This year, for my partner Tanya’s 40th birthday, I bought her a very special present. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about what a great boyfriend I am.1 This piece is simply about how something fun can be brought into the world.
The theme for my gifts this year was obvious: the year 1977. Which means, of course, I could just go to town on eBay. But what else can you buy for the girl who has everything, if by “everything” I mean an original poster for Confessions from a Holiday Camp?2 And then it struck me. Wouldn’t a jingle singing her name be fun?
Not just any old jingle, however. A jingle from 1977. A jingle first sung four decades ago.
Luckily, there’s a company still in existence today which was making jingles back in 1977. That company is Jam Creative Productions, which was started in 1974 by Jon And Mary Lyn Wolfert, and is still owned by them today – and which has created jingles for the biggest and best radio stations all across the world. (You may wallow in the company’s history on their website.)
The task was simple. I wanted a radio jingle which was originally made in 1977, which I could then write my own brand new lyrics for. But which jingle to choose? I asked Jon Wolfert to send me some suggestions for “a jingle which epitomises 1977”, or “a jingle you made that year that you’re particularly fond of”. I got a couple of suggestions back, and I knew which one I wanted:
(For more on JAM’s seminal work for radio station WABC, read this page on musicradio77.com.)
Jingle decided, it was time to write some lyrics. I’m not the world’s best jingle lyric writer, but having done it for various projects over the past few years, I’m not the worst either. The one thing I didn’t want to do was just write lyrics with the traditional “Happy 40th Birthday Tanya!” message. All well and good on the day, but how is anyone supposed to actually use that jingle once the excitement of the day has worn off? No, I wanted to get her a jingle which could feature on podcasts and the like, and be used for years, or even decades – not just a single day.3
On the other hand, keeping the mention of 1977 – both as a reference to her birthday, and the jingle itself – seemed like a good idea. I came up with some ideas which I thought might work – one line for when Tanya is talking about TV-related stuff, and another more general version – and sent them off to Jon. In short order I was told they’d work fine, and all I had to do was sit back and wait.
I can tell you that when you’re a jingle fan, there is very little as exciting as receiving an email at 6am with the subject “Jingle Download Ready!” Perhaps the only thing more exciting is actually hearing the jingle itself for the first time.
(Note that – as typical with JAM – a generous selection of mixouts was also delivered, over and beyond what I include in the audio above. You don’t get to hear those yet, though. Hey, got to save back something fun for when the jingle is actually used…)
So there you go. A 40 year old jingle, made for somebody’s 40th birthday. And really, the point of this little article: how amazing is it that something like this can be brought into the world? That a jingle can still be recreated a full four decades on from when it was originally made, by the same company who did it in the first place, and still sounds so gorgeous? It blows my mind that I can still order a jingle which was created four years before I was even born.
In a world where our broadcast history is all too often forgotten, it’s lovely that things like this can still happen. If there’s one thing this site stands for, it’s that we should be looking forward and looking back; to be creating the best possible stuff we can. To be able to look back 40 years and bring something to life is, to me, truly extraordinary.
When this jingle ends up being used – on a podcast, perhaps just before Tanya spends 10 minutes banging on about some obscure TV show – it’ll be doing exactly the same job that it did in 1977. Identifying something musically, in a fun way… with a little flourish of showbiz attached. Back in 1977, it did that on a radio station in New York. Today, it’ll do it on a podcast which can be listened to anywhere in the world.4
That’s what these jingles mean to me: the old and the new, working together, the way everything should be. When Radio 1 Vintage aired earlier this year, those JAM jingles were a burst of nostalgia for a generation… but they were also doing exactly the same job as they’d always done. To pigeonhole them as just nostalgia does them a disservice.
Of course, the fun of Tanya’s jingle partly lies in its rich history. To recreate the sound of 1977 means something. It’s one reason I chose it. But it doesn’t mean everything. I like to think the the jingle will etch itself into people’s brains, much like it did to New Yorkers in 1977, or to listeners of the many other radio stations who have had it sung since.
Jingles: they’re both of their time… and forever.
Though I am, obviously, and you’re unlucky not to have me. ↩
Yes, I know Star Wars is from 1977. But Star Wars doesn’t include tits, music by Ed Welch, and at least one stunningly racist joke. ↩
An interesting point: many people asked me whether Tanya would actually appreciate a jingle for her birthday in the slightest. The unspoken point being: are you just buying this for yourself? They are usually surprised to hear that it was Tanya who got me into jingles in the first place, with a twin love of Kenny Everett, and 90s Radio 1.
To be fair, it is unusual for a woman to be interested in jingles, much as it’s unusual for women to be interested in TV presentation, although I’ve never quite been able to figure out why. Still, when I told people about other geeky presents I was getting her – the aforementioned film poster, for instance – I got similar queries as to whether she’d like them. I can only assume people think women are only allowed to like babies and look pretty, rather than being allowed to actually have interests. ↩