This is the full — really full — text, with notes for slides and music, from my, ahem, lecture (see News section) to Smolny College of the State University of Saint Petersburg in Russia on April 17, 2008. Keep in mind that it was geared for Russian students who, I was told, might not know very much about rock ’n’ roll (and if you do, don’t tell them where I lied). Anyway, I spent so much time working on the damn thing I couldn’t resist re-purposing it as a column. The complete, killer playlist follows the text.
Thanks for coming. Thanks to the folks who invited me and made up a cool flyer with my old taxi license. It’s really fun to be here in St. Petersburg with you guys.
My name is Robert Duncan, and I’m from San Francisco, California. I’m definitely not a professor, and I’m not entirely sure what I have to offer you. But I have been listening to, playing, loving, hating and writing about rock ’n’ roll for more than 30 years.
I played guitar in a band when I was 12. I left college to be the singer in a band professionally, with some minor success and mostly frustration. At 21, I started writing about music. At 22, I became managing editor of Creem magazine in Detroit, Michigan, where I worked with the famous rock critic Lester Bangs, who became my close friend. If you’ve seen the movie Almost Famous, you’ve seen the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing Lester.
After Creem, I went back to New York City to be a freelance critic, writing hundreds of stories for Rolling Stone, Circus and just about every music magazine there ever was. Among my quote-unquote “accomplishments,” as you may have seen on that lovely flyer, I’ve interviewed Bruce Springsteen, Freddie Mercury, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent, War, ZZ Top, Kraftwerk, and many others I can’t remember or you’ve never heard of. I’ve flown on a private jet with Keith Richards, jammed with Blue Öyster Cult, sung to Sammy Hagar (accapella) and Liza Minnelli, but not at the same time, and have witnessed Phil Lesh, the famous bassist of the Grateful Dead, in his underwear. I’ve seen the Yardbirds when both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck were in the band. I’ve seen Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, in 1969, when they were cool. Dylan, though not in a particularly good phase. Hendrix, several times, and he was too cool. I saw the Ramones at Max’s Kansas City, before the album, and Talking Heads at CBGB’s when there were about 10 people in the room. I’ve also written three books about rock ’n’ roll.
Which is where I want to start today.
[Image: The Noise book cover]
Twenty-five years ago I wrote a book called The Noise. Subtitled “Notes from a Rock ’n’ Roll Era,” it was part musicology, part sociology, part political commentary and mostly a search for why my life, and that of so many of my friends, had gone so wrong.
[Image: Young Duncan with long hair]
At least in the eyes of our parents. The short answer was rock ’n’ roll.
[Image: “Here’s Little Richard” album from the ’50s with screaming Richard]
But The Noise ultimately tried to find a long answer by exploring history and human aspirations as they related to rock ’n’ roll.
So I’m thinking of today’s presentation as a kind of update of The Noise, 25 years later. A brief tour of rock ’n’ roll as I saw it and lived it.
But don’t worry. Mostly I’m going to play you a bunch of music I love.
And what unites all these songs, which span many decades and genres, is that every one is a unique expression of joy — even when the story they tell is sad. And no matter what culture or country you come from, you will feel better hearing it. And that’s the main thing that I think makes rock ’n’ roll so powerful. Its special ability to express irrational, irresponsible, undisciplined, unintellectual, overflowing joy.
It’s sex for the ears.
In the interest of time, I had to leave out some artists I love from the presentation. But I tried to do a mix of songs or artists you know and ones you don’t know. In any case, I would ask that even if it’s not the first time you’re hearing a song, try to hear it again fresh. Try to imagine what it was like when these sounds first hit ears that had never heard such sounds. Young ears that were raised on an older generation’s smooth-voiced crooners and big-band arrangements. Imagine hearing this:
[Music: Elvis, “Hound Dog”]
That is where I started.
[Image: Young Elvis with gold record]
That is the first rock ’n’ roll song that got under my skin.
I hated it.
