Envy

Do you feel optimistic? That your best days are in front of you? That you will marry your heart’s desire, live comfortably in a mini-mansion and do fulfilling work until a well-earned retirement?

Then chances are your parents were rich and you went to a good school and you’ve leveraged your relationships to get ahead.

But if you weren’t born on third base, if the guidance counselor in your public school was unaware of need-blind admissions, if everybody on your block was a rapper or a sports star or just doing drugs…

You’re probably wondering where your future went.

Used to be the media was on our side. Divining truth, looking out for us. Before Rupert Murdoch bought the “Wall Street Journal” and Judith Miller convinced “New York Times” readers that an Iraq invasion was justified. Now we can’t believe a thing we read.

As for television, Don Henley had it right, the bubble-headed bleached blond making seven figures wanted us to follow car chases, was more interested in the horse race than truth. It was all fun all the time.

Only it wasn’t.

Kind of like this election cycle. I can’t watch another debate, there’s nothing new to be said. Or the candidates don’t want to say it. The media says it’s important but the truth is it sells advertising and there you have it in a nutshell, the media-industrial complex has pulled away from the populace, and now the populace is rebelling.

It happened in music first, with Napster. Artists and executives couldn’t believe the public would steal music. But the public was sick of being ripped off and saw white collar criminals making double digit millions and not ending up behind bars. Why should they be moral? Especially when the media was constantly flaunting the immorality of artists. Money for nothing indeed.

And then the techies scooped up all the chips. This is when the artists got pissed. They could no longer sit at home and make a living, they had to get out and ply the boards, which may sound glamorous but is not, especially when you’re already married, and if you think the musicians take drugs for fun, you’ve never tried to sleep after giving it your all until midnight.

So the musicians hate the techies, who stole their lunch money. And on one hand you can tell them to get with the program, on another you can ask what kind of country are we living in?

Those musicians who do break through play by the new rules. Which is to do anything for cash and to try and chase the billionaires. They want to fly on their planes, if not buy planes themselves. Meanwhile, those at home are supposed to respect these players, as they have in the past.

Forget the prepubescents adoring wet behind the ear singers with little talent. That’s been going on forever. But an entire generation of music lovers, the baby boomers, and to a great extent their Gen-X brethren, have abandoned the scene. Sure, it’s dense and complicated, but there’s nothing that appeals to them, that satiates their souls, that is music for music’s sake. Everybody’s bitching they’re working too hard and can’t get paid.

Just like the rest of America.

But the rich move their corporations overseas to avoid taxes, not knowing there’s no such option for the public.

The entertainment business keeps telling us to partake of their wares when the truth is we’re disconnecting, not only in music, but film. Sure, grosses may be good, but only for a few flicks. We need cultural touchstones, we don’t need much else.

Like cable television or tablets or…

Cord-cutting is real. We’re sick of paying six bucks for ESPN we don’t watch. And why do we need the latest tablet, which is just product envy at best anyway, the old one is just fine. But the truth is the phablet, the large smartphone, is good enough.

And next we’re abandoning cars. Uber is just a start. Whilst boomers purchase six figure automobiles and prance around in their iron (aluminum!) showing off, youngsters don’t even get their licenses, and are looking forward to the days of self-driving cars.

Talk about change.

And it is all about change. We’ll embrace that which is easier and exciting… But we’re sick of being told we are inadequate and to do it the old way, ordained for the benefit of the rich.

Music labels still trumpet sales when streams are everything, and you can’t stop hearing that there’s not enough money in music. But why should the consumer care, he’s struggling too! And why should the consumer believe this, since everything that was nothing turns into a juggernaut, like computers.

The book business killed digital, sealing its fate as a marginal enterprise.

Those at the top want the status quo and those at the bottom are hungry for real leadership, that speaks to them and watches out for them.

But there’s no story to follow. Kanye West is all about himself. Justin Bieber is a nitwit. And reporters want to hang with their subjects, their publications full of hype to make us feel envious of what the subjects have got.

But we know the truth, we can never have what they have, no matter how much we put our noses to the grindstone, opportunities are scarce, the game is rigged. Some of us have given up, the rest of us are hoping for a revolution.

That’s what happens when there’s too much injustice. And the injustice in this case is institutions and groups who want to maintain the status quo to the detriment of the rest of us, and make us pay fealty and become wannabes to boot. You know why Oscar ratings are tanking? NO ONE CARES!

The public needs food and sex and shelter and entertainment.

