80s: Then and now

80s: Then and now
World-renowned jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro (above) wrote about 500 advertising jingles in the 1980s.

Monteiro the jingle man and jazz maestro

People know Jeremy Monteiro as the local king of swing and a Cultural Medallion recipient in Singapore, but few know he was the go-to jingle man in the 1980s.

While he held residency gigs at various iconic venues - he played at Tiara Supper Club in Shangri-La Hotel in 1981; Bistro Toulouse-Lautrec, run by the late Dr Goh Poh Seng, a Singaporean dramatist, novelist and poet, in 1983 and 1984; and the Saxophone Bar for three years from 1985 - it was his advertising jingles that brought him financial success. In that decade, his company, JJ Jingles, chalked up $7 million in revenue.

It all started with a brand of pimple cream in 1981. Veteran ad man Allein Moore, who was with Compton Advertising at the time, approached him to write a jingle for Innoxa 41. Monteiro's jingle impressed two more pimple cream companies, which came knocking on his door. He was 21 then.

The 1980s, recalls Monteiro, now 54, were an interesting time when he did things outside of jazz music - such as playing on pop records (he has backed singers on about 300 pop albums in the 1970s and 1980s, including Frances Yip, Anita Sarawak and Tracy Huang) and yes, writing commercial jingles.

He got married in 1982 and his son was born two years later. Varian, 30, is a counsellor and part- time model.

After the pimple cream jingles, a big client - Coca-Cola - came his way. At the time, Monteiro says, the authorities banned superlatives in commercials, so expressions such as "the biggest" and "the greatest" had to be reworked.

Coca-Cola's jingle for its "Coke Is It!" campaign had to be completely re-recorded because a line in the lyrics went "Coke is it/The biggest taste you've ever found". Monteiro was hired to produce the new jingle.

"We changed 'the biggest' to 'the big big taste'. We re-recorded the entire song and I think I did such a good job that it opened the floodgates to other big brand names," he says.

From 1981 to 1991, he wrote about 500 jingles for companies such as McDonald's, KFC, Toyota, Shell, Nescafe, Tiger Beer and Cadbury. He also composed jingles for the national productivity and national courtesy campaigns.

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