Rhinofy-Money Talks

What can I tell you, I didn’t start buying every Kinks album until their hits were done. I owned the “Greatest Hits,” but with limited cash it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I purchased “Arthur,” I loved hearing “Victoria.”

And then I bought every one thereafter, including “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One” from the cut-out bin. An incredible LP, completely forgotten to the sands of time.

Kind of like “Preservation Act 2.”

That’s right, when rock became bombastic, when corporate rock was rearing its ugly head, Ray Davies retreated into musical theatre, with concept albums telling stories you had to listen to to understand, and even then it wasn’t always so easy. And “Preservation Act 1” was a hitless dud, but its follow-up, “Preservation Act 2,” is pure genius. With a story containing English references that will have you running to your dictionary, suddenly “Preservation Act 1” made sense!

Not that the story was completely realistic. But there were bad guys and good guys and right smack dab in the middle of side one of “Preservation Act 2” is a song so accurate, it still rings true today, it’s the best expression of the money culture we’ve been living in for decades.

Show me a man who says he can live without bread
And I’ll show you a man who’s a liar and in debt

Yes, it’s always the poor claiming they can live without money. The rich, not so much. It’s as if the underclass rationalizes its position, since it’s got no direction home to the pot of gold controlled by the richies.

There’s no man alive who can’t be purchased or enticed
There’s no man alive who wouldn’t sell for a price

Everything’s for sale. It’s just a matter of the number.

Want that house on the corner? The owner might not be eager to sell, but if you ratchet up the price he starts thinking…with the money he can now buy TWO houses…it’s YOURS!

And this is why today’s stars do privates for corporations and despicable people, they can’t say no to the price. Oftentimes they’ve spent it before the date’s even played. You can pay your alimony and child support and…

Money talks and we’re the living proof
There ain’t no limit to what money can do
Money talks, money talks

It’s why we revere the icons. It’s why the unsuccessful have contempt for those in the black. Would they hate the popsters so much if they were broke? OF COURSE NOT!

Money can’t breathe and money can’t see
But when I pull out a fiver people listen to me

Try it. My dad taught me this lesson. You’ve got to grease the skids. The maitre d’, the mechanic, the police… That’s right, the guy who shuttles my mother around parks right in front of the theatre by dropping a fiver whenever he’s told to move on by a blue coat, he says…”I think you dropped something…” Problem solved.

Money can’t run and money can’t walk
But when I write out a check I swear to God I hear money talk

Ah, what doors cash opens.

Money talks and baby when you’ve been bought
You pay attention every time money talks
Money talks, money talks

A few years later Bob Dylan sangĀ  that we “gotta serve somebody.” Ain’t that the truth. We all have a boss, and it all comes down to cash. You’re being paid it, you want it, you can’t say no. Stuff you’d never do in a million years, choices you abhor, you go down the path when someone is lording money over your head.

Money talks and there’s no doubt about it
Money talks and we can’t live without it

Try it. I did. You can’t function. All you can think about is cash. How you’re gonna get it, how you’re gonna evade the bills. You’re just one disaster away from crapping out. If you think you can live without money, you’ve never tried it.

What’s the point of living unless you’ve got money
I just couldn’t function without money
Money talks, money talks
Money talks, money talks

Wait a minute. Ray Davies is an artist. He’s supposed to be above money, he’s supposed to be doing it for the love. But in “Money Talks” he’s exposing all the hypocrisy. Joni Mitchell might play if you’re a friend of hers, otherwise she needs cold hard cash. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you’re on the road to success.

Show me an upright respected man
And I’ll have him licking my boots when I put money in his hand

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. If you wanna be rich you’ve got to throw your morals out the window. It’s what’s happening in D.C. right now, with the politicians groveling at the feet of the billionaires. Just try getting rid of the puny hedge fund tax rate…can’t be done when they donate, when they schlepp you around in their private jets.

