Subliminal Messages

Every once in a while I try and find something weird having to do with my past on the internet as a lark.

This is a YouTube video some young women in Prague made of a shopping trip to Ikea, using Free to Go by the Folk Implosion as a soundtrack.  Their conclusion at the end of the video?  “Yea, capitalism.”

When I went to Prague in 1991, the walls were still covered in Communist murals featuring towering figures of Lenin.  Red streetcars meandered through the streets, made of heavy iron that made such a thunderous noise that the floors of our hotel shook wildly when they drove by.  When my friend and I woke up, we went downstairs to an empty dining room next to the hotel lobby.  Every chair at every one of the thirty odd tables was filled with a carefully arranged array of cold cuts that reminded me of the way dancing girls are arranged in Busby Berkeley movies.  You were supposed to wash them down with really bad Turkish coffee that was basically like water filled with grains of Metamucil with motor oil coagulated at the bottom.  As I watched these young ladies ride to Ikea on a subway system that looked more like the Underground in London than the streetcars of Vertov’s “Man With A Movie Camera,” I thought, things really have changed over there in the last 20 years.

I also thought of a shopping trip I once made to buy a pair of sneakers at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.  As I laced up a pair of Adidas kicks, the song Allstar by Smashmouth came over the loudspeaker.  I had recently learned that the label that the label we were recording for at that time, Interscope, had rejected the original version of Smashmouth’s record because they didn’t hear a hit single.  The band went back into the studio, where they wrote and recorded Allstar.  That track gave the record company what they wanted, even while poking fun at the whole process.  We had recently handed in the first draft of One Part Lullaby, and been told the same thing Smashmouth had been told: “I don’t hear a single.”

We went on to record the song Serge, which might have made Interscope happy – except Lou didn’t put any vocals on it, which pissed off our engineer, who said it would be a great fit for radio as it was at that time.  In reply, Lou said “the record has too much me on it as it is.  It needs an instrumental to balance it out.”  We also remixed the record to make it less guitar-dominated, which made both Interscope and us as a band much happier with the final product.  (I don’t think that major label input on records is always counterproductive.) But at the end of that process, they still didn’t hear a single, and so we never ended up on the loudspeakers of Olympia Sports in the Beverly Center, the only shopping mall in the world that has a working oil well in the middle of it.

Hearing Free To Go as background music to this Ikea shopping trip made me laugh and think, see Interscope, this song CAN inspire people to shop till they drop!  One of the reasons why may have to do with the fact that the Ikea showrooms these ladies stroll though look quite a bit like the rooms in which we recorded this song.  The computers and synthesizers we used were all placed on desks from Ikea.  We sat on chairs, loveseats and couches from Ikea while we played the guitar and bass parts.  The cookie sheets and glasses full of water we used as percussion were from Ikea, too.  We were working at Lou’s house, and he was smitten with all things blue, yellow, and Scandanavian at that time.  Which begs the question: did these inanimate objects from the golden arches of the furniture industry encode subliminal commercial messages into the pro tools files that were created on top of them?  I’m gonna go play the vinyl backwards and see if I can hear any satanic messages in Swedish.   Just as soon as I get up from the Ikea couch I’m sitting on right now…

PS –

This cracked me up too:

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