Monday, July 20, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #19

Back in 1997, the folks at Volkswagon put together a commercial that used a very simplistic plinking melody and a monotone nonsense vocal as its jingle. The first time I saw the commercial, I did a double-take: I couldn't believe what I was hearing being used to sell cars to mainstream America! I remember some friends of mine at the time, who did not share my tastes in music, laughing and saying "imagine if that was a real song!"

I invited those friends over one evening, went to the record wall, pulled out an EP by the German band Trio, and watched their jaws drop as I played "Da Da Da (I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha)." It WAS a real song, and in fact was 15 years old by that point!

I didn't think, after that, that I could ever be as shocked by the song in a commercial again. Then, this past week, I saw the new commercial for the Palm Pre smartphone. Again, I did the double-take, this time for an intricate, ethereal, delicate melody that I hadn't heard outside of my own music collection in almost a quarter of a century.

Palm Pre is using Freur's 1983 single "Doot Doot" to sell smartphones!

Freur was a relatively obscure Welsh art-wave band that began life with a name that was an unpronounceable squiggle (years before Prince stole the idea). Of course, no record company is going to stand for that! After all, how can you sell records if the radio DJs can't say the band's name? So in the interest of commercialism, the band came up with the only slightly more pronounceable Freur, and saw their first single, "Doot Doot" receive enough airplay in the UK to reach the lower tier of the singles charts there; and enough airplay on college stations and even MTV in the USA to at least garner some attention.

Freur's original unpronounceable squiggle

It is a beautiful recording, soothing and melodious, soaring and majestic. Nothing else they ever recorded came close to this level of songwriting, and after two albums, they were gone, apparently banished to the forgotten dusty corners of the collective New Wave memory bank, until the folks at Palm Pre decided to revive it.

Kind of ironic, the band whose original name was so utterly uncommercial winds up being the focus of a commercial 26 years later. Still, it's great to think that a whole new generation is getting to hear this song.

So, if any of your friends mention the tune in the Palm Pre commercial and wonder what it would be like if it was a "real song", send them the link to this post, because here is this week's NW4NW entry, Freur's "Doot Doot". And, as a bonus video, an early recording of the song with the original Welsh lyrics. Sing along:

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