308. ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’, by The New Seekers

I knew the chorus of this song, as everyone does, what with it having firmly imbedded itself in our popular culture. And so, I was fully expecting a cheesy, sing-along record…

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I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony), by The New Seekers (their 1st of two #1s)

4 weeks, from 2nd – 30th January 1972

…but was not prepared for just how sickly saccharine this song truly is. Do not play this record on a full stomach! The melody is jaunty, the vocals are twee: I’d like to build the world a home, And furnish it with love… Grow apple trees, And honey bees, And snow-white turtle doves… I mean, eeesh. (*Insert vomiting emoji*)

The singers, with their gentle acoustic guitars, sound like earnest church youth-camp leaders around a campfire. Or the bouncy volunteers that confront you on the street, asking for your signature in some worthy cause. I’d like to teach the world to sing, In perfect harmony, And I’d like to hold it in my arms, And keep it company… They sound utterly insufferable – in case I wasn’t making that clear – though I wouldn’t bet against at least two of them having a crippling drug addiction, because nobody is naturally this perky. I do like the bass-line, though.

The message is one of peace and love, obviously, which is nice and all. But the lyrics never get above ‘primary school assembly’ level. We’d all like everyone to get along better and love another, obviously, but the Summer of Love has been and gone – with far better music than this – while a couple of years ago it was all doom and gloom at the top of the charts: ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘In the Year 2525’. This record is the sound of people giving up on the hippy dream and/or a cynical counter-culture, and settling for meaningless crap. And listening to this today, given the absolute shitshow that 2020 has been so far, well it’s almost unbearable.

Plus. Plus, plus, plus. The one other thing that everyone knows about ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, other than the sugary chorus, is that it originated from a jingle in a Coca-Cola advert. I’d like to buy the world a coke… etc. etc. For this ‘anthem’ of world-peace to have stemmed from one of the world’s mega-corporations, a company that floods every corner of the globe with its spectacularly unhealthy soft drinks and subsequent litter, is the piece de resistance. It’s actually quite funny.

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I’ll get down from my high-horse now. This record wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously. It’s just a cute little pop song aimed at the kids. But, at the same time – back on the high horse for a second – I can’t help feeling that, for people in 1972, spending a few pounds on this shite was the same as people nowadays changing their Facebook profile to reflect whatever the week’s worthy cause is. Making the doer feel better about their privilege, while making no difference whatsoever to the world’s problems.

In fact, I’ve grown to detest this record so much in the past half an hour that I’m going to make a bold, bold claim. That it is worse than ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’. Yes. ‘CCCC’ was inane and annoying. ‘ILTTTWTS(IPH)’ – that’s one hell of an abbreviation – is inane, annoying, and has ideas way above its station.

Finally, one question needs answering. What relation did The New Seekers have to The (old) Seekers, the Australian folk-pop act who scored two #1s in 1965 with the average ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ and the dirgey ‘The Carnival Is Over’. Well, both bands share one member: Keith Potger, guitarist, who founded The New Seekers in 1969. They had scored a #2 the year before with ‘Never Ending Song of Love’ and will, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to discover, top the charts one more time before leaving us in peace forever. Till then…

Follow along through the first (almost) 20 years of the charts, with this playlist:

12 thoughts on “308. ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’, by The New Seekers

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    Tell us what you really think…stop sugarcoating it! Come on… grab a candle, get on a hillside with friends and sway and sing…”I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” you know you want to!

    To me, it’s a coke commercial period…because in America that is how I remember it. It worked as a theme for coke but not as a full song.

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        No it’s about the same as I feel also… as a 30 second commercial it’s fine… it’s a jingle really to me.

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  3. Yeah this is some saccharine schlock here. The performances aren’t all bad but as you said it feels like the equivalent of an elementary school assembly. There’s nothing wrong with singing about making the world a better place but it has a self-satisfied smugness that makes it incredibly tone-deaf in today’s world. That Coca-Cola ad is the ’70s equivalent of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad in co-opting a social movement for profit

    Here’s the 2015 series finale of Mad Men which ends with footage of the said Coca-Cola commercial

  4. It’s all about the advert and the pretty tune. The lyrics service the advert. In defence of this one (I loved it at the time!) Coke’s ad company create an influential masterpiece that resonates to this day every day on TV ads.

    They introduced the concept of multiculturalism in advertising to sell stuff – the ad was all about young beautiful people of all races lined up in unison wishing for a better tolerant world. Bear in mind, that message was prevalent in youth culture in the late 60’s and this marked the moment when it became incorporated into the mainstream as a marketing tool. It’s easy to be cynical now, but it was regarded as genuinely a nice sentiment at the time and people made it a huge hit – I can’t speak for anyone else, but it didn’t make me buy coke – it made me buy New Seekers records! 🙂

    Keith Potger created the band, but the 5 singers were chosen to be appealing to families and kids, Marty Kristian was a girlie pin-up, and they had some genuinely good pop singles – other than their 2 chart-toppers! Their cover of Never Ending Song Of Love, and the wonderful Circles are fab, and their final UK single in their first-run of success I Get A Little Sentimental is sweet.

    1. I think that, for someone who didn’t encounter the record in its original environment, it is impossible to really buy into its message now. It’s just too simplistic. Which is a shame, I suppose. And when I sat down one June afternoon in 2020 to write this post, mid-Coronavirus and the world seemingly rising up in anger… It just stank the place out!

      But I like the perspective you give it. It’s impossible to recreate the world into which a record was released…

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