Straight-up With a Twist

by on August 28, 2020 · 17 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed, recently my band was offered a lot of money to use one of our songs in a commercial for a new energy drink trying to crash the SoCal market. Half the band feels like this would be selling out and the other half say we need money more than we need dignity. Can you break the tie for us?

~The Keyboardist’s Left Hand

Thanks for the email KLH. I don’t think this is necessarily a choice between dollars and dignity. There is a big difference between selling out and simply selling and I do not see anything undignified about licensing a song to sell a product that doesn’t betray the moral sensibilities of the song in question. Now if, say, a vegan activist band sells their protest anthem, “Can’t You Hear the Baby Chickens Weep?” to Foster Farms—that would be selling out.

I’m reminded of when Tom Waits was asked why he doesn’t permit advertisers to license his music. He replied, “Commercials are an unnatural use of my work. . . It’s like having a cow’s udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating.”

One of the things I dig about this quote is that he doesn’t denigrate other artists for doing so. He simply points out that it would be a bad fit for him. So yeah, unless you are Tom Waits— or some anti-corporate, anarchist punk outfit with song titles like, “Energy Drinks Are Made From the Piss of Capitalist Pigs”— I think you should go for it.

And by the way, it’s not just money we’re talking about. There is also exposure. Which, yes, leads to money. But having more people listening to, and enjoying, your music is reward unto itself. I’ll never forget the television commercial that introduced me, and a million others, to Nick Drake.

It was a Volkswagen ad in which could be heard the late singer’s drippingly wistful song, “Pink Moon” as a group of friends in a convertible Cabrio meander along a coastal road on a bluey, moonlight drive. No narrator, no dialogue, just gorgeous imagery and motion set to the music of the second-best singer/songwriter of the 20th century. I bought all of Nick Drake’s albums when I saw that. Though, it should be mentioned, not a single Cabrio.

Dear SWAT, I recently started drinking blended drinks and have come to notice that bartenders tend to make them weak. Why do they do this and should I complain? . . . Or maybe I should just stop ordering strawberry daiquiris altogether?

~Anonymous (because I don’t want my friends to know I am secretly drinking strawberry daiquiris)

Dear Anon, I believe that your observation is accurate. Not so much with margaritas, but when it comes to coladas and daiquiris, I have certainly seen many bartenders go light on the booze. In fact, one of the bartenders who trained me told me not to put any alcohol in blended drinks. She said I should just wave the bottle over the blender to give the appearance of a pour. Her reasoning? “People who drink fufu drinks aren’t real drinkers because the sweetness masks the taste of alcohol.”

I believed her at first. I was young and dumb, but had an epiphany not long after. It was during a trip to Rosarito with about 10 friends. We were at a beach cantina that was running a two-dollar Piña Colada special. As I recall, none of us were big on blendeds, but two bucks— even if weak— was a deal we couldn’t pass up.

Well the drinks weren’t weak. They were at least doubles, if not triples (you got to love that Baja pour) and a great and holy buzz was caught by all. I learned three things that day. The first, was that I effing love Piña Coladas and to Hell with anyone who doesn’t count it as a “real” drink. The second was that a customer who orders a sweet, blended drink might very well want it robust. I know my friends and I did. And the fact that sugar masks the taste of alcohol is reason to pour more rum, not less.

That said, you can’t just ask the bartender to, “Make it strong” because all he or she will hear is, “Give me free shit.” My recommendation is to order a double on the first round and drop a hefty tip. It will send the message that you are here to drink– fufu notwithstanding– and that you are happy to pay for extra booze. After that you should be able to order singles and get your fair share of the good stuff. If the bartender short-pours again, consider ordering a different drink, or keep ordering doubles, or leave. Whichever you decide, don’t tip. Any bartender who intentionally stiffs you on the alcohol deserves the favor returned. Yeah, I said it.

Edwin Decker (of Ocean Beach) is not a licensed therapist or psychologist. In fact, his only qualification is the 25-plus years as a bartender listening to the liver-aching of desperados and dipsomaniacs. Heed his advice at your peril.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 28, 2020 at 9:51 am

Please welcome Edwin Decker as a new OB Rag monthly columnist. As an OBcean Ed used to write for the now defunct City Beat and every annual Christmas auction, he can be heard as one of the auctioneers. Take his advice at your peril!


Avatar Debbie August 28, 2020 at 11:04 am

What great news for the rag that Edwin Decker is on board!

Miss City Beat and all those great writers.


Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 28, 2020 at 11:32 am

At the end of CB’s life, Ed was the only writer worth reading.


Avatar bobo August 28, 2020 at 11:05 am

Take the money you starving, idealistic musicians! Who knows the next time someone will pay you to do something you’ve trained for years to refine and master. Unless you don’t want to be a professional in that field. If not, send the advertisers to me so that I can sucker them into liking my songs.


Avatar edwin decker August 29, 2020 at 10:54 am

Yup, exactly Bobo!


Avatar Jon Carr August 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

What an awesome treat to pull up the rag this morning and see Ed Decker writing a column! More of this please.

This reminds me of the greatest Kids In The Hall episode ever, ‘Girl Drink Drunk.’

Ed – I’ll buy you a double squashed strawberry alley cat next time I see you if we’re ever let out again.


Avatar edwin decker August 29, 2020 at 10:53 am

Thanks John! That KIH episode was hilarious. I thought I saw all their shows but I somehow missed that one. Looking forward to that Alley Cat man, thanks!


Avatar unwashed WalmartThong August 28, 2020 at 9:45 pm

OK, this guy I can read, but I’ll need two more beers, some beef jerky and maybe a pedicure.


Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 29, 2020 at 10:57 am

Hey unwashed! How about a free subscription if you begin writing a column for us with all your wit and brainy sophism. Serious.


Avatar Jeffeck August 29, 2020 at 4:17 pm

I met John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) once. Someone gave him a dollar to sign for an autograph. He put it in his pocket and said to the fan “it’s money” and walked away. Moral to the story: when musicians are offered money, take it!


Avatar Chris August 29, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Welcome to The Rag Ed!!!


Avatar edwin decker August 30, 2020 at 9:40 am

Thanks Chris!


Avatar Josh Board August 29, 2020 at 6:44 pm

It’s great to see this column back. It was, literally, the only thing worth reading in CityBeat. His sense of humor (and great advice) is always a fun read. Dear Abby can shove it!!!!
Regarding “selling out” Iggy Pop was given a hard time for Lust for Life being used in 3 different commercials. He said something like “Look, I didn’t write it to sell Nikes or Pepsi, but if they want to pay me a million bucks to use it, I’d be a fool not to take that.” Seems like sound logic for a Stooge. And, like Ed states, I’ve been turned on to a handful of musicians over the years because of commercials (anybody hear the great Kinks song “Same Time Tomorrow” in a car commercial lately? It turned a lot of folks on to Ray Davies genius).


Avatar edwin decker August 30, 2020 at 9:59 am

I love that song Josh (FYI, it’s “This” time tomorrow). It’s one of my favorite Kinks tunes from one of my favorite Kinks albums – Lola vs The Powerman and the Moneygoround. Or is it Lola and The Powerman Vs. The Moneygoround? Hmm, I forget and I’m too lazy to look it up right now.

Your comment made me think about other bands I discovered through commercials. “Are You Gonna be My Girl” was one of them by Jet was one of them. I think it was an iTunes ad. There was also “1,2,3,4” by Feist also in an Apple commercial. Of course, I’ve known and loved Johnny Cash loooong before the Choice Hotels ad featured “I’ve Been Everywhere” but it was the first time I heard the song, which opened the door to the album it came from – Unchained – and the whole American Recordings package of which it was a part. Some of the best Cash songs ever are in that set.

I’m also embarrassed to admit that I bought the Trio CD after hearing the “Da Da Da” song in a Volkswagen ad. Only listened to it once though as there was nothing else interesting on it lol

But above all it was Nick Drake, and this Cabrio commercial, I remember most, and best


Avatar unwashedWalmartThong August 29, 2020 at 10:23 pm

I have found it very odd for many decades that anyone would actually pay to see a person, Iggy Pop, act like a scalded slug on stage. He’s on my list of discounted musicians; it’s a short list, but he’s at the top.


Peter Peter from South O August 30, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Iggy would say “blah, blah, blah. Personal taste in Punk is a wide spectrum indeed. Say what you will, but Iggy Pop and his varied Stooges were seminal elements of the NYC Punk scene, performing for free a LOT at CBGB.
My Connecticut roots are showing. Need to get wet.


Avatar edwin decker September 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm

FYI, I’m doing a little online reading and Q and A tomorrow night. It’s for a show called Viral Poetry. It’ll be short. Starts at 7pm and I go on right away.

Here’s the link to the channel. You don’t need to sign in unless you want to comment and stuff during the reading which is encouraged.


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