My Physical

I’m alive and I’m free
Who wouldn’t wanna be me

Dr. Becker goes to more shows than I do.

We forget how many fans there are. Insiders stay in catering, conversing, whereas those who pay to get in, live for the music.

I know, I know, physicals are passe, you no longer need them.

Hogwash. Mitch diagnosed my leukemia. He said I should tattoo on my arm that I need a physical every year. Because you never know what will happen. Like that actor on that TV show, who died of an aortic aneurysm…even the worst doctor could have diagnosed that, but you’ve got to see the physician to begin with. As someone put it to me so eloquently, you can’t be too scared to get better.

And I am getting better, from my shoulder surgery, what an ordeal!

I went to Dr. Knapp last week and he said I was back on track. The visit before I was behind the curve. It was bad genes, I wasn’t that stretchy, he said to call my mother or father and blame them, if they were still alive.

My mom still is. She’s gonna be 90 in December.

And that’s what Mitch was talking about. The ninety year olds he takes care of. He says they adapt.

Which is hard for us boomers who think we’re gonna rule forever.

It’s the memory, it starts to go. I heard from an old classmate who caught me up on some of our high school brethren. I knew only half. My mother threw out my yearbooks so I can’t cross-check, but would I remember them anyway?

And Mitch starts talking about the inability to heal when we age and then he says he’d prefer that I no longer ski.


What if I fell?

Now I’m not one who likes to give up. Then again, it snowed in Vermont over the weekend and on Monday I watched videos of people skiing at Mad River and Jay Peak and I thought to myself…I might be unable to climb to the top of those mountains in the snow. You see the Gleevec I take, the main side effect is fatigue. It’s like someone has their hand on your shoulder, a heavy weight. I don’t feel it in regular life, but when I exercise?

But at least I’m alive.

Tom Hayden? How can he die?

The musicians, the political icons, they’re dropping like flies. It’s so weird, we thought this would never happen to us. But it is.

Mitch said he started on his bucket list at fifty.

That’s why I skied 53 days last year. Because I know I won’t be able to do it forever.

What will I be able to do forever?

What do I WANT to do forever?

That’s what they don’t tell you about aging, you no longer care. You’ve seen the trick, you realize no one is remembered and you wonder…what is life about?

All those movies hyped every weekend? If any of them are good, you’ll find out.

All those products being advertised?

You no longer need them, you need so little. I’m a hoarder, but for the first time in my life I could throw everything out. There will not be a museum of my life. And when I die, my heirs will just toss everything anyway.


So Mitch went to Desert Trip. He paid for the pit, and the dining experience too. And if you listened to him…

The people who went had a good time.

Because these are the best times in life, going to the show.

We thought it was about records, but now they’re secondary to the live experience.

I just heard Bon Jovi on Howard Stern. Did you see that commercial Jon’s in? Cringeworthy. Doesn’t he have enough money? And the new album is instantly forgettable. But when they set up and did “Bad Medicine,” I wanted to go to the show. How could they be that good in the AM? I was listening critically, was this really live? It was astounding.

And then I thought of “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” and its clone “Blaze Of Glory,” and “You Give Love A Bad Name,” and I realized not only was I a Bon Jovi fan, not only had I gotten over any bad reaction, but that I wanted to be inside the arena thrusting my arm in the air.

We all want to be inside the arena thrusting our arms in the air.

And when I was making an appointment for a phone call follow-up, to get my results, Jennifer told me she liked my piece about the Keith Urban show, SHE WENT!

I was astounded. She’s African-American.

But she lives for country.

I asked her how she discovered acts.

She said the Highway, on Sirius, as well as the local terrestrial station.

And I’m completely confounded. I write about country and there are crickets. My audience seems to be made up of old white men yearning for the days of classic rock, only into shoegazing artists today. Or youngsters. I’m supposed to write about what’s cool. Kanye and the Dirty Projectors. And when I write about Bieber the audience winces and…

Insiders are judging each other while the audience just can’t get enough of their chosen genre.

The more I learn the less I know.

But I do know that when Jennifer mentioned Keith Urban that led us into a discussion of Brett Eldredge, Little Big Town, Eric Church…there’s a whole subculture. I felt rooted, like I still cared, like I wanted to live forever.

Oh the sun is shinin’
And this road keeps windin’

Who wouldn’t wanna be me.

Who wouldn’t wanna be me – Spotify

P.S. Yes, he stuck his finger up my tush. I don’t know why guys have such a problem with this, or maybe Mitch just knows how to be gentle.

P.P.S. I want to be a doctor in my next life. I want to give back, take care of people. Because it’s only about people. And I’m fascinated by the science. Mitch was explaining how the blood flows, how it goes from your feet to your heart without a pump. How the arteries push with the pulse and there are valves and…it was all so fascinating!

