Back in November 2003, anyone watching ITV’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup final in France may have had their viewing enhanced by the appearance of an advert in which – it would first appear – Ronnie James Dio sang of the virtues of OXO, the UK’s favourite bouillon cube.
“SHERHERD’S PI-EEE!“, the diminutive singer screams. “Gonna bake you in hell tonight! / Gas mark IV, not Fahrenheit / For shepherd’s pie will go down a treat / Give me a portion of your mash and meat.”
The action pauses, and then there’s another voice, this time belonging to the late, great Tommy Vance, host of BBC Radio One’s much-missed Friday Rock Show.
“Want to really liven up your shepherd’s pie?” asks Vance. “Then simply add a beef OXO cube when browning the mince!”
Sales of both OXO and shepherd’s pie must surely have soared as a result, but all was not as it seemed. For it wasn’t Dio’s face that appeared on the screen, nor his magnificent voice that enlivened the soundtrack.
“One of my friends who lives in England phoned me up and said: ‘I’ve just seen this bleeding Oxo commercial and the fucking guy on it looks like you’,” Dio told Classic Rock. “But honestly, it’s not me on there. But I don’t mind. It sounds like a good way to take it down a peg or two. It’s great; it kills me.”
In reality, the band in the advert was a Rainbow tribute act, Rainbow Rising, while the voice was supplied by none other than longtime Uriah Heep frontman Bernie Shaw.
“Bernie sounds more like Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden than his usual self on the ad, but that’s the approach they wanted!,” wrote the Heep on their website. “The visuals are supplied by a heavy rock band from up north… but the voice is all Bernie’s!”
Perhaps surprisingly, the connections between rock music and shepherd’s pie run deep. Most rock fans will be aware that Keith Richards’ pre-show ritual includes the consumption of said dish – Wendy Diamond’s 1995 cookbook A Musical Feast includes Keith’s own recipe – while the title of Eric Clapton‘s 2016 documentary I Still Do – An Intimate Discussion About Rock, the Blues and Shepherd’s Pie celebrates the guitarist’s love of the iconic meat and mash mash-up.
In 2011, a Facebook page named Lets get the Oxo Shepherds Pie advert back on the tele was launched, its aim to bring the much-loved Dio/Shaw/Vance/OXO/Pie spot back to the small screen. 12 years and 41 likes later, it has not succeeded.