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Creaky falsetto

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.


Photo by Umberto Brayj on Flickr.

Photo by Umberto Brayj on Flickr.

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The Erik’s Bike Shop jingle uses its 2-second runtime to maximum effect. One shot of that artificially high-pitched sing-songy “Erik the Bike Man” leaves a residual echo in your mind for days. It’s inspired at least one flawless parody video and led thousands of people to fire up their own creaky falsettos whenever they hear it.

Erik’s has a strong presence in Madison with three locations, but it’s based in Bloomington, Minnesota. A band called The Wallets, from nearby Minneapolis, have a connection to the “Erik the Bike Man” ditty that has tortured/delighted so many for so long.

Steve Parsons, marketing manager for Erik’s Bike Shop, thinks that the song was born about 20 or more years ago. But he said that Erik Saltvold, who founded and owns the business, said if he had waited another year or two to commission the jingle, “Erik the Bike Man” may never have been.

In the 1980s, the Wallets had a minor national hit with “Totally Nude,” a bizarre and catchy polka-funk hybrid. After the band called it quits in 1989, frontman Steve Kramer and band manager Bob Hest formed a marketing agency called Hest and Kramer. The agency would eventually churn out jingles for Budweiser, Buick, MTV, Target and Time Warner. But Saltvold said he got Kramer to sing “Erik the Bike Man” early on and probably couldn’t have afforded what Hest and Kramer likely started charging its big national clients. Kramer, we are sad to note, died in 2013.

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Whether it was luck or fate or the universe loving humanity and wanting to give us something nice, we get to have “Erik the Bike Man” stuck in our heads for eternity.

Ben Munson has previously investigated the advertising jingles of Jim’s Coins and Chalmers Jewelers.


Illustration by Rachal Duggan.

Illustration by Rachal Duggan.

New this week:

We asked organizers of summer festivals and other outdoor music events how they pay local performers.

On the podcast, jazz pianist Johannes Wallmann discusses his new album, which he’ll be celebrating Thursday night at the North Street Cabaret.

MC Audio, long an important spot for electronic music in Madison, is moving east.

New Madison venue The Sylvee has rolled out its first batch of show announcements and it’s not earth-shattering but that’s also fine.

Madison band Gentle Brontosaurus have a new album coming out and you can stream one of the songs now.

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Vocalist KennyHoopla and producer Taxpurposes have a new single, “Sickness”; Grimy Madison rock trio have a lovably goofy new music video for their song “Run From The Reaper” and celebrate a new release on May 26 at Mickey’s; post-punk legends Chrome have announced a May 22 show at The Frequency; The excellent Austin band Xetas will play July 20 at Mickey’s, which is also Proud Parents’ album-release show; Maake talks with Madison artist Michael Velliquette about his Lovey Town project.

This week’s Madison calendar: WUDStock just might stick, thanks to headliners like Jamila Woods and Trapo. Arts + Literature Lab takes its first crack at hosting a jazz festivalCharley Varrick takes us back to Walter Matthau’s action-hero phase. Half Waif plays the Majestic behind a weighty new record. And more.

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