P.P.P.S. Don’t take Protonix and don’t eat salt. That’s why you go every year, for the updates, which are frequently contrary to public opinion. Proton-pump inhibitors can cause dementia, although Mitch said I did not have it. He said you can tell by the way people talk. As for salt… His mother-in-law cut back and avoided congestive heart failure. I rarely salt anything, but Mitch said most prepared food comes with salt, because otherwise they can’t sell it, people don’t want it, even at Whole Foods.

P.P.P.P.S. I went to the eye doctor yesterday, he said within ten years I’d get cornea implants and I would see as well as I do with my contacts! Oh, what a wonderful world we live in.

“WATCH: Skiing Powder @MadRiverGlen In October”

“Watch: This Party Ski Down Jay Peak Yesterday Looks All-Time”


It’s a stiff.

Ignore the sales chart. That’s where hard core fans and looky-loos go to participate, the store, the action is now in streaming, where we can see right away if anybody is listening. AND THEY’RE NOT!

It’s staggering, not one track off of Lady Gaga’s new collection is in the Spotify United States Top 50. It’d be like putting out a new “Star Wars” movie and finding no one in the theatre, ending up with a gross of les than seven figures for the weekend. How did she go so wrong?

Well, her last album, “Artpop,” was a flop.

And then she detoured into a collaboration with Tony Bennett.

And now she’s put out an album without a hit. And she lived and died on the hit.

But the same thing happened to Katy Perry. That Olympics song? Straight to the dumper.

What is happening?

The rules are changing. The audience is changing. And if you’re looking for the mainstream media to jump in and set you straight, or the major labels, you’re going to continue to be blind.

We live in an on demand culture. Data rules. And we can tell if something is successful instantly. And it’s hard to resuscitate a project, especially when it’s got the stink upon it.

Five of “Joanne”‘s fourteen tracks don’t even have a million streams.

Six break a million but don’t reach two.

“Perfect Illusion,” the advance track, is at 38 million and change. But #50 on the Spotify US Top Fifty, Lil Yachty’s “One Night,” has 38 million streams. And #1, “Starboy,” the Weeknd’s collaboration with Daft Punk, has a cume of 144 million plus, and it’s racking them up at the rate of 1,285,283 a day.

Now Gaga used collaborators too, but that’s become the story, whereas it’s only the end product that make a difference, and “Joanne”…is a curious collection of songs that lean more towards rock than EDM, and the electronic sound dominates today.

Isn’t it funny how the cognoscenti pooh-poohed EDM but despite the Sillerman shenanigans and the bad press, i.e. O.D.’s, the truth is EDM has never been more dominant in America, all those deejays became producers and the sound has triumphed.

It’d be one thing if Gaga didn’t depend upon hits, if she made it on critical acclaim alone. Adele rode that paradigm with “25,” banking on oldsters to buy CDs

“Adele’s Most Fervent Fans? Soccer Moms”

but CDs are a de minimis part of the picture now, and at least she led “25” with “Hello,” a much bigger hit than “Perfect Illusion.”

You see while the oldsters and marginal players were bitching about streaming payments and the death of albums a younger generation stole their lunch. They moved into the vacuum and triumphed. Just ask a manager, the only radio format that means anything is Top Forty. Go to number one on Active Rock and…you might be able to sell out large clubs. Have a bunch of hits on Active Rock and you still can’t fill arenas.

This is the new truth. Now it’s about pop music released on a constant basis, you don’t want to lose your stranglehold on the public. Bieber put out an album not quite a year ago that contained huge hits and he’s already got new product in the marketplace, his collaborations with DJ Snake and Major Lazer are BOTH in the Spotify Top Ten (with cumes exceeding 334 million and 435 million respectively).

If Katy Perry were smart, she’d call up Dr. Luke right now and put out a track before Christmas, to shore up her base. Instead, she’s staying at home creating a long player, a bad strategy.

If long players counted… The opening cut on “Joanne” would have huge numbers. But the truth is it’s not quite at one and a half million. People are cherry-picking what they want to hear. And the cuts at the end of the LP… Are the weakest in streaming numbers.

Albums were a good strategy when it was about ownership, not listenership, when you got paid on every track, no matter how bad it was.

Now you sink or swim on the quality of the music. A lame track on an album isn’t worth the time you put into making it.

The data doesn’t lie. Labels can influence radio, spread false stories to a somnambulant press, but now that we know what people are listening to or not…

It’s a whole new ball game.

P.S. “Joanne” is not bad, just not good enough. You listen and hear quality, but it’s not great, and today you’ve got to fire at 10 to succeed.

P.P.S. Everybody can hear your music these days. The barrier to entry is low. I never would have bought “Joanne,” but I did check it out on Spotify. That’s a good thing, that I’m interested. The bad thing is it didn’t make me want to hear it again.

