The Inauguration

I couldn’t watch.

People have been sending me notes all day, about Trump’s speech, about the few people in attendance.

I lived through the election of Nixon. The sixties had brought so much positive change, we thought it was impossible to retreat. But the truth is, we didn’t.

We’ve got gay marriage.

For now, you can get an abortion.

And believe it or not, in many states marijuana is legal, amazing that we had a black President before that, but both were unthinkable back then.

But the truth is, socially we live in a very liberal country. Democratic principles win in the end. It’s just that the sixties ended and greed became good and there was a tear in the fabric of our nation far exceeding the gap between hippies and rednecks, it’s between the rich and the poor, and I don’t know how we find our way out of this.

And the funny thing is you can be educated and poor. Elite in thinking but empty of wallet.

But what drove the revolution, what drove change back in the sixties, was art.

Art is our only savior.

And if you noticed, very few artists wanted to show up at the inauguration. And that’s a start. Because a true artist has a backbone, will not do what’s expedient, but knows that character is everything and what you choose not to do is oftentimes just as important as that which you do.

But art has become about money. My inbox is filled with musicians bitching. And I’ll argue all day long that no one should go to bed hungry, or without a roof over their head, but I’ll also say that not everybody is entitled to make a living as an artist, but I will say that living is worthless without art.

Everybody’s looking over their shoulder, at what the other person’s got. And they want theirs. Whereas artists are singular, they march to the beat of their own drummer. And the power of the individual…

Can never be overstated.

I’m not saying all corporations are evil, but most are. People love Apple, but it doesn’t pay taxes, not many anyway. And when confronted with this fact, the Cupertino majordomos just point their fingers at the other guy, and say he’s doing it too. Kinda like the “artists” who make me-too music. We’ve had enough of that.

They rolled up radio and added a ton of commercials yet it’s a dead format for music anyway, kinda like MTV, but once upon a time it had power, they both had power, I believe that young people’s minds were opened by the music television service, they saw people of different colors, different sexual orientations, and they came to the conclusion…that we’re all the same under the skin.

But when things are going badly, you need a scapegoat.

In Germany, it was the Jews.

In America, it’s the capitalists who stole the jobs. Then again, these same finger-pointers venerate the capitalists. And if that doesn’t make your head spin, you know which newspaper to trust, but suddenly it’s every man for himself.

That’s what America has turned into, a nation where it’s every man for himself. Safety nets are for losers and need to be eviscerated and you’d better not take my job, not if you’re an immigrant, not if you’re an environmentalist…

Once upon a time we were all in it together, or at least it felt that way.

Now you wonder if anybody’s on your team, if anybody will be there when you need a helping hand.

And if you think protest and news pieces will bring down Trump…

They would have brought him down already.

But art?

Art can topple him. Not overnight, but in time.

People don’t have time to watch the news, but they go to the movies.

Hip-hop kills on streaming services, the right anti-Trump song could be…

But we’ve been hearing for years that bands are brands. You’re a mini-empire.

No, that’s completely untrue. You’re an artist, that’s it, the rest is trappings.

Artists lent their hand to the Dakota Pipeline protests…

Artists voiced their concerns about transgender rights in North Carolina…

And they made a difference. Hell, at least most people know what “transgender” means now, and that’s a start.

We could be on the eve of destruction. But when one heard Barry McGuire’s voice come out of the transistor, you felt like someone was speaking for you, someone had your back, and for others…they could finally see the truth of the situation.

Believe me, most people were for the Vietnam War before they were against it. It’s fine to change your mind. It’s the mark of an educated person.

So…

The public does not believe in Washington.

Most don’t believe in Fox.

But they do believe in Beyonce and Jay Z and the more stories you read about artists speaking truth to power, the more blowback there is, the more you know they’re doing it right.

Hell, Toby Keith showed up in D.C., but none of the rest of the supposedly right wing Nashville acts did. They don’t want a stain on their image, ain’t that a switch.

So I don’t know exactly where it goes from here, but there’s got to be some way out of this place, said the joker to the thief.

And Bob Dylan was the product of a long history of folk music, of protest music. And if you listen to his old records you’ll see they’re closer to hip-hop than they are to the Beatles, he’s almost talking the words, at a mile a minute. And Ice-T and the rest of the rappers were right about the police and…

We’ve still got a tradition of speaking the truth, it might be buried under a bit of detritus, but…

If we can inspire artists to create something undeniable…

The business people will fall in line.

