A musical duo from Somerset have accused John Lewis of copying their version of a song used in the department store’s Christmas advert.
The Portraits – a husband and wife alt-folk duo – said the version of Together In Electric Dreams in this year’s festive John Lewis advert resembles the arrangement they released last year for charity.
John Lewis said there is “no substance” to the claims, pointing out it is a famous song which has been covered many times.
The song was originally released by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984 as an up-tempo track.
Last year, The Portraits – Lorraine and Jeremy Millington – created a slowed down piano version with vocals from their daughter Ciara, and an accompanying video aiming to honour those who lost loved ones throughout the pandemic.
The group said money raised from the single went to charities Mind and Cruse Bereavement Support.
The version of Together In Electric Dreams featured on the John Lewis advert is performed by 20-year-old London singer and songwriter Lola Young.
Ms Millington, who is originally from Loughrea in County Galway, said she would like John Lewis to “do the honourable thing” and donate to both Mind and Cruse Bereavement Care “in the spirit of Christmas”.
She said if the department store were to make donations she would be “over the moon”, adding: “It would be lovely if they could approach us directly and just be the retail corporation that we always thought that they were – friendly, kind, honourable… it would be the honourable thing.”
Ms Millington said she was “absolutely stunned” when she first heard the John Lewis advert, and then felt “saddened”.
The Portraits, who live in Wells, Somerset, said they contacted the head of marketing at John Lewis in March 2021 to offer their version of the song.
But John Lewis said the person contacted by email “left at the start of the summer and had no involvement in this year’s Christmas ad”.
The retail giant said Together In Electric Dreams was not considered as an option for the ad until October, and even then it was one of a number of options on the table.
They pointed out that there are many covers of the original version of the song in the public domain, and that they pay royalties to use it.
The song by The Portraits has more than 179,000 views on YouTube and received celebrity attention last year, with Stephen Fry calling the project “immensely touching”.
The John Lewis Christmas ad, which was created with agency adam&eveDDB, shows a young alien experiencing her first Christmas.
Titled “Unexpected Guest”, the two-minute ad stars space traveller Skye crash-landing at the height of festivities in the woods near the home of 14-year-old Nathan, who introduces her to the traditions of eating mince pies, decorating the tree and, to her slight confusion, wearing novelty jumpers.
Jeremy Millington said: "It reached no2 in the iTunes chart just before Christmas and makes a place on the national official charts company download chart at the end of the year. Complete astonishment, one of those double take moments. At the very least it is uncanny.
"I feel sad that it has been taken completely out of context apparently and used for another purpose without acknowledging or crediting what it was for.
"I would be upset that a large retailer was potentially gaining financially from something that was to raise much needed funds."
In a statement, John Lewis said: “There’s no substance to the claims as the person contacted by email left at the start of the summer and had no involvement in this year’s Christmas ad.
“The music that accompanies the ad is always the final element to be added and this year was chosen at the end of October.
“The creation of advertising and music is carried out solely by our agency and we are unable to read or consider ideas from other external or internal sources.”
John Lewis said it supports a number of charities with its Give A Little Love activity, which started last Christmas and has generated £8 million so far for community causes, including tackling food poverty and supporting vulnerable families.