Songwriting adman Backer (as in Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide) tells, in some detail, how he did it. What Backer did was spawn the Coca-Cola commercial that evolved into ``I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.'' His pride in his accomplishment is, unfortunately, unbounded. The author—sort of the Barry Manilow of ``the song-form commercial'' (don't call them ``jingles,'' please)—uses the story of the successful soft- drink campaign as a peg on which to hang a book full of bloated expostulation. With the pride that is emblematic of his trade, Backer offers some big talk about ``big ideas,'' the profane Grail of the knights of Madison Avenue. His theory is that original ideas require nurturing from ``families''—sponsoring uncles, aunts, and godparents—and powerful folk who can give the affirmative nod to new notions. Reasonably, he reminds us to separate ideas from their execution. But it's all inflated and never strays far from the author's singular creative accomplishment. (He simply wanted to sell the world some soda pop with ``I'd like to buy the world a Coke''—a real example of pop culture.) To be sure, it's not uniformly dull. The narrative picks up with a description of the Coke shoot, and a few bits of Ad-land gossip help to relieve the tedium. Curiously, Backer has a tin ear for the English language. He innovates with the odd inverted clichÇ (``far and few between'') or inattention (someone ``is yet'' to perform a task). A false self-helper in which the author helps himself to some congratulation. Persuasive texts in this genre are few and far between, indeed. (Illustrations—not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)