A recent tweet by Alan Cross concerning a Ministry/Labatt Maxium advert from 1993 reminded me (in backhanded fashion) of what I believe to my introduction to the Smiths.
“How Soon is Now” was the song and no doubt, it left a mark. This was due in large part to Johnny Marr’s distinctively-wobbly guitar chord that basically oscillated into eternity and sounded like nothing else in popular music. Truly unforgettable.
Strangely, the song is a total island in the Smiths’ discography soundwise. It’s not jangly. It’s not snarky or glib. It is bleak. It’s confused. It’s a little bit scary. It drones in all the right ways. The video is kinda sorta perfect and in short, it’s a delight and a total classic in many respects.
Anyway: Ministry, Labatt Maxium, the Smiths… what’s the connection?
So yeah, much like the bizarre three-way dance Ministry “NWO”, Labatt Maximum and Michael Ironside, the brew crew pulled this same trick a few years earlier with our favourite troupe of Manchester mopes soundtracking.
Again, “How Soon is Now” was the song, Labatt Ice Beer was the beverage and the face was the late Alexander Godunov, the heel toe head from the original Die Hard movie.
The combination seems even more unusual in 2013 than it must’ve in 1990.
Perhaps there was a fan of Club 102 working in the Labatt marketing department during this era. Choosing tracks by Ministry and the Smiths (and the Cult) would seem to indicate as much. Whatever the case, I’m 95 per cent sure that seeing this TV commercial was the first time I had ever consciously heard the Smiths’ music. It was resonant even though I was neither a beer drinker (I was but a wee tween, after all) nor an Alexander Godunov completest. Unrelated, a Google image search of A-God shows that he had a ton of range in terms of acting, dancing and other sexy exploits and he resembled a young version of former WWE Heavyweight champion Triple H.
This commercial is ridiculous on a few levels.
Firstly, what kind of building is this? It’s either the world’s most unpopular lakeside lounge or (more likely) somewhere at Ontario Place. A-God is carrying around a crystal, which is I guess pretty cool. But the glass this establish (and I use this term loosely) provides doesn’t seem appropriate for beer consumption. A nice frosted tumbler would have been a better fit.
By the time A-God snarls, “Eeetz not ayes beeeeer” to close things out, the viewer is left with nothing but the pasty aftertaste of cliché futuristic “visions” and bad hair. Come to think of it, all three of the commercials mentioned basically took place in dark, seemingly post-apocalyptic environments. All the more reason to drink fortified beer, I suppose.
Whatever. The upshot is a variation of this product (Labatt Maximum Ice) has endured and “it does the job” if you catch my drift. Last I checked, the fantastic Imperial Library pub in downtown Toronto was still serving it in the hefty 1,183 ml. size. In general, ice beer was kind of a gimmick but I’m going to assume (hope?) it also introduced a few other Canadians to the suptuous wonders of the Smiths.
A pair of other Morrissey/Smiths’ video oddities…
Soho and their 1990 club smash “Hippychick” anyone? I could totally have my dates wrong as THIS may have been my first exposure to the Smiths. The whack Smiths/Soul II Soul mash-up (as played by members of Bow Wow Wow and the Bluetones) sounds like a terrible idea but this song is actually fairly decent and the video is a really fun time capsule of the era. This track was definitely not cool enough to be aesthetically lumped with the whole Stone Roses/Madchester thing but it was also just weird enough that it can’t justifiably be discarded to the Eurotrash compost pile (which is full of mulch and disintegrated Whigfield CDs BTW). From what I recall, this was actually a decent-sized hit in North America and was a cousin of sorts to the stuff the Timelords/KLF were doing.
One of those things I thought I imagined but apparently not. PBS seems like an odd spot for a Morrissey parody but whatever. There’s a strong message about velocity or something burried in the lyrics.