One of the all-time best Super Bowl commercials, and certainly the best-ever ad for a car company, was aired 10 years ago during Super Bowl XLV. The ad, known both as “Born of Fire” and “Imported from Detroit,” shows Eminem rolling through the streets of Detroit. The images were not all chamber-of-commerce shiny and bright. The edge nature of the crumbling environment, a situation that led to people visiting to see the post-industrial archelogy in front of their eyes (not exactly Pompei-like ruins, but certainly not necessarily a place you’d like to take a Sunday walk). The soundtrack is an instrumental version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” He is driving what was then a new Chrysler 200.
You see the Robert Graham “Monument to Joe Louis,” a sculpture that is better known around these parts as “The Fist,” which is located at the foot of Woodward at Jefferson, and you know that Detroit is not a city that is like any other.
Eminem drives the 200 to the Fox Theatre, a classic movie house opened in 1928 and completely rehabilitated by the company that owns Little Caesar’s Pizza (yes, that is from Detroit, as is Domino’s), where the marque outside reads “Keep Detroit Beautiful.” The narrator to that point had talked about how Detroit isn’t New York, Chicago, Vegas, “And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City.”
He walks down an aisle of the theater, which has long been a music venue rather than a movie house, and on the stage there’s the Selected of God choir, wearing their Sunday robes and singing, as the instrumental “Lose Yourself” builds.
Eminem turns to the camera, accusatorially points his finger, and says, “This is the Motor City and this is what we do.”
As there has been a decided tendency on my part to write these things with numbers—many of which have something to do with an alphanumeric that ends with “19,” which I promise not to go into today—here are some numbers that, unless you are into the pickup version of trainspotting (the actual British pastime, not the Irvine Welsh book or the Danny Boyle film), you’re probably unaware of.
In 2020 Ford sold 787,422 F-Series trucks. That means that every single person in Seattle could have gotten an F-Series truck last year. The F-Series has been the best-selling pickup for 44 years. That goes back to 1976. The top three songs Billboard Top 100 singles list for that year are (1) “Silly Love Songs” by Wings, (2) “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, (3) “Disco Lady” by Jonnie Taylor. Yes, a long time ago.
Ford hired the Boston Consulting Group late last year to run some numbers on the importance of the F-Series to the U.S. economy. And it turns out that the F-Series supports about 500,000 jobs in the U.S. (this doesn’t mean there are 500,000 people building pickup trucks but that if you take direct employees and dealer employees, there is a multiplier effect leading to that figure). And another multiplier figure: the F-Series contributes about $49-billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
All of that may seem rather nebulous (unless “Silly Love Songs” is now stuck in your head and you’ve pretty much glazed over the preceding paragraph).
So here’s something that makes it more tangible, perhaps.
The revenue for the iPhone in the U.S. is $55-billion, which explains, in part, why Apple is so valuable. The revenue for the F-Series is $42-billion. The revenue for the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL combined is $40-billion. (And you might have thought the Super Bowl was a huge deal.) And speaking of sports, all of the Budweiser product sold in the U.S.: $15-billion. (Don’t drive an F-Series, or anything else, for that matter, after consuming some of that.)
And in the context of companies with which we’re all familiar, the F-Series has more revenue than McDonald’s, Nike, Coca-Cola and Starbucks.
A final thing about Ford and pickup trucks: Henry Ford is credited with inventing the pickup, with the first model rolling off the assembly line in 1925. (Among the popular songs in 1925 were “Ah-Ha!” by Ted Lewis and His Jazz Band, “Let’s All Go to Mary’s House” by Savoy Orpheans and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” by Ace Brigode & His Fourteen Virginians.)
Yes, there actually is something to do with music in all of this.
It’s the phenomenal popularity of trucks in country music.
For a reason that is absolutely mysterious, a British vehicle insurance site, money.co.uk, worked with a U.S. data scientist, John Miller, to analyze country music and trucks. There were more than 16,000 songs analyzed from the past 50 years.
From that base it was determined that 4.16% of all country music has a reference to trucks. The decade of the 2010s had a full 8%.
Even if you have absolutely no interest in the auto industry, lately you’ve probably heard something about the potential tie-up and subsequent unraveling and just-maybe tying the knot between FCA and Groupe Renault. You can’t buy a new Renault (or Dacia or Alpine) in the U.S. market. But you can buy FCA products to your heart’s content: Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Alfa Romeo. . .and Fiat (the “F” in FCA, with the “C” standing for Chrysler).
Fiat is the brand that has on offer the Fiat 500, the diminutive two-door with the arc-like profile. When it was brought to the U.S. market, the woman who was heading the brand in the U.S. then, Laura Soave, said, “Like the original Cinquecento a half-century ago, the new Fiat 500 changes the rules of personal transportation and delivers a new sense of individual expression and opportunity. At a time when America is getting back to basics with a fresh awareness of the environment around, the new Fiat 500 identifies with today’s minimalistic attitude and delivers with state-of-the-art eco-friendly technology wrapped in world-class quality, craftsmanship and style.”
