"In Perfect Harmony"
By Michael Boss with Sunell Koerner
Casein on Rag board
18" x 27"

From the Collection of Craig Clements, Sarasota, Florida

Occasionally, something utterly delightful drops from the sky. During 2012, I was searching for Roadside Vernacular Architecture in Oklahoma. Two different sites popped up with images of an old bolted crude oil tank converted to what appeared to be a Coca-Cola and hamburger stand at 2061 Southeast 59th Street in Oklahoma City. Doing homework with the help of a longtime friend, Sonie Liebler of Oklahoma City, we were unable to find out about the owners and when it opened. Later on, further research revealed the Coke logo on the top portion of the tank first appeared in 1969. The "Iconic Ribbon Device", or wave, was the beginning of a series of three similar designs. Circa 1969 was nearly perfect.

In the late summer of 2012, my friend Allen Young and his brother Roger from St. Paul, Minnesota, were on their way to vacaton in Texas. Allen called to shoot the breeze and I asked where he was. "We're staying the night on I-35 and 44th Street South in Oklahoma City." Knowing full well Allen is a huge fan of most anything oil patch I asked, "uh, what are you doing in the morning?" That was all it took as the stand was about a mile and a half away. We even had a real time chat describing what Allen was observing. Later, I received some great pictures of the stand to work from. Thanks, Allen. Originally, I wanted a Volkswagen Micro Bus painted in chartreuse and some type of Mopar car on the left. I sketched in a Super Bird and put the painting aside for several weeks. One day I happened to catch my Florida friend Craig Clements' Facebook page. Wow! He had finished his ten year build on "the Headhunter." An email let him know he might should have let me know the car was finished. In no time I had great jpgs of the stunning deep purple car. I asked Craig if we could put his own car in a painting c. 1970. Oh, yeah. Hippies and the show car people. Sunell Koerner dropped in one afternoon and I showed her the block-in of the painting. "The bus is too small!" How true it was. Shudder! I was able to find the dimensions of the bus and sized that up with the 80" door in the stand. With her help, we decorated the bus and got the figure drawing and costumes in shape and the painting was finished.

Crazy things happen. We were wondering about a title. I woke up on a Thursday morning with the lyrics "I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony" repeating in my music memory. In the meantime, Sunell's been delving into all the aspects that have brought this painting together... ... There always seems to be a story, and plenty of history, behind Mike's paintings. Doing research for descriptions can get very interesting, and this painting took me back to some absolutely fascinating days in American history. For months and months the painting was known to us simply as, "the Coke stand". In watching the painting evolve it was obvious that it deserved a much better title. But nothing was clicking for either of us.

As I combed the web for information on the late 60s-early 70s, muscle cars, Coca-Cola, and that remarkable psychedelic counter-culture, the Hippie era, I found an astonishing array of terms that were coined during that time and, surprisingly enough, are still in use today. I also came across the extremely popular old radio/TV commercial, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke." The story behind that commercial is as fascinating as the song itself. Song writer Bill Hacker was the creative director for Coke's ad agency, McCann-Erickson. You'll recognize a couple of his famous jingles... "Things Go Better With Coke" and "The Real Thing!". Hacker was en route to London to meet up with three other influential songwriters of the 60s. Billy Davis, the Coke account's music director, who wrote the hit "Lonely Teardrops," and two British song writers, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. These two gave us pop hit favorites such as "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" and "You've Got Your Troubles". Hacker's plane was diverted to Ireland due to extremely heavy fog. And the passengers were none too happy about this. There was lots of grumbling. To make matters worse, they ended up having to spend the night, sharing limited hotel rooms with strangers, or sleeping at the airport. Tempers ran high. Still grounded the next day, Hacker noticed that some of the most irate passengers were now in the airport laughing and sharing stories over bottles of Coca-Cola. He began to see that the drink was more than just a liquid refresher that was enjoyed by people around the globe. He saw that it was helping to connect people of all walks of life. He jotted down on a napkin, "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company." And there you have the inspiration that guided the four songwriters to work throughout the night. That was February, 1971. At first the Coca-Cola bottlers weren't too excited about it; many refused to buy time to play the commercial. But Hacker had faith in the concept and was not ready to give up. He convinced the agency that a visual element was needed, and the idea of assembling young people from around the world, singing on a hilltop in Italy, was designed. In July of that year, in spite of, again, bad weather that ruined two commercial shoots and blew not one, but two budgets that were totally unheard of for that day, the television version was released. Immediately, Coca-Cola and its bottlers were flooded with letters full of positive feedback, and radio stations were bombarded with requests to play the commercial on the radio like it was a hit record.

Shortly thereafter, Billy Davis had a group of studio singers record the full-length version. In keeping with the visual concept, the group called themselves "The Hillside Singers". The song immediately hit the national charts. Two weeks later, Davis convinced The New Seekers to record their version of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)", and both songs ended up on the national hit list. Even today the sheet music continues to sell, and it is consistently noted to be one of the best commercials of all time. Like the commercial, the song, and the story, Mike's painting developed and evolved as time went along. What began simply with an unusual hamburger stand, evolved into a melding of cultures of a radically changing and often controversial time in America's history... the super cool dude with his high-performance muscle car & his hot babe in her mini-skirt, are seen rapping with the beautiful people from the peace mobile, the groovy hippie cat with his granny glasses, walking stick & bellbottoms and his far out chick in her bandana & flower child threads. You can just hear them... sharing their stories of life, once again just like those irate passengers, finding commonality and friendship, over a bottle of Coke. It's quite the scene... Can you dig it?!

If you look closely, reminiscent of the song, you'll even find honey bees and snow white turtle doves. Lose yourself in the painting, and the time... Do your own thing, and let the visions the painting evokes turn you on... Man, what a rush!! If you believe in powerful vibes, as I often do... or the Cosmos, as Mike likes to say... here's something that'll really blow your mind... We hadn't talked about it, but that Thursday morning, I too woke up singing that same song over and over in my head. Imagine my surprise a little later when I received Mike's email with "Title..." in the subject line. I called Mike and we laughed about the connection our minds had created. That was a trip! Maybe after all the collaboration in getting the painting finished, our minds, too, were "In Perfect Harmony"! I'm tellin' ya, if it feels good, do it!

I'm sure you'll agree with me that Mike's painting, like the commercial, and the song, is a quite a hit. And, like Coca-Cola, Mike's painting, and it's title, "In Perfect Harmony", are nothing but "The Real Thing"! All in all, "In Perfect Harmony" certainly captures a bygone time. RIGHT ON!!