Rob Light’s Serial Reference

What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where the agents are hipper than the acts?

Rob Light at the “Billboard” Touring conference:

“Beyonce could learn a thing or two from ‘This American Life”s ‘Serial’ podcast. ‘It’s the single hottest podcast, and it makes geniuses every Thursday when a new podcast comes up – 1 million people are logged on. That’s how we have to distribute music. Why isn’t some artist once a week getting on live, talking about how he wrote a particular song and creating a way every Thursday to see what’s new? The fallacy of the Beyonce stunt, while it was brilliant in its moment, was that most people never listened to all 17 songs or watched all 17 videos. She should have been releasing a new song every Thursday for 17 weeks and engaging us every time.”

What Beyonce Can Learn From Podcasts & More From Rob Light’s Billboard Touring Conference Q&A

That’s right, while you’re sitting at home perfecting your piece of shit album that’s an hour long that’s got more mediocre than delicious in a world where we’ve only got time for great bitching about Spotify payments all the while the public has moved on. As Rob indicates above, despite an idiotic fawning press that treats everything dropped by a superstar who grants access as incredible, the public shrugs, continues to play “Candy Crush” or the saga of the moment, and moves on.

Instead of building that track in the studio, build it online!

Yup, week one is the basics, the drums and the bass. Eventually layer it up to the point where the final week the entire track is complete. Hell, even if it wasn’t a hit we’d be intrigued. Hell, we’d be debating all the time online whether it was until it was finished! Meanwhile, you’d get instant feedback, but more importantly, attention.

But ain’t that the music business. Where the artists’ heads are stuck up their asses believing it’s still all about middlemen when the truth is we live in a direct to fan culture, music is still the canary in the coal mine, it’s not about what you get paid per stream, but whether you’ve got fans or not, whether they’re bonded to you.

In other words, the biggest act in the world is One Direction. And it’s not driven by radio, they’ve barely had any hits, but their career is driven by the Internet and fan interaction.

But Beyonce got a lot of press. We heard about her wannabe divorce. It must have worked.

But the truth is music used to be about risk. It used to be about vulnerability. It used to have warts such that people couldn’t help but embrace those who made it. They were put on a pedestal because they touched the audience’s soul, not because they were rich and famous and dated beautiful people.

But I give Beyonce credit. As I did Radiohead with “In Rainbows.” But those were stunts, one and done. We’re still looking for how to match the music to the audience, getting people to embrace it. And it will only work when it is about the music, not about delivering cookies to your cadre, or delivering tchotchkes via Kickstarter. That’s the penumbra.

Your move.

Rhinofy-That Would Be Something

The sound!

The legendary track on “McCartney” is “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

I was immediately enraptured by “Every Night,” I came to love “Teddy Boy,” but now my favorite is “That Would Be Something.”

How could an album so slight seem like such a masterpiece today?

Starting with “The Lovely Linda” and ending with the almost bizarre instrumental “Kreen-Akrore,” “McCartney” sounds like what it was, an album cut alone, outside the spotlight. It’s like a vision into Paul’s soul.

That would be something
It really would be something

It most certainly would! But you’re hooked on this track long before Paul starts to sing. In an era of beats, of fake, the guitar sound penetrates, and with Paul’s dancing bassline you’re immediately infatuated.

And then there’s the humming. The “mms.” That’s what makes the song magical. It’s always the little things, thrown off, that penetrate us, that we can’t let go of, that we want to be closer to. Oh, to have Paul hum to us, it’s better than a wink, even though he’s one of the most famous winkers of all time.

And then comes the percussion, almost a shuffle, with a cymbal, he’s adding elements, drawing you ever closer, to the point where you can’t detach.

That would be something
To meet you in the falling rain, mama
Meet you in the falling rain

The weird thing is that’s exactly what you feel like. Like you’re strolling down a wet street after dark, head bowed, thinking of the milk you’ve got to buy, and coming in the other direction is none other than Paul McCartney, you lock eyes, he raises his eyebrows and smiles, and then you both move on.

Wow!

And all that happens in two minutes and thirty nine seconds. There’s nothing superfluous, no more is needed, it’s such a contrast to a world where everybody believes an album should be seventy minutes and you’ve got to stretch out on a track to make your point, never mind add enough elements to demonstrate your prowess and impress your audience. But the truth is the mark of expertise is the ability to leave even the best stuff out. It’s always got to be in service to the ultimate production.

Paul seems to be having so much fun, not overthinking it, just getting down what he’s got in his head, further inspired by what he lays down.

And then there’s the coda, an unexpected ending winking at you, waking you up when it’s almost done, kind of like “Her Majesty” on “Abbey Road.”

And despite all the hogwash about compression, the loudness wars, the lame sound of files, even streamed “That Would Be Something” maintains its magic, the same way so much of the greatest music of our lives sounded spectacular emanating from the speaker in the dashboard.