It rots your heart, it gets to your soul
Before you know where you are you’re a slave to the green gold

That idealist who sat next to you at college… He or she is now wearing a multi-thousand dollar suit and working around the clock for nothing other than money, they’ve barely got time to spend it. They’re slaves to the cash.

Money talks and we’re the living proof

And there you have it.

There ain’t no limit to what money can do

Want change? Start with a big bank account.

Money talks you out of your self-respect

Would you really be friends with that jerk if he weren’t rich and throwing you perks? Being a court jester for people whose values you hate?

The more you crave it the cheaper you get

Cheap isn’t only about refusing to leave a tip, about hoarding cash, it’s a whole attitude, and if you’re cheap you can never get ahead in this world, you’re stuck where you are. Loosen the purse strings if you want progress. But you’ll end up a slave to the green gold, because the truth is we’re all just rats in the same cage.

Money buys you time and people listen

Would anybody be paying attention to Donald Trump if he were broke?

Money can buy a smile and make life worth living

Look at the nerdy hedge funders with the babealicious wives, who get smiles from everybody on the payroll. That’s the power of money. And we can criticize it all day long, but it’s better than living without it.

If you’re ugly money can improve you

Talk to the plastic surgeons. It’s amazing what cash can buy you.

I just couldn’t face the world without mazuma

The sooner you learn this lesson, the better off you are.

I’ve learned when someone says money doesn’t matter they need to be ignored, they don’t understand how the game is played, even worse, they don’t understand people. Sure, some people will stand up to money now and again, but that’s just until those with cash find their weak point, or these same people go broke.

The truth is money talks. Maybe silently. Maybe impliedly. But it’s more vocal and more important than most of the drivel you hear every day, that you see on reality TV and even hear on the news.

Hell, there’s not an anchor who won’t jump ship for a check.

And networks protect their advertisers.

And if people let go HBO heads roll.

Money makes the world go-round.

And you probably won’t learn this at school.

And too often you’ll hear that money is dirty.

But if you want power, if you want to get ahead…follow the dollar.

Eventually Ray Davies did. Clive Davis got him to give up the album-length concepts, and go back to cutting individual songs. Clive did this by paying him. And the end result was success, suddenly the Kinks were playing arenas.

So even Ray Davies is a slave to the green gold. But in this one song he points out the truth of society better than anybody else.

That’s the job of an artist.

To pursue truth.

But only if someone is paying you.

Only if you’re getting rich.

Money talks, money talks

Rhinofy-Money Talks

Beau Willimon Responds

Re: Narcos

Hey Bob,

Great post. It’s truly an exciting time for television. Always appreciate when you give HOC a shout-out. Loved how you traced back the last 30 years of TV to where this current era began. And you’re right – “Sopranos” was a game-changer. But to give credit where credit is due, Tom Fontana’s “Oz” really got the ball rolling. It was the first one-hour drama that HBO ever produced.

Tom is a friend and mentor of mine, so I have to admit some bias, but I think it’s fair to objectively state that “Oz” – which aired two years before “Sopranos” in 1997 – paved the way for the “Sopranos” and everything to follow. Tom was a big part of the revolution-before-the-revolution – working on shows like “St. Elsewhere” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” – complex, sophisticated network shows that created an appetite for the premium cables dramas that succeeded them. “Oz” showed what was possible. HBO basically said to Tom: “Here’s the resources, make something interesting.” And he did. And television changed as a result.

Yes, “Sopranos” took it all mainstream. Its impact is gargantuan. But let’s not forget David Simon’s “The Wire” either, arguably the best television show in the last half century. Tom Fontana was a mentor to Simon. In Simon’s own words from this Salon interview: (http://www.salon.com/2011/07/04/treme_season_2_david_simon_interview/)

“(“Homicide: Life on the Street” writer-producer) Tom Fontana took me on when I was looking at television as kind of a lark, as something I might do for a couple of years for money as I finished my second book. I had no intention of making a home in that medium. It was years before I looked up and realized that I had. Tom was incredibly gracious and open about sharing everything he knew about how to make television shows.”