I first heard it in the back of my big brother’s car. He was 11 years older, and he was my introduction to rock ’n’ roll — at a very young age. I was young, but so was the music. My brother was a real rock n roll kid. He could have been the inspiration for the songs. He drove a hot rod. He wore a t-shirt with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. He had a flattop haircut. He had guns under his bed (one of which I, as a tyke, found and took upstairs and gleefully pointed at Mom). And he hung out at a drive-in restaurant called the Oasis in our small Minnesota town where he relentlessly chased waitresses, some of whom he would sneak into our house and into bed. Imagine, as a kid, my fascination. Eventually, when he was 17, a judge told him he had a choice: go to jail or go to the Navy.
[Image: Duncan’s older brother at 17 in the Navy]
Elvis’s “Hound Dog.” It scared me, even though it doesn’t sound very scary now. But it did get under my skin. My brother scared me. But he got under my skin, too. And between the two of them, that was where it all went wrong for me.
I have to play another song from the early rock ’n’ roll era, just because it’s so damned good. I loved this one. And I think the artist, Del Shannon, is too often forgotten in discussions of the greats of early rock ’n’ roll.
[Image: Del Shannon with guitar]
[Music: Del Shannon, “Runaway”]
Check out that keyboard. By the way, that sound is the very first synthesizer — though nobody called it that at the time. It was a home-made instrument, played by its maker, Max Crook, who was in Del’s band and co-wrote the song. Max called it the Musitron, and it would be years before Robert Moog and the Moog synthesizer and even more years before those godawful synthesizer bands of the ’80s.
OK, Elvis and Del were one thing. But at the same time there was a whole other world going on. And in the America of the 1950s it was on the other side of a line a white kid like me did not think of crossing. At first.
[Image: “Colored only” sign]
America in the 1950s was split by its own apartheid. In fact, I grew up in a time and a family where pretty much the only black people you encountered were the ones who served you. My mother, like Elvis, is from Memphis, Tennessee. She thought Elvis was white trash. She didn’t think at all about black musicians, so called R&B stars like James Brown and Ray Charles. After all, R&B was a category name they invented to warn white people. In the mid-60s, thanks to the Motown and Atlantic record labels, R&B turned into soul music, and a lot of white people started appreciating it. But what made these styles so deeply different for whites — and so powerful for everybody — was that they came out of the black church.
To help understand this power and how much it influenced rock ’n’ roll, I’d like to play you some Aretha Franklin. Not her great soul songs, like “Respect.” But Aretha singing in a black church in Los Angeles, with a black choir and band. The song is from the biblical story of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, who was brought back to life by Christ. Check out that tempo.
[Image: Early ’70s Aretha with ‘fro]
[Music: Aretha Franklin, “Mary, Don’t You Weep”]
Christina Aguilera, eat your heart out.
Back in the ’50s and early ’60s there were black performers who managed to cross over to a white audience.
[Image: Chuck Berry playing before white preppy audience]
Chuck Berry was one of ‘em. He didn’t sound particularly black. Which is to say he didn’t have a style typical of the black church. And his wonderful song-stories often dealt with themes that the white American kids could relate to: the soda shop, the jukebox, going to high school, middle-class teenage love.
[Music: Chuck Berry, “Living in the USA”]
(This song, of course, was the reference point for the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR.”) But a song like this, which says “You can get everything you want” in the USA, was from a black American in the ’50s almost ironic. Because in the ’50s, a black man could not necessarily get everything he wanted.
Eventually, the black and white universes acknowledged each other, at least musically, even if they didn’t always come together. Until maybe now.
[Image: Barack Obama]
With this political rock star.
Now let me jump to the earthquake of the 1960s.
But first, let me set the scene. America, or white America, in the early ’60s was doing pretty well economically.
[Image: 1960 Cadillac Eldorado]
Still, like a lot of other white, middle-class kids, I watched my father put on his hat and go off to the same boring job every morning and I thought: no way. It all seemed so empty, so passionless, so quiet. But I didn’t think there was any way out.
