King Solomon's Marbles

Fond memories are triggered by many things; driving by an old house, an old song on the radio, and of course, an old television commercial jingle. I am a child of the ‘80s so I remember a lot of chewing gum jingles (Big Red and Doublemint), soda commercials (diet coke "just for the taste of it"), and candy bar commercials (“break me off a piece of that Kit Kat Bar”). I bet children of the 60’s remember a lot of domestic household product and food commercials such as Charmin (“please don’t squeeze the Charmin”), the Oscar Meyer Wiener song, and the product that brings us here today, Ajax and what I would argue is its connection to King Solomon’s Marbles. 

King Solomon’s Marbles is a structured instrumental from Blues for Allah. The album notes tell us that it is played in two parts; Stronger than Dirt and Milking the Turkey.  This musical suite consists of two themes played a total of five times; three jams in B minor each with the recognizable reprise to A major and two chord progressions beginning with C# minor. These themes are stringed together by the connecting percussive rifts.  

Even though the studio album assigns a specific time duration to each part of the suite, we would probably be mistaken to take that as gospel. I think that the band was just being silly and that there are no actual named pieces to the parts within the suite.  Take Stronger than Dirt for example, it’s an Ajax bleach commercial jingle from the late 1960’s.  I could find a few versions of this commercial on YouTube. Each version has a knight in shining armor symbolically saving kids from dirty clothes just like Ajax saves mom in the laundry room.  But, it’s the marketing hook jingle, “stronger than dirt” and how they sing it which imprints on the listener.  Click here to see the commercial; pay close attention to the rhythm when they sing “stronger than dirt.” 

I came across this coincidence researching King Solomon’s Marbles just to see if there was a discussion anywhere about performing it live.  ZenDog has played it a few times now, and I was just curious if there were any insightful discussions about theory and executing the song. There aren’t.  Looking up “Stronger than Dirt”, however, led me to The Doors and the song Touch Me.  Listen to the last four chords of Touch Me and what Jim Morrison says over them; “stronger than dirt” just like the Ajax commercial. Click here and listen at 3:05.  There are plenty of discussions online about where that came from; Jim was making fun of the rest of the band for selling out to Buick for Light My Fire royalties. 

In King Solomon’s Marbles, the Ajax “stronger than dirt” jingle appears as a percussive rift at 1:49 which joins the B minor guitar jam and A reprise with the B minor keyboard jam and A reprise.  You can literally sing the Ajax stronger than dirt theme over it.  Click here and listen at 1:49. 

I have nothing insightful to add about where Milking the Turkey came from. But consistent with the sense of humor theme, picture the band sitting back and listening to the recording during the Blues for Allah sessions.  Make sure you picture them very high.  Someone (probably Phil since he is credited with Stronger than Dirt) likely called out, “hey that part sounds like the old Ajax commercial.”  Now, picture everyone laughing so we can set the mood for the next comment.  At 3:40 the song enters the third B minor jam which is a short dueling guitar solo between Bob and Jerry which actually does sound like turkeys gobbling. Click here and listen at 3:40.  Now picture someone saying “hey that sounds like a bunch of turkeys being milked.” 

Performing this suite requires a lot concentration.  Its beat is a seven count (like Lazy Lightning and Estimated Prophet) and remembering the sequence of the parts is vital.  The song moves very quickly which creates an Einstein theory of relativity time dilation between band and crowd.  On stage, things are happening much quicker than perceived from the view point of the listener. Click here to listen to one of our performances of the King Solomon’s Marbles suite.  We pay tribute to the Ajax commercial at 1:28. The turkeys get milked at 3:14. 

1 comment