P.P.P.S. My favorite cut on the album is “Sinner’s Prayer,” track 8, which barely breaks a million in cume. It’s buried in the tsunami of hype. Better to space out your releases, if this was a surprise track it would have gotten more traction.

P.P.P.P.S. Even Bruno Mars is struggling. His “24K Magic” is #14 and on the way down and it’s got a cume of 40 million. It’s a rough game these days, you can’t buy a hit, you’ve got to deliver.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Can she sell a ticket? Streams can be marginal yet you can still garner enough fans to fill buildings, this is the game for the oldsters and wannabes, because they can never rack up enough streams to make big money on Spotify.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I doubt there will be instant sellouts, but she could do good business, or fail completely. It’s a question of how many hard core fans want to pay big bucks to see her and how many looky-loos get caught up in the excitement, which is waning as the album sinks in the marketplace.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. The Super Bowl! Bad timing. The album and the on-sale should have been the same day. You want to strike when the iron is hot. Then again, she might kill it on Super Sunday and create demand. We do live in a live experience culture. But the truth is Gaga doesn’t have that many hits, she’s become a creature of media, how many hard core Gaga fans are out there? Many fewer than you think.

AT&T/Time Warner

It’s a game of musical chairs.

AT&T is not looking to win so much as to SURVIVE!

Just think about it, Time used to be a colossus, Warner too. The latter was early into cable, its music division fed the growth and now both are indie entities today, long gone. While the CEOs were going for shareholder value, they sealed their future, one in which standalone companies cannot survive.

The last twenty years have been about disruption.

Now we’ve entered the era of consolidation.

The harbinger was Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Not only did it have the billions to pay for it, it was a flanking move, to ensure that the social network was not eclipsed in the future. The four behemoths are doing this ad infinitum now, that’s right, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon rule the tech sphere today. Can anybody compete, can anybody win?

Just ask, which was squeezed into selling to Amazon. Zappos too. And if Amazon wanted to own music streaming it could do that as well, by buying Spotify or potentially lowering prices. The power of these winners is far beyond that of their competitors. Actually, the goal of today’s startups is to sell out. Sure, Snap may be independent, but there are always outliers.

So what do we learn?

There will be less.

This is the honking headline. When even Lady Gaga can’t win you know that the middle and lower classes of art have no chance. There might be 400 scripted series today, but there will be many fewer tomorrow. We’re going to gravitate to the big winners. And someone has to fund the production, and outlets don’t want to bleed endless cash, right now they’re doing it for the market share, in a world where distribution rules.

That’s the story here. How he with the pipes is in control. We used to think distributors were dumb, an afterthought, just like concert promoters were the ass end of the business, funny how things turn around.

Concert promoters won because recordings nosedived and the live experience became everything in a cold, digital world.

Distributors are winning because they’re the ones who reach out and touch consumers. They’re the last mile. No matter how good something is, if it’s not up front and center for the consumer, if it’s not available, it will fail.

Verizon is busy building an advertising platform. Investment is low, but the play is too conservative, peopled by also-rans.

AT&T is making a big bet, paid for by debt. But AT&T wants to beat not only Verizon, but Comcast-NBC/Universal.

And T-Mobile is gaining customers via low prices, but that just makes it a target, you don’t think T-Mobile is gonna remain independent, do you?

Is this bad for consumers?

Well, let’s start with antitrust. AT&T and Time Warner did not make this deal willy-nilly, they consulted with attorneys. And the truth is…it feels anti-competitive but there’s a strong argument it is not. After all, AT&T does not dominate mobile, and the aforementioned T-Mobile is making inroads, and Time Warner does not dominate television. So, it looks like with some small divestitures and conditions this passes.

Then what?

Then you’ve got a world where there are three record labels instead of six, fewer places to sell your wares. And despite all the indie hoo-hah you need the major to promote your project, to get the word out, the major has relationships with radio and media and…

What’s next, is the “New York Times” part of a bigger operation?

The “Times” blew distribution. It owned the doorstep and is losing ground online. That’s a formula for death. And the “Times” is one of the winners. When competition ramps up you don’t cut, try to balance the budget, you invest, as AT&T is doing here.

This is what happens when you reach maturity. Not only is television mature, the internet is too. We haven’t seen any radical innovation since Uber. Now it’s all about business moves.

So, you don’t have to watch your shows on HBO. There are numerous alternatives, Showtime and Starz, also owned by bigger entities. But you do have to watch something. And chances are, despite the low barrier to entry online, you’re gonna watch the offerings of the big kahunas. You get lost by yourself online. You can’t gain traction, there’s just too much noise.

