A man named George Lois has a small but interesting role in The Making of McPaper, the sometimes-ridiculous story of USA TODAY. Lois wins the paper’s advertising and helps capture its national image, all the while swearing at the executives. There’s one particular paragraph about him that’s especially interesting.
“He soon created a series of testimonial TV commercials for USA TODAY which featured Joan Collins, Joe and Deborah Namath, Wilt Chamberlain, hotel executive J.W. Marriott, Jr., and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker. Later, Lois produced singing testimonials which starred Willard Scott, Jane Byrne, Charles Schwab, Diahann Carroll, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle. They all crooned, with varying degrees of talent, ‘I read it every day.’ “
A jingle? We had a jingle? A USA TODAY song? I was surprised and immediately missed the mid-80s. It’s been tough to be a music-loving USA TODAY person in a Washington Post town. The Post, after all, had its own John Philip Sousa march. And a very familar one, at that. Even if you didn’t know the title, you’ve heard the march. Listen. (Seen the end of Animal House?)
I asked a few newsroom people last summer about the mysterious USAT jingle, and no one knew the tune. Google was no help, dead to pre-Web culture except what people had resurrected. Meanwhile, whatever George Lois had created was getting more and more tantalizing to me. One write-up summarized his best work: “Throughout his career, Lois’s talent has always been to capture the zeitgeist of an age — whether in the form of a senatorial campaign for Bobby Kennedy (1964), a composited Esquire cover that has Andy Warhol drowning in an oversized can of Campbell’s soup (1969), the concept and name for the low-calorie Stouffer’s product Lean Cuisine (1979), or those entertainment industry-transforming words, ‘I want my MTV’ (1982).”
But finally, last week, Google struck gold. A random search found the jingle on The ’80s TV Theme SuperSite. The zeitgeist had traveled to the site to greet me. “This site represents the largest resource of ’80s television history on the internet,” the introduction read. “More than anything, it is a place for the nitty gritty … like an obscure advertising jingle that has more sap than a Vermont maple tree in March, but is a priceless reflection of the zeitgeist.”
Under “Commercials (H-Z),” there was audio of a 1983 ad and the 1985 jingle. I saved the files in case the SuperSite should ever disappear — a great site, it sadly hasn’t seen an update in a year — and uploaded them here and here (Real Player required). The ad from ’83 was solid, but the ’85 jingle was pure … zeitgeist.