It was as far back as 1873 that Levi Strauss & Co began to make jeans. Famed for their robust, riveted denim jeans they also branched out into casual wear but it wasn’t until the early parts of the 1960’s that true worldwide fame was found. The ‘blue jeans craze’ seemed to explode all over the western world and, as a brand, Levi’s were up there.
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Although the ‘fad’ of jean wearing remained, more and more companies were now around to take sales away from Levi’s. By the mid 80’s sales had decreased immensely, something had to be done to redress the issue. A marketing campaign was required and the one they chose worked beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Sales rocketed as Levi’s started an ad campaign that was to capture the imagination of all. However, it wasn’t just the visual treat that captured the viewers imagination; it was the music that could be heard.
Initially taking old standard songs, such as Ben E Kings ‘Stand By Me’ and Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, it seemed that every song featured in a Levi ad was soon racing towards the top of the charts. As the 1990’s began a chance of pace was afoot. Instead of taking older songs, Levi’s started using new songs in their adverts. It was a risk to change the winning formula but it was a risk that seemed unfounded as the captive audience seemed to enjoy even more what they were hearing.
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Below, we will have a look at the songs that were famously used in the Levi adverts of the 1990’s; famously used and somewhat made famous also as every single one of these was to find its way to the number one spot in the UK after appearing in the ad.
Steve Miller Band – The Joker
It was the dawn of a new decade. The 1990’s had just begun, it was to be a decade that in many respects echoed that of the 60’s. The Steve Miller Band had first recorded the song ‘the Joker’ way back in 1973 and had a massive US number one with it. In the UK however the band were not all that famous, having their biggest hit with ‘Abracadbra’ in the early 80’s and not much of note apart from that. All that was to change however when ‘the Joker’ was used in a Levi advert. On UK release it stormed its way to the top of the chart and spent an impressive 4 weeks at the top.
Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Another older song and yet another to reach the number one spot in the UK after being used in a Levi ad. The Clash were seen as leading lights of the punk movement and although their musical talent was never in doubt they seemed destined to never hit the top 10 in the UK with any of their releases. This song was originally released in 1982 and peaked at number 17. Yet 9 years later in 1991, after appearing in a Levi’s ad, this song rocketed to the top of the charts. It seemed that the record buying punters were falling ‘head over heels’ for a great advertising campaign.
Stiltskin – Inside
There were many people who, although admitting the adverts were the main reason, argued that all the songs used were just older ones that were popular anyway. So it was with some shock (and delight no doubt from some corners) when this song came from nowhere. When this rock song was used in a Levi’s ad it captured the imagination of the listener, enough so that it was released. Stiltskin were an unheard of band before this and soon drifted back to becoming unheard of it but in this brief moment of time they had reached the number one spot in the UK.
Shaggy – Boombastic
A relatively established star (having hit number one with the song ‘Oh Carolina’ in 1993), Shaggy was to be another musician to have song used in a Levi ad and to benefit from a number one hit in the UK. Levi’s, with their long running ad campaigns, had succeeded massively; the buying public were sending the music to number one and sales in the jeans were on the up. They could do no wrong.
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
Well they almost did do wrong with this one. Almost. It was 1996 when a new Levi’s ad came out and again the additional music was good. It would appear that they had gone down the route of dance music this time (an obvious move when one considers the differing styles previously used), the buying public were enthralled by the music which, to them, sounded like something from out of space. On release the record rocketed to number one but many people were left perplexed when, on first listening, the song descended quickly into a rock song. Although the start of the song was what had been in the advert, the rest was nothing like it. The listener felt like they had been duped but it was a feeling that wouldn’t last.
Mr Oizo – Flat Beat
Perhaps lessons had been learned, so when the advert came out with this song on it, no one was in doubt that this was a dance song. Another song plucked from obscurity that rocketed to the top of the charts in the UK, the 1990’s ended as it had began for Levi jeans; music from their adverts sitting at the top of the charts and sales of their produce doing well.