Say It Ain't So, Joe

I got a little more irritated after each of the eight or so times I saw/heard the Taco Bell commercial with Joe Jackson’s “One More Time” song during the football games yesterday. Obviously artists have been blasted for decades about “selling out” their songs–and, to naysayers–their souls, to corporations who use the tunes in spots. It doesn’t seem as though it’s got quite the same stigma as it used to, and several older musicians who get a lot of respect have defended the practice by saying it’s really the only way for a graybeard to get his/her (though a “her” doesn’t really have a gray beard) new music heard by a mass audience. As long as the product is cool…iPods, Ford trucks…they’re OK with it.

But selling a 31-year-old hit song to fast food? To me, Jackson has always represented integrity and artistry–he surrounds himself with top-shelf musicians and seems to put oodles of effort into his songcraft, even if the songs don’t turn up on the charts anymore. Has Mr. Look Sharp ever even been to a Taco Bell? And what the heck does “One More Time” have to do with eating chalupas, anyway?

I found an interview with Jackson on from earlier this year where he addresses his Taco Bell spot.

My feeling is, at this point, why not? What the hell. It’s my song, and they didn’t change it or anything. Maybe it reminds people that I still exist, plus I get paid for it. After all, I have to think about my retirement! (Laughs) No. I don’t suppose I’ll ever retire, but at this point it’s very difficult for me to get on MTV or get radio airplay. As for Taco Bell, I would never go on TV and promote some product I think is crap, but no one assumes that. But I don’t think people think Joe Jackson eat Taco Bell. I don’t even think it exists outside of the States. I’ve never seen one, anyway. 

I dug up the lyrics to “One More Time” and it’s written for a jilting lover (”Tell me one more time as I hold your hand, that you don’t love me…”), so maybe that’s Jackson’s way of getting back at the gal for breaking his heart–I wrote a song for you, you dumped me, now your song sells Taco Bell grub.

Oh well, it ain’t the first time a Joe Jackson has sold his soul.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.