2007   APRIL 15   #105

G.E.'s Meter Business Department - MBD, We're The Best

01. MBD We're The Best (3:15)
02. Home on the Seacoast (3:40)

It's always fun to Google a record and come up empty. Such is the case with this interesting twist on the industrial musical-a single meant for employees. General Electric handed these out to the Meter Business Department in 1981, no doubt to satisfy some burning management crisis. Maybe there was talk of unionization. Maybe everyone in Somersworth was thinking of leaving because the Seabrook nuclear plant was about to go online. Maybe there wasn't enough budget for Christmas bonuses. Whatever the reason, someone in a suit thought that a couple of catchy ditties would send employee morale through the stratosphere.

It's a full on effort, combining every cheery production technique known to audio engineers in 1982.

Borrowing a piano riff from Billy Joel, "MBD, We're The Best," is the kind of hummable jingle that can't help but fill a line worker with pride. You can almost picture the workers singing through their day as meters roll off the line in a show-stopping Busby Berkley production number. It hits all the notes, from community to family to the impact their products have around the world. Makes me wish I worked in a factory.

""Home on the Seacoast" is an even bigger gem. Filled with the utopian 1980s optimism that reached its nadir in Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" political ads, this is the last gasp of Ward Cleaver's America in a world that's changed beyond the ability of cheery tunes to contradict. I can see forklift operators hearing this and saying, "You've got to be @#!$ting me!"

It doesn't help that it's sung by the same anonymous jingle singers who permeated commercial music in the early '80s, and it certainly doesn't help that whoever wrote the song clearly never set a foot on The Seacoast. It's about 10 miles long, if that, most of it occupied by a rundown, low-rent version of the Jersey Shore known as Hampton Beach, which now sits in the shadow of a nuclear power plant that nobody wanted. The only specific landmark mentioned in the song is Strawberry Banke, an artists' colony and home to high-end restaurants near Portsmouth.

There are no forests, no farmland stretching to the shore. And should the water be lapping at your back door, you'd better hope that the National Guard is waiting with an amphibious vehicle at your front door, because your house is about to be repossessed by the Atlantic Ocean.

It's a nice set of images, but it doesn't exist, in the same way that I'm guessing employee morale at MBD didn't exist.

- Contributed by: Derek Gerry

Images: Side A, Side B

Media: 45 RPM 7" single
Label: Continental Recordings
Credits: MBD, We're The Best: Written by R. & J. Rose, N. Tellier, R. Van Tassel; Arranged by Peter Hume. Home on the Seacoast: Written by R. Rose, N Tellier; Arranged by Peter Hume; Produced by G.E.'s Meter Business Department for its employees.