Keep New Times Free

How Keith Jackson's Music Became Part of Stranger Things

Season two of Stranger Things is streaming now.
Season two of Stranger Things is streaming now.
Courtesy Neftlix

When musician Keith Jackson received word that his music was in Stranger Things, he was pretty excited — even though Jackson’s never seen the show. The guitarist of punk band The Glass Heroes is more of a Ray Donovan guy.

“My publisher called and told me my music was on this show called Stranger Things,” he recalls. “I’m like, ‘What’s that?’”

The popular Netflix series used a dark and percussive track from one of Jackson’s other bands, Shock Therapy, which he co-founded in Detroit in 1982. The song, titled “Can I Do What I Want,” is featured in episode five of Stranger Things’ second season. Also featured in that episode is “When The Sun Goes Down” by the influential Tempe New Wave band The Jetzons. 

Both songs found a place in the nostalgia-laden science-fiction/horror hybrid through the independent label Fervor Records. Founded in 1989 by local musician Dave Hilker and some friends, Fervor coordinates song placement in TV and movies — among other things.

Based in Sunnyslope, the label started out producing a lot of sample-free hip-hop for bands who, Hilker says, “probably no one has ever heard of.” In 2002, he partnered with Jeff Freundlich to delve into the publishing side of the music business.

“We are a label and a publisher,” Hilker says. “We just happen to be really strong in licensing.”

Fervor has released new music from artists including Pistoleros and CooBee Coo, and has licensed songs from Arizona musicians for use in several TV shows and movies, including 2017 indie fave The Big Sick, the Ryan Gosling blockbuster The Nice Guys, and the television show Bones.

“... Our goal is to perpetuate the legacies of all these incredible artists and their music,” Freundlich says. “One of the best ways to tell the stories about those artists and turn new fans on to their music is through film and TV. It’s the most prominent way to connect people to music right now.”

Hilker agrees, “It puts more ears on the music than any other platform unless you have massive radio airplay.”
With a constant stream of content coming into viewers’ homes, you might assume that Fervor’s more in demand than ever. But as the demand and opportunity for pop music placement has gone up, the field that Hilker and Freundlich play on has become increasingly competitive. Luckily, the label has earned a good reputation.

“Fortunately, people like our ears,” Hilker says. “It’s an honor to be able to deal with that part of the industry and also get so many artists from our own backyard into major movies and shows.”

In the case of Stranger Things, music supervisor Nora Felder and her coordinator came to Fervor Records looking for music from the 1980s. Hilker and Freundlich combed their catalog for songs that fit the bill — and the particular scene. Shock Therapy and The Jetzons were ideal.

“The scene is never there to support the music,” Hilker says. “We don’t decide what people want. We try to respond to what people ask for.”

Licensing Shock Therapy’s music for use on Stranger Things not only introduces people to Jackson’s band from three decades ago, it also brings him a check every quarter from performance royalties.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Jackson’s current band, The Glass Heroes, has also benefitted from licensing.

“They were making [a record] for ‘seven years,’” Freundlich recalls. “We were hanging out with Keith one day and we were like, ‘Keith, why don’t you finish the damn record at our studios? Let’s get it done.’”

Fervor Records licensed the instrumentals from that record to Fox Sports. If you’re watching a hockey game or a NASCAR race on television and they are airing highlights, you’re listening to The Glass Heroes.

“It’s kind of changed our lives,” Jackson says.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.