Here’s another sparkling gem by Walk Off The Earth, who has turned the home-cooked, low budget, DIY music video into an innovation showcase. I’ve written here and here about the business lessons we can learn from WOTE. (For example, how much do you think this shoot cost them?) This superb song was written by the rapper/singer/songwriter/producer Jon Bellion.
In case you think this kind of guitar feat can’t be pulled off live, don’t bet your mortgage on it. I’ve watched them do this trick as their encore in every performance. (John Bellion's version of his own song is here.)
This was a big week in rock history, of course, with the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. It was marked by some impressive reviews and tributes, including this one by my favorite film critic, Ty Burr. (I’ve written about Sgt. Pepper several times myself, but most notably here in the context of managing innovation.)
Because I like to discover (or invent) connections between disparate events, I was struck that this anniversary occurred in the same week as the 100th anniversary of the birth of John F. Kennedy, one of the most influential and popular of US Presidents (ranked #8 in a recent C-SPAN survey of presidential historians and biographers).
For Americans who were alive at the time, we remember The Beatles bursting on the scene immediately after the assassination of John Kennedy. In fact, on November 22, 1963, national news anchor Walter Cronkite had to shelve a segment he was about to do on a new pop music phenomenon that was creating hysteria (“Beatlemania”) in Britain. Instead he had to deal with a different kind of hysteria accompanying JFK’s sudden death in Dallas that afternoon.
At 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, then-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 rock festivals. A producer like Max Martin could make this a #1 hit again!
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,)
Sad 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.)