And then the public will rally.

And when you unite the people behind a message, nothing can stop them, nothing.

We are in charge, we, the people. And we pay fealty to artists. We spread the word online.

We’re just waiting for instruction.

Help us out, speak the truth, illuminate the situation, tell us what to believe and what to do.

Because we’re hungry to know.

And we’re depending upon you.

Howard Kaufman

He famously told a household name band he’d make them more money in two years than they had in the previous twenty.

And then he did.

Most people don’t know who he was. Because unlike those that followed him into the business, Howard was not about fame, he was about protecting the interests of his artists, and money.

And everybody cares about the money. Knock around this business long enough and you’ll hear the famous cliche… “It’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

And Howard started off as an accountant. He worked with James William Guercio. And then he went on to partner with Irving Azoff and steer the careers of Jimmy Buffett and Stevie Nicks and Aerosmith and Def Leppard and… You want someone in your corner, and that was Howard. He could be funny and he could be stern, but one thing’s for sure, you could not pull the wool over his eyes.

The first time I met him was on a plane down to Chula Vista, to see Jimmy Buffett, and he told me Fleetwood Mac was gonna reform and I asked him about new material and he told me he’d be happy if they never made another record. This was 2003, he already knew where the bucks were buried, on the road. You see old does not mean dumb, does not mean over the hill, oftentimes it means wisdom and foresight and Howard had it.

And now he’s dead.

I won’t say he died before his time, prematurely, that he was cut down in his prime, he was 79, but yesterday he was in the office, manning the phones, working, he had time left on his clock.

Only it turned out he didn’t.

Huh.

This has been a very strange year. Although the press has gone on about the passing of legends, from Bowie to Frey to Prince to George Michael to lesser luminaries like Dan Hicks, even Leonard Cohen, the story has been about the individuals and their work.

But really, it’s about the passing of an era.

This music business didn’t sprout in its present incarnation overnight. There were a lot of twists and turns, it was invented along the way. Bill Graham may have institutionalized rock concerts, but it was Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant who flipped the script, who had Jimmy and the boys getting ninety percent of the money, because after all, everybody knew the show was gonna sell out.

And in the twenty first century, Jimmy Buffett was getting over a hundred percent of the gross. How can that be, you ask. Because even if you give him all the ticket revenue you’re gonna make bank on parking and merch and food and beverage. Hell, if you’re a guaranteed sell out there’s enough money for everybody.

And there was plenty of money in the seventies. There were no billionaires. Rock stars were as rich as anybody in America. The only difference was, they were beholden to nobody. If they acted out, the manager just peeled off enough hundreds to make it right. It was the wild west, no wonder the Eagles made a concept album entitled “Desperado.”

And we’ve had a couple of revolutions in this century. We had Napster and the changing of distribution to all you can eat streaming. And, of course, the internet has also fostered the social media revolution, and tech has made it so the cost of production has sunk.

But the era of the one of a kind musician, riding through town defining the game as he played it? That’s through. Most of the business has become institutionalized.

So, it’s not as simple as David Bowie’s body of work, it’s also about hearing of an act that’s not on the radio and buying the album and becoming infatuated and going to see the act at a club or a theatre where they blow you away and you tell everybody you know and you drag them to the next show and eventually they get a song on the radio and everybody knows and you tell them you were there first but all the time you’re foraging for new acts.

And the acts neither sounded the same nor used the same producers. And their skills were paramount, how they looked was secondary. If you couldn’t sing, write and play, you couldn’t make it.

And if you didn’t have the right team, your career was a nonstarter.

You ended up with Howard. After you’d been ripped off by others, because Howard knew the landscape, he knew where every dollar was buried. In a world where concert promoters show you books that say they lost money, how do you figure out the real numbers? The kickback from the hall, the advertising shenanigans…only through experience.

There was a plethora of people who learned this way. There were no school programs, there were no books, because it was being invented along the way.

And now they’re passing too.

You can read about some thirty year old wanker getting a promotion at the label but that person… It’s like working on the assembly line making cars in Mexico. You’re filling a role, but it’s very different and with a lot less excitement than it was working at Ford a hundred years ago, never mind being Ford.

But the baby boomers remember. Right time, right place. The Beatles were on TV and it all blew up. But that was more than fifty years ago. Some of the music survives, but most of the story does not. How we got from there to here. From terrible sound systems with no production to great sound systems with hi-def projection. From tickets sold for $3 at record stores to clicking to buy on your mobile phone from StubHub for over a hundred.

