Hard Rock Café's "Tears in Heaven" Poster: Awesome or Appalling?

Slate's Culture Blog
May 13 2011 7:30 PM

Hard Rock Café's "Tears in Heaven" Poster: Awesome or Appalling?

Frankly, itwas weird enough when "Tears in Heaven" came out in 1992 and became a staple ofmy junior high dances: For four-and-a-half minutes, you'd be there, shufflingawkwardly with a sweaty-palmed boy, while Eric Clapton sang plaintively aboutthe terrible accident that killed his four-year-old son, Conor. The song mayinspire many things, but budding romance is not one of them. But what about ayearning for a Hard Rock Café cheeseburger?

A series ofcomic book-style posters, created for the franchise's restaurant in BuenosAires, has been making the Internet rounds today. Each of the three multi-panel,mostly wordless posters bears the tagline, "There's a story behind every song,"and tells the history of one classic tune: BobMarley's "Redemption Song" (which takes us all the way back to the Africansavannah and the slave trade), theBeatles "Let It Be" (a single-glance synopsis of Beatlemania) and Clapton's"Tears in Heaven." They're very cool in theory and beautifully executed ... and,at least in the case of the Clapton song, somewhattasteless . By all means, let's celebrate the creative process in a formallyinventive way. But really, did the restaurant have to go with a song thathonors a child a real child who fellfrom a 53rd-story window?


The postersare by Y&R in Argentina. (They aren't an actual ad campaign, as some havesuggested.)

"We thinkit's a sort of redemption story," said copywriter Silvio Caielli of the Claptontale, in a phone interview with Brow Beat. "We tried to put the sad momentsthere, but the way he could pass through it and leave the drink you know,that's kind of the point of the posters. The truth is beauty." Whether it's thekind of truth you want to encounter while eating at a noisy restaurant, ofcourse, is a separate question. Judge for yourself ( click here for a larger version ):


Commentershave also noted that the illustrations, with their tightly gridded layouts, beara striking resemblance to thework of Chris Ware , the author and artist behind the much-lauded JimmyCorrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth . "C. Ware should be more pissedthan Clapton," tweeted music writer Chris Weingarten ( viaFlavorpill ). The homage was intentional, though Ware's art was one of two"visual references" the illustrators used, says art director Damian Garofalo,the other being the work of GhostWorld 's Daniel Clowes.

While the Clapton poster oversteps my personal comfort boundaries, I could see an expanded version of the campaign as an interesting rebranding opportunity for Hard Rock after all, I sort of doubt that the literary, indie-rock crowd the posters are likely to appeal to (aesthetically, at least) are currently flocking to the touristy franchise in droves.

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