But it also needs hope.

Right now what we’ve got is mainly false hope. Duplicity. Bait and switch. Envy. And as a result, disillusionment reigns.

That’s the story of Donald Trump, that’s the story of Bernie Sanders. They’re speaking a truth to their constituents that listeners don’t hear elsewhere. It’s thrilling to have politicians looking out for you as opposed to guarded corporatists always plotting to get ahead in the future, benefiting themselves, not caring about anyone else. Mark Zuckerberg tweaks Facebook algorithms for himself, not for you, not even for corporations. But we can’t stop hearing about the triumphant social network.

Sure, there are idiots spinning falsehoods trying to become social media stars. And the media whips out winners to keep us playing the game, as if everyone could win the lottery.

But the truth is the game is rigged and no one is on our side. The artists jettisoned us long ago, when MTV could make them rich, when Napster made it harder to make money. The media is like the musicians, complaining of lost advertising and thinner margins. The websites say we have to endure click-bait to pay their bills. Every entity in America is desperately trying to climb and survive, meanwhile we’re at home out of options.

So when you see the shiny show on TV, when you read about the rich and famous, don’t buy it. Know that there are more just like you, that the power lies with the people, not the corporations.

It’s morning in America, and the entrenched are about to get a huge wake-up call.

BBC Music Moguls-Myth Makers

BBC Music Moguls Masters Of Pop 3 of 3 Myth Makers 720p

Kanye West is playing the media like a fiddle.

You’re sitting at home scratching your head. How does a guy without a hit record sell out Madison Square Garden for a fashion show?

The media made him hot, it reports on everything Kanye does. And like Donald Trump, he says the unthinkable, he boasts about his greatness and being squeezed out of fashion’s inner circle and the public eats up every word, because people need heroes and they ain’t gonna be Anna Wintour and the rest of the ice cold icons, but a guy like them, who came up from the deep.

It’s about clicks, readers, ads. Media needs eyeballs to succeed. Reporters love Kanye West. It’s got nothing to do with credibility or art, it’s about story.

Just like Taylor Swift. My insider brethren puked when Taylor gave fans Christmas presents. At least do it anonymously, don’t record it, don’t go for the victory lap. But this wasn’t about doing a solid for her fans so much as keeping her name in the news. And the media reported it and the public bought it.

Like Jimi Hendrix burning up his guitar at Monterey. It was pre-planned, it was his PR agent Keith Altham’s idea. It’s not that Jimi wasn’t talented, but how do you get everybody to write about him, how do you get everybody’s attention?

That’s the game. And it keeps changing. Right now social media is king.

But it’s all a manipulation. If you feel duped, you should. Controversy sells. And the stars you admire are oftentimes not the geniuses, but the people behind them.

Now they couldn’t make a show like this in the U.S. Because we’re so busy lauding the players that they overwhelm the message. Story is secondary to special effects. Tom Wolfe’s “Right Stuff” made Chuck Yeager a star, but that wasn’t the point, that’s what the press took out of it. They needed someone to champion.

Are we gonna champion you?

“But the things that last are worth having lies told about in the first place.”

So Pete Townshend says his band sucks, he slags others as pretentious. Spontaneous outburst? No, done upon the instruction of his manager Chris Stamp, who saw that a little controversy would aid the band.

You’ve got to have the chops. But that’s not enough, certainly not today, where there are so many messages, where you’re competing not only against the pros but the amateurs.

If I have to listen to one more story about the money PewDiePie makes…

That’s right, I know who he is, I tried to watch one of his videos, I was bored to tears. It’s a blip on the radar screen, it’s not forever, but YouTube has to show someone is making money other than them and it’s a good headline, especially for people who don’t care. Guy playing video games online makes millions? That’s INTERESTING!

We know that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube because we’ve heard the story over and over and over again. The press doesn’t want to print the usual suspect story, how an act is a label priority, the songs were written by Max Martin and every promotion man is on the case. No, they’re looking for something that will titillate the audience, who cares if it’s true!

Ozzy Osbourne biting off the head of a bat…

Van Halen and the brown M&M’s…

Do you think these were major news events that the AP couldn’t help but spread on the wire?

No, they were manipulations foisted upon you by the handlers and the press so you’d pay attention. They’re good stories, nothing more.

Not that Ozzy and Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix are not good.

It’s just that they needed a bit of a push.

