit songs for advertising.

During the late 1980s, Lowe Howard-Spink was looking for a more effective way of branding Vauxhall’s advertising. Vauxhall is General Motors’ main brand in the UK.

The idea was to have a standard sign-off at the end of every Vauxhall TV commercial, which would be a well-known, popular musical motif of less than five seconds.

This was not as easy to find as you might think, but the agency eventually settled on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, and intended coupling it with, “Once Driven, Forever Smitten.”

Unfortunately, Mr Rafferty was less than keen, so Alan Cluer, I think, was dispatched the The Robert Stigwood Organisation, and came back with the rights to Layla.

This song was written in 1970, in two parts with the piano coda being composed a week after the first section.

We were surprised to get it, but everyone was delighted, especially the clients in Luton.

The key riff was re-recorded by a session guitarist, and the music ran on Vauxhall’s TV advertising until, I think, 1995.

It could have run longer, but everybody concerned began to lose interest in keeping the riff following the death of Clapton’s little boy, Conan, who fell from a window in New York in 1992. The marketing director at Vauxhall, Gio Cantarella, sent flowers and commiserations to Clapton in New York, but they were delivered to the wrong address.

At this point, we wondered about re-approaching Gerry Rafferty’s management, but they said that they had no idea where he was. And, as it turned out, that remained the situation, on and off, on a regular basis until his death on January 4, 2011, of liver failure.

Consequently, the two words, Baker Street, don’t conjure up Sherlock Holmes in my mind, but they do make me wonder if we would have been better advised to go for a jingle instead.

If anyone reading this post writes advertising jingles for a living, I’d love to hear from you.

Is Ronnie Bond still alive?

Finally, I’m interested in your opinions about this new layout, please.