As part of a series of podcasts called The Creative Jukebox, former chief creative officer and founder of Karmarama, Dave Buonaguidi, talks with Rose Lang about why he’s fallen out of love with advertising and the one song he will love forever.
There’s always one song. The song that never grows old, never gets tired. It’s the song you want played at your funeral. The song you ask your cab driver to turn up. It’s a time machine to another time and place. It’s your song.
For Dave Bunoaguidi, that song is ‘Hey Joe’ by Jimi Hendrix.
As I sit opposite Dave in a recording studio in Soho, he tells me the story of how he became obsessed with the song ‘Hey Joe’. It began years ago when late one night an unusual and beautiful gospel cover of ‘Hey Joe’ came on the radio. The next day, Dave phoned the station desperate to know who the track was by only to learn the dubious nightshift DJ had no idea. He’d found the record in a bin with the label faded off.
In a desperate attempt to find the cover Dave spent countless hours trawling download sites and even commissioned a gospel choir to record him a version – but it just wasn’t the same.
His fanatical searching unearthed hundreds of ‘Hey Joe’ covers by the likes of Cher, The London Symphony Orchestra, obscure French artists and even a version with yodelling. So many, that Dave now has a playlist on his computer entitled ‘Now That’s What I Call Hey Joe’.
At first the impassioned way Dave tells me about trying to find the ‘Hey Joe’ track seems a little odd. But the more I learn about his history with the song, the more the strong connection makes sense.
Dave first heard ‘Hey Joe’ helping his mum sell bric-a-brac on Portobello Road. His main job was to fetch scalding hot cups of tea from the market Café called Bono’s - who’s owner, unlike the name suggests, was not a U2 fan but crazy about Jimi Hendrix.
I ask Dave to paint me a picture of how he remembers market life. He recalls the feeling of hearing ‘Hey Joe’ drift out across the misty market stalls as having an almost ‘nightmarish’ quality “It was this weird second life. All the normal people were asleep and then there were these slightly dodgy bastards running around selling nicked stuff because of a law that if you buy stuff that’s stolen in the hours of darkness neither of you, the seller of the buyer can get done for it”.
Luckily, Dave wasn’t taken with the underbelly of market life but more with the selling power of a good story. And there was no better storyteller than his mum. She famously sold a trouser press to a Japanese tourist for four hundred pounds under the pretence it belonged to Winston Churchill.
After Dave’s formative time spent on Portobello markets there were two paths his life could take. The first, setting up a ‘Winston Churchill Memorabilia Store’, the second, going into advertising. He chose the latter.
Right from the start of his career Dave was a crusader against the banal and boring. He attributes this to being a teenager around the conception of punk which he felt “tapped into a very raw emotion about being young and saying ‘fu@k off I want to do it my way”. ‘
And for Dave, Punk lived on long after the safety pin piercings had healed. One of the most notable ways he remained a punk was his refusal to take part in advertising awards. For Dave chasing trophies breeds people who “don’t care about anything else, the consumer or culture. All they care about is what their mates at another agency think”.
Dave is so impassioned about awards that he tells me “I could go on about this all night”. I take this as my cue to get back on to the topic of ‘Hey Joe’.
Miraculously about two months ago, after years of searching, Dave found the ‘Hey Joe’ gospel cover he’d been looking for. And this triggered him to do something very unexpected “I just went ‘Right. Done it. My mission is over, I have to do something else’ and then ironically I resigned from Karmarama”.
In reality Dave’s decision to leave Karmarama, an agency he set up 14 years ago, was down to a lot of factors. One of them being the importance of being happy. “I just found that my role was not really want I wanted to do and it was a pretty good role, being chief creative officer of a nice creative agency. But I didn’t feel happy and being happy is something I think is very hard to put a price on”.
Dave is surprisingly calm for a man who’s just done, in his words, “the scariest thing of my life”. This might be down to a discussion he had with a friend about life only having eighty summers. It was a lightbulb moment. “The only thing worse than a rainy summer is an unhappy one. You’ve got to take risks and do stuff that fu@king frightens you”.
But despite deciding to quit his own agency Dave doesn’t think the advertising industry is doomed it just needs a bit of ‘shizzle’. “It’s not a dead industry it’s an essential industry to all the clients and to the people who are in it but I just don’t think it’s as interesting as it could be. My big issue is it’s like music was before punk arrived. It’s predictable. It’s run by the same old people, it’s just all white middle class men. It doesn’t feel like there are any visionaries or entrepreneurs out there who want to change the world”.
So what now for Dave? He plans to set up a free advertising school funded by agencies, start a makers style studio and, of course, keep adding to his ‘The Now That’s What I Call Hey Joe’ playlist.
The Creative Jukebox podcasts can be heard at thedrum.com/creativejukebox