Back two careers ago when I ground out a subsistence living in the music business, there were several tasks I would and could perform to pay the rent. Playing guitar and/or bass, arranging for strings, horns and voices, and production and songwriting were all in my money-making repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that these talents (presumptively speaking) led me into the jingle world – the world of writing, performing, arranging and producing the music you hear behind the spots you see on tv.
Unknown to many music fans, some people have earned vast fortunes in the jingle business with virtually nobody knowing who they are. Fame may have eluded them but fortune certainly did not! Forty years ago, the singers who sang dumb shit like “Things go Better With Coke” could bank hundreds of thousands of dollars from that one gig alone thanks to the incredible deal their union had negotiated with the television networks. And while the actual writers got fucked (that’s been changed in recent years), the musicians did fairly well – as did the production house from whence the music came.
I tell you all this for a reason I will soon divulge. My limited exposure and opportunity in the jingle business did not bring success. While a few in the established crew recognized some talent, the prevailing opinion was that Billy was a riffs and licks type of musician a la STEVE CROPPER (of Memphis fame). My specialty was funky and hopefully catchy four bar riffs. And thus, I was unsuited for the more melodic demands of what jingle houses wanted. In fact, there was some truth to what they said. But not entirely. I can compose out of the funk and rock 4 bar realm.
My own mother was not a fan of my musical style. And that’s putting it generously. But later in life when I got older and more melodically inclined, there were a few things I served up in GARAGEBAND which impressed her. “What are you going to do with that?” she asked hoping I might at long last generate a significant music career many years after the fact. I wanted to say “Wipe my ass with it. Whaddaya think? I’m working 15 hours a day to make way more money than I care to tell you about for fear you’ll ask for some. I have no time or inclination to turn a buck with my composition. I’m too busy banking with da goils!”
Well anyway, I’m sad that mom is no longer around if for no other reason than I think she would appreciate what I drew up yesterday on my trusty Mac in just a couple of hours. It’s a four man band: drummer, acoustic guitar, Rhodes piano and keyboard synth bass. But it’s probably something that 35 years back would have given the jingle world pause. As in…maybe Billy isn’t all riffs and licks after all.
Doesn’t much matter now. But here it is, a tune based on open harmonies many of which are comprised of the root, fifth, octave above the root, a ninth just one step up, and a fifth (or 12th) on top. That’s what gives it the haunting feeling. Here goes:
P.S. So you might ask “Who’s the guy pictured on top of this post?” His name is SCOTT SHREER – and he’s worth multi-millions earned from his work in the commercial music business. No, Scott has never had a hit record (that I’m aware of). But he composed the Fox Network theme you hear behind every NFL football game – among other Fox sports presentations. We apprenticed at the same jingle house and were friends. Scott played drums and piano and in fact, was more melodic than I. So while I failed, he struck gold with composed background music.