Unfortunately, the 500 in the U.S. market proved to be pretty much not more than a novelty act, one of those things that you see once and never really need to again, but in this case it was a matter of people initially glomming onto it and then showing nothing but disinterest. That is, for all of 2018 FCA sold 5,370 Fiat 500s in the U.S. If you add in the derivatives, the 500L at 1,413 and the 500X at 5,223, the total in terms of vehicle sales is rather abysmal. Arguably, in this age where the Green New Deal is something garnering attention, there is no less “awareness of the environment around,” but the 500 is no longer part of that “back to basics” approach.
Yet the 500 motors on, especially in Europe, where the company turns out model after model with new takes, with two of the most recent being named—and this is real—the “Star” and the “Rockstar.”
Those who buy either of those models will find that there is a BeatsAudio sound system. And for what I imagine is a limited time, those buying a Star or Rockstar will get six months of Apple Music free.
To launch the models, the Leo Burnett Creative Agency developed an ad that was shot in Barcelona and uses, as its soundtrack, “Just One Lifetime” by Shaggy and Sting.
Several years ago, Sting was in a commercial for Jaguar. His physical presence has a cameo now in an ad for Fiat.
Of course, Sting was once in a band named The Police.
The question in the Jaguar ad was “What does a rock star dream of?”
Although disco has had an ignominious departure from the mainstream in the U.S., in other parts of the world, where people still like to dance and like to drive really small cars, disco (although the music is more like EDM than the Bee Gees) still exits.
At the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, an exhibition sponsored by smart, the small car brand of Mercedes, is currently running: “Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960—Today.”
It is curated by designer Konstantin Grcic. Grcic was given the opportunity to transform a smart EQ fortwo into what’s described as the “smart mobile disco.”
The small car has been retrofitted so that there is a lifting platform that accommodates a DJ booth and the requisite equipment. In order to accommodate this it was necessary to basically gut the interior in order to provide space for lifting equipment.
In addition to which, there is a fog machine located behind the radiator grille (think about the irony of this: many cars have fog lights in that vicinity so as to be able to see through the fog; this car produces it). There are LED headlamps and a stroboscope to provide the necessary dance-floor lighting. The wheels and the underbody are backlighted to add a bit more color to the undertaking.
As the head of smart brand, Dr. Annette Winkler, explained, “The smart mobile disco is a great symbol of the smart brand’s links with club culture—a scene that draws people together, forges bonds and brings joy. The many different facets of club culture all embrace a departure from given norms, a different way of looking at things and the courage to try out something new. This is what links the club culture with smart. Visionary thinking and a passion to keep questioning the status quo encapsulate smart’s aims and its essential attitude.”
Talk like that makes me want to (1) dance and (2) buy a smart.
Unfortunately, or not, the smart mobile disco is a one-off, so you won’t find that trim package at your local smart dealer.
The Who version of the Rolls Wraith has come out. It features the artwork of Mike McInnery: the album cover of Tommy is painted on the hood and the birds that are also part of the cover art flit about on the fenders and C-pillars.
But that is but one of nine “Inspired by British Music” cars that has been developed.
With the exceptions of Jan and Dean (well, Dean, anyway, as Jan moved on in 2004), The Cars, Gary Numan, and Sammy Hagar, I find the seeming fascination with and apparent love of automobiles and rock musicians to be somewhat incongruous. Sure, the Futurist Manifesto hailed the automobile as the symbol of something that is more dynamic that those things preserved from the past and would leave them covered in its dust—“We declare that the world’s wonder has been enriched by a fresh beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car with its trunk adorned by great exhaust pipes like snakes with an explosive breath … a roaring car that seems to be driving under shrapnel, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace”—but (1) Marinetti wrote that in 1909, years before Bill Haley saw the light of day in Highland Park, Michigan (which, curiously enough, is where the second Ford Motor factory was located) and (2) there is evidently a deep longing for many rock musicians, both practicing and arthritic, to be entombed in a museum near Lake Erie.
We recently saw that Roger Daltrey is working with Rolls-Royce. And we cited a Rolls that had been owned by John Lennon.
Now we learn of another Lennon automobile, a 1956 Austin Princess Type A135 that will be going on the auction block at the 46th Annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction, to be held Jan. 14-22, 2017, which is essentially the auto auction of all auto auctions.
The vehicle was extensively used in the 1972 documentary Imagine.
It is a somewhat bizarre car in that unlike most ordinary Austin Princesses (note: Austin was a British car manufacturer; this is not a reference to some cotillion in the capital of Texas), this one was fitted out by coachbuilder Arthur Mulliner Ltd. of North Hampton (if you were to draw a line like this: \ from Birmingham to London, North Hampton falls in the middle). . .with the body of a hearse.