I’ll let others who knew Howard better tell his story. But I was always intrigued by both his intensity and his laughter, and his dedication to the job.

Because it’s about the work.

Whether you’re slinging burgers at McDonald’s or pushing paper at Goldman Sachs, you spend a lot of time there and you’ve got to enjoy it. And, if you dislike where you are, you have to find a way to something better. To the point where the day before you die, despite having enough cash for your whole neighborhood to retire, you go to work, because you love it.

Howard Kaufman loved his job.

And those he represented loved him.

And in a world where we’re all ultimately forgotten, that’s all you can ask for.

Trump

This is a classic case of disruption. And until the Democrats recognize this, change their strategy, they’re doomed. Talking about the popular vote is no different from record labels saying customers preferred CDs in the era of Napster. Trump won with a new playbook appealing to a broad swath of the public and until the left wing wakes up and adjusts its plan it will not succeed.

Then there are those who think it’s the same as it ever was. That shenanigans were employed and all the markers pointing to a sea change don’t apply, because politics never changes, wrong. First we had Brexit, then we had Trump, now people are laughing at the World Economic Forum, the elites lost control, and now they keep circling the wagons whilst telling us they’re right and one would laugh if it weren’t so scary.

Clayton Christensen tells one to beware of servicing the same old audience.

The Democrats decided to appeal to Wall Street and Silicon Valley and took for granted that minorities would vote for them, believing the disadvantaged had no other choice.

Christensen also says the disruptor is laughable at first, inadequate, but it keeps getting better until it triumphs. Donald Trump is laughable, and he continues to be, but he appealed to people who felt they were not being listened to and they voted him into office.

Who were these people?

The left-behinds. The ones who used to have high-paying blue collar jobs, the ones who used to be in unions. And you can say a vote for Trump is worse for them, but they were ready to upend the table to get attention, because no one was listening to them.

And the response from the left wing elite?

They’re idiots! The left wing cannot stop denigrating the Trump voter, at the same time blaming it all on someone else. All those stories about the advantaged voting for Trump… The Donald won because of Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, where jobs are scarce and there’s economic depression, not that this was unknown, for years touring acts have avoided the Ohio Valley, because people don’t have enough money, they just went where the bucks were.

The left wing went where the bucks were.

And ran the wrong candidate.

The establishment is always blindsided. Blame Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Blame the entire Democratic Party apparatus. They couldn’t see the disaffection with Hillary, they couldn’t see the Bernie Sanders groundswell. People wanted anybody but her, and they didn’t want Joe Biden, they wanted an outsider. To this date the Dems can’t admit they’ve lost touch with their base. Once again, the disruptor is imperfect at the advent, Bernie was too old and a socialist and…that didn’t stop him from almost getting the nomination.

And then Trump kept rolling over his competitors. How come no Democrat got scared, why did they think this could never happen to them?

And in the general election, the Democrats played by the old rules. It’s all about the ground game, which Trump didn’t have. You play civilly, while Trump is bloviating everywhere. It didn’t work, now what?

The news…

You can print the truth in the “New York Times” all day long, it won’t make a difference. It’s not that people didn’t know about Trump’s faux pas, they didn’t care! The right wing has decimated the reputation of the “Times,” however unfairly. But to think it can be resuscitated…

The move to make MSNBC a left wing outlet, to compete with Fox, was a masterstroke. The only problem is television does not control the debate. The internet has been here for decades, and the left wing, although it features numerous blogs, has been left behind.

Did you read any of Hillary’s tweets? Spoken like a robot from “Westworld,” only with less personality. Everybody’s addicted to their phones and the left is oblivious.

The Donald knew it was all about immediacy. With his Twitter account. Direct access to millions. And what do the Democrats do? Laugh and complain!

He’s on to something here folks. Where is the left wing Twitter account everybody is talking about? It doesn’t exist. The Democrats are like a rock band in the age of hip-hop. Remember Geffen Records? Toast of the town and then death when it wasn’t in black music.

And the left is just waiting for the musicians to wake up. But Trump knows they never will, that they do not matter, that they’re business people, with less acumen than he has. Today’s artists color inside the lines while he’s all over the place, kinda like Van Halen with the brown M&M’s. You want a story that can spread, even if the truth is contrary to what the public believes.

And Trump knows it’s about star power. Anybody in the music business will tell you it’s less about talent than star power. But the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton because it was her turn? It’s like trying to get Donnie Wahlberg to number one today, it just can’t happen. Times change.

