The Revolution happened in 1987--at least, that's what I recall. Nike footwear designer Tinker Hatfield had just created a revolutionary new sneaker design, the Nike Air Max, which featured a visible air bubble that, for the very first time, showed consumers exactly what the technology inside their shoes looked like. Revolutionary! Nike "Air" finally made visible sense! But then things got ugly.
You see, Nike's ad agency Wieden+Kennedy created a 1 minute long TV commercial (watch it on YouTube) to advertise these revolutionary sneakers with soundtrack provided by the 1968 Beatles song "Revolution" which, while ingenious from an advertising perspective, incited massive backlash from millions of Beatles fans across the world. Beatles songs were, in most fans' eyes, unbecoming of commercialization through advertising, particularly an anti-establishment, anti-war political protest song like "Revolution".
The surviving members of the Beatles (who by the way didn't own the publishing rights to their own catalog because they were outbid by Michael Jackson, of all people) sued Nike, Wieden+Kennedy, and Capitol-EMI Records for $15 million in an effort to stop the song from being used. Only John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, expressed any approval of the song's use by stating the commercial was "making John's music accessible to a new generation" which is exactly what happened.
As a kid entering high school and discovering music, hearing "Revolution" every night on TV opened my eyes and ears to the whole world of Beatles music. Suddenly, The Beatles weren't just dusty records on my parent's shelf, they were current POPULAR musicians. In fact, the Beatles' "White Album", which contained a version of the song "Revolution", was released on CD for the first time during the summer of 1987 and it charted again (#18) nearly 20 years after its original release.
In 1987, there were certain songs guaranteed to play at every High School party: "Fight For Your Right" by the Beastie Boys, "It's Tricky" by RUN-DMC, "Lean On Me" by Club Nouveau, and "Revolution" by The Beatles. As amazing as it sounds, a 20 year old Beatles song was popular with High School kids--no doubt spurred by the Nike Air Max "Revolution" commercial.
The Revolution happened in 1987. Revolution in sneaker design. Revolution in backlash against the use of a Beatles song in a TV commercial. Revolution in High School kids rediscovering 20 year old music. And, contrary to Gil Scott-Heron's claims, this time the Revolution was televised.
P.S. - This is the second installment in my "SNEAKER ICONS" series featuring my take on timeless, iconic sneakers. If you missed the first installment, read the here. And if you liked this, click the TWEET button below and let the world know!