Philippe Dauman put a stake in the heart of Viacom by worrying about stock price, with worthless buybacks and an endless talent drain. In today’s world you don’t balance the books, you invest, and Wall Street will steer you wrong. How did Amazon become such a behemoth? By spending! Worrying about tomorrow!

This is not AOL/Time Warner. This is not a dream. This is not about a future we cannot understand. And it’s less about synergy than survival. He who does not grow and become the platform of choice will be eaten up tomorrow.

It’s the way of the world.

Dylan’s Nobel

They want Bob Dylan to talk.

But he listens.

That’s what was so astounding about his 2015 MusiCares speech. He’s been listening all along. To the naysayers, the phonies, those heaping false accolades. He’s been on his own journey, beholden to no one, and that’s why he’s both pushed the envelope and become revered.

But that’s not enough, because he doesn’t talk.

Prizes are for chumps. When you’re young, you want to win, you’re envious and jealous of those in the spotlight. Age and you realize it’s all a game, winners are rarely the best. As for longevity… Try naming the Grammy Albums of the Year, good luck.

Not that there’s anything wrong with winning, but it’s about the work, it’s about your life. The triumphs are all personal. You realize this if you stay in the game long enough, you’ve got to realign yourself, otherwise you’re a slave to the audience.

Bob Dylan is not a slave to his audience.

Anybody who goes to a show knows this. He reworks the material, plays piano when you expect a guitar. He’s on his own journey and you can decide to get on the bus or to stay off.

I’m off.

But I respect what he’s doing. Trying to keep himself happy, test his own limits. He’s lucky to have an audience, but he’s not worried what it thinks.

That’s an artist. In an era where there’s far too little artistry.

An artist takes in, synthesizes, filters, then throws it back to us in a way that our own lives become illuminated. That’s what broke Bob Dylan through to begin with. A Dylan who probably wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for some simple twists of fate. Most notably, employing manager Albert Grossman, who got his songs covered by his charges Peter, Paul & Mary. Dylan wasn’t ready for prime time, with his reedy voice singing folk songs.

And then he was.

I don’t think “Like A Rolling Stone” is the best rock song ever recorded, more false accolades, but in an era of tumult it triumphed. The song wasn’t that odd on the radio in 1965. Although many believed his voice was substandard.

But that voice became iconic.

Hit singles followed, “Positively 4th Street” twisting our perceptions, weren’t you supposed to be nice in songs?

And then he disappeared and returned as a country crooner and ultimately wowed us with “Blood On The Tracks,” when we all but counted him out.

Then came Christianity and so many twists and turns… The man was living his life in public, but that wasn’t enough, it still isn’t enough, people want him to EXPLAIN IT!

But Bob never did. And famously said he did not know better. That he was no seer, that you had to look to yourself for answers. I know this now, I didn’t as a teenager. We’re all here temporarily, none of us will be remembered, if you’re living your life for show the joke is on you, and each of us has his own special gift.

That’s what Dylan sang in “Dear Landlord.”

I could curse the faux followers. The johnny-come-latelies who quote second-rate lyrics. But the best of us have followers amongst all walks of life. That’s when you know you’ve made it, when the looky-loos, the people you abhor, are on the train too.

That’s rock and roll. I was there first. Your music sucks.

But Dylan never got into the wars. Well, he castigated reporters and then receded. Why would he talk to these same nincompoops now?

And then there are the novelists pissed he got the Nobel, that they don’t get Grammys. That’s right, and you don’t get a fraction of the attention Bob Dylan does. Because you didn’t write a classic, you’re just jealous. There’s no more jealous person than a rejected artist, one whose sun has been usurped by another. It’s not a competition, be your best self, and if you’re looking for accolades…

Now we’re back at the beginning.

Nine hundred grand. A week’s touring for Dylan, he doesn’t need it for the money.

And if you can name three Nobel winners, you’re lying.

It’s just that…one of us was recognized. We had a boomer President who played saxophone on television but we still feel inadequate, we still crave plaudits, we want people to know we lived through the best era, we changed the world.

We did. Because we had artists like Bob who marched to the beat of their own drummer. He was hungry, you can’t make it without desire, but your goal is to keep the public at bay, while entrancing it.

The rabble-rousers want him to be appreciative. Want him to drop words of wisdom. They want him to be just like them.

But he’s not. He’s Bob Dylan. He’ll probably fly to Sweden to accept the award, he’ll say one word or a plethora of them. Because he also understands it’s show business, you make the most of your moment, and you do this by not giving what people want.

They want him to talk.

Which is exactly why he’s staying silent. The absence of words is deafening. It’s a bigger statement than any sentence.

As Bob put it so eloquently in “I And I”…

I got nothin’ to say, ‘specially about whatever was

You see he made shoes for everyone, even you, and you’re angry he’s still going barefoot.

Then again, no man sees his face and lives.