BEHIND THE MUSIC: The Fabricland Jingle
It's one of the most popular songs in Canadian history, beloved by both the young and the old.
But how much do we know about its origins, and the highs and lows that came along the way?
We spoke to some of the people who were there at the Fabricland jingle's inception.
MEL FELTON, COMPOSER, "Fabricland Jingle"
"I was asked to write a song for this new fabric store. At the time, nobody had even heard of Fabricland—if you can even imagine such a time! I said, 'Wait, Fabric land? Is this a store or a country?' I thought it was pretty funny, but nobody else did, and so they hooked me up with a partner who would write the words instead of me writing them."
"Just because of that joke, I think."
JIM WITLEY, LYRICIST, "Fabricland Jingle"
"Sometimes I feel insecure about my contribution to such a massive hit. I mean, all I did was say the name of the store. Twice."
"Jim's being modest. You know with jazz, how it's about the notes you're not playing? For me it's about the lyrics Jim didn't write, the words he didn't put in there. He kept it simple, like a Miles Davis of advertising."
"Well I guess I didn't name any other fabric stores? I could have done that. That would have been a major faux pas. Though I'm guessing the company just wouldn't have let that get through."
IRENE DOTSON, FABRICLAND CEO, 1982–1991
"Oh, we just wouldn't have let that get through."
"Plus he repeated the word twice. That was a master-stroke. Don't forget, we take it for granted now, but somebody had to think of doing that. The guy who did 'By Mennen!' definitely didn't think of that."
"Oh great, why did I bring up Mennen. I hate Mennen. Just forget I even said Mennen."
"Ah, Mennen. Our white whale. I'll probably never beat the popularity of that one. But the dream of doing so still keeps me going every day."
"With the beautiful words in place, I had to come up with a beautiful tune to match them. Even if you're repeating the word twice, I have a maximum of six notes to play with."
"Coming from a guy who studied the great melodists like Schubert, Mozart, and Chopin, it was a challenge — but I knew it was one I was up for. I got my piano tuned, and went to work."
BETH SCHMIDLIN, PIANO TUNER
"I did that."
SANDY FELTON, MEL'S WIFE
"He used to walk around the house singing the tune, day and night, while he worked on it."
"And he didn't have the words yet, so he would just hum it, or fill in nonsense words, like 'SHEP-HERD'S PIE, SHEPHERD'S PIE!' or 'MY NAME'S MEL: YES IT IS!'"
"She loved it."
"I moved out for a brief period."
"Everything was fine eventually."
"I took the children with me."
"Look, in the end she moved back to this country and we've been going strong ever since."
"When Mel and Jim finally brought the piece to us, I wasn't sure if it was enough."
"You have to remember, this was back in the days when a television show's theme song would be about four minutes long, and tell the complete backstory of the 25 years leading up to the situation presented on the show. For some reason."
"I did write a four-minute version, because they were considering airing a big commercial at halftime of the Grey Cup. It told the tale of all the fabrics available at Fabricland."
"Rayon, corduroy, silk, plaid… I mean I'm not even sure if all of those are "fabrics" exactly, but hey, we had to fill four minutes. I wasn't precious about it."
"We didn't air that commercial. Most of them were not fabrics. He mentioned 'construction paper' at one point. And there were a lot of lyrics about 'dander'. I don't think that's a fabric at all."
"I think it has something to do with animals? The last maybe… 30 seconds were all about dander. It just seemed to lose focus. So I said okay, yes, make the song three seconds long. And they were able to handle that."
"Once we decided on the three-second limit, everything quickly fell into place. I put together a nice little tune, Jim wrote those great words we all still remember, and we were off to the races. The only thing left to be sorted out was: who would sing it?"
"My son and some of his fellow high school glee club members happened to be visiting me at work that day. A lot of them were missing, but there were enough to get it done. They did fine."
"They were fine."
"Sure. Yeah. We only had time to record it once."
"And there you have it, the tale behind one of the most recognizable songs of the century. Stay tuned for next week's installment, when we cover Chicken Tonight by John Lennon and Paul McCartney."
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