An Earworm For Mad Men

Jul 18, 2013

KUOW's Amanda Wilde cues up the vinyl recording of the 1965 Diet Pepsi jingle called "Music to Watch Girls By."
KUOW's Amanda Wilde cues up the vinyl recording of the 1965 Diet Pepsi jingle called "Music to Watch Girls By."
Credit Photo by Jenna Montgomery

My KUOW colleague Amanda Wilde, host of The Swing Years and Beyond, regularly shares music that sounds familiar. The tune that Amanda brought in this month is music that I can easily imagine Don Draper and other Mad Men giving a big thumbs up. 

In order for Amanda to share the music with me, she first had to dust off one of our old KUOW studio turntables. Then she could play the music on a 7-inch vinyl record she had recently tracked down.

It turns out the music had its roots in a 1965 Diet Pepsi jingle. An old black and white TV commercial came back into my memory after hearing Amanda’s vinyl record. The ad featured a scuba diver popping up our of the water, clearing his face mask and watching a blonde in a bikini walk by. The accompanying voiceover from the announcer went: “The girls who girl-watchers watch, drink Diet Pepsi. Only one calorie!”  

From its beginnings as a commercial jingle the music was expanded into a full length tune which became a hit for the Bob Crewe Experience. It rose to the top of both the Billboard Magazine pop and easy listening charts in 1965.

The Diet Pepsi jingle was originally written by Sid Ramin, a composer and arranger who has won Grammy, Tony and Academy Awards for his work. His Oscar came as a result of the orchestrations he wrote for the film version of West Side Story. Sid Ramin also wrote the theme Smile, You’re on Candid Camera for the popular 1960s television program.

It seems you couldn’t get away from this tune during the 1960s. It eventually took on the title “Music to Watch Girls By” and was covered around the world and here in the United States by artists like Andy Williams on his 1960s TV variety show.

When Amanda played the music for me recently, it took me back to my 1960s childhood.

It reminded me of the kind of music my parents played when they threw parties. The sounds of trumpets and mallet instruments playing sassy, sultry, Latin-flavored sounds reminded me of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and other popular bands of the era.

“Music to Watch Girls By” was also part of the Star Trek craze of the '60s. Leonard Nimoy featured the tune, re-titled “Music to Watch Space Girls By” as part of a recording he released in 1967. This instrumental version of the tune evokes a campy, futuristic feel in keeping with Nimoy’s popularity at the time as the wise Vulcan space voyager Mr. Spock. 

Those Mad Men who used "Music to Watch Girls By" in commercials knew the tune would be hard to get out of your head. Amanda Wilde offers this "antidote" that she guarantees will take away any memory of that old Diet Pepsi "earworm." But beware: as the old saying goes, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.