Joe Boyd Gets Last Word On Nick Drake Volkswagen Ad

Ever since the hardworking staff posted this last month, we’ve been going around the Maypole with music producer Joe Boyd about his statements in an NPR interview regarding the Boston ad agency that created the 1999 Volkswagen commercial featuring Nick Drake’s song “Pink Moon.”


At issue: Exactly when the “slackers from an alternative Boston ad agency” decided to use Drake’s song as the commercial’s soundtrack instead of their original choice of a track from The Church.

The hardworking staff noted that “[i]t wasn’t ‘an alternative Boston ad agency’ that created the spot. It was Arnold Worldwide, the second-largest ad agency in New England at the time, if memory serves us.”

We also checked with Alan Pafenbach, the creative director of the spot, who wrote this in an email:

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” It makes a better story, so what the hell. He gives us credit and probably between me Lance [Jensen] and Shane Hutton there probably was a general impression of slackerdom. Truth is it happened in the edit and Volkswagen never was given a choice.

But Joe Boyd says, not so fast.

I have to disagree. I have a clear recollection of being sent the story board before the shoot. Perhaps it was already shot, but we weren’t told. Also, I have a clear memory of the meeting two years later in Boston with the agency and hearing the guy who came with the Pink Moon idea telling me about listening at home and bringing the idea in the next day to the rest of the team, right before the VW exec came for a meeting. I may have exaggerated “that same morning” for the VW meeting, but I know it was very soon after the switch from the The Church to Nick Drake.  

That’s it. We’re done now. You can ship the Maypole to the Markey/Gomez rumpus.

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4 Responses to Joe Boyd Gets Last Word On Nick Drake Volkswagen Ad

  1. Shane Hutton says:

    Actually, I have a word or two. Not that anyone’s asking, but it’s a full moon tonight. A honey moon. Friday the 13th. So I think it’s appropriate. Here are the facts. When Tim Vaccarino and I concepted the spot at Arnold I thought the Nick Drake track would be a nice vibe for the mood Tim was describing visually. Tim had envisioned driving at night with the top down instead of the expected bright sunlight. He talked about a very silvery look he was picturing. As he spoke, I said, “I have a song I think will work.” And played Pink Moon for him. He said, “I trust you on stuff like this, Bubba. I’m cool with it.” We then presented the concept of kids driving around to Lance Jensen and Alan Pafenbach, our Creative Directors at the time. We played “Pink Moon” during that initial presentation. Lance and Alan were cool to move it up the chain to Ron Lawner, our Chief Creative Officer at the time. We played, “Pink Moon” in that meeting too. Ron said, “So what do they do?” I said, “Nothing. They just drive around.” He said, “I love it. Come back when you have an idea.” After the initial sting, I got what he meant. As Alan explained to me, every story has a beginning, a middle and and end. So Tim and I went back into our office and worked on the story. We decided on a magical drive to a party that, which on any other night might be fun, but on this particular night, seems like too much, so the group opts for the magic of the drive and hits the road again. Ron approved the idea. We then presented to the client, Liz Vanzura, again with, “Pink Moon” playing in the meeting. She bought it. Now this is where the confusion seems to be setting in. We did not commit to, “Pink Moon” just because we sold the spot with, “Pink Moon” playing. As any creative team well versed in music as we were should, we did “do diligence” and explored a variety of other tacks in case there was a better option out there. We explored 10 or 15 tracks probably. We had, “Under the Milky Way” by the Church, which has been correctly pointed out by a number of commentators, but we also considered songs by The Cure and other bands, including many suggested by the wonderful director team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Feris. Alan is quite right when he says it was decided in the edit. It was. It always is. And it actually came down to a vote, which included Tim, Alan, Lance, myself and the editor, Andre Betz from Bug Editorial in NY. Hands went up for, The Church. Hands went up for Nick Drake. Nick Drake won. That’s just how passionate people, all with legitimate say-so, do things. Alan is also quite right when he says, “Volkswagen were never given a choice.” They weren’t. We presented the Hero version, an amazing edit by Andre, virtually unchanged by the larger group, with the Nick Drake track on it and the client bought it. There was no reason to give them anymore music choices. Had they loved the edit and not the music, we would have given them more options. I’m very happy that didn’t happen. It often does. As for Joe Boyd, I’m sure he is also correct. He would have seen a storyboard when we were requesting permission to use the song. No doubt. I can assure him that, at that time, nothing would have been shot yet. Had it been, we would have shown him the edit with the music on it rather than a storyboard, because it would be much more powerful and harder to say no to. Personally, I never met Joe Boyd. I wish I had. I would have liked to have said, “Thank you” in person. When the hate mail started rolling in, Joe’s interview in Entertainment Weekly made me feel a lot better about what we had done. I was feeling like I’d been instrumental in killing a sacred cow. When Joe revealed that Nick wanted very much to be famous, I felt better. A lot better. I think a rogue element, not part of the core team of Tim, Lance, Alan and me, has perhaps been taking opportunities to exaggerate their proximity to the creation of the spot. I remember reading a South By Southwest interview where it sounded like someone was taking credit for something they didn’t do. I’m fine with that. The truth always comes out. And tonight, under a lovely Honey Moon, it just did.

  2. Shane Hutton says:

    BTW – the cinematographer on the spot was Lance Accord. John and Val went on to shoot, “Little Miss Sunshine” and Lance Accord famously shot, “Lost In Translation” under the direction of Sofia Coppola. As for the rest of us…we’re still in advertising – *sigh*

  3. Pingback: The Ballad of Joe Boyd (Music by Nick Drake), Con. | Campaign Outsider

  4. Pingback: Full Albums: Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ » Cover Me

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