So how did the music industry reverse its fortunes?

First of all, it denied there was a problem for a decade, blamed piracy on its audience, unaware of the perspective of consumers.

Consumers were sick and tired of overpaying for one good track on a CD, when they got an alternative, they employed it. But the fat cats in the industry thought they were entitled to the CD paradigm forever. They didn’t even use Napster, they didn’t understand its advantages. The left wing refuses to walk in the Trump voter’s shoes. All the Democrats can do is cross their arms and say Trump voters are idiots, not understanding that they’re worried about their jobs and sick and tired of the left wing playing to special interests that don’t include them. And this applies to all of Washington, the average person thinks the government is both corrupt and ineffective, that’s why they went for an outsider, why Trump overran all his competition. Where is the outsider on the left? Well, there’s kinda one, Elizabeth Warren, who is not afraid to bark back and takes no prisoners, but just like the Republicans, the Democrats are scared of her, do not rally around her, they let her stand on her own. And she’s 67. Who is next?

And then Steve Jobs got the music industry to take a risk, with the iTunes Store.

No one is making the Democrats take a risk, they continue to live in an echo chamber.

And then came Daniel Ek and Spotify. Illustrating that disruption always comes from the outside.

The young Democratic voter demonstrated this, by supporting Bernie, but he was ignored. But he will rise again. In a party that does not want to hear his message.

And, of course, it could be a she too. But there you go again, Democrats. So busy playing by rules most don’t care about that you’re marginalized.

Human rights are important. As are gender rights. Everybody should be protected. But if this is your main message, you’re screwed. Everybody was lining up with hosannas that we would finally have a woman President. Sometime, we will. But Hillary was a bad candidate. The public had no problem electing a black man, it’s the person, not the color or the gender. But it’s easier to blame it on sex than look at the real issues.

The Democrats are a rearguard party that have lost touch with their principles. They used to be for the working man, the downtrodden, their goal was to lift everybody up. Now they’ve left these same people behind, and they turned on them.

This is not about fake news. This is not about the Russians. Why the left refuses to look at itself, I do not know. Instead of reading the “New York Times” they should be studying business, the aforementioned Clayton Christensen, then again, the “New Yorker” famously printed an article saying disruption does not exist.

Hogwash.

The truth is the rich have gotten richer and jobs are disappearing and it’s only getting worse. And the disaffected are not looking for platitudes, but solutions. And the left wing is proffering few.

Yes, Obama passed health care. Yes, if it disappears it will be to the detriment of millions. But the person working for a living just can’t make it here anymore. Kinda like that James McMurtry song, wherein he catalogued the travails of the working class. Once upon a time that was a left wing number, but now “We Can’t Make It Here” is the story of the right. How they’re working at Wal-Mart without any upward mobility. Meanwhile, the elite Democrats are laughing at them.

But the people who elected Trump do not see him as an elite. They know he’s flawed, but they’re counting on him to make change. Look at the voters, not the man they put in office. And know that there’s nothing wrong with protests, stand up for your rights, but you’ve got to admit you played it wrong and start over employing today’s tools, getting ahead of the populace.

But the Democrats refuse to do this.

Happy Valley

I used to live at the movie theatre.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was moving to Los Angeles. Back in the days of platforming, when it could take months for a flick to make it to the hinterlands, if it ever got there at all, every single movie opened in Los Angeles. I went every night. I couldn’t believe it. And when there was a gap, for this was when you could literally see everything, when there were about 115 movies a year, not counting foreign, I went to the revival house, the Nuart in West L.A., the Rialto in the Valley. Ultimately the Beverly… I’d scour the L.A. “Times” and pick out what I was going to see that night. On a day off, I might see two, maybe even three or four movies. Nowhere was too far to go, back when traffic was bad but not this bad, I’d drive out to Valley Circle. To that dump on Van Nuys Boulevard where during a showing of “Carrie” my girlfriend shushed the girl sitting in front of us and the young woman turned around and said “Shut up bitch.” She did, we did.

And go to the movies we did. That was our very first date.

