In the mid-1980s Honda had a series of quite dauntingly cool musicians hawking their scooters. They had particularly playful, sexy commercial in which Adam Ant and Grace Jones flirt with each other and then presumably fuck because they are so preposterously vital and attractive. Others featured DEVO, Berlin, Lou Reed, and Miles fucking Davis.
The Adam Ant/Grace Jones ad was “racy” enough that there was an edited version. In the full version Jones bites Ant’s ear, an act that doesn’t seem especially interesting. In any case, there was second version that trimmed the ear bite. The video below features both versions.
Were the commercials successful? I don’t know, Honda is still in business so probably, yeah. Do you know anyone who owns a Honda scooter? Hmmmmmm.
New Sensations was so listenable that … it attracted the attention of an advertising agency executive, Jim Riswold, then chief copywriter for the Madison Avenue [actually Portland] giants Wieden & Kennedy. … So he approached Lou Reed to help make an ad for Honda scooters.
At the time, Riswold recalled, “advertisers didn’t put people in commercials who had a long history of drug addiction, and of course [Lou Reed] was a man who at one time in his life was married to a man, and that man was a transvestite, so I guess you could say he wasn’t your typical spokesman. But if you looked at who we were trying to sell scooters to, it was natural. Actually, when you look back at that commercial it seems pretty damn tame today.”
Actually, at the time it just seemed plain hilarious. Lou Reed in a TV commercial? Selling scooters?
As Wall points out later, it was doubly weird because in the title track of New Sensations, Reed rhapsodized about a competing vehicle, the Kawasaki GPx750 Turbo motorcycle, singing that “the engine felt good between my thighs.”
Similarly, here’s Nick Kent, in the anthology Miles on Miles: Interviews and Encounters with Miles Davis:
America’s TV heartland has already witnessed this curious image of a man, a skinny figure with gleaming skin and what remains of his hair curling all over his shoulders: his hands grip (what else?) a trumpet, his lithe form is slouched against a small Japanese scooter, his eyes stare out at the viewer with imperious disdain. Then the voice, emanating from that shredded, node-less killing-floor of a larynx, mutters, “I ain’t here to talk about this thing, I’m here to ride it.”
Honda also hired Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to hawk their scooters, but who gives a f*&k about that guy?