Can’t Get You Out of My Head: The history of advertising jingles, a truly American art form.
What Midwestern childhood spent bellied up in front of the family TV set wasn’t shaped in some small but inexorable way by the Empire Carpet Man, that folksy spokesman who always managed to slip you his number before you flipped the channel? The disarming riff that teed up the “588-2300” jingle was so crucial, the copywriter, Elmer Lynn Hauldren, donned the denim himself and proceeded to invade our living rooms for the next 20 years, even if we never bought a yard.
Could Kraftwerk have made a jumble of numbers any catchier than that jingle, performed by Hauldren’s own barbershop quartet, the Fabulous 40s? And why was I protective of those manipulative notes? I still remember the shock when I heard the song in New York with “800” shoehorned at the top of the harmonized call signal, a mandatory addition once the company expanded beyond Illinois. That was my carpet jingle!
How is it that I was forced into associating the uninvited Fabulous 40s with a sense of home? And likewise, why, to this day, when I hear the chorus of the Four Tops’ classic “I Can’t Help Myself,” does an unwanted internal vocalist always sully the payoff with, “It’s Duncan Hines and nobody else”?