I’ve never previously had a problem with the high street store John Lewis. As wretchedly middle-class as they are I’ve always held a soft spot for JL since religiously spending Saturday afternoon from 4:30pm as a boy stood in front of their gigantic array of televisions watching the football results roll in – they even had one screen showing Teletext for the professional loafers who wished to make a whole afternoon of it. Being able to plonk yourself in the warmth of John Lewis’ immaculate electrical department was several degrees finer than staring through the shop window of Radio Rentals or Granada exposed to all the vagaries of the English weather.
But nostalgia will only keep you appeased for so long.
Not even Neville Chamberlain could hope to remain a pacifist when faced with John Lewis’ relentless quest to force that most vicious and unnecessary musical art form upon a nation; the dreaded cover version. Not all cover versions are evil of course (Think Soft Cell, Tainted Love; Johnny Cash, Hurt; Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower) but statistically 99.5% of them are pointless and ghastly.
John Lewis has taken this to extremes by starting a new trend of cover versions that have ripped all the guts and emotion from the original recordings and replaced it with post-modern, stripped-down arrangements and pseudo-conscious delicate vocals that merely irritate rather than resonate. This is reason enough to never buy another top-of-the-range food blender from them again, but now the devious swines have also tried hijacking Christmas in the process.
It’s not the actual adverts themselves that are annoying – although the only one of any interest is the snowman who goes to the shops and that’s mainly because my daughter enjoyed it – but the music is unforgivable. The Beatles, Elton John and Guns N Roses were the first to have their songs trampled over by John Lewis, but things really got out of hand when some previously unknown – and still unknown – performer was allowed to butcher The Smiths’ classic Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (although the real crime was how on earth Morrissey and Marr allowed such a travesty to occur in the first place – Mozzer failed to mention any of this in his autobiography funnily enough).
For 2012 John Lewis wheeled in some other faceless ‘artist’, who presumably had failed to turn up for their X Factor audition that year, to desecrate Frankie’s beautiful The Power of Love, and now after the somewhat inevitable but equally depressing success of both singles the marketing team, seemingly aware that they have stumbled upon the proverbial golden goose, have decided to lump all their budget on household names and go big for 2013.
Proving that they have their fingers very firmly on the middle-of-the-road pulse John Lewis have roped in Lily Allen, who has a famous dad and I believe was quite popular in about 2009, to sing a song by a group of public school boys also rather popular in the previous decade and who look like aspiring accountants.
Alas, it is a winning formula. Primed to appeal directly to the kind of people who consider Mumford & Sons cutting edge.
Thanks to the enormous success of John Lewis’ recent Christmas TV ad campaigns, other marketers with no trace of originality have jumped on this current bandwagon, resulting in a slew of morose, listless covers that add nothing, yet take everything great away from the original. Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody and Primal Scream’s Movin’ on Up are just two I’ve had the misfortune to hear recently; the heart and soul of such great songs mercilessly torn out, the memory forever desecrated by, well, who knows?
It’s a trend that looks unlikely to end any time soon and the blame for that must lie with John Lewis.
If all this wasn’t bad enough I now have to listen to people – alright, read comments on Twitter from total strangers – say how they feel John Lewis have become the very definition of Christmas, despite their latest ad appearing to look like an outtake from Watership Down.
Devilish looking kids who only want to give and not receive presents, snowmen buying scarfs and hare and bears don’t encapsulate Christmas. Noddy Holder screaming “It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaasss”, Jona Lewie stopping cavalry and fairytales of New York do.
In order not be seen as all mouth and no trousers I shall from this moment on be boycotting John Lewis department stores until they promise to abandon this hugely successful marketing strategy that everyone is talking about and return to being famous for being less famous than its food retail division neighbour, Waitrose.
And anyway, I can get the football results anywhere I please these days.
Now if they were to encourage cover versions like this then I might relent. Just so long as they weren’t trying to sell sodding alarm clocks at the same time.