Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Just finished reading your comments about the BBC's ban of songs that mention product names, thus disallowing free advertising.

Yes, they easily caught "Rolling Stone," since it's part of the title ("Cover of the Rolling Stone"), but picking up on "Coca-Cola," in "Lola," indicates their research included the lyrics for each song.

I wonder how many UK hits with product names slipped past their investigators, if any?
—Bill O'Neal, Owensboro, Ky.

DEAR BILL: My exhaustive examination of 48 years (1942-1999) of popular songs in Great Britain yielded 30 charted hits that could have conceivably been flagged by the BBC.

I have no way of knowing if their trade-name police gave any of these a pass, or if they did indeed overlook them.

Because the products named in the tunes listed below seem just as taboo as ones we know they did ban, I lean toward the latter (they missed 'em).

Still, about one-third of these hits even have the product name in the title, making them more obvious.

Since our info is based on the UK's New Musical Express charts, the year or other details may not be the same as the U.S. release of the same song.

Entries are in order of each record's peak NME chart position, followed by the artist's name; year; song title; product name in the lyrics if not in the title; and additional identification if necessary.

1. Beatles (1969): "Ballad of John and Yoko" (Amsterdam Hilton)
1. Aqua (1997): "Barbie Girl" (Barbie Doll)
2. Don McLean (1972): "American Pie" - "Chevy" (Chevrolet)
2. Prince (1985): "Little Red Corvette" (Chevrolet)
3. Buddy Holly (1963): "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" - "TWA" (Trans World Airlines)
5. Natalie Cole (1988): "Pink Cadillac"
7. Eric Burdon and the Animals (1967): "San Franciscan Nights" - "Harley-Davidsons"
9. Perry Como (1958): "Kewpie Doll" (plastic doll)
9. Bob Dylan (1965): "Subterranean Homesick Blues" - "Braille" (writing system for the vision impaired)
9. Mamas and the Papas (1967): "Creeque Alley" - "American Express cards"
9. Elvis Presley (1975): "Promised Land" - "Greyhound" (bus)
10. Frankie Vaughan (1958): "Kewpie Doll"
11. Joni Mitchell (1970): "Big Yellow Taxi" (Yellow Cab)
15. Sinitta (1987): "GTO" (Pontiac GTO)
19. Roger Miller (1968): "Little Green Apples" - "Disneyland"
19. Beatles (1976): "Back in the U.S.S.R." - "B.O.A.C." (British Overseas Airways Corporation)
19. Smokin' Mojo Filters (1995): "Come Together" - "Coca-Cola"
20. Amy Grant (1995): "Big Yellow Taxi"
25. Hot Chocolate (1976): "Heaven Is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac"
26. Chuck Berry (1965): "Promised Land" - "Greyhound"
27. Chuck Berry (1964): "Nadine (Is It You)" - "Cadillac"
28. Wilson Pickett (1967): "Mustang Sally" (Ford Mustang)
31. Just Luis (1995): "American Pie" - "Chevy"
32. Johnny Cash (1976): "One Piece at a Time" - "Cadillac" (also mentions "GM" [General Motors])
33. Reunion (1974): "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" - "Honda" (also mentions "Fender" guitars)
42. Pebbles (1988): "Mercedes Boy" (Mercedes-Benz)
51. Aretha Franklin (1985): "Freeway of Love" - "Cadillac"
54. Prince (1983): "Little Red Corvette"
54. Marc Cohn (1991): "Silver Thunderbird" (Ford Thunderbird)
63. Commitments (1991): "Mustang Sally"

Not on this list is "Hardhearted Hannah," a 1960 release by Ray Charles (ABC-Paramount 10164) in which he sings "an evening spent with Hannah sittin' on your knee is like being in Alaska in your BVDs."

In January '61, the tune came out in the UK (HMV 825), including mention of the BVD brand.

Ray's record was therefore ignored; however, a jazzy cover version by the Temperance Seven, titled "Hard Hearted Hannah" (Parlophone 4823), made the Top 20 after replacing "BVDs" with "underwear."

IZ ZAT SO? During our songs with product names research, we found several charted U.S. recordings that never made it in the UK.

Whether any of these were rejected specifically for being a musical advert is unknown, though each does refer to a well-known product name.

Either way, it will be fun, fun, fun to develop a comprehensive list, so let's begin with these (most of which are about cars):

Beach Boys (1962): "Little Deuce Coupe" - "Thunderbird"
Beach Boys (1964): "Fun Fun Fun" - "T-Bird"
Chuck Berry (1955): "Maybellene" - "Coup de Ville" (Cadillac) (also mentions "Ford")
Johnny Bond (1960): "Hot Rod Lincoln"
Jerry Butler (1968): "Hey, Western Union Man"
Roy Clark (1970): "Thank God and Greyhound"
Commander Cody (1972): "Hot Rod Lincoln"
Jim Croce (1973): "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" - "Continental" (Lincoln) (also mentions Cadillac "El Dorado")
Bob Dylan (1965): "From a Buick 6"
Five Americans (1967): "Western Union"
Foghat (1978): "Chevrolet"
Goose Creek Symphony: (1972): "(Oh Lord Won't You Buy Me a) Mercedes Benz"
George Hamilton IV (1956): "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" (candy bar)
George Hamilton IV (1956): "If You Don't Know" - "'56 Ford Deluxe"
Hondells (1964): "Little Honda"
Alan Jackson (1993): "Mercury Blues"
Jan & Dean (1964): "Dead Man's Curve" - "Sting Ray" (also mentions Jaguar "XKE")
Jan & Dean (1964): "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)" - "Dodge"
Sammy Johns (1975): "Chevy Van"
Jim Lowe (1955): "Maybellene" - "Coup de Ville" (also mentions "Ford")
Meat Loaf (1978): "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" - "Cracker Jack"
Playmates (1958): "Beep Beep" - "Cadillac" (also mentions "Nash Rambler")
Rip Chords (1963): "Hey Little Cobra"
Johnny Rivers (1964): "Maybelline" - "Coup de Ville" (also mentions "Ford")
Ronny and the Daytonas (1964): "G.T.O."
Charlie Ryan (1960): "Hot Rod Lincoln"
Sailcat (1972): "Motorcycle Mama" - "Harley" (Harley-Davidson)
Paul Simon (1973): "Kodachrome" (Kodak color film)
Ray Stevens (1969): "Gitarzan" - "BVDs"
Ray Stevens (1985): "The Mississippi Squirrel Revival" - "Fruit of the Loom"
T.Rex (1972): "Cadillac"
George Thorogood (1985): "I Drink Alone" - "Jack Daniel's" (also mentions "Jim Beam," "Johnny Walker," and "Old Grand-Dad")
Joe Walsh (1978): "Life's Been Good" - "Maserati"
War (1976): "Summer" - "Disneyland"

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