Being snow-bound in New England this winter has led me to more observations and reflections, as deep and fluffy as the 10-foot drifts outside my window. (Can thoughts be both deep and fluffy?)
I'm only one quarter of the way through Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends by Barney Hoskyns, and already I miss the LA weather! But the work itself, which I've waited eight years to read, is one of the most smartly (and snarkily) written rock history books I’ve come across. Supporting the argument of my last post, the book shows what happens when you put dozens of wildly creative types in the same spot—for instance, Hollywood's Laurel Canyon. (Having opened shows for many of these desperados in their early days I can attest to the creative intelligence of this pack.) Mix the above names with the likes of Cass Elliot and John Phillips (Mama’s & Papa’s), Mickey Dolenz (the Monkees), Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, J. D. Souther, Jackie DeShannon, and many more who hung in the area, and you’re going to get some catalytic reactions. No wonder Hollywood was once rock’s Silicon Valley. Maybe it still is.
Heard on National Public Radio awhile back: “A single for Taylor Swift's upcoming album came out on iTunes in Canada Tuesday. But it was only a few seconds of white noise, likely a technical glitch. The track shot to No. 1 on the charts.” I happen to like Taylor Swift, but I had to appreciate the irony: some critics are saying ALL her music is "white noise." The bigger point, however, is that nothing succeeds like success. When you’re not doing much business as an individual or organization, a single mistake can kill you. When you’re rocking on all cylinders you can not only afford to make a few mistakes, but you can make money on them. (The Beatles made more mistakes than most, but it only made them richer—a subject for a future post.)
Given my love of rock & roll (in the widest sense of the term) I’m not a huge fan of kulture police who try their best to stifle artistic creativity—and, in the process, commercial creativity. So it’s teeth grinding time for me every four years when the US Presidential race begins (better known as the “The Gong Show”) and candidates emerge to compete for the title of Grand Moralist. Right on cue, Reverend Mike Huckabee is in the early lead after his pontifications on Beyonce’s music as “obnoxious and toxic mental poison.” Of course this is the best PR in the world for the megastar singer (see my recent post about the value of “negative” publicity). I wasn’t a huge Beyonce fan before, but I realized that if she offends bloviating American politicians (sorry for the redundancy) she must be doing something right. After giving a closer listen to Beyonce’s music I’d have to say that her music stands up surprisingly well with the best of the toxic mental poison (aka “the devil’s music”) of the last 60 years—including the music of Little Richard, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Madonna, AC/DC, Green Day, Nirvana, Eminem, and Lady Gaga, to name but a few artists who have corrupted me beyond redemption. But thanks for the warning, Reverend. And make sure you get that check from Beyonce.