Business-and-music-related observations and comment.

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Time for an "Eve of Destruction" redo?

alphabet-word-images-1293164__340At my local auto shop yesterday I was surprised to hear Barry McGuire’s infamous “Eve of Destruction” blaring in the background. (I snarked about that record here in 2012.) My mechanic piped up, “It sure fits these times, doesn’t it?”

He had a point. You can’t go anyway in the States without hearing folks commenting on the crazy happenings in Washington, D.C. and even the health of our Republic.

Are we on the eve of destruction? Probably not, but the song fits these times even better than 52 years ago when it was first released. Admittedly, that was not a normal time either, but we didn’t have a national leader in charge of nuclear codes whose psychological stability was openly debated on talk shows by mental health specialists. After all, President Lyndon Johnson was able to put together sentences in logical sequence with mostly accurate statements about reality (at least when he wasn’t making up reasons for escalating the Vietnam War).

But “Eve of Destruction” was such a pretentious and overwrought reaction to world events its sheer brazenness sent it to the top of the charts in September, 1965. For the same reason it captures these unruly days perfectly. In fact, if the track could be retrofitted with a robo-beat it could be re-released for the summer, just in time for the mass protests and explosive rock festivals. A producer like Max Martin could make this a #1 hit again!

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Flying the friendly skies

This week when I first heard about an airline violently removing a doctor from an overbooked flight, I knew immediately it was United.

So did others (here and here) who quickly volunteered new slogans for the carrier:

    If we can't beat our competitors, we beat our passengers.

    Just imagine how we treat your luggage.

    You are now free to be dragged around the cabin.

    Now serving punch.

    She's got a ticket to ride...and we don't care.

But in rock & roll circles United has long been known for its callousness to customers. Two years ago singer-songwriter Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth was kicked off a United flight (while seven months’ pregnant) because her toddler was crying too much. Despite passengers’ outrage over Blackwood's removal and the ensuing social media outcry, United refused to apologize.

Just as disturbing to me is United’s indelicate habit of breaking guitars, which even inspired a song and viral video, United Breaks Guitars, by Dave Carroll—who watched from the cabin in horror as baggage handlers tossed around his $3,200 Taylor guitar. (United later acknowledged that the neck of the guitar had been broken, but repeatedly refused to compensate Carroll, for a variety of absurd reasons,)

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Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry

chuck-berry-394429_960_720Sad to hear that Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock & Roll, has died at the age of 90.

The great early rock bands owe their very existence to Berry—including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys. Rock & roll may have never gained traction in the 50s and 60s without his signature guitar style (both on lead and rhythm). It was the DNA of his many hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

Berry—along with his boogie-woogie pianist Johnny (B. Goode) Johnson—played a key role in the alchemy of R&B, rockabilly, Gospel, and jazz that was taking place in the 1950s and given the name of "rock & roll." The infectious rhythm—combined with Berry's innovative lyrics that celebrated the consumerist culture of fast cars and fast food—attracted white teens to this emerging genre, helping to launch a new musical form—and even a new demographic.

For purposes of this blog we should note that Berry, unlike many early rockers, developed his business acumen quickly, after being cheated by his first manager. Berry took charge of his own career and became so focused on cost-cutting that he was known to sleep in his Cadillac rather than pay hotel bills. (Of course, when touring the South a black man didn’t have the option of sleeping in most hotels or motels anyway.)

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Making rock & roll great again

guitar-1015750__340 The giant has awakened.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the new American President for single-handedly reviving rock & roll as a political and cultural force—as reported on this site, early and often).

The list of rock bands and rock singer/songwriters who have denounced the Prez in song, tweet, or interview is a who’s who of top musical talent, including U2, The Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Green Day, Neil Young, David Crosby, REM, Def Leppard, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Queens of the Stone Age, Tom Morello, Kelly Clarkson, Henry Rollins, Death Cab for Cutie, Morrissey, My Morning Jacket, and Aimee Mann.

If we expand the generic rock category to include pop, rap, and EDM we can add Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Ariana Grande, Eminem, Shakira, Wyclef Jean, Miley Cyrus, Moby, John Legend, Usher, Josh Groban, Adele, and dozens more.

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Not the Best idea

beatles-1295244__340Sometimes it's not a good thing to get sick and miss work.

Ringo Starr appeared with The Beatles at Liverpool’s Cavern Club 55 years ago this month, when their regular drummer, Pete Best, was taken ill. The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, liked Ringo’s playing and circled back to Ringo six months later to persuade him to replace Pete on drums.

As stated in previous posts, the events surrounding Pete’s firing—in August of 1962—are STILL riddled in mystery. After all, Pete was the most popular Beatle with the female fans and a critical piece of the Beatles’ “Wall of Sound."

But as theorized here, there seemed to be several forces at work. One was McCartney’s constant attempts to unseat Pete Best, either because of McCartney’s jealousy at Best’s popularity with the “birds” or because McCartney thought Pete's drumming was weak (an opinion not universally shared by Liverpool musicians at the time).

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