Music Minus Me – Music For Purex Bleach And Cleaning Products – Elmer Bernstein – circa 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Perhaps it’s an artifact of bygone times and maybe we became more aware of it while watching the TV series Mad Men, but advertising in the 1950s and 60s was an entirely separate universe from the one most of us inhabited on a day to day basis, here on Planet Earth.
Some of the best and most creative minds of a generation were employed to create loving and elaborate homages to such things as Oil Filters and Toilet Cleaners. And lest you think all of that was the fictitious sendup of an HBO series, think again: It was what grabbed America’s attention and sent it en masse to the nearest Supermarket or Department Store to lavish hard earned salaries and savings on things best described as mundane.
Take, for example, this recording – a special presentation made for the Purex Bleach Company spotlighting music normally buried under breathless exclamations and improbable plots. Scores composed by the likes of Hollywood veteran Elmer Bernstein and accompanied by the full force of a symphony orchestra, Jazz ensemble and virtuoso soloists, all employed for the sole purpose of getting you interested in Dutch Cleanser.
Because the nature of Television has changed over the years and advertising has been relegated to the task of “get to the point and get out”, there’s no time to linger and lavish. Nobody slaves over scores anymore – music for commercials now consists of whatever catchy tune which began life as a Spotify hopeful being repurposed to push timeshares and toilet paper – all for a fraction of the cost.
But as a reminder that there was a time we really went overboard instilling product allegiance and deified consumer consumption, here is one example (of many) to give you some idea of what a big deal it was to go shopping. The album begins with a Suite, a distillation of musical motifs highlighting various products in the Purex line. Once the heroics and glissandos die down, the remaining tracks are devoted to individual products; soap, cleanser and bleach. Catchy riffs, hummable tunes; two minute masterpieces.
In an abbreviated form, and usually buried behind an announcer, this was what became part of our Television viewing experience, part of our introduction to the world of consumption in 30 and 60 second doses. It was part of our story.
Have a listen and marvel.
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