“That Would Be Something” was never a hit.

Nothing on “McCartney” was ever a hit. Sure, “Maybe I’m Amazed” got some FM airplay, but really the album was a brief note from Paul to us, to the listener, to be played alone at home. Reviews were not spectacular, neither were sales. No, don’t get me wrong, it was far from a stiff, it just didn’t have the impact of a Beatles LP.

But all these years later, “McCartney” stands out. As uneven as it may be, as slight as it may be, it’s still better than any album released this year.

And if you get too deep into the details, you’re gonna miss the point. Because it’s truly all about the sound, the magic, the je ne sais quoi.

And nothing embodies this as much as “That Would Be Something.”

If only someone this talented, with this good a voice, could throw something off like this today.

Impossible.

Rhinofy-That Would Be Something

It’s A Pop World Because…

1. We all want something to rally around, something to discuss, a club to belong to, and right now pop is it.

2. Popularity breeds popularity. That which gains traction and sustains, becomes ever bigger.

3. They know it’s about the song. Hooks, choruses, catchiness. If only other musicmakers realized this. Never forget, the Beatles didn’t break these rules, and they could sing too!

4. The younger generation driving pop has never experienced anything different. Sure, they might have heard some classic rock via their parents, maybe, never forget today’s kids were not brought up by baby boomers but Generation-X, but they’re a post-Napster generation to whom fluffiness and selling out are de rigueur. They don’t know about musical credibility, being able to either play or be true to only yourself, because they’ve never experienced it. Meanwhile, all those hewing to their own rules, marching to the beat of their own drummer, consistently break rule #3 above.

5. Radio rules. Bigger than Pandora, bigger than Spotify, bigger than YouTube when it comes to breaking acts. There’s no pull, it’s all push. You don’t get to decide what’s playing, you’re subject to it. Furthermore, the pop stations are run like upbeat clubs wherein possibilities are endless and you’re just a step or heartbeat away from your crush.  Do you really expect me to move to the doldrums of depression where life is not good? That comes later, and if you think college radio rules, you can probably name its top ten, no one else can.

6. Media loves a winner. And mass media likes to trumpet that which appeals to most.

7. A criterion of pop is that you’re physically attractive. And looks, and sexiness, sell.

8. Those not making pop don’t stand for anything other than themselves. They don’t know how to be universal. And today you don’t bubble up from the bottom, but percolate down from the top. Hook them first and expand their horizons later. It’s almost always been thus. From the aforementioned Beatles to John “Cougar” Mellencamp.

9. We live in a money culture, and everybody in the food chain cares about money more than music. That’s right, the label heads who work for the corporation and want their bonuses to the agents filling venues. Everybody’s looking out for themselves. If it ain’t obvious, if it doesn’t appeal to the masses, they’re not interested. In other words, if your label or agent tells you different, chances are you’re entering a backwater ghetto. If you’re fine with that, great, but don’t complain.

10. Music doesn’t drive the culture, hasn’t since the seventies, certainly not since the nineties. It’s prevalent, but if you want to know which way the wind blows, you don’t put on a record.

11. The Internet blew a hole in the scene, making it incomprehensible to most, so they gravitate to where everybody else is. See #2 above.

12. It’s inoffensive. You might think it’s edgy, but the truth is culture has moved, gays can marry, teens sext, what you think is pushing the boundaries is not. Pop is the perfect corporate music, which is why corporations are dying to tie up with it.

13. Income inequality. To question the system you must believe you’ve got access to the system. If you’re an underclass loser desiring a ticket in you’re willing to compromise, to do what’s expedient to make it. You don’t insist on writing your own songs, you’re afraid of being bounced from the system, you don’t want to be exiled. American classic rock was made by the middle class. The middle class doesn’t exist anymore.

Pop is forever, but not this pop. The paradigm will be broken just like the Beatles killed girl groups and hip-hop killed classic rock. Especially since pop is not expanding but growing ever smaller in influence and sound, the same people write and produce all the hits.

But FM ushered in classic rock and MTV ushered in new wave and ultimately hip-hop and we’re just in the middle of this internet period, we still don’t know where we’re going. The internet has caused chaos in the music world, as a result everyone’s gravitated to order, i.e. pop. But this will not be forever. Not long from now we’ll all listen via the same system. Some kind of streaming. Whether it be provided by Apple, Google or Spotify. And that new system will usher in a new paradigm, radio will become secondary. New people will come along to utilize this new system to expand the horizons. However, in the race to please everybody many will bland their sound down to do so. But it’s the outliers who will triumph, those who get no traction today. And their music will be pooh-poohed at first, but what will shine most brightly is the music itself. Image is not so important in the digital age, how you look is no longer everything. And in an era where everybody can play, we respect
talent. We’re going to gravitate to talent.

