It’s difficult to tell which lyric in Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” off of the band’s debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, so causes tire manufacturers to incorporate the song into their commercials. Is it “downy sins of streetlight fancies” or “tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you”? See, rumor has it that Goodyear once made a commercial that uses “Venus in Furs” but it was clearly not shown for long, hardly anyone seems to have seen it. Somewhere there lurks a royalty-clearance attorney who knows the answer to this question.
In James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography, Claudia Springer mentions the Goodyear commercial one time, in between references to William S. Burroughs’ Nike ad and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” appearing in a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines spot. Ah, the 1990s.
That Goodyear spot is lost to the sands of time, alas—until some astute video collector finds it and posts it on YouTube, that is. But Goodyear wasn’t the only company that wanted “Venus in Furs” in its ad. Dunlop Tyres (a subsidiary of Goodyear’s) also ran a completely different commercial for tires in 1993 that used the song. Dunlop Tyres was a British concern—does the name give it away?—and the ad was a product of the ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in London.
The commercial was directed by British director Tony Kaye, whose name you might recognize from the ugly fight over the Edward Norton movie American History X, which he directed and then disowned. This minute-long commercial featured tons of self-consciously “weird” imagery, such as a falling piano, a cackling voodoo master, a skull in flames, and a bald albino in a corset. Basically it’s what would happen if the album art for the Pixies’ Doolittle (or really any 4AD album) suddenly came to life. The name of the ad is “Tested for the Unexpected.” The people who made HBO’s Carnivale probably had to memorize this commercial.
One wonders if the people who commissioned the ad ever heard of Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, who bequeathed us one-half of the term sadomasochism? (For the record, I’m guessing Kaye had, at least.)
Here’s the ad, soak it up. Doesn’t that lady fondling a gross of ball bearings make you want to evaluate your past tire purchases?
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘New Madness at the Discothèque’: Velvet Underground in LIFE magazine exposé of 1966’s groovy scene
Amazing ‘Mod Wedding’ with Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground & Nico, 1966