Cliff Adams, who died last week aged 78, was born in Southward in
the early 20s. He was a boy chorister at St Mary-le-Bow and grew up to
be a successful pianist and arranger with Ted Heath, Cyril Stapleton,
Stanley Black and others after the war.
In 1949 he formed his own vocal group, The Stargazers. A few years
later, in 1954, he put together the Cliff Adams Singers. His incredibly
popular radio show, Sing Something Simple, was first broadcast in 1959.
Today it is still on air and is the background music to my clattering
typewriter as I put this lot together for Campaign just after 4.30pm on
Sunday 4 November, 2001.
Yet, for the advertising community at least, Cliff will be best
remembered for his defining contribution to a particular lyrical form -
which sadly appears to have pre-deceased him.
The story of the jingle goes back a long way. Back to the nursery, in
fact, when we found delight in the rhythm, words and music of our
mother's voice: this little piggy went to market; Bobby Shaftoe's gone
to sea; round and round the garden, like a teddy bear.
My dictionary defines a jingle as "a repetition of the same sound,
especially as an aid to memory or to attract attention. To be full of
alliteration, rhymes, etc."
It makes no mention of music, even though it was tunes that came to
dominate the genre. One of the most successful non-musical jingles that
I can recall ran: "Cheapest time to phone your friends, after six and at
The commercial jingle truly arrived in the UK with the invasion of GIs
and Wrigley's chewing gum during World War II. This brought us the joys
of hearing the slick, professional comedy radio shows from across the
pond, courtesy of the American Forces Network. And one of the things we
loved and copied was the sound of the vocal groups who merrily jogged
the show along.
The Beeb was not slow to copy the Yanks. All its great comedy shows were
soon introduced with a catchy jingle or signature tune. There was the
well-remembered "It's that man again; It's that man again; Yes, that
Tommy Handley is here!" and "Ray's a laugh! Ray's a laugh!; When you're
feeling sad and blue just; Ray's a laugh!".
When commercial television arrived in the mid-50s, the leader of the
Cliff Adams Singers was perfectly placed to satisfy the demand for
musical soundtracks that followed.
By the time I joined SH Benson in the early 60s, Cliff had his own
recording studio in the basement of 129 Kingsway beneath the agency,
with the goodwill of Howard "Boogie" Barnes, head of television at that
time. Those were the days of the full-service agency when everything a
client could possibly need from a creative team was laid on:
photography, casting, animation, a fully equipped cinema, a restaurant
and well-stocked bar. As a colleague remarked to me once: "These are the
good old days."
Cliff soon got down to work, churning out early hits such as: "Murray
Mints, Murray Mints; too-good-to-hurry mints."
This was followed shortly by: "Get that pink-pink-Paraffin, right to
your door; go and ring HUNter, 1-2-3-4."
He wrote the famous theme for the Cadbury's Milk Tray campaign, which
ran for years. And also the Lonely Man theme for the launch of Strand
cigarettes, which didn't. He was great fun to work with and pretty damn
quick too, when the spirit moved him. John Webster recalls the time he
approached Cliff in his Bond Street offices about a new product launch.
The words of the required jingle had been written and approved by all
concerned. They were: "For mash; get Smash!"
About 30 seconds into the meeting, Cliff went to the piano and struck
three chords (one of them twice). That was it. Time for a celebratory
glass of Champagne.
My best memories of working with Cliff are associated with the work we
did together for British Rail. At Ogilvy & Mather we handled Eastern and
Western Regions and produced a series of commercials designed to get
out-of-towners to visit the big city. Then, some years later, Masius
Wynne-Williams asked us to present tracks for the account-winning
campaign "Have a good trip!" to the new chairman of BR, Peter Parker. As
soon as we observed the chairman's foot tapping, we knew we'd won the
Needless to say, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the jingle and
the works of the late, great Adams. I was most surprised to read in the
Oxford Companion to Popular Music, the following sour notes: "Jingle:
Apt name now given to those insidious but fortunately brief musical
interludes (usually vocal) which radio and TV advertisers use to herald
Funny thing for a commentator on "Popular" culture to express.
Fortunately the necessary rebuff to this attitude may be found in the
History of Popular Music in America by Sigmund Spaeth, published in
1948: "Let no musical scholar think for a moment that the creation of
popular music is an easy matter, to be tossed off in an idle moment.
Many a serious composer has been heard to lament his utter inability to
turn out even one tune that people really want to whistle."
Not so Cliff Adams. Pip pip!