Actually, I asked her to see “Rocky,” but she was busy. Not that I was absolutely sure I believed that, and I didn’t have any plans to ask her out again, but then she called me up on a Monday night and asked me what I was up to and we ended up going to that revival house in Beverly Hills, that ultimately turned into a Fiorucci, then a bank and then god knows what and saw two Cary Grant movies. And I didn’t think she was into it, but the next day at school…

She learned to shush people from me. Because, you see, I consider movies to be a religious experience. A journey to an alternative land where I’m safe from intrusions and am my best self. I think the first time I realized this was when I saw that Glenda Jackson movie in New Haven, I think it was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” could have been “A Touch Of Class.” You see I fell in love with Ms. Jackson.

Now I’m in love with Sarah Lancashire.

Neither is classically beautiful, but in their roles, and I’m savvy enough at this age to realize they’re rarely like the people they play, they both exude strength, I’m drawn to them, I can’t get enough of them.

And I ultimately sought out every Glenda Jackson flick, another great is “Women In Love,” but until the other week I had no idea who Sarah Lancashire was, until Jay recommended “Happy Valley.”

That’s all anybody wants to talk about, television. As my friend George Drakoulias says, he used to fight over records. Now nobody even talks about them. But they do tell you about their favorite series.

I’ve given up on a lot of the HBO and Showtime programs, maybe it’s the memory of “The Sopranos,” I’m not sure. But I’m constantly searching for a new Netflix series to sink my teeth into. Maybe it’s because Netflix is breaking the paradigm, making all episodes available instantly, but one thing’s for sure, when I pull up the stream I’m in my own little cocoon, with me and nothing but the show. It’s kind of like discovering an act back in the seventies, when they’d made a few albums but hadn’t broken through. In your heart you knew they had other fans, but when you were listening to an LP that no one was talking about you smiled and felt special, it was soul-fulfilling.

Watching “Happy Valley” is soul-fulfilling.

Actually, it should be called “Unhappy Valley.” But Jay testified about it at Casa Vega and I decided to fire it up and…

I became instantly hooked.

Everybody’s flawed, nobody’s beautiful and the landscape…IT’S SO GREEN!

I’m struggling trying to figure out what’s important to me, what I care about, but when I watch “Happy Valley”…I want to go there, to this lush landscape where it’s not about being famous or getting ahead so much as putting one foot in front of the other and living.

I grew up in Connecticut, I didn’t think twice about the greenery. But when you move to L.A., which is dry and drab, you kinda understand the fascination with New England.

But Happy Valley is New England on steroids, because it rains all the time. And maybe it’s the way it’s shot, but there’s this gravitas. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s England, where the buildings are old and the people are just passing through, showing us how insignificant we truly are.

Or maybe it’s the accents.

But it’s foreign and familiar at the same time.

But I’m savvy enough to know that it’s not real. I mean the images are, but the people and the story are not. But I had to pinch myself a few times, tell myself to realize this.

So, the set-up is…

No, I’m not gonna ruin it. Because oftentimes you’re not exactly sure what is going on. In today’s big screen opuses they spell it all out. That’s the essence of a comic book. But “Happy Valley” is no comic. It’s real life. What drew me to the movies way back when. I think I originally got hooked when my mother dragged me to Fairfield University to see Frank and Eleanor Perry talk about “Last Summer.” Have you seen that movie? One of the few that is better than the book, which I had to read after seeing it. Barbara Hershey is beautiful and bad, which is something we rarely see. And Frank said all the music in the movie only played when there was a radio on or…it was source music. And…

“Happy Valley” is about imperfect people, like you and me. Drug addicts and alcoholics and grudge-holders. And some of the plot twists happen too fast and are less than believable, but then you realize they’re just set-up for the actors to do their stuff.

Turns out Sarah Lancashire is a big star, who knew, she’s supposedly the highest paid actress in the U.K., she starred in “Last Tango In Halifax,” but…

Can you have sex with your ex?

Do feelings ever die?

How come some people categorically can’t do the right thing?

How come we need others to keep us on the right path?

Watching “Happy Valley” is like going down a rabbit hole where there’s no internet, where none of the rest of life matters. It’s complete unto itself. It’s not American, where you can see the stars doing their work, people better-looking and richer than us performing for us. Rather, everybody looks like a normal person. AND EVERYBODY CAN ACT! It seems that acting is a profession over there, whereas here it’s an avenue to stardom.

And there are only two seasons of six episodes each. So, you want to eat it up at the same time you want to slow it down and savor it.

But when the Jake Bugg song comes on, you know you’re ready to be dragged away once again, to a world that isn’t real but seems like it is.

This is entertainment.

No, compared to what’s playing in the movie houses…

THIS IS ART!

Happy Valley – Netflix

Happy Valley – wikipedia