Monday, February 25, 2013


The music business is dead! Long live the music business! Once there were what we called "major labels." They were the big boys. The ones who came and took rock'n'roll from the little record companies that had made it a social phenomena in the first place. Ahmet, the Chess brothers, Art Rupe, Sam Phillips, Jerry, Lew Chudd. All the guys.

They had the money and the clout. The distribution was already in place to get rock'n'roll to the whole country. The whole world. It didn't take any genius to do the math. Any opportunistic business man could watch tears streaming down the face of the teenage girls in the Ed Sullivan audience and recognize the money potential. It was like shooting Sinatras in a barrel.

Warner Brothers signed magnificent acts with little potential for commercial success for the prestige of having them on the label. It was good for credibility. You know, the Grateful Dead, Van Dyke Parks, Ry Cooder. Herb Cohen even managed to have them give Frank Zappa his own label for such acts as Captain Beefheart, the GTO's and Tim Dawe.

Their biggest competitor, Columbia, was signing away, too and bringing us Simon and Garfunkle, the Chambers Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, Taj Mahal, Janis Joplin and plenty more. Of course the wonderful John Hammond had signed a young Bob Dylan to the label and combined with the pioneering work of the Byrds had begun an entire new genre.

Once the money became the entire business, however, the music guys were quietly and quickly being replaced with the suits from the legal and accounting departments.

That brings us to Clive Davis. I just saw the creaky old creep on Morning Joe, hawking his new autobiography. Of course those folks fawned all over him as he explained how he, single-handedly, brought us the magic of rock'n'roll. I had a problem keeping my Cheerios down.

I remember a long story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine a few years back. It was about Clive's new discovery, a young woman who was being groomed as "the next big thing." At the end of the piece Clive mentioned that they had not yet determined what genre the poor thing would perform in. Of course I don't remember her name. I hope she had a good time.

Yeah, it's over. It has been for some time. Kids will find new music for us. Crooks will appropriate it and we'll do all this again. Thank God for the souls who give us the magic outside the borders of this sewer. It's the same as if some hillbillies from North Carolina and Alabama were still racing on the beach in Daytona and ignoring NASCAR to the heavens.

They can kill rock'n'roll but they can't keep it in the ground. Turn it up.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, and I love the image at the top, from one of my favorite books of all time.