Then the earthquake happened.
[Music: Beatles, “Paperback Writer”]
I still don’t know why the Beatles represented such an earthquake in the world’s culture. I’m just glad I was there.
In part, it was the music. Talk about joy. For sure, it was a new level of joy, fueled by a new sense of risk, in white music. It wasn’t imitation black music (though the Beatles certainly paid tribute to Chuck Berry and Little Richard). But it did capture some of the emotional openness of black music, some of the freedom and fun and, in its vocal harmonies, maybe even the sense of community. It was very much about sharing joy.
And I was lucky enough to personally share that joy when I saw the Beatles in 1966 on the second-to-last show of their last tour at Shea Stadium in New York. Mostly I did just see them, because the screaming was too loud to hear very much. But it was still like an audience with God.
And I could see that here was a way out for a depressed, 12-year-old boy. I would be a rock star. So that’s when I started playing guitar, which I have never stopped doing for 40 years.
Anyway, after the goodness of the Beatles, could the Stones be far behind?
[Image: Mick and Keith on cover of Rolling Stone]
It was clear the Rolling Stones had thoroughly explored the parallel universe of R&B, of black musical culture. That was part of their excitement. And part of their problem, at first: they were really just imitation black music. Then they got more interesting.
[Music: Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Women”]
Check the way what seems like random cowbell hits turns into a big, giant rock of a beat… And dig the way they bring a little bit of country music into the mix. And dig the way they played the bad boys, singing:
“I laid a divorcee in New York City… She blew my nose and then she blew my mind.”
And how well it all worked.
In America, the Beatles, Stones and other so-called British Invasion bands blew away everything that had come before. There was pre-1964 and post. A sharp divide. A fault, we call it in California — those are the big cracks that open in the earth with earthquakes.
Anyway, I was off and runnning. The first rock show I ever went to was one of the last “package shows.” On a package show, eight or 10 bands would each play 20 minute sets, with the whole thing MC’ed by a well-known DJ. In New York, this was a guy named Murray the K. The bill included Sam & Dave and a band from England I’d never heard of, who my friends and I scorned because they were dressed all frilly and girly. Their name was the Who, and it was their first American tour.
But I mostly went to see a group called Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. They were what would later be called a blue-eyed soul group, one of the first and one of the best. These guys, too, may have started as imitation black music — paying tribute to Little Richard especially — but, well, listen.
[Music: Mitch Ryder, “Devil with a Blue Dress”]
[Image: “Mitch Ryder Live” poster]
That is nothing but real.
Ten years after I first saw him, I got a call at home from a guy named Billy Levise, which is Mitch Ryder’s real name. He was in New York and wanted to go out drinking, and a mutual friend, a musician, had recommended he call me. Wonder why? So I got to spend a very long night drinking with Mitch, who is even more crazed and out of control in real life than he was on records.
[Image: Mitch in “Good Guys” sweatshirt looking sheepish]
But at the time of that early concert, he was just one of my rock ’n’ roll heroes.
[Music: Moby Grape, “Omaha”]
[Image: Psychedelic Moby Grape poster]
Earthquake number 2. Or really it was the aftershock to the Beatles earthquake. And it happened, appropriately enough, in California, in my current hometown of San Francisco, near the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets.
[Image: The corner of Haight and Ashbury]
In 1967, I was too young to go to San Francisco from New York for the Summer of Love. But, sure enough, San Francisco came to me, in the form of a band called Moby Grape.
[Image: Moby Grape’s first album cover]
Moby Grape was one hippie band the record companies thought could make a lot of money. They were hugely talented, with four songwriters, four singers, three guitar players. And they could definitely bring the joy. But these stoners were definitely not ready for the commercial record machine. They became famous for missing shows and soon self-destructed in a fight with the businessmen who wanted to get rich off them. A few years later they tried for a comeback, and a magazine sent me to interview them on one of my first assignments. Live, they were on fire, as good as ever. But backstage they were on fire, too, and shared with me the strongest pot i had ever smoked. So it was no surprise to me that the comeback went off the tracks.