“The Wire” may not have had the viewership of “The Sopranos” when it first aired, but its reputation and impact continues to grow. It’s sort of like the Velvet Underground of 21st Century TV – only a few thousand people saw it when it first aired, but they all started TV shows. Its influence on the mainstream can’t be denied. Tom Fontana and David Simon’s contribution to everything all of us are watching is profound and indelible.

All my best,
Beau Willimon

Narcos

Are you watching this??

Somehow the TV industry has leveraged the power of the internet to hit a new high in quality. It’s as if after Napster we had the Beatles and the Stones, with Yes and Genesis to follow.

That’s right, forget the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That’s long after the fact. If you lived in the late sixties and early seventies you were exposed to a cornucopia of experimentation, musicians owned the world and we were whipsawed and whiplashed and we liked it. We couldn’t figure out how they came up with this stuff, only that we needed more.

And the whole world was watching.

The whole world is now watching TV.

So Reed Hastings harnesses the power of the internet to create Netflix. And unlike the music industry, he moves one step ahead of his customers, he goes to streaming before the public even knows it wants it. Hastings sees broadband adoption and licenses content and even the content providers have no idea what’s going on, they’re just happy he’s paying them now that the DVD is cratering.

And then Jeff Bezos moves in. Knowing that if you don’t crash the party right away, you can’t get in later.

Have you watched “Transparent”? Starts off slowly, and then is a weird mish-mash of sitcom and “Seinfeld,” mirroring the American family to the point you want to tell everybody about it.

But the granddaddy was “House of Cards.”

And the reason “House of Cards” was so good was because of Kevin Spacey and Beau Willimon and Netflix’s refusal to meddle. It’s as if Mo Ostin was cloned to run TV, knowing that art is best when you let the creatives run free. You see artists want to pierce the sky and leave their mark, and once unrestrained they’ll surprise you.

Oh, they’ll fail too.

But when they succeed you can only marvel.

Can you say “Sopranos”?

That’s where it all began. When suddenly HBO was not only better than network, but better than movies. Anybody with a brain now wanted to stay home as opposed to go out.

Now we’re enthralled by the flat screen.

But HBO is no longer alone. If you’ve got the bona fides, the track record, it’s a bidding war out there, multiple outlets want to let you make your dream product. And your dream product could be…ANYTHING!

Before you watch “Narcos,” pull up Netflix’s show “Chef’s Table,” the very first one, about Massimo Bottura. I need to do a whole piece about it, it’s so riveting. The kind of documentary that used to run in the theatre, before every adult abandoned them.

And loving that so much I pulled up “Narcos”…

WHEW!

How many people are going to become gangsters after watching this series? Yup, those with smarts but no education, who refuse to be held down by society. Like those who revolutionized the music business.

Rules didn’t apply to them. Your heroes not only made it up as they went along, they didn’t take no for an answer. And there’s as much illegality in the history of the music business as there is in “Narcos,” with as much sex and drugs and nearly as much money. But music is legal and cocaine is not.

Don’t believe the press release. You’ve got to be in the room to know what’s going on. And when you are, the stories will make your hair stand on end.

But that music business book will never be written.

But the story of the Medellin Cartel is public.

Yet despite there being so many books, we live in a visual society. And when you watch “Narcos”…

Some of the dialogue is cheesy. But the story and the lessons…they get you thinking.

Suddenly you understand Miami, how the modern city was built upon a sea of coke. And having been to Bogota, getting to know some residents, I learned that the Florida metropolis is nearly a suburb. People buy houses, they live there…

Colombia. Most are clueless and those who know are too scared to go.

But I did. And it was the most exciting place I’ve been to in years.

Everybody had a relative who’d been assassinated. I was driven around in