So, if you want to make it, practice and write stuff that grabs people instantly. If you can’t play and sing, you’re not gonna be a big part of the new world. And EDM is playing, just in case you didn’t know. The better you are and the more you risk the greater your chances. But you’re gonna be the leader, next comes the audience and after that the labels and agents. That’s right, the music business infrastructure likes pop, execs understand it, they can replicate the formula. If you expect them to take a chance…

Don’t.

Carey

There are a lot of baby boomers who don’t know “Blue,” but to those who do it sits right up there with the White Album, it’s one of the best LPs ever made.

At this late date emphasis is upon “A Case Of You,” that’s the song the youngsters cover. But in the pre-CD days we dropped the needle on this hitless wonder and were enraptured immediately by “All I Want” and stayed all the way through “The Last Time I Saw Richard.”

Actually, you picked a side. After playing it through. That’s what we did with all our albums, drilled down deep and after knowing one side by heart we flipped the record over to learn what was on the other.

And oftentimes the side we picked was actually number two.

It was for me on “Blue,” because it began with “California.”

I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home

That’s right, pig. This was back before every male deserved that moniker, tarred with the sexual advances of their brethren. At this time “pig” meant “cop.” Oh, how far we’ve come. In the pre-9/11 days those in blue were not to be trusted. The African-Americans still know this, Ferguson is evidence of this, but the whites have switched sides, suddenly cops and servicemen are heroes. I’m not saying they never were, just that it’s strange to see Bruce Springsteen extolling the virtues of veterans at the Concert For Valor. It’s a head-scratcher for those who grew up in the sixties. We didn’t want to go to war. We abhorred government policies. And we didn’t trust the police long before Ice-T told us not to.

And I’ll leave aside the excellent points that today’s military is doing the job we were unwilling to, and that they’re not taken care of after their days in combat are done, never mind that contractors do so much of the work, and that not every cop is a bad apple, but the point is it was very different times, where it was all about personal development as opposed to wallet development, and every young person hopped aboard Icelandic Air and got a Eurail Pass and saw the continent. Not only the upper class. Then again, we were all middle class, I didn’t know any truly rich people.

But I’d been to California.

I yearned to live there.

The Beach Boys infected me, Joni Mitchell sealed the deal.

And I knew every line of that number, especially:

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell

He was neither a redneck nor did he keep the camera.

Huh?

I always thought Joni was singing about a local, someone she got involved with who grew up there. But Cary Raditz grew up in North Carolina.

HUH?

The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn’t sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it’s really not my home

But that’s CAREY and he’s named CARY! And to tell you the truth, being CAREY with an “e” I always pondered whether Joni was singing about a girl, but no, she admits she misspelled it, it’s all laid out in this wonderful article in the “Wall Street Journal.”

That’s right, once I became inured to side one of “Blue” I flipped it over. And in position four, after “Little Green” and before “Blue,” was “Carey.”

Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe and I will
Buy you a bottle of wine
And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down
Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
A round for these friends of mine
Let’s have another round for the bright red devil
Who keeps me in this tourist town

That’s Cary. He had red hair. And a cane…

Come on Carey get out your cane

Whew!

She’s singing the truth, albeit with a few notable changes.

Turns out Taylor Swift is not the only one singing about her exes.

But in the heyday of feminism it’s Joni who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, she gets a story to tell, not as revenge, but as a way to stoke the starmaker machinery behind the popular song.

And eventually Cary came to California, to visit Joni. He was transfixed.

But she was out of his league. He gave her back her camera and that was it.

And I can’t believe it’s 2014 and I finally know all this.

Actually, if you do a bit of web research the picture starts to come clear. But back in 1971 there was no web, all we had was the album cover and rumors. Everybody talked like they knew Joni, but not only did they not know her, they knew very little.

And sure she was beautiful, but it was her talent that enraptured. The way she could sing her story and make it universal. She expressed what we were feeling, from the heart. Not her desire to get rich or revenge, but to eat up this life, to have endless experiences, get drunk and tell tales, flirt and fuck and be free.

We always wanted to be free.

Actually, we were.

And whenever we drop the needle on “Blue” we baby boomers feel this way again.

P.S. Joni may have had her fame, but Cary had his charisma, never underestimate charisma.

P.P.S. I always shoo away the locals trying to make a buck, but having paid the insistent photographer to snap we end up with this pic that is hard to stop staring at. A relic from the ages, depicting a king and queen who were not cheer captain and football star, but leads in their own movie.

P.P.P.S. Does anybody play a dulcimer anymore? Does anybody play this instrument that evidences honesty and humanity as soon as you strum?

“When Joni Mitchell Met Cary Raditz, Her ‘Mean Old Daddy’ – The subject of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Carey’ recalls his time with the singer in early 1970 in a fishing village on Crete”

“Joni Mitchell on the Muse Behind ‘Carey’ – The singer wrote her hit ‘Carey’ while camping out in a seaside cave on Crete in early 1970″