Mind you, this wasn’t some Lennonian prank or tweak; the vehicle was built as a hearse and operated as one by Ann Bonham & Son mortuary.
Roger Daltrey was a member of The Who, a band that he fundamentally established in 1964 with John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend.
Some people might argue that Roger Daltrey is a member of The Who, given that at the recent Desert Trip concert (a.k.a., Oldchella), a band named “The Who” performed.
Without going all Abbott & Costello (or a Hortonesque Dr. Seuss) about it, how can there be The Who when 50% of the band no longer exists: who’s left? Keith Moon died in 1978. John Entwistle died in 2002. (Daltrey had a bad case of meningitis last year and it almost seemed as though he’d be the answer to who’s next; fortunately he recovered and seems to be back on his game).
If we look at the band that is masquerading as The Who, know that Keith Moon was replaced by Kenny Jones, who was with the three original members starting in 1978. He was replaced in 1988 by Zack Starkey.
As for the bass position, that was taken up in 2002 by Pino Palladino.
So when does a specific “band” stop being that band in more than a marketing sense?
Isn’t the elimination of 50% of the musicians—especially musicians of the caliber of Moon and Entwistle, and with all due respect, does anyone actually think that Jones, Starkey and Palladeno are as good as those two were?—good enough to argue that it is something other than it once was?
After all, if you heard that a band was “decimated,” you’d probably think, “Geeze, there must not be much left.”
But that would mean that only 10% was eliminated, a far cry from the 50% of The Who (and it could be reckoned that with the replacement of Jones by Starkey, it would be a change of on the order of 65%).
Would Paul McCartney and Richard Starkey—I mean Ringo Starr—constitute “The Beatles”? Even at his most mendacious, it seems that McCartney doesn’t think so, either.
But now in their 52nd year of playing together, Daltrey and Townshend soldier on.
To be sure, they’ve done things other than play in the cover band known as “The Who.”
Ever since he appeared in Ken Russell’s 1975 film Tommy, Daltrey has been an actor, a performer on stage and screen (Who music isn’t just used as theme music for the various C.S.I.s; Daltrey has performed on the show as many characters, including playing, for reasons I can’t begin to understand, a middle-aged African-American woman).
Perhaps even more remarkable than that bit of acting is the fact that in 2008, late-middle aged American president George W. Bush awarded Daltrey and Townshend with the Kennedy Center Honors.
My interest in Daltrey was piqued by the recent announcement that he is collaborating with Rolls-Royce on the car manufacturer’s “Inspired by British Music” vehicles. It won’t be a “Roger Daltrey” edition, but “The Who” edition.
When Chrysler busted out with the 2011 Super Bowl ad with Eminem, which gave rise to the whole “Imported from Detroit” theme, a theme that was green-lighted by Olivier Francois, a Parisian-born executive of Fiat, an Italian company (that owns Chrysler), people in Detroit at large got a good feeling. Yes, the people are tough and gritty, smooth and stylish. The car in question in the spot (a Chrysler 200) isn’t exactly the a car likely to make any publication’s Ten Best List, but as it is the only car that Chrysler produced in the Detroit Metro at the time (it put the Dodge Viper back into production in the city earlier this month, and it actually has built the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the D for the past several years), they had to go with what they had.
Why not the Chrysler 300, the sedan that was immediately popular with golfers and gangstas alike when it appeared as a model year 2005 vehicle?
Because that car is built in Canada.
Chrysler is now beating Detroit like Meg White the drums. Unless it is an ad for Jeep, chances are there is something airing from the company that goes directly back to that “Born of Fire” Super Bowl ad.
It has just launched the 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition.
The commercial for the car shows Motown founder and Detroit native Berry Gordy sitting in the backseat of the car. . .in front of the Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard. If you’ve ever been to the Motown Museum or on West Grand Boulevard, you know that the word “grand” isn’t used in a particularly descriptive way.
And while Gordy established Motown in Detroit in 1960, he moved it to Los Angeles in 1972.
And while the 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition moves Gordy through the streets of Detroit, it deposits him in New York City, in front of the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, where “Motown: The Musical” will be opening in March.
He may have forgotten that there is the Fisher Theater literally down the street from the Motown Museum. They stage Broadway shows there, too. It’s not Broadway. But it is Detroit.
The car is all chromed up. Perhaps the best part of it is that the limited-edition sedan’s audio system comes with 100 Motown tracks, but then those are accessible without having to put out an MSRP of $32,995.
“We are Motown and this is what we do,” Gordy says at the end of the spot for the car.
What? Move out of the D?
2013 Chrysler 300C | Who We Are | Motown: The Musical
The other day at work, I took some time from my mundane duties to each lunch and get a bit of light Yahoo news. You have to be selective when it comes to your “non-business related” surfing time.
