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Feb 07

THE NEW SEEKERS – “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”

FT + Popular47 comments • 8,461 views

#308, 8th January 1972

 

In his book How Brands Become Icons, marketing expert Douglas Holt lays out his theory of brands that transcend simple commercial strength and assume a role as cultural icons. Coca-Cola is one of his examples. He theorises that whereas standard branding plans involve continuous restatement of a set of brand values, the iconic brand relies more on a series of dramatic performances that address and resolve existing cultural contradictions, cementing the brand’s position at the heart of the zeitgeist. Most of his examples involve adverts in which, for instance, black people and white people are nice to one another.

The “Teach The World To Sing”/”Buy The World A Coke” campaign features heavily in his analysis of Coca-Cola’s iconic development. A dramatic success on its debut in 1971, it gave Coke a worldwide sales fillip and cemented its status as one of America’s top brands. Holt argues that this was because its unifying message was what the US needed to hear in the troubled wake of our old friend, the Vietnam War. Whatever the truth of this, the New Seekers’ decaffeinated folk warble became an absolute monster of a hit, so maybe resonances were being struck somewhere.

The hit was so big, and so simple, that it made the crossover to playgroups and school assemblies. By 1975 or so, you could buy a chunky music box which, at the turn of a dial, would play the song’s melody while a frieze of smiling faces, apple trees, honey bees rotated gently to illustrate the lyrics. Somebody bought that music box for me, and so it is that – even though I wasn’t born at the time – this is my earliest musical memory from the list.

Not a particularly happy memory, though. I got bored of hearing the tune well before I got bored of bashing the box around, and my main recollection is of how the toy and the tune gave me an accidental introduction to sound manipulation, as holding the dial back or forcing it to turn faster would speed or slow the music. Listening to the New Seekers now the song is as repetitive, static and chimingly cloying as I remember from the box. And, dramatic cultural performance or no, it sounds older than almost anything surrounding it: for all the horrid persistence of “Imagine” as a standard, this kind of singalong message song has vanished from pop’s remit.

{democracy:35}

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Feb 2007 #

    Tom are you John Harris?
    (nb: DNFTT)

  2. 27
    Jon on 8 Feb 2007 #

    Noels lyrics:

    I’d like to be somebody else and not know where I’ve been
    I’d like to build myself a house out of plasticine
    Shake along with me
    I’ve been driving in my car with my friend Mr. Soft
    Mr. Clean and Mr.Ben are living in my loft
    Shake along with me!

  3. 28
    CarsmileSteve on 9 Feb 2007 #

    Mr Benn, obv.

  4. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Feb 2007 #

    Not necessarily. He could have been harbouring Mr Ben Benison, seldom-renowned co-star of Vision On and The Up And Down In And Out Roundabout Man.

  5. 30
    Lena on 9 Feb 2007 #

    “Grasshoppers in Honey” by The Meligrove Band is better than anything else mentioned here.

  6. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Feb 2007 #

    (nb: the MB song paraphrases the New Seekers one)

  7. 32
    Erithian on 13 Feb 2007 #

    Blimey, this site got a bit feisty while I was away over the weekend! What can one say but “it’s only rock’n’roll”…

    Tom has justifiably closed discussion on the “Telegram Sam” thread and not invited it on his entry about comment box policy, but I hope it’s not too late to have my two-penn’orth, and I hope you don’t mind me posting it here.

    To be honest I thought I’d been the target of flaming from certain people here when I ventured to suggest that I liked the Sandi Thom record and preferred “Black Night” to “Band of Gold”. Those were among my first postings on the site, having “lurked” for a while, and at the time I felt like backing out of the debate myself, much as Doc Mod is talking of doing. But I’ve persisted and like to think that I’ve gained a measure of respect, while recognising that some people do have strong views and forceful ways of expressing them. So when Tom hinted earlier in this thread that my liking for a certain upcoming Number 1 (errr… it’s about a painter) might prove controversial, my reaction was “bring it on”.

