“‘Inspiration’ and its Overrated Aspects in Today’s Culture: The GEICO Commercial with ‘Midnight Rider'”

For whatever reason, Eat a Peach is the iconic Allman Brothers studio album, A Decade of Hits 1969-1979 and At Filmore East probably taking more clout than any, but Idlewild South, which predates Peach, certainly boasts a proud palette. “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” seems like the kind of song that could have only come from the South — Gregg Allman’s laying all his cards on the table here, and it seems his only path in life is a passion more fertile than any that has preceded. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” is an instrumental that made it onto Decade of Hits, the same with “Revival,” the album’s opener, whose simple refrain and verse engine of “People can you feel it? / Love is everywhere” strikes as the ultimate in the wade into the rock and roll era, undoubtedly underrated at the time simply for the fact that it came in 1970, rather than, say, 1966.

And then there’s simply the beast, the Allman Brothers’ best song, “Midnight Rider,” which has popped up on a GEICO commercial (no more gecko, yay!), a spot that’s been running now for months strong. I’m sort of on the fence about great songs surfacing in commercials, though it’s basically my own ego at work, no method to the madness of my opinions, more just tapping into my music nerd platitudes. Whatever the rubric is, I find Zep’s “Rock and Roll” and The New Pornographers’ “The Bleeding Heart Show” to be poor commercial endeavors, and Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything” and The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider” good. I think “Rider” is underrated amidst the Allmans’ catalogue, but you could make the case that any of these songs are underrated, so it’s not that. Either way, I’ll just say that I was a proud GEICO customer when I heard that timeless riff wafting from my TV’s magnets and coils.

The commercial features a guy, or the silhouette of a guy, which is actually made of cash bills, riding on a motorcycle up a picturesque hill, which looks like it could be very close to the band’s native Macon, Georgia. The guy, or his frame, is big, looking like he’s been chowing down on good old grits and eggs covered with gravy as a regular practice, so even besides the money thing, he’s many things I’m not. Also, I live two blocks from this biker bar and have to deal with their loud engines in close quarters as a regular cacophony victim. But I have to say, also, I find the prospect of motorcycle riding both fun and scary. This guy I used to work with would ride one to work, and though I was disappointed, part of me was glad as hell when he reneged on his initial allowance and decided against letting me, a complete biking virgin, taking it for a quick spin. I was like, you were about to let me do that? I guarantee I would have broken a leg.

But getting back to the commercial, you’ve gotta admit that the guy being actually made out of paper bills represents a test of the free capitalistic expressionist’s semantic values. I know this one girl who would go to great lengths to ensure that she and her boyfriend would never have to watch commercials at all, and so this is sort of the apex perspective of what commercials truly are — a tautologically flawed pitfall of living in a capitalistic society. And the money going to the artists is warranted, because just as “Gravity Rides Everything” undoubtedly made the car ad a better commercial, “Midnight Rider” behooves the GEICO galloper. It seems antithetical to have “commercial critics,” but I’m starting to have my doubts. I mean they sure as hell shape the psyches of our nation’s youths more so than do books. A few days ago I wrote about a commercial I found expressly bad, this Windows Phone pontificator claiming that the device would actually facilitate students’ learning (forgive me, I have my doubts). Ironically, the segment would be inspirational to the naive, a fact which will set the groundwork for the postulate that the commercials that inspire are actually the most repugnant of the lot. My first thinking on seeing the GEICO money guy riding up the hill, was that, wow, just a guy made of money, this isn’t very inspiring, but, I quickly realized that I was just being lazy and sloppy, and that inspiration level wasn’t really the issue at hand. Just looking at the infrastructure, any simpleton should see that anyone inspired by a commercial is a blockhead, considering that one brand’s products aren’t that different from another’s, and that the better brand will always cost more. It’s simple mathematics that fit into neat little consumer grooves. And in just my personal opinion, inspiration is also quickly transformed into anxiety, since the probability of its actualization field actually jibing with American sociological tenets is low, thereby making it not always the most lucrative phenomenon. Rarely has anyone been inspired to be an accountant or banker. The people I know with the best music tastes are those who are the craziest, and who make the least money. I remember when I really got into that “Walkin’ in the Rain” song on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, all it made we want to do was drive around and smoke weed. So if some of these commercials be good, whether by means of a great song or not, it should be because they soothe and hypnotize, the fact of whether or not they line a pocketbook notwithstanding.



Leave a Reply