For example, I clicked on a news link once that brought me to a website that was locally related to the article I was reading. From that website, I noticed another article mentioning how a local resident was caught molesting a farm animal.
If you’re a normal, red-blooded American, you can probably guess where my mouse pointed. Of course, I wanted to read about the guy from Alabama that was messing with a pony.
Instinctively, I clicked the story hyperlink, only to be immediately met by my company’s automatic tattle-tale IT security warning window, advising me that my website of choice was not allowed as the word “bestiality” was not related to any job duties within the organization and that my attempt to access such a site would be duly noted.
Fear raced as I began to look for excuses to try and explain to the IT police and human resources why I tried to click on a link to a story about a dude caught with his pants down in the horse stable.
Would I be forever known as the guy that got fired for looking at bestiality porn? Would it become something of legend, replacing the truth until my termination story was due to my own encounter with a farm animal on company property? I should note that my employer is close to a community college with an active agricultural program, so the chance encounter with livestock and farm animals is entirely possible.
Nothing ever came from my bad choices in internet news sites, but I am a bit more selective when it comes to browsing the internet on my work computer.
I visit Yahoo because it seems like a nice homogenized place where people can gather across the country, read incredibly fluffy bits of journalism, and then comment about the inordinate amount of liberal staff members that Yahoo has, spreading their icky little socialist propaganda all over their website.
If that isn’t fucking ridiculous enough, the amount of time all this worthless shit takes to load on my work computer is. The Clash were right, so I mutter “workin’ for the clampdown” as I eat my chicken bacon ranch wrap from the cafeteria while the Yahoo homepage loads on my screen.
All of this so I can read about why we care about Donald Trump’s announcement of his GOP endorsement.
But it’s taking longer to load on this day as I notice that the hang up is due to some Flash advertisement that’s attempting to load before I can even see the story links.
Suddenly, an image of Tommy Lee, that pony-dick drummer from Motley Crue, slides across my screen, followed by the corpse that is Mick Mars, then Nikki “A paramedic saved my life” Sixx and finally Vince Neil, which had me worried that his image might prompt a security warning for attempting to access chicks with dicks website.
But no. All of this Motley Crue Flash activity was not promoting the new album by the Crue, nor was it to remind me that the band was going on tour again, probably performing the exact same setlist they played on their last one.
It was for Kia.
For a band that really hyped up their image as Harley-Davidson riding bad boys, it seemed strange that the band would choose to cash in with South Korea’s second largest automobile manufacturer.
The Cliffs Note version goes like this: Middle age white schmuck consumes enough anti-depressants and Vicodin to believe that he is still the same badass that he was in the 11th Grade when he spent all of his money earned at Burger King on an ’84 Ford EXP with 98,000 miles and a factory cassette deck.
Fast forward some twenty-five years later and this same sad bastard is using his rapid eye memory believing that a Kia Optima is somehow his “dream car for real life.”
I’m sorry, but where I come from one of our hometown heroes drove a ’69 Plymouth Superbird and any Asian car was referred to as a “rice burner.”
No, there would be no convincing my blue-collar brethren that anything with a Kia nameplate, and shame on Motley Crue for trying to suggest otherwise.
If you haven’t heard one of Nikki Sixx’s endless recounting, “Kickstart My Heart” is the story about that aforementioned paramedic who continued to apply shocks to Sixx’s chest after he long expired from a heroin overdose.
Now it seems that Sixx is due for another zap--or at least a head-exploding roundhouse kick to the head from Chuck Liddell--to remind him that these decisions of product placement are only as good the current model year. By Super Bowl XLVII, the Crue will be less known for their history of rock’s premier bad boys and more for their love of fuel-efficient family sedans.
Had the middle-aged sleeper really strived for the life of the Crue’s storied decadence, he would have crashed that Kia into the Hanoi Rocks tour bus, stolen the pixie dust from Mr. Sandman and Hoovered up all that glittery blow off the ass of one of those scantily clad chicks in the NASCAR stands.
Because if any self-respecting Crue fan even considers signing a down payment check for any model of Kia, they need to be reminded of how they’re also signing off on their own do not resuscitate order.
Which is exactly what Motley Crue has done with this commercial and what I have done with my lunch break.
In case you were wondering, as the reformed Spandau Ballet rolls through Ireland and the U.K. this month as part of its “Reformation Tour” (clever, eh: reformed, reformation—that’s the kind of stuff that makes the band what it is), it will be doing so in Ford S-MAX Titanium vehicles. As lead singer and evident car whore Tony Hadley puts it of the S-MAX Titanium 2.0TDCi Automatic that he’s been driving for the past few months (we’re guessing he didn’t pay retail), “I wanted a car that was stylish and comfortable for long journeys, and the S-MAX fits the bill perfectly.” Right.