This makes me both happy and sad: Kohl’s is using a cover of the 1983 hit In A Big Country in their latest ad. I’m happy to see my favorite band get some (posthumous) publicity, but the cover version they’re using makes me cringe. The demographic obviously being targeted here is my age group. But, y’know, we’re all in our mid-thirties and early forties now, and – while we have fond memories of the electric guitar rock of our youth – we’ve all mellowed with age, and hearing it again in its original form would just hurt our aging, sensitive ears. We’re much more likely to shop at Kohl’s if they play a slower, more wistful version of the song for us.
And to think I listened to Big Black’s Atomizer on the way to work this morning.
Update: Some in the Big Country discussion forum were wondering if the surviving band members get any royalties from this sort of thing. The answer is no – Mercury owns most of their back catalogue and can do whatever they want with it, with no payment to the band. Since I’ve already mentioned Big Black in this post, I’ll quote their former frontman Steve Albini (who went on to produce albums for the Pixies, Breeders, and dozens of others) on the matter:
“Starting with Jefferson Airplane and The MC5 and going right up to Sonic Youth and Husker Du, it’s never worked. In 30 years no band has ever come out of the system alive. They get signed, they get arm-wrestled into spending too much money on their records, they get into debt to the record company, they spend 18 months trying to get out of it, it doesn’t work and the band breaks up. That has been such a constant that I can’t believe anyone still falls for it…”
Steve gazes calmly into the hell that is corporate rock. “It boggles my mind that everyone thinks they can pull the wool over the eyes of a company that’s had 30 years’ experience in dicking rock bands. Now that means that bands are being arm-wrestled into sounding like Nirvana; and the only way record companies can imagine doing that is by hiring Nirvana’s producer, so every band on a major label has been remixed by Nirvana’s producer this year…and I just don’t have any interest in being part of the continuum.”