    We don’t want to lose someone with insights of the quality of Doc Mod (and btw it’s good to see the other Doc back as well) so I fully echo what Tom said in his separate post. As for “spoilers”, I don’t know whether it’s a particularly British usage deriving from newspapers giving away soap plots in advance, but I think DM is taking it a little too literally when she says “sorry if I spoiled the fun”. I do agree with Marcello to the extent that some people on this site are not as familiar with the sequence of number ones as others, and it is part of the game to hold off commenting on them until Tom gets there (with the obvious proviso that it’s fine if you’re making relevant comparisons) – but it’s nothing personal to appeal to people not to jump the gun. Please stick around though Doc – the more the merrier.

    And Tom, not to jump the gun but I’ve had a certain synthesizer-based intro running around my head for a week now.

  8. 33
    Bill Compton on 4 Jun 2007 #

    Hi Jim. Photos i received. Thanks

  9. 34
    Matthew on 17 Jan 2009 #

    By 1975 or so, you could buy a chunky music box which, at the turn of a dial, would play the song’s melody while a frieze of smiling faces, apple trees, honey bees rotated gently to illustrate the lyrics. Somebody bought that music box for me, and so it is that – even though I wasn’t born at the time – this is my earliest musical memory from the list.

    !!! Snap, exactly the same as me in every respect! I had the very same toy, and obviously I performed the same sound manipulations by abusing the dial too. Because this was my first ever, pre-conscious, pop song, I suddenly realise I never thought of it as something some band sat down and wrote, just as a sort of timeless, universal tune of the order of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Baa, Baa Black Sheep. Hurrah, I knew nursery-rhyme-pop would strike back at the top of the charts with a vengeance after a couple of years of relative absence.

    I feel a strange undying New-Seekers-based kinship to you now, Tom.

  10. 35
    Waldo on 19 Oct 2009 #

    Nowadays, if you aired a desire to “buy the world a coke”, you would be in all sorts of trouble from as diverse groups as G8 protestors, for whom all multinational companies are the cause of all the tragedies of the straving world, and the Elf n Safety lunatics, who would not favour giving some poor mad-hungry fucker in Mali or Niger a coke, lest he became obese, which would represent a much more serious situation than his/her previous postion of hopeless, pitiful starvation, drought and consequent imminent death.

    As I outlined when discussing the subsequent New Seekers’ number one, I had big crushes on both Lyn and Eve with Lyn just winning by a short head, if you pardon the expression. I certainly would have enjoyed singing lessons or a coke with either of them. Soft drinks aside, ILTTTWTS is a nice enough trip to the fromagerie and the sentiment of singing a song to the world probably remained in the head of a cynical teenaged scruff in Dublin back in the day.

  11. 36
    Patrick on 1 Apr 2010 #

    Wow I had that music box too!… and had completely forgotten about it until this moment. Matthew’s observation is spot-on, have always thought of the tune as one of those melodies that seems to have been around forever (and which are often credited to Mozart). Definitely better in music-box form than the New Seekers’ version, which is kind of horrible. Having said that, still think it merits more than a 2.

    By the way I’ll probably go back to lurking now, at least until 1978 when my stork comes along.

  12. 37
    Snif on 2 Apr 2010 #

    Pop over to here

    http://www.halfhearteddude.com/page/2/

    and scroll down to “The Originals Vol 38” for an interesting account of how the song came about (along with a copy of its “predecessor”)

  13. 38
    lonepilgrim on 19 Sep 2011 #

    a variety of versions of the Coca Cola tune that preceded this one can currently be found here:

    http://www.bigozine2.com/archive/ARrarities/ARcoke.html

  14. 41
    Brendan on 11 Sep 2012 #

    This is my ‘stork’ no 1. I found Popular a couple of weeks ago and have thoroughly enjoyed reading every word up to this point. I had a sneaky peek to see where Tom is up to and was a little saddened to see that there were mutterings that it might not be continued but I shall happily read on in the hope that by the time I reach the ‘end’ as it currently is, it won’t still be the end. Either way, a great read and I hope I can contribute a few more thoughts of my own now that I’ve gotten round to introducing myself.

    Brendan

  15. 42
    Brendan on 14 Sep 2012 #

    – just figured out how to do it from reading a future entry.

  16. 43
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    Now i am just looking for info, enable, ideas, etc.!.

  17. 44
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  19. 46
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  20. 47
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