We used to live in a very nice road in Twickenham. When anyone mentioned Lebanon Park there was always a look of surprise, especially when they discovered we actually owned a house there. Surrounded by lawyers, bank managers and those with proper jobs we always felt like we were house sitting and that one day the real owners would come back and take rightful possession. Our neighbours were particularly nice. When we first moved in, they were excited that I was installing a studio and disappointed when I sound-proofed the rooms. They actually wanted to hear what I did as well as meet the many turns, celebrities and artists that came and went.
Our closest adjoining neighbour was the CEO of Thomas Cook, the travel company. I didn’t know this at the time and thought he was simply a nice bloke who went to London every day in his chauffeur driven car.
One day I heard him shouting my name over the garden fence.
“Dave, can you help?” he asked “We need a song to brand the company”.
Normally these ‘meetings’ would have been set up way in advance by the Ad Agencies, with hundreds of diaries being brandished, assistants being created, called and co-ordinated, much running around and panic ensuing with several dates being glued to the appointment book.
This was definitely a first. A garden fence meeting with a direct request, a simple brief, a writing challenge with the top bloke.
It certainly made you question why we would ever go through the nonsense, panic and confusion within the corporate circus when it could be done so easily and quickly in a friendly environment with no clutter, simply a nod and a handshake.
I called in my doctor of lyrics and set about writing the anthem I was sure they would adore and catapult me and my co-writers into a strong creative position, with awards and further corporate commissions.
Whether there were any long-standing family relations between me and Thomas Cook (without an ‘e’) were worth considering hoping that the ancestral muse would propel me even further towards some guaranteed success.
We hit upon: ‘For the World, One Voice!”.
My friend and genius lyricist Paul Field penned some rather fine gospel meets spiritual, meets aspirational endeavour with a sprinkle of the corporate to keep the suits happy.
We recorded a demo of the song and worked on a presentation. I talked to some independent advertising suits of my own and we put together a strategy, timescale and some practicalities that would hopefully bring together the desired outcome. How we thought this would work outside of their existing and well-established advertising agency was anybody’s guess but we ventured on and met in their lavish boardroom to play them the song. A case of naivety and ignorance clearly in play it was a case of ‘How many executives it would take to discuss changing however many lightbulbs if indeed they actually needed changing at all without the required triplicate in paperwork.’ Everyone looked at each other around the vast boardroom table. Some looked at their notes with token head nodding and foot tapping here and there when we played the song. Nobody really knew what to do or how to respond. My neighbour and boss of Mr. Cook came in and smiled approvingly, having commissioned this entire affair, “It sounds great, Love the chorus. Brilliant job!”and leaving just as quickly so that his minions could sort out whatever needed sorting. We ended as we began with pleasantries and the usual; “We’ll be in touch”.
I suppose the reason for this story is that despite no one really knowing what the point of this was, I had taken a simple brief over the garden fence and run with it. I had no clue about coordinating with agencies or working out exactly what this may be used for. I just said ‘Yes!’
It didn’t become the world beating, brand endorsing, singalong song for this global travel company. Nor did we manage to coordinate with their existing advertising gurus. But I did manage several trips to Los Angeles so that I could record the track with American singers, and produce something that I felt worthy of the original request.
In the end, to enjoy a bit of travel, studio recording and build some new friendships seemed to be very much worth the effort. For me it was the journey and not necessarily the end point; And I got paid to do it.
I’m only sad that no one really got to hear the final song on the TV. It was, and still remains, rather good. Anyone?