Nike “Agility/ Aerialism” 1992

Since I previewed these David Fincher directed spots a while back we have lost the great Attrell Cordes aka Prince Be. To me the early 90s was a golden age for hip hop with many transcendental acts, of which PM Dawn was one of the finest, and the work of Attrell and his brother Jarrett will surely live forever.

I had opined that these spots send up some of the overly-philosophical sports commentators of the time, but thinking more about it, it’s the legendary Phil Jackson, then coach of the unstoppable Chicago Bulls, whose zen approach is surely being parodied here. Scottie Pippen, superb small forward for the Bulls at that time, is featured in these spots, which as with all Nike work were produced by the ground-breaking Wieden & Kennedy of Portlandia.

 

 

 

Nike “Shattered Lens” 1992

While we wait patiently for the release of Arnold Turboust, allow me to transport you back to April of 1992. Thanks to the good folks at Redondo Custom Video my 20-year-old digital betamax reels have been converted and the tale can now be continued.

I’ll never forget seeing the columns of black smoke spacing the eastern horizon of Los Angeles, rising vertically into the breezeless air, and thinking about the homes and livelihoods that were being destroyed. I’d been in LA for a year and was having trouble finding work, and the riots were a dispiriting development.

Then Michael Cook called. An expat from Manchester, Michael was making a big name for himself as one of the leading DJs playing the LA rave scene of the time. He needed help with some demos he was working on.

So we set up my Juno 106 and Akai s1000 in Michael’s apartment on Dudley Avenue in Venice, a block from the beach. The demos were going well when something happened which caused the demos never to be completed.

Michael had recently been employed as an intern at Lol Creme’s studio in the Valley, he of course being a former member of Hotlegs and singer of all-time Rico fave Neanderthal Man, as well as a couple of other hits with his Stockport pals. There Michael had honed his sound design skills with a talented film student named Tarsem Singh. Here are a couple of their early collaborations: Il Douche and Shorts Story.

After Tarsem directed the award-winning Losing My Religion video for REM his career took off and he was able to concentrate on his first love: TV commercials. Tarsem is the Leonardo of commercials. His TV spots are like boxes of jewels, rendering the product impossibly desirable, be it an Audi sedan or a bottle of pop. He loved Michael’s sound work and wanted to use it as much as possible. My job was to weave music into the sound effects tapestry. And so a company, M62 Sound Design, was born. The name came from the highway which links our ancestral homes of Lancashire and Yorkshire in the UK.

Tarsem didn’t direct our first collaboration but I think he was the one who got us the job. Produced by the highly talented Wieden & Kennedy ad agency based in Portland and featuring rising tennis star André Agassi, this completely music and sound effects driven spot was a great way to start.

 

Nike “Aerialism” 1992

Now that Book One of this story is done (although there will be addenda) I thought I’d give you a preview of Book Two, before putting things on hold for a while.

In 1992, against the billowing smoky backdrop of the LA riots, I met a mad mancunian genius called Michael Cook, and we started a company specializing in sound design for TV commercials. We did very well for a while, were award-winning even.

This part of my life has been preserved in the form of several boxes filled with digital betamax tapes (and one broken award), which must be dubbed and organized, and I’m going to get right on that as soon as I return from Europe, honest. In the meantime here’s a taster, courtesy of YouTube.

This spot is typical of the output of Portland ad agency Wieden and Kennedy in 1992, on behalf of their main client Nike. It does a clever job of sending up the overly philosophical waxings of some sports commentators, while at the same time operating in a cool universe of its own making. This clip was directed by none other than David Fincher.

OK readers, I’m off to revolutionize French Pop once again…see you on the other side mes braves!