by Dennis Daniel
I'm a frustrated singer.
Having the ability to do impressions has often worked its way into giving me the opportunity to sing...in public! For years, I would jump up on stage and sing with the local bands doing my impressions of Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Mark Knofler, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Ian Anderson, John Lennon. I even sang "Handle With Care" doing all four voices! Of course, it was a tremendous thrill. I think all of us at one time or another in our lives has stood up, air guitar in hand, headphones cranked to the max, and pretended to be our favorite singer. Mind you, I don't know whether my impression is on a parody level or actually sounds like the person I'm doing (some do, some don't) but, who the hell cares? I'm singing with a live band! They even had a special "Dennis Daniel Night" out here in 1989. I sang with my intern's band "Ricky and the Roaches." We did thirteen songs! The night was set up to celebrate my nine years on WBAB and was heavily promoted! The place was packed! I rehearsed with the band for two weeks to make sure it all came together, and it did. Most of the listeners knew who I was because I had done so many parody songs over the years. As a bonus, if you wore a special "Dennis Daniel Mask," you received free admission. They had these masks made up of my face and put them everywhere! They also pasted them up all around the club. I tell ya, it was a really bizarre sightseeing my face all over the place -- on the wall and on people's faces in the crowd (and other areas I can't mention here). The bottom line is: I got my ego and rocks off, had fun, and sang for a live audience!
Like I said, I'm a frustrated singer.
For years, I avoided getting involved with jingles. First of all, I'm no musician. (Although, I can think of melodies easy enough. We all can.) Secondly, I left that domain to the many production houses doing business in my area. If a client requested a jingle, I would steer them towards one of my many connections. They would have a price war, and the best man won. A few times I got involved in the actual creation of the jingle, but, for the most part, I let them do their thing. These guys would get (what I considered to be) unbelievable amounts of money to create jingles! $1,000, $1,500, $3,000! I Yi Yi! And for what? None of them burst any blood vessels coming up with these puppies. In a way, I was glad they charged so much because clients would eventually come back to me crying poverty.
So...jingles were not my thing.
Then, one day I was trying to come up with a new idea for dentist Dr. Charles Ross (I know, I write about him all the time! Believe me, I do do other commercials besides his. It's just part of the story, okay?). I was talking to my friend Felix Hannemann, who was the keyboard player for a group called ZEBRA (some of you may have heard of them. They were on Atlantic Records and had a semi-hit with "Who's Behind The Door." They're still HUGE here on Long Island). I had this idea for a parody Bob Dylan spot, and Felix thought it would be fun to get together and produce it. After all, all we needed was a guitar, harmonica and tambourine. We met after work and sat in the studio creating lyrics and a melody. When it was done, we were shocked! It really sounded cool! A few weeks later, I did a parody Bruce Springsteen spot with Felix. Then, he went on tour, and my in-house jingle days were over.
When I came to WDRE, they bought me Firstcom's fabulous production library. I never had my own music library on CD before, and I went nuts! There were so many different varieties of music, so I never had a problem finding the right bed for the right client. One day, it dawned on me! Why not use some of these beds, create my own lyrics, and bingo! Instant jingles! At first, I did a couple of straight forward things, nothing I'm too proud of, but enough to satisfy the client's desire for a jingle. (I put one of them, for a place called Video Replay, on this month's Cassette. I think it's kinda crappy, but I wanted you to hear what I was talking about.) Pretty soon, I started to really tear into this concept. I began to pick beds that I thought sounded like a certain artists music, did an impression, and came out with some pretty neat stuff. I even did a parody of a Broadway musical commercial using a cut from the Specialty CD of the Firstcom library. It had all kinds of wacky sounding music that worked perfectly. I first decided what sections of music to use, created lyrics, edited them together, and wrote a narration. Singing all the different parts was a panic! I couldn't believe it! I was doing my own jingles! Friends of mine in the business were getting pissed off. "Why is Dennis doing jingles? He's cutting in on my turf!" I've included some examples of what I've done on this month's Cassette. When you listen, I'm sure you'll discover that I'm no singer. The point is, I can fake it well enough to have fun, and it's just one more way of expanding my production horizons. I'll tell you something else. When these little ditties come blasting out of the radio with full compression and majesty, they sound pretty damn good!
If you absolutely can't sing to save your life, maybe there's someone you know or work with that can. You could also do what I did initially and work with a friend who's a musician. Get 'em in the studio with an acoustic guitar and have some fun. What a job, huh? Where else can you sing on the radio to thousands of people with the benefit of anonymity? Best of all, since it's a commercial, chances are they HAVE TO LISTEN! They're hanging out through the commercial break to hear more music. Why not assault them with your golden throat? Since they don't know it's you, they can't aim any tomatoes. Ah, I love this job.