When Car Commercials and Rock and Roll Collide

King of the Car Commercials, Bob Seger
King of the Car Commercials, Bob Seger
Photo By Jay Lee

This weekend is the big Houston Art Car Parade, where children and adults of all ages can gander at their fellow Houstonians' labors of car love. Each car is a marvel of the ingenuity and the insanity of this race known as the modern Texan.

The Art Car festivities have cars on our brains.

Rock and roll and cars go hand in hand. From Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys, T. Rex, The Clash, ZZ Top and even Rob Zombie, they make great lyrical fodder. And most of the time girls come with cars, or you can can get girls with cars, and sometimes you can lose cars because of girls.

It stands to reason that advertisers and car companies would try to marry the two in sweet, acrimonious matrimony, so fans can scream "Sell Out!" Even still, a few hundred grand for one of your songs to be used in a car ad sure does help with the whole guilt issue. If someone's kid gets to go to college, then more power to them.

Nissan has had deep pockets when it comes to using rockers for ads, enlisting The Ramones, Blur, The Who and others for adverts.

Perhaps the first and most popular use of modern rock music in an ad was Chevrolet's use of Bob Seger's "Like a Rock," which became synonymous with Chevy trucks in the '90s. I hope that Seger's kids all get new Corvettes for their birthdays.

Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" skyrocketed back to prominence following an appearance for VW. Sting's awful "Desert Rose" was used for a Sting-starring, Sting-ruining Jaguar commercial, which was so bad that it shuttered the company for good and the CEOs burned down every factory in disgust and now their families all live on the street (dammit, Wiki).

"London Calling" by the Clash was later also used for a Jaguar ad, to the consternation of punks all over the world. But look at Mick Jones now -- he just looks like he would own a Jaguar. This wasn't even the first or last time that the only band that matters would be heard in an ad.

Lots of indie-rockers have been selling off their songs for car ads lately too, but (yawn) I would rather someone use a Motörhead or Mötley Crüe song to get me to buy a car than Phoenix or Wilco. Seriously, if someone used "Ace of Spades" for a truck advert, I would at least take a test drive.

But before you make a car purchase, you should also make sure you are insured against any damages to your vehicle or others. Here's an Iggy Pop ad from the UK for Swiftcover, because when you are looking for fast car, home or travel insurance, get Swiftcovered.

And if you are really good at driving fast, hear Radio Birdman's "New Race" for this ad for Indy racing on cable.

The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" helped Toyota sell a few Rav4's a few years back.

Electric Six, "Danger! High Voltage"

The Pogues, "The Sunnyside of the Street"

  Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" seemed like it would never be used for anything except good times, sexing and cover band set closers, but Cadillac had other plans...

Just this past Super Bowl Sunday, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion covered Ram Jam's "Black Betty" for a Volkswagen commercial. Yes, Jon, the blues is always No. 1.

The Clash, "Pressure Drop"

Jethro Tull? More like Jethro Lull Me to Sleep, Am I Right?


The dance remix of The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" sells Chevy trucks in Mexico in the '80s.

The Art Car Ball with Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Folk Family Revival, Benjamin Wesley, Poor Pilate, Tyburn Jig and DJ Graham14 is 8 p.m. tonight at the Orange Show. See for more info.

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