In a previous post I discussed the Sunoco Food Markets "Catch the Sun" jingle I produced for Geraghty & Roman Creative Associates in 1993. Two years later another jingle I composed for the agency would make my list of all time favorites.
Geraghty & Roman were marketing both Sunoco Food Markets and APlus convenience stores for Sunoco in the early 90s, but APlus eventually emerged as the stronger brand, and by 1995 G&R were regularly at Baker Sound producing ads for various APlus products and promotions. Many of these featured custom music.
"We Brew the Best" came about when Dennis Geraghty called and explained that he wanted to create a jingle promoting APlus coffee. Unlike the "Catch the Sun" jingle (the lyric for which had been written by G&R Creative Director Keith Gillespie), the agency wanted me to come up with a lyric based on a series of bullet points. Among these were "100% Columbian," "brewed fresh," and "available 24 hours a day." I don't recall whether the line "we brew the best" was supplied by the agency or something I dreamed up, but it immediately struck me as a solid hook that would sing well.
I do remember what inspired the style of the piece. I keep a mental inventory of musical ideas that I'd like to apply if the right project comes along, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to emulate the vibe of the 1989 hit "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles: a bluesy shuffle would stand out from other jingles on the radio and make the product feel sexy. After recording eight bars of the groove I began to experiment with melodic ideas. I came up with the chorus first and then began reverse engineering a verse that would incorporate the agency's bullet points. I left Baker that night with a basic melody in mind and figured out the verse in the car on the way home.
If you hunger for great coffee
not the same old cup o' Joe
Then APlus Mini Markets
is the place you wanna go
Our 100% Columbian
will make you feel alright
And we guarantee we brew it best
every day and every night.
The next day I fleshed out the drum, bass, and keyboard parts. I also laid down sampled horns that would be replaced with live players once I had client approval. I brought in Jeff Kay to add guitar parts, at which point there was enough of a bed to cut vocals.
I always try to write with a specific singer in mind, and from the outset I knew this was a job for Denise NeJame. Of the many singers I've worked with over the years, Denise is unquestionably the most versatile; she has an uncanny ability to grasp what a track needs, adapt her voice accordingly, and make whatever melody she is given her own. She arrived that night with announcer Jim Nettleton in tow, listened to me sing the basic melody through a few times, and then strode into the booth and delivered her lead vocal in one take.
I had Denise add a few harmony parts and then put together a rough mix for Dennis, who approved it the following day. The next step was to add the live horn section, which consisted of Sal Scarpa on trombone, Rick Kerber on trumpet, and Ron Kerber on tenor. Once the section parts were recorded, Ron improvised the soulful solo sax parts that appear throughout the piece. The last element to be recorded was the backing vocals in the pre-chorus and chorus; the group included Denise along with Chet Brown, John Plumley, and June Evans. All of the elements fit together so nicely that the final mix was a breeze.
"We Brew the Best" is a great example of a jingle that feels like a mini-song, so I decided to feature it in a video demo reel that Ron Cohen directed for us later that year. We recreated the recording process in the studio for Ron's cameras, and the brilliant Steve Wheelock (at what was then Shooters) edited together a mini-documentary that culminates in a music video of the jingle.
Many people have told me that "We Brew the Best" is their favorite MONSTER TRACKS jingle. It's certainly among my favorites, though as parents know it's impossible to rank your children. What most stands out for me now are the wonderful performances that the musicians brought to the production. So few of the many great musicians here in Philadelphia ever receive the recognition they deserve. My greatest thrill as a composer has been hearing my music performed by these talented players, and I'm proud that MONSTER TRACKS has given them some support and exposure, even if the majority of listeners will never know their names.
Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.