The press turned on Taylor Swift, saying she a dating nightmare, a stalker out for revenge. Did she get up in arms, did she sue? No, she gave access, she embraced her enemies, she made them complicit in the game, she gave them what they want…more eyeballs.

If you want to be out front you’ve got to worry about your image and if you want to break big you’ve got to be in the news every damn day. This is what the alta kacher musicians don’t understand… You can’t sell if you’re not top of mind. Don’t come with an album every three years and expect us to care for more than a month. You’ve got to feed us constantly, so we’re drawn to your work, so we talk about your work, so you make money.

You’re competing against everybody. Your video on YouTube is up against the finger-puller, the sports stunt, the wannabe musician. Used to be you had to get signed to a label to play, and if you weren’t on the radio, good luck. Now, if you’re not down in the pit with the great unwashed you’re not gonna survive.

And sure, you risk overexposure…

But it’s one thing to satiate your fans, it’s another to piss people off.

And how many people knew who Meek Mill was before he started attacking Drake?

Forget the hogwash about the music business revolution, the one wherein the established players are toppled by the wannabes with new tools. That’s just a canard sold to you by people who get rich giving you hope. Whereas you can’t even get access to those truly in power. And those in the driver’s seat are skilled, with relationships. Now, more than ever, we hear great songs that go nowhere, because there’s no buzz, no story, no one pushing the button putting the player up front and center. For a moment there you could zoom to the top via spontaneous virality, but that disappeared with the aughts.

We’re serious now.

Competition is stronger than ever.

And the reason you know about certain acts and not others is because those acts employ professionals to get the story out and the media repeats it. And this is not sending a bio, don’t even bother. Can the MP3. Better to have a riot at your show. Or to sing about sex with Taylor Swift, which Kanye did.

And isn’t it funny that it wasn’t Beyonce’s fans trumpeting her Super Bowl performance, but the right wing media who were offended, who bought right into the story, that she was a revolutionary who was anti-police.

No, she’s just another pop star trying to make a living.

See also – Music Moguls

Gregory Porter At Capitol Studio A

This guy could be the new Norah Jones.

The lane is wide open, it’s unoccupied, it’s just that the American media has refused to embrace someone with talent whilst trumpeting young nincompoops in an effort to look hip.

I went to pay fealty. It took me an hour forty to get there from Santa Monica, and don’t forget, I employ a standard transmission. I’d like to tell you I listened to music the whole way, but I was powering through the talk channels, trying to make sense of the New Hampshire primary. You see politics is the story of the day. Used to be tech, but that’s petering out. Pandora is selling and Twitter is tanking and after twenty years it’s a pump and dump game. You build the unicorn and then you cash out, like those funds just did in Lyft. It’s about speculation, not product. Sure, we like new services, but we know that one social network will replace another the way acts replace each other on the pop chart.

But it didn’t used to be that way. Used to be music wasn’t casual, but something you believed in, argued over, immersed yourself in even if you were the only one listening. We followed it like sports but without the statistics. We knew the teams but not who won. Because there were almost no stats, and those that existed were legendarily fake and known to mostly insiders. Rather, we were in pursuit of greatness, and the genres we embraced crossed a spectrum presently untraveled. You could be listening to Jimi Hendrix and at the same time be a fan of Blood, Sweat & Tears, with its horns and jazz.

And that’s what Gregory Porter reminded me of, 1968, like he existed in his own bubble and when I encountered it and it popped I was covered in an all over goo that made me feel good.

I didn’t expect to feel this way. Barnett told me Porter had sold a million albums in Europe, won a Grammy. Don Was said he was his favorite singer, then again, Gregory’s on his label.

But then Mr. Porter opened his pipes…

He was backed by a combo. You might call it jazz, I would call it music.

And I know it when I hear it.

Especially because he was followed by Tori Kelly, who was execrable, I couldn’t check my phone fast enough. A mildly talented neophyte overhyped by her manager…if this is the best we’ve got, we’re screwed.

But it isn’t, we’ve got Gregory Porter!

He started with a number from his unreleased new album, it was entitled “Take Me To The Alley.”

Unlike the great unwashed, Porter evidenced talent, his voice was smooth, yet powerful. And it lent meaning to the words, I was touched. I wanted to check his history on my phone but I didn’t want to lose focus on his performance, which only lasted three numbers.

Did you ever go to a club?

I don’t mean one holding a thousand, with a deejay, I mean a small room holding fifty to three hundred people, back before cell phones, back before social media, when you didn’t go to be seen but to experience the music.

