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Britain's ice cream vans 'Spice' up their tunes

Hits by Spice Girls, Vanilla Ice to replace those familiar jingles

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A loudspeaker aboard the open-sided ice cream van parked at the gates of London's Richmond Park blares out "Yankee Doodle Dandy" played on chimes. But if planned changes go ahead, it could be the strains of "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, that bring neighborhood children running.

The sooner the better, as far as one vendor is concerned.

Despite the hot July sunshine, he is staring at rows of empty cones and full bins of raspberry ripple, chocolate chip special, and other child-oriented delicacies. "Not much happening," he mutters, picking up a copy of yesterday's newspaper.

There are some 6,000 ice-cream vans prowling the streets of England, but business is not as brisk as it used to be, and some salesmen are blaming the music. David Cowen, another London ice-cream vendor, notes that the tunes he plays are out of whack with present-day TV and newspaper advertising for ice-cream.

"The ads are sophisticated and inventive," he says. "Playing all those jingles is just embarrassing."

Britain's biggest ice-cream manufacturer, Birds Eye Wall's, apparently agrees. While the company says overall sales remain steady, ice cream vans appear to have lost their touch with the younger crowd. So a spokesman says the company, which has 75 percent of the market, plans on "bringing ourselves up-to-date by playing music kids will recognize and respond to."

The idea is to replace traditional standards such as "O Sole Mio," and the occasional military march with more modern tunes like "Ice, Ice Baby," by Vanilla Ice, and "Wonderwall" by Oasis.

A spokesman for the Ice-cream Alliance, which represents 750 van driver members, says new tunes would "reflect the market's changing image."

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