The top 10 Toronto jingles of all time
The hooks and melodies used in jingles for companies like Alarm Force, Fabricland, or Pizza Nova may seem simple and innocuous but that is their sly genius. Jinglism is the art of laying sonic eggs that will hopefully hatch some time later, and attach themselves to our brain regardless of pedigree. Over the years, Toronto has seen no shortage of auric aural jingles energetically engineered for maximum memorability.
The sign of a great jingle is usually its longevity in the public consciousness; however some of the best ones arrived then departed almost immediately, while others survived for a time before falling victim to corporate maneuvering, radical shifts in popular culture, or change for change's sake. Unfortunately none of this explains the continued omnipresence of "I'm Lovin' It".
"967-1111" (Pizza Pizza)
Unforgettable earworm alchemy crafted in the early '80s by Pat Withrow and jingle prodigy Mike McCurlie of MJM Media. Adored by Pizza Pizza founder, brain trust and CEO Michael Overs, this untouchable ditty was unceremoniously dumped by the chain after he passed away in 2010. Although replaced by a compositionally challenged, clunky melody only slightly blander than the product it's selling, the original remains a legend and the sole reason why everyone remembers their phone number. Hey, hey, hey!
"Radman Keeps it Cool" (The Radman)
Late '70s chain of Toronto radiator specialists took over the radio and TV airwaves with this reggae infused jingle by David Wilcox's band The Teddybears that kept it simple, and blissfully irie. They also had the best catch phrase ever "Radman - great place to take a leak"
"Life in the City Starts at the Centre" (The Eaton Centre)
Terry Bush may be best known for his theme song to TV's The Littlest Hobo (which remains an indelible slice of aural Canadiana) but he also created some of the best loved jingles of all time, including striking spots for Canada Dry, Commodore 64, and Ontario Place. This epic song was written for the opening of the Eaton Centre in 1977, and then riffed upon in their TV ads during the 1980s.
"Blacks is Photography" (Black's)
Long before smart phones made the process rather niche, Black's dominated the photo development scene thanks in no small part to their catchy jingles and Martin Short starring TV spots.
"Me & the Boys & our 50" (Labatt 50)
Perfectly capturing the Canadian mind-set of necking bottles at the Cottage with your buddies, "Me & The Boys & our 50" was written by Tommy Ambrose, another legendary local jinglist best known for his paean to Toronto "People City", theme song for Citytv in the early days. Ambrose also owned a popular bar in Toronto in the 1970s and 80s called Jingles, no less.
"Channel 47 Cable 4!" (CFMT)
Toronto broadcaster CFMT (now Omni) was always a Smörgåsbord of international flavour - catering to all nationalities and programming everything from soft-core Greek nudie flicks to ultra-violent Japanese fare like Lone Wolf and Cub (子連れ狼) alongside repeats of Full House and Murphy Brown. As Balkanized as their schedule was, the city united under the genius of their emotive and easy to mimic jingle.
"African Lion Safari" (African Lion Safari)
Mike McCurlie of MJM Media also created this melodic and exotic jingle in 1978 with writer Ed Roth. Still in rotation and only tweaked 3 times in 27 years, McCurlie credits the success of this and all his jingles to a catchy melody: "People don't walk around singing instrumentals, they walk around singing melodies. So you gotta keep that intact!"
"We've Got A Good Thing Going!" (TTC)
In the wake of the TTC's fiasco riddled 2015 existence, it is easy to knock this sincere ode from a kinder, gentler time when riding on the TTC was something to be celebrated as opposed to dreaded.
"I Wanna go to the Zoo Zoo Zoo" (Metro Zoo)
Terry Bush's gentle and folksy appeal to visit the Metro Toronto Zoo still heartily resonates nearly 40 years later, making it all the more bizarre this 1976 jingle was ever retired in the first place.
"Let's go to the Ex!" (Canadian National Exhibition)
Brainchild of Toronto's very own Don Draper-esque (m)ad man Jerry Goodis, "Let's Go to the Ex!" remains our city's rallying cry at the end of every dying summer. Goodis was not only the founding member of Canadian balladeers The Travellers, but also speech writer, communications counsellor and policy consultant for Pierre Elliott Trudeau. When he retired from politics and went into the advertising business his agency created such classics as Harvey's "Harvey's Makes Your Hamburger a Beautiful Thing," Speedy Muffler's "At Speedy You're a Somebody", Swiss Chalet's "Never So Good For So Little" and hundreds more.
Did I miss your favourite Toronto jingle? Please add your suggestions in the comments section.
Very special thanks to Terry Bush & Mike McCurlie
Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.
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