You’ve heard of the Grateful Dead and probably the Jefferson Airplane. But Big Brother and the Holding Company? Big Brother was Janis Joplin’s group, and they were one of the other bands the record companies thought could make a lot of money — if only the chick singer could get rid of her sloppy musicians.
Actually, they were a great band. Raw, rough, yes. But all the better for it.
[Music: Big Brother, “Combination of the Two”]
[Image: Big Brother “Cheap Thrills” album cover]
When the music biz executives finally convinced her to get rid of them, Janis did indeed get herself a radio hit, in “Me and Bobby McGee.” But, mostly, the music, played by session guns for hire, had lost its soul.
[Image: Big Brother with Janis]
Personal note: my closest brush with becoming a rock star was when, after Janis’ death, her lead guitarist, Sam Andrew, asked me to be the lead singer in his new band. But I turned him down. After one too many band breakups, I had decided I would write about rock ’n’ roll instead.
As the ’60s became corrupted and places like Haight-Ashbury became overwhelmed with heroin and crime, there was a movement to the country (it’s when, for instance, the Grateful Dead moved out of San Francisco to nearby Marin County, where I live today). It was a back-to-the land movement. It coincided with the dawning of the environmental movement, and in rock it was accompanied by a movement toward country music. It was the Byrds who first got country rock going when they hired on a singer, songwriter, guitar player from Waycross, Georgia, named Gram Parsons.
[Image: Gram Parsons in Nudie suit]
That association lasted a year or two, and then Gram went out on his own and took the next step closer to pure country. With his own band, the Flying Burrito Brothers.
[Music: Flying Burrito Brothers, “Wheels”]
[Image: Gram playing with band]
But that didn’t last long either. Because the heroin followed the hippies to the country, and within a year or two, Gram was dead of an overdose at this motel in the California desert.
[Image: Joshua Tree Inn]
Interesting footnote: the roadie in the previous photo, supposedly per Gram’s wishes, stole the singer’s casket as it was being delivered to a plane at the Los Angeles airport and drove it back out to Joshua Tree and burned it.
Far from California, in the cold, gritty industrial center of Detroit, Michigan, the young people had no interest in this idea of mellow, country rock. So the local kids, including an intense young man named James Osterberg who called himself Iggy…
[Image: Iggy onstage bending over backward]
…invented a kind of music that sounded more like the pounding factories where they worked every day.
[Music: Stooges, “Search & Destroy”]
Named for a military operation the American army carried out in Vietnam, the song reflected disillusionment with the war, disillusionment with the end of the ’60s, and disillusionment with the oppressive atmosphere of Detroit. The Stooges were very much a Detroit band, a little bit metal, a little bit glam, and — the word had not even been coined yet — a little bit punk.
[Music: MC5, “Kick Out the Jams”]
Them and the MC5, too.
[Image: MC5 shirtless, wearing White Panther necklaces]
That’s the Motor City 5, who wanted to lead a youth revolution, to throw off the desperation of being a cog in the American machine. They were really the original Rage Against the Machine. (And Rage paid tribute by covering that song, “Kick Out the Jams.”) And if the revolution didn’t happen the way the 5 thought it should, the music did.
Another personal note. Within a few ears, I was living in Detroit, working for a magazine called Creem, that helped invent and name the punk era. In fact, I just heard Michael Stipe of REM on the radio last week and he said Creem got him into music. I was there for a year and a half, as I mentioned, working with a guy named Lester Bangs.
[Image: Lester Bangs and Duncan]
Lester and I became close friends, and when I moved back to New York from Detroit, he followed. Lester was a mad genius, who wrote hilariously funny, highly opinionated, and impossibly long stories, the guy who championed the Stooges and the MC5 and the Velvet Underground when just about no one else did. In fact, I don’t think Lou Reed would have had a career if it weren’t for Lester’s stories in Creem.
