The Vacuum Cleaner Jingle that Changed Rock Music Forever

The Podcasting Store
4 min readFeb 23


by Drew Holmes

It was time. The singer was going to quit.

He had spent nearly a decade in a band that had a couple of minor hits but was going nowhere. On the wrong side of 30 and living with his parents, he was staring down adulthood and all the attached responsibilities. Music was his passion, that was true, but his time to be a rock star was running out.

He had decided. There was a job waiting for him at an automotive store and he would accept the position and finally grow up.

Then his phone rang. A woman with a thick German accent cryptically asked him to come down to London and audition for a band but refused to say which one.

“I’m not coming down if you can’t tell me the band,” he flatly replied. She offered the initials of the band, which gave him a clue, but he was not convinced it was worth the drive. A decade in the business had jaded him and while he admired the band’s work, they were not mainstream. He could end up right back in his parents’ house.

“I’ll consider it,” he told the mysterious German woman, and hung up the phone.

He likely would not have given the audition another thought but, as luck would have it, he received a second call that day. A friend in the jingle business was recording a spot for a vacuum cleaner company and needed someone to come to London and lay down the vocals. The gig paid £350, good money for a day’s work, and he could record the jingle then audition for the band later that day.

He made the trip to London and recorded the jingle, but still had doubts about the audition. Standing outside Vanilla Studios he questioned whether to go in. This was just an audition, no guarantee that they would even offer him the gig. Taking a chance, he entered the studio and was immediately greeted by a smiling guitarist who offered him a Newcastle Ale.

“This is what you drink, right?” he asked, knowing the singer was from Newcastle.

“Oh, mate, I could murder it!” he replied and instantly knew he was in the right place.

“What shall we play?” the guitarist asked.

“How about ‘Nutbush City Limits’?” replied the singer.

“Thank God! Everyone else we’ve heard sang ‘Smoke on the Water’.”

After playing that song, the singer requested one of the band’s original tunes, “Whole Lotta Rosie”. The chemistry was palpable and there was no doubt about it — he was their guy.

Timing can be a funny thing. While the singer was unsure if he wanted to audition for the band, the band was questioning if they should stay together. While they had not yet achieved international fame, they were on the cusp, as proven by the success of their last album. They just needed to record a follow up and take their place amongst the top rock bands in the world.

They were finishing a tour and ready to go back to the recording studio when their singer tragically died. It was acute alcohol poisoning, which the coroner’s report officially classified as “death by misadventure”. Sure, they could replace him, but would they have the same chemistry? Would it dishonor his memory? They mulled over he proper next move.

Fortunately for the band, and rock music, they decided to keep going and audition a new singer. The singer they found was, ironically, one their late front man had prophetically praised by saying “Of all the singers I have seen in England, this kid is the best.”

Timing is everything. Without the guaranteed money for recording the jingle, odds are the singer would not have driven to London or taken the audition, likely living out his days at an auto parts store. Had the band decided to mourn their friend by breaking up, there would have been no audition on the first place. Fortunately, the timing was right, and the band went on to become one of the greatest in the history of rock and roll, recording and touring with their new singer for nearly four decades.

Instead of going their separate ways the band stayed together, honoring their fallen front man in the name of the title track of their next album. An album with a monochrome cover announcing to the world that, despite the death of their singer, Bon Scott, they were Back in Black. Which was the name of the band’s first album to feature their new singer, Brian Johnson. An album from a band known by the initials AC/DC.



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