You’re up close and personal. In a sealed environment. And someone gets a chance to prove themselves.

Or not…

It’s not only Norah Jones. Back in the seventies we had Boz Scaggs and “Silk Degrees.” That rootsy, R&B sound, relaxed and real, it touches hearts. Both Jones and Scaggs went from zero to hero overnight.

Porter could too.

He tried to skew young, he worked with Disclosure.

Didn’t make him a household name.

No, what’s gonna break Gregory Porter is the man himself. It’s not about social media, not about marketing, it’s about following your vision and word of mouth. Because there are very few great things out there, and when we find one we know it and we tell everybody about it.

He’s forty four. He just moved from Brooklyn back to Bakersfield. He’s not selling TMZ, he’s not boasting like Kanye, he’s just singing.

You remember singing, don’t you? When you just open your throat and let go?

We all do it, but few very good.

We adore those who can do it well.

Seeing Gregory Porter last night gave me hope, that music is still alive and respected.

And if everybody were exposed justice would reign.

It’s the Adele factor without the buildup.

Another person built for comfort not speed who dedicated his life to the sound.

He had a day job, but he persisted.

He was not a teen telling his parents to pimp him out, figuring graduate school would save him.

Gregory Porter is all in…

AND WHEN YOU HEAR HIM YOU WILL BE TOO!

Tommy LiPuma On Dan Hicks

Re: Dan Hicks

Dear Bob,

I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read your post on Dan Hicks. First, it helped bring me out of a deep funk I had been in since his wife Clare called me Saturday morning with the news that Dan had passed. Also, it was great to read about his talent and achievements in some form other than an obituary.

We were close…close to the point that my wife Gill and I had decided to name our second daughter after Dan. Her name is Danielle. Whenever Dan and I spoke to one another, he would always ask, “How’s what’s-her-name?” I feel fortunate to have spoken to him just the week before his demise, and though he sounded weak, we spoke very enthusiastically about our mutual admiration for the “swing” era, and I did get a chance to send him some Ellington, Johnny Hodges, and Ben Webster. Also some sister Rosetta Tharp. His wife Clare e-mailed me that he loved it. She also told me that he listened to music right up to the end.

I was also glad that you spoke so highly of “Striking It Rich.” I had just mentioned to a friend that out of the three albums we did together at Blue thumb, “Striking it Rich” was my favorite. Not to take away from the other two as they certainly had their moments, but we caught that magic that happens sometimes when you put six talented people in a room together.

They were such a delight to see in person. That’s why I suggested to Dan his first album for us should be with a live audience. In that case it was the Troubadour.

At the time we were planning the second release, which was going to be a studio album, I was working with a very talented and astute engineer by the name of Bruce Botnick, who worked at Sunset Sound. I asked him how could we keep the band within close proximity to one another for that live effect and still keep the microphone leakage to a minimum. So he set the room up with Dan, his rhythm guitar, and the Lickettes on one side, and the violin, standup bass and guitar opposite them, within eye contact, and about six feet separating them. Having the “live” side of the mics opposite each other cut the leakage to the point that we decided not to use any baffles, so what you’re hearing is a great performance in the middle of all that room ambiance. We may have fixed a few vocal phrases, but otherwise it was all live.

Elvis Costello was a big fan of Dan’s. As a matter of fact, he recorded something for one of Dan’s later albums. He brought up a good point to me when we communicated this weekend, If I may quote: “There is such a lot of soul in his songs and I wonder sometimes if the very stagecraft that made him so appealing to me when I picked up ‘Where’s The Money’ might have made less curious people think that this was just a novelty act and miss the depth of the songs.”

I also didn’t think that breaking the band up at the height of his notoriety helped his career, but I respected his decision. He wasn’t the type of guy who wanted to get up at five in the morning to do the Today Show, or have to deal with any of a number of things that come with the territory.

I think the trappings were just that to Dan, and he didn’t want any part of it. He certainly didn’t stop performing, My wife and I saw him about two years ago in Fairfield, Ct. playing to a rabid crowd of fans, clapping as they heard every gem of a tune being performed. Ahmet Ertegan walked up to Al Schmitt and me when I was doing the live album with Hicks at the Troubadour, and he said, “Are you recording this band of gypsies?” I told Dan afterwards, and he smiled and said “Yeh, I can see that.” Dan was short on bullshit, and long on talent, and I loved him like a brother.

Both my wife and I will miss him.

Tommy LiPuma