This Note's For You

Album: This Note's For You (1988)
Play Video


  • This song is Neil Young's critique of artists who "sell out" and allow their songs to be used in commercials, something he has never done. The title is a play on Budweiser's venerable ad campaign, "This Bud's For You." In addition to Bud, Young mentions Coke, Pepsi and Miller in the lyric.
  • Artists like Young and Bruce Springsteen have never let their songs be used in commercials, feeling it cheapens their artistic integrity. Many other artists, like The Who and The Rolling Stones, have made lots of money by letting companies use their songs. Some classic rock artists like John Mellencamp resisted for years, but allowed their songs to be used for commercial purposes when they realized it was the best way to get them exposure. A band with a particularly interesting take on the subject is Devo, who feel it is part of their art.
  • The line, "I got the real thing, baby," is a reference to the Coke slogan, "It's the Real Thing," which was introduced in 1969.
  • The line, "Ain't singin' for Spuds" refers to Spuds MacKenzie, the spokesdog for Bud Light. Introduced in 1987, Spuds was a bull terrier who appeared in their ad campaigns until 1989. Billed as "the original party animal," Spuds became wildly popular and boosted sales of Bud Light significantly.
  • Directed by Julien Temple, the video is a parody of various ad campaigns. The opening noir is a sendup of the Michelob campaign that starred "practicing alcoholic" Eric Clapton. Michael Jackson, who was ripe for parody at the time, shows up in impersonator form for the line "ain't singing for Pepsi" - later in the video his hair catches fire as it did when Jackson was shooting a commercial for the sugary beverage in 1984. Whitney Houston, who shilled for Diet Coke, gets a lookalike for the line "ain't singing for Coke."

    Next up for mockery are the Calvin Klein "Obsession" commercials, one of the most memorable and baffling campaign's of the '80s. There were no rock stars associated with this one, but The Rolling Stones did have a tour sponsored by Jovan. Young's video turns it into "Concession," with a dialogue break in the style of the ads:

    "Members of the jury, this man is on trial for his smell."
    "Forgive me, but I am prettier than all of you."
    "Liar, give me back my shoes."

    A faux-Spuds MacKenzie also shows up to mock Budweiser.

    At the end of the clip, Young turns his beer around to reveal his own slogan: "Sponsored by Nobody."
  • There was lots of raunchy debauchery on MTV around this time, but they had a strict policy against product placement, refusing to air videos where products were mentioned by name. This was designed to protect their advertisers and make their commercials more valuable (why would Pepsi buy airtime when they could put a can in a Duran Duran video?). Citing this policy, MTV banned the video, which generated a great deal of controversy and also proved Young's point about corporate interests infiltrating music. The ban happened in early July 1988; Young sent an open letter to MTV stating:

    MTV, you spineless twerps.
    You refuse to play "This Note's For You" because you're afraid to offend your sponsors.
    What does the "M" in MTV stand for: music or money?
    Long live rock and roll.

    Forced to admit they were refusing to air an excellent video to protect their sponsors, MTV went into damage control mode and agreed to air the video. They made it into an event, debuting the video on August 21 as part of a 30-minute special about the controversy. Then they awarded it Video of the Year at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. Young showed up to accept it.

    Young discussed his reasons for accepting the award despite it being originally banned in an interview with Village Voice Rock and Roll Quarterly: "I dunno - must be the Perry Como in me. I could do the hard-line Marlon Brando thing, not accept the award, give it to the Indians. But that's almost the predictable thing to do. You can't get money to make videos if MTV won't play them. In accepting the award I thought I'd be able to make more videos and get 'em played."

    MTV at the time was about as permissive as the cable landscape got - at least in terms of bawdy behavior. That's why it was surprising anytime they deemed something not suitable for air. In 1992, Paul McCartney recorded a concert for MTV for their Up Close series, but the network edited out his song "Big Boys Bickering," which was about politics and the environment. MTV claimed that the song was excised because of curse words in the lyrics, although it would have been easy enough to bleep them.
  • This wasn't the first single from the album: "Ten Men Workin'" was. That song made inroads on rock radio and reached #6 on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart in May 1988. "This Note's For You," predictably, had a harder time getting airplay because of the product mentions. It garnered the most attention during the video controversy, but still only reached #19 on that chart as radio stations continued to shy away from it.
  • This is the title track to the only album Young recorded with The Bluenotes as his backup band, members of which included Chad Cromwell on drums and Frank Sampedro on keyboards and a six-piece horn section. Befitting their name, This Note's For You is a blues album.
  • This was released as a single with the A-side a live version recorded at The Palace in Los Angeles on April 14, 1988 and the B-side a studio cut from the album.
  • Young wasn't the first rocker to call out singers for taking the corporate cash in the '80s: The Pretenders released a song called "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?" in 1986 that finds Chrissie Hynde savaging these pitchpeople with lines like:

    How much did you get for that sleaze?
    You finally made it right up to the top
    Millions of kids are looking at you
    You say, "Let them drink soda pop"

    Hynde also mentions Pepsi in her song in reference to Michael Jackson.

Comments: 6

  • Benjamin from Milwaukie (oak Grove), OrNeil Young was sued by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes due to Young's backup band on the album bearing the same name as Melvin's band, thus rendering the album as a Neil Young solo recording.

    Young responded by renaming the band used on this 1988 album as "Ten Men Workin'", after the opening track on the album.
  • Bill from Martinsville, NjI'm appauled when I hear a favorite song used in a commercial. But who am I to tell an artist what to do with their song? My rule for artists selling their songs for use in commercials: Sell all of the song you want, but you then forfeit the right to have that song played on the radio. Since you've associated that song with a product, having it played outside of that commercial context is then just more advertisement for said product. "Art for art's sake. Money for god's sake".
  • Joni from New York, NyI love the video for this song, which shows terribly stupid ads and how the ruin great songs.
  • Joel from Anchorage, AkI like this song because it knocks endorcements. A good musician should not have to sell-out to be successful.
  • Andrew from Springfield, MoTHe Who actually used their songs in commercials because in their early days they had shifty accountants and managers, so they put their songs in commercials trying too make some money.
  • Sejun Kim from Ft. Morgan, CoThis song was liked by me very much.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

John Lee Hooker

John Lee HookerSongwriter Interviews

Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write the blues.

Benny Mardones

Benny MardonesSongwriter Interviews

His song "Into The Night" is one of the most-played of all time. For Benny, it took him to hell and back.

Elton John

Elton JohnFact or Fiction

Does he have beef with Gaga? Is he Sean Lennon's godfather? See if you can tell fact from fiction in the Elton John edition.

Dino Cazares of Fear Factory

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.

Philip Cody

Philip CodySongwriter Interviews

A talented lyricist, Philip helped revive Neil Sedaka's career with the words to "Laughter In The Rain" and "Bad Blood."

Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds

Jim McCarty of The YardbirdsSongwriter Interviews

The Yardbirds drummer explains how they created their sound and talks about working with their famous guitarists.