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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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The Femmes and Wendy's: I can't add it up

If you’re like me (and I know you are), you did a double take when you saw the new commercial for Wendy’s.  Actually, I didn’t even see the whole spot -- I was in another room at the time.  But when I heard the Violent Femmes’ seminal hit, “Blister In The Sun” on the TV, my ears perked up. Then my jaw dropped. Then my heart sank.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit.  But I was really shocked to hear the Femmes in a Wendy’s commercial.   In case that statement didn’t sink in, let me say that again: Milwaukee’s own Violent Femmes provided the soundtrack to a Wendy’s fast food commercial.

Gordon, Brian, Victor … come on.  I know it’s been a few years since you’ve put out an album, and a few more since you’ve had a hit.  But you’re still my favorite band, and I gotta say, I’m a little bummed.

“Let me go on, big hands I know you're the one.
Body and heat I stain my sheets I don't even know why.
My girlfriend she's at the end and she is starting to cry.”


Is this really an appropriate song to pitch chili?  Apparently I’m not the only one who finds this a little weird. I Googled “Blister in the Sun + Wendy’s commercial” and came up with 762 results.  The general consensus was puzzlement, as well as more than a few people questioning why a vegetarian like Gano would be pitching meaty chili.

But hey, who am I to judge? I hope the trio got a fat royalty check for lending their biggest hit to the fast food chain.  And it gives me a good excuse to call Vic and catch up, who last I checked, had a studio down the street from the OMC headquarters. (Stay tuned for that.)

I can’t imagine it’ll do much for the band’s street cred, but I’m reminded of a story I heard about the Dandy Warhols, in which they gained a ton of momentum from a song of theirs that was played in a European cell phone commercial.  The royalties and added CD sales built them a new studio in Portland and funded their subsequent work.

Granted, the Femmes have already sold zillions of records to several generations of surly teens, and their concerts still sell out worldwide.  So I’ll reluctantly take the glass-full attitude here: Let's hope this bizarre musical pairing gets Milwaukee’s native sons back into David Vartanian’s studio, creating some fresh music -- that won’t find its way into a Wendy’s ad for another 25 years.

Talkbacks

Milly | Feb. 22, 2007 at 8:28 a.m. (report)

I also heard a Femmes song in a recent episode of "What About Brian." Yes, I was watching it, but that show is garbage.

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brianritchie | Feb. 22, 2007 at 1:51 a.m. (report)

For the fans who rightfully are complaining about the Wendy's burger advertisement featuring Blister in the Sun. Gordon Gano is the publisher of the song and Warners is the record company. When they agree to use it there's nothing the rest of the band can do about it, because we don't own the song or the recording. That's showbiz. Therefore when you see dubious or in this case disgusting uses of our music you can thank the greed, insensitivity and poor taste of Gordon Gano. It is his karma that he lost his songwriting ability many years ago, probably due to his own lack of self-respect as his willingness to prostitute our songs demonstrates. Neither Gordon (vegetarian) nor me (gourmet) eat garbage like Wendy's burgers. I can't endorse them because I disagree with corporate food on culinary, political, health, economic and environmental grounds. However I see my life's work trivialized at the hands of my business partner over and over again, although I have raised my objections numerous times. As disgusted as you are I am moreso.

Sincerely,

Brian Ritchie

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