[Image: Lester Bangs in the middle of Sixth Avenue in NYC]
Here’s a shot on Sixth Avenue in New York by my wife Roni Hoffman, who worked as a rock photographer. It’s right in front of the funky old building where Lester and I and Roni shared the top floor. (This shot would later be the cover of Lester’s biography.) It turned out we’d arrived back in Manhattan around the same time that punk did.
But let me take you back to some of the punk pioneers.
First, Patti Smith.
[Image: Patti meeting Bob Dylan, with Roni Hoffman in background]
I love this photo because it was taken the night the torch was passed from one rock ’n’ roll generation to the next, from Bob Dylan and the counterculture to Patti Smith and punk. Or proto-punk. (I also love it because my wife, Roni, is in the background. Roni was a friend of Patti before Patti was famous, when the singer was just an unhapy clerk in Scribner’s bookstore in New York and would steal books for Roni and her boyfriend, who was a rock critic. Later, we’d all get to know each other, when Patti moved in with our friend who plays keyboard in the Blue Oyster Cult).
[Image: Patti alone, looking defiant]
As her first step toward reinventing rock ’n’ roll, Patti and her longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye took the poetry and jazz of the beats — Kerouac, Ginsberg, William Burroughs — and turned it into poetry and rock. That simple.
[Music: Patti Smith, “Land”]
Interesting that Patti’s song not only includes rapping (of a kind), but some of it is also “samples.” Words and melodies she’s stolen from other songs. So Patti is not just early punk, but early hip hop, too. The song itself is yet another song about the trials of teen life. But Patti being Patti, she takes this typical rock ’n’ roll topic into new territory. “Land” is a song about American high school, about teenagers and teenage bullies, yes. But it’s also about the ultimate in teenage bullying: rape. Homosexual rape.
In 1975, rock ’n’ roll is growing up indeed.
Or not — as the next case suggests.
Punk was a paradox, of course. It was grown-up art, and it was juvenile jokes. Some of these kids wanted to be real artists. But some just wanted to get drunk and high and bash away at instruments they didn’t want to learn to play.
In 1975, a year before the Ramones, a year before the Ramones first record, an album came out by a band called the Dictators, the unsung pioneers of punk.
[Image: Go Girl Crazy album cover]
[Music: Dictators, “Next Big Thing”]
These guys were just fucking around. They sang about being the “next big thing,” because they knew they weren’t and knew everyone else knew it, too. They celebrated being losers, drunks, idiots, cynics, and addicts. They were proud of their incompetence. (Well, except for lead guitarist Ross the Boss.) They scorned “professional” bands. And before they had their own band, they had a fanzine called Teenage Wasteland Gazette, where they wrote about music and trashing their parents’ apartments.
Sounds like punk to me.
[Image: Handsome Dick Manitoba with Iggy]
That’s their “lead singer,” Handsome Dick Manitoba, with his hero Iggy.
But, of course, it would be years before the Dictators were recognized as the punk pioneers they were. The record company certainly didn’t know what to do with them. And got rid of them as soon as they could. A big fan of the album, I got to know them fairly well and later wrote about them in The Noise. But by that time, Handsome Dick was well on his way to some nasty habits (like his hero Iggy). Though I’m happy to say that he (like Iggy) eventually made it out the other side and now owns one of the coolest bars in New York, Manitoba’s. Go see him tending bar on a Saturday night, and tell him I said hello.
But a year after the Dictators’ Go Girl Crazy album, punk officially arrived.
[Music: Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”]
We’re so used to their sound now that we forget how shockingly different the Ramones were at the beginning. Like Elvis and “Hound Dog.” You have to try to listen with fresh ears. In a musical world that, with few exceptions, was dedicated to polished production, elaborate arrangements, virtuoso soloists and lyrics that tried to be deep, they were about recording dirt cheap and keeping the arrangements dead simple. They got rid of guitar solos and kept their songs to two minutes, like the ’50s and early ’60s pop music they borrowed from. Most of all, they got rid of the whole pretentious idea of making a big statement with their music.
