BROOKE GLADSTONE: Recently in Britain's Guardian newspaper there was an article about corporate anthems as the next big thing. The reporter singled out one ditty for special scorn for a company called KPMG. The reporter said the tune of sorts extolling the virtues of chartered accountants is just one among many; the tip of a terrible oncoming iceberg. Welcome to musical hell, this rather fractious writer went on, a place where men and women trilled glutinous couplets about teamwork and customer care and vainglorious paeans to company spirit.
BOB GARFIELD:Corporate anthems are not geared to customers but to company staff, and though they may have just arrived in Britain, they have long been a staple of Japanese management. Of course here in America we have inevitably taken the form right over the top as On the Media's Rex Doane reports.
REX DOANE: Early corporate anthems like this one for IBM sounded more like fight songs for someone's dear old alma mater than anything else.
GROUP OF MEN SINGING: ...EVER ONWARD IVY [...?...]. WO
GUY: [SHOUTING] Second stanza!
GROUP OF MEN SINGING: ...EVER ONWARD, EVER ONWARD...
REX DOANE: But by the 1950s mere song and verse gave way to big brassy industrial shows with multiple musical numbers dedicated to pushing product. [MUSIC: GROUP SINGING STANDING ON THE CORNER, WATCHING ALL THE FORDS GO BY STANDING ON THE CORNER, GIVING ALL THE FORDS THE EYE...]
REX DOANE: Steve Young is a writer for the Late Show with David Letterman and is the foremost collector and researcher of industrial show souvenir albums.
STEVE YOUNG: They were very lavishly produced Broadway-style revues often using legitimate Broadway talent and name brand composers to put on a, a whole musical to motivate the sales force and not only just in--inspire them to sell but also inspire them to feel good about the way of life they've chosen.
ANNOUNCER IN DRAMATIC TONES: Coco-Cola -- drawn from the experience of the past and the opportunities of the here and now! [DRUM ROLL] [TRUMPET FLOURISH]
STEVE YOUNG: Some of the big corporations like GM and Coca-Cola have a lot of very bombastic material that goes beyond just details about the product that may be at hand but giving you a much more over-arching view of this: we're the reason that life is worth living - that sort of thing -- you see a lot of that in Coca-Cola shows. MIXED
CHORUS SINGING: COCA-COLA HERE AND NOW WHEREVER YOU MAY BE FROM THE [...?...] STATE FROM THE [...?...] FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA.... [SINGING UNDER SPEAKERS]
STEVE YOUNG: This one is a real over the top, bombastic song that's sort of sketching out how Coca-Cola pretty much equals America and freedom and beauty and life-worth-living and this is the sort of thing that would bring tears to the eyes of, of grownup sales executives sitting in the audience. [CHORUS SINGING INTO GRAND FINALE]
REX DOANE: In addition to writing songs that appear in such major films as Shane and Sabrina, Wilson Stone penned Coca-Cola's Here and Now along with several other industrial show tunes for corporations like Chevrolet, Cadillac and Xerox. Stone was drawn to writing industrial shows for the familiar reasons.
WILSON STONE: We would have a cast of 30 people and a 60 piece orchestra -- you know they were huge! And we really used all Broadway people, because they paid so much money! So we all did it, just for the money.
REX DOANE: The size and budget that industrial shows used to boast still amazes Hank Beebe who worked in the field for over 20 years.
HANK BEEBE: Well, the, the only figures I remember are the ones for the first show which was in '56 for the '57 line, and that show was budgeted at six times the cost of bringing My Fair Lady to Broadway that same year. [MUSIC: HUGE CHORUS SINGING ABOUT CHEVROLET]
GUY: HOW DOES IT FEEL [...?...] CHEVROLET...
REX DOANE: By Beebe's math, that means that the 1957 Chevrolet Extravaganza carried a price tag of over 3 million dollars -- a considerable sum to be sure, but perhaps deserved.
WILSON STONE: It's an easy thing to write a song about love. It's hard to write a song about spark plugs.
MAN SINGING: HOW IT FEELS TO FEEL CHEVROLET PROUD, BRIGHT BROAD BANNERS EVERYWHERE....
REX DOANE: Indeed the lyrical content of many industrial show songs bordered on the bizarre. Again, Steve Young.
STEVE YOUNG: The Bathrooms Are Coming is from 1969 from the American Standard Company and it's pretty much got everything you could want in an industrial show. It's got the song called My Bathroom which is a sort of wonderful tribute to a woman's bathroom and how much it means to her.
MAN SINGING: MY BATHROOM, MY BATHROOM IS A PRIVATE KIND OF PLACE
REX DOANE: Like some traveling prediction of Cabaret for Carburetors, many of the industrial shows even toured from city to city for regional sales meetings, but by the mid-1980s the light would dim on the industrial show. Bloated budgets and the emergence of multi-media presentations silenced the corporate chorus line. So today the only place the industrial show lives on is in the living room of collector Steve Young -- a fact that makes one wonder about the cumulative effects of listening to the over 150 industrial show albums that are in the possession of this sub-sub-genre's sole archivist.
GUY: I, I wouldn't say I've been brainwashed by, by listening to these songs, but I feel like boy - I really like Massey-Ferguson [sp?] Tractors now; I've never been on a tractor in my life, but boy, I'd be proud to own one. I'd be proud to sell and service one.
MAN SINGING: SHE'S A DRIVING RAIN AND A WIND ON THE PLAIN SHE'S AS HARD AS A MIDWEST WINTER YOU HOLD THE KEY TO THE LAND OF THE FREE AND YOU KNOW THE POWER IS IN HER SO STAND UP PROUD AND SAY IT LOUD THIS IS THE WORLD OF WINNERS! SING IT!
CHORUS SINGING: YES, WE'RE MASSEY--
MAN SINGING: MASSEY'S NUMBER ONE!
CHORUS SINGING: OOO OOO OOO WE BELIEVE!!!---
REX DOANE: For On the Media in New York, I'm Rex Doane.
MAN SINGING: [LAUGHS] SO STAND UP PROUD AND SAY IT LOUD!