Route 66 Levi's Commercial

Clover Levi Promo
Huey Lewis, Johnny Ciambotti, John McFee, Marcus David, Sean Hopper, Alex Call

 

Clover Levi's Poster
Huey Lewis, Aimee, Johnny Ciambotti, John McFee, Marcus David, Sean Hopper, Alex Call, Susie Juul

 

Adrian Lyne
Adrian filming a close up of the famous Levi 2 horse patch. Oh really!

On September 28, 1977 Adrian Lyne filmed the end sequence of a commercial in London, that would soon become one of the most celebrated commercials for Levi Strauss & Co. It was shot in California and London. Production Company: Jenny & Co. London; Director: Adrian Lyne; Producer: Gower Frost.

Roger Manton created the commercial as Art Director for the McCann Erickson advertising agency in London. He hired Adrian Lyne to direct and film it. The almost three-minute long commercial basically tells the story of two young women ("Levi's girls") whose journey along Route 66 is full of events after their car breaks down, and who make it just in time to meet their favorite band backstage after a concert. Of course this band is Clover and who would have guessed it, they play Bobby Troupís iconic song "Route 66" Ė originally known as "Get Your Kicks on Route 66".

All of this sounds like a simple story, but simple stories are often the best as they make creating so easy. Subsequently the commercial skillfully connects song and story and creates a marvelous mix between fashion display, road movie and music video that hasn't been there before. But judge yourself before you continue to read further details about this commercial ... probably the best commercial of its time that Roger Manton ever created in his career!

Roger Manton & Adrian Lyne
Roger Manton & Adrian Lyne

As mentioned above Adrian Lyne was responsible for filming Rogerís idea. The concert and backstage sequences were shot in London and although the commercial itself displays a journey along Route 66 in the U.S.A., the concert/backstage sequences were easier to shoot in the UK. Clover were chosen because Levi's were sponsoring their tour in Europe in 1977, so McCann Erickson jumped on board with them. Filming took place at The Nashville Rooms at the top end of the Earls Court Road, London - a one evening's shoot with live audience. A studio track of Route 66 was then used to overdub these sequences. Recording took place at George Martin's Air Studios, Oxford Street in London - George didn't take part himself - and Tony Ashton was hired as producer. In addition to filming, photos were shot in The Nashville Rooms for the promotional poster by David Montgomery.

Even today Roger vividly remembers the filming at The Nashville Rooms and he says that Clover's part in the film can never be underestimated. What probably impressed him most was "... Clover's professionalism and Huey's gunslinger holders for his gob irons ( English for harmonicas). And the fact that Huey told me that they felt that they were not really getting anywhere with the band and he was thinking of packing it in and doing something else. Wow he certainly DID do something else!".

Levi's Girls waiting
Oh the glamour of filming in the Mojave Desert!

After the Levis shoot, Adrian Lyne moved to the States and went on to direct Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Jacob's Ladder & many more major Hollywood movies. In 1977 he wasn't that famous but had already started to build his reputation filming several commercials for companies like Levi's which, through Roger Manton and McCann, hired his production company Jenny & Co. at that time. The Route 66 commercial certainly was special as it set the tone for the story-based TV ads Levi's would create over the next decades. Roger emphasizes that it was "... a watershed moment for Levi's. Previous British ads had all been about the old cowboy west. Adrian and I came out to California and recced for 2 weeks beforehand to show Brits, and our client Levis, the real way the product "lived" in the environment of the California of the day. I took my stills back to London, did a slide presentation to Levi's, and they bought the idea. On the actual shoot Adrian shot it all himself hand held (rare then). It certainly worked."

And work it did, as the UK/European sixty second cinema version (a thirty second version of the commercial was also used for TV) went down a storm everywhere. People even broke into spontaneous applause and Levi's sold a record number of jeans. Last but not least, the commercial - which cost around 650,000 pounds - got a Gold Lion at Cannes for cinematography and missed the Palme d'Or by a whisker. Today it even serves as an object lesson in how to create a great ad (see links at the end of the page).

(Special thanks to Roger Manton for most of the photos on this page)


 

Clover at the Nashville Rooms, Earls Court Road, London, September 28, 1977

(Special thanks to Marcus David for these photos.)


John McFee (lead guitar)

Alex Call (vocals, guitar)

Johnny Ciambotti (bass)

Huey Lewis (harmonica)

Marcus David (drums)

Sean Hopper (keyboards)


 

The song "Route 66", performed by Clover and recorded by Tony Ashton at George Martin's Air Studios was released on the LP

"The Best of Clover - An American Band In London"

 


 

Levi's used several posters for their advertising campaign and Aimee and Susie can be seen in all of them. The poster featuring Clover and the girls can be seen here and above (sorry for the bad quality).

Route 66 Commercial 1977 Route 66 Commercial 1977 Route 66 Commercial 1977

 


 

Further links:

Photographic Artprints - Roger Manton's personal website of the man who created the commercial - featuring his unique photographic images.

Adrian Lyne - Biographical information about the man who directed and filmed the commercial.

Tony Ashton - Biographical information about the man who produced "Route 66".

 

A few links that praise the commercial:

Sadie Stein's thoughts on the commercial for the Paris Review.

Theo Delaney talks about ads that mean most to him.

An Object lesson in how to create a great ad.

The history of Levi's advertising in three minutes.

 

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