Except by not making a statement the Ramones turned out to be making the biggest statement of all.
And it was heard around the world, inspiring the Sex Pistols and Clash in London, and literally thousands of other bands literally everywhere. But it never would have occurred to me when I was sitting around with a couple of Ramones in their loft around the corner from CBGBs in 1976 that these weird guys — and they were authentically weird — would mean so much.
Speaking of weird, four or five years later my friend Lester died of an overdose. He had been a good friend of the Ramones, and Joey the lead singer showed up at his tiny memorial service — there were only about a dozen people there — silently holding his mother’s hand.
Of course, the Ramones never really cracked the mainstream. And they were never really able to cash in. But they earned their place in history.
[Image: Young Talking Heads laughing]
There was another branch of the punk movement called new wave. Or maybe it was its own separate simultaneous movement. Anyway, like the Ramones, like Elvis, it sounded really different at first. New wave was also a revolt against the mainstream, but from a different angle, coming out of the Patti Smith poetry wing, the arty wing of punk. In appearance, new wave was the revenge of the nerds, played by boys and girls, not dressed in leather like the Ramones, but in button-down shirts and glasses. And the leader, as much as anyone, was Talking Heads.
Before they recorded an album, the Heads made this great independent single. Which I think is too often overlooked.
[Music: Talking Heads, “Love Goes to a Building on Fire”]
I guess you have all heard of Bruce Springsteen, though I know he has never played Petersburg.
[Image: Springsteen in car]
But no overview of joyful American rock songs could ignore this one.
[Music: Springsteen, “Thunder Road”]
Springsteen picked up elements of ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll, elements of Dylan and soul music and married it to a vision of america out of Jack Kerouac and his novel On the Road. Because, like Patti Smith (and me), the first counterculture Bruce picked up on was actually the beats.
By the way, cut to the late ’70s Springsteen and patti smith would collaborate to write Patti’s only hit record, Because the Night.
In the late ’70s, I did a story on Bruce, and we became friends. He took me on the tour bus for a few dates of his 1978 tour. But eventually, in the late ’80s and ’90s, we lost touch. In the last few years, we reconnected. And then last week I went to see him play in California. I wanted to introduce him to my daughter and her fiance. They’re getting married, and so Bruce, the nicest guy in rock ’n’ roll, dedicated “Because the Night” to them in his concert. Just like 31 years before, when Roni and I got married, he dedicated a song to us.
In the interest of my dwindling time, I’m going to skip all the mopey english groups, silly synthesizer bands and other musicians, good and bad, that started in the ’80s, so I have time to play you a song by one of my all-time favorite groups, Guided by Voices.
Which is basically this guy: Robert Pollard.
[Image: Robert Pollard album cover, “Relaxation of the Asshole”]
A schoolteacher in Dayton, Ohio, and another mad rock visionary (by the way, this is an album of his drunken onstage banter), Pollard invented the “low-fi” sound, always recording his master tapes on a cheap four-track Tascam recorder in his basement. In fact, when he finally got to make a record for a real label, he hated the slick result so much that he took the studio master and ran it back through his plastic tape recorder to add noise.
[Music: Guided by Voices, “I Am a Scientist”]
Now I’m going to touch real fast on a few more bands from this decade that I think are worth seeking out. First, a young english hip-hop producer named Mike Skinner.
[Image: Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) in t-shirt]
Skinner decided he want to make his own record. He called himself the Streets and this was the first cut on his first album. And to me a revelation. A new vision of rap — as literary and sometimes even historical (there’s a gladiator with a sword in there). But still with rap’s attitude.
[Music: The Streets, “Turn the Page”]
Another irresistible recent band: Outkast.
[Image: Outkast with naked women]
The inheritors of the Sly and the Family Stone funk sound, updated for the hip-hop age.
