It occurred 60 years ago. But it didn’t have to happen. Good management could have prevented it.
The Winter Dance Party of 1959 was the rock & roll “Tour From Hell.” It was a grueling excursion—11 dates in 11 days—through the Upper Midwest in sub-zero weather on an unheated school bus. (Actually it was five buses, because one after another broke down on the highway in the Arctic temperatures.) In desperation, three of the stars of the tour tried to escape the conditions for a day by grabbing a flight on a small plane to the next stop 400 miles away.
[I thought this would be a good time to reprise—in part—an earlier post on classic holiday songs that have been given a contemporary makeover.]
This season I’m getting into the spirit of things by listening to wilder and edgier versions of favorite Yuletide carols!
I don’t mean the death metal renditions, which are intended for satire (I hope). I’m talking about the real thing: rocked-out Xmas and Hanukkah songs that sound raunchy but reverent, distorted but devout. This may even become a new rock genre: Holiday Grunge.
“I went home with the waitress the way I always do. How was I to know she was with the Russians too?” That was the opening of Warren Zevon’s 1978 rock classic, "Lawyers, Guns and Money," in which an American rich kid asks daddy for legal help, weapons, and cash to bail him out of international crises of his own making.
Zevon’s gonzo verse—written during the Cold War—sounds strangely prescient these days, when Russian spying is a daily news event in the US. But his lyrics are not as shocking as the weekly accounts of Washington corruption, which remind us that the political swamp has been restocked in the last 18 months with ever more primitive life forms. A treasure trove for evolutionary biologists.
I seem to be celebrating a lot of anniversaries this year, but today marks the quinquagenary of the most memorable event of my music career: opening the show for Eric Clapton’s Cream in New Haven, Connecticut, while they were riding high on the success of their Top 10 single, “Sunshine of Your Love.”
As I mentioned in a post ten years ago, my folk-rock band, The Morning, based in New Haven, jumped at the chance to be on the bill with the hottest (and arguably the first) “supergroup” of its day, featuring the most critically acclaimed rock guitarist in the world, Eric “Slowhand” Clapton.
But what I dimly grasped that night became a seminal insight later—and a core pillar of my business consulting today. I witnessed first hand what had been widely reported in the pop music press. Cream was a band riven by conflict. But, more importantly, that dissension was part of what fueled their greatness—as is the case with many creative teams.
When I was happily employed as a full-time musician many years ago, I noticed the difference between those who played music as if their life depended on it and those who didn’t.
Maybe I was just lucky, but the former description fit nearly all the rock musicians I shared a stage with, from talented local bar bands in NY and LA to concert headliners such as Sly and the Family Stone and The Grateful Dead. These musicians performed and rehearsed with urgency, with something at stake. They weren’t always playing for their livelihood but they always seemed to be playing for their life.
Unfortunately I also knew a few musicians—usually in wedding or "general business" bands—who might actually nod off during a rehearsal or gig! (Just for the record, I have nothing against wedding bands—or even weddings for that matter.) I remember when a leader of a cocktail quartet complained to me about his drummer: “I wish he would just quit.” I could only respond: “I think he did awhile ago.”
This is all too often the case in business at large. You probably know plenty of workers who mail it in. Their life is not in their work. In fact, surveys show an alarming number of employees in most organizations are mailing it in.