Monday, January 18, 2016

"Cool" hits the big time, 37 years later

Madison Avenue knows how to sell cars, and by this point, using a decades-old song in an advertisement isn't exactly ground-breaking. You can probably identify some cars just by the songs: "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. "Eminence Front" by The Who. AC/DC, "Back in Black". Bob Seger's "Like a Rock"—I don't know if that one still airs, but I guarantee you're thinking of Chevy trucks right now. Were I back at WLUR-FM, I'm sure I could fill at least an hour of airtime with co-opted classic rock hits.

But I was not prepared for this: I'm sitting in front of the TV in the break room at work. The Weather Channel (I think) goes to commercial break. A new ad for Lexus; I'm a Subaru guy, and not remotely in the market for a car, so I start to tune out...holy hell, is that Pylon?!?!

Yes, yes it is. A major automobile company is using a song from 1979 by a semi-obscure band from Athens, Georgia to tout their latest luxury sedan. "Cool", a.k.a. track 2 on the perhaps ironically-titled Hits. (Well, maybe it's not ironic, but it does need to be kept in perspective...)

Pylon may be best known to "outsiders" for their influence on another band, neighbours and contemporaries: R.E.M. did a cover of "Crazy"; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted, "I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that Chronic Town came out and being suddenly depressed by how much better it was than our record." I missed out on a few aspects of the Athens music scene (I only arrived there in 1991), but I did get to see Pylon at the 40 Watt, and I can assure you that they were the real deal.

Thanks, Lexus, for the flashback. And for the benefit of those who were not there, here's the full song, complete with Vanessa Briscoe Hay's jarring vocals (and, incidentally, Pylon's trademark schematic/spec-sheet graphics):


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