[Music: Outkast, “Ms. Jackson”]
There’s a kind of music from the ’70s that I thought should never be revived. They called it prog rock. The music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes. With its emphasis on technique, I thought it was nothing less than the anti-rock. It was definitely anti-punk. And I hated it.
Until I found the Mars Volta.
[Image: Omar and Cedric of Mars Volta]
[Music: Mars Volta, “Drunkship of Lanterns”
The two main guys are from Mexican backgrounds and bring Latin percussion and a Latin sense of drive to this kind of music. To a genre, prog rock, that had always been about control, they brought a sense of being out of control.
One more group I’ve been listening to a lot in the last two years and who I’ve had the pleasure to get to know.
[Image: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady with Duncan, Channon, Lemme]
They’re called the Hold Steady. And they owe a lot to Springsteen and to Dylan and Kerouac and the Beats, too. In fact, their most recent album title, Boys and Girls in America, is taken from Kerouac’s On the Road. But the lyricist Craig Finn is such an amazing writer he makes it all fresh again.
[Music: The Hold Steady, “Chips Ahoy”]
And that’s my rock ’n’ roll life. So far. Thanks for listening.
DJ Shadow, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt”
Elvis, “Hound Dog”
Del Shannon, “Runaway”
Aretha Franklin, “Mary, Don’t You Weep”
Chuck Berry, “Living in the USA”
Beatles, “Paperback Writer”
Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Women”
Mitch Ryder, “Devil with a Blue Dress”
Moby Grape, “Omaha”
Big Brother & the Holding Co., “Combination of the Two”
Flying Burrito Brothers, “Wheels”
Stooges, “Search & Destroy”
MC5, “Kick Out the Jams”
Patti Smith, “Land”
Dictators, “Next Big Thing”
Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
Talking Heads, “Love Goes to a Building on Fire”
Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”
Guided by Voices, “I Am a Scientist”
The Streets, “Turn the Page”
Outkast, “Ms. Jackson”
Mars Volta, “Drunkship of Lanterns”
The Hold Steady, “Chips Ahoy”
Work + News
Vaccination: our state’s best shot
As reported in AdAge and Adweek, DC was awarded the state’s $40 million campaign to bolster public confidence in Covid-19 vaccinations. And work is already underway on this critical effort.
The spots are animated. The struggle is real. True tales of former smokers on the perilous path to quitting.
InnovAsian: The Next Generation
DC is back with seconds of our award-winning, supply-chain-busting InnovAsian Occasion campaign now running on stations across the nation.
Not only did viewers rank the TV spots above those of market leaders Corona and Dos Equis, they gave them the third highest score for any alcohol-related ad that year. Which might be one good reason for a frothy 37% sales increase.
Beautyscape in the Bahamas
Created by DCLA for e.l.f., the fifth installment of the award-winning influencer program is now underway in the Bahamas. And garnering more heat than ever.
SweeTARTS' Be Both is back
After the sweet success of last year’s 'Be Both' launch, SweeTARTS is doubling down on the campaign to Gen Z with brand new work in market now — and more to come in 2021.
CBS x Alfred Coffee · Emmy Awards
DCLA partnered CBS Studios with Alfred Coffee to reach Emmy voters and garner support for Star Trek: Picard. The timely work tapped into the diversity and inclusion central to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.
Loyalty or discount program advertising often dwells in the downscale world of the coupon clipper — a turnoff to savvier online shoppers. Our strategy was to present Rakuten as every bit as premium as the brands it offered rebates on.
Even the mild-mannered have something inside that drives them wild. And thanks to StubHub that wild thing is busting out all over.
Gap · Dress Normal
Gap asked us to build consideration and generate trial for their newly launched “Dress Normal” brand platform. Thirty influential Instagram photogs helped us do just that.
This way to health insurance
Today marks the launch of our first campaign for Covered California as part of a five-year, $400-million effort to help all Californians get the health insurance they need.
The “Stirring the Pot” work celebrates Kettle Brand's counterculture legacy and all those that zig when others zag.