It All Began With a Bank Commercial

The unlikely, common origin stories of two very different icons of American pop culture.

“We’ve Only Just Begun”

In 1970, California-based Crocker National Bank enlisted the help of San Francisco ad agency Hal Riney & Partners to increase the bank’s awareness with young adult customers. The agency hired the songwriting team of Roger Nichols and Paul Williams (also an actor, he played Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit). The duo, who’d written hit songs for Three Dog Night among others, came up with a tune called “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which was about the early, dizzy stages of love. It fit in nicely with the TV commercial Riney cooked up for Crocker—the visuals showed a couple getting married and starting a new life together. The commercial resonated, and it was effective—their business with younger customers increased.

Aspiring California-based musician Richard Carpenter saw the ad, and loved the song. Carpenter had a feeling that Williams wrote the song (and also sang it). His suspicions were confirmed when he ran into Williams at A&M Records. Carpenter asked if he could re-record the song—he had a soft rock duo with his sister, singer/drummer Karen Carpenter, called, Carpenters. Williams gave permission, wrote some more lyrics, and upon release, the song that started as a bank commercial jungle hit #2 on the pop chart.

 

The Curb Your Enthusiasm Theme Song

Larry David’s HBO series returns to TV this fall, its highly recognizable theme song intact. It wasn’t written specifically for the show. It’s a jaunty, optimistic instrumental piece which humorously counterbalances the pessimism and bad luck at the heart of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The name of the song is “Frolic,” and it was written in 1974 by composer Luciano Michelini for an Italian movie called La Bellissima Estate. But that’s not where Larry David heard it. As David said on the podcast Origins, two years before Curb debuted, he heard it in a TV commercial for a bank. “I heard this music, I only saw the commercial once, it was off the air very quickly,” David relayed. “But after I saw it I came into the office the next day and I told my assistant, ‘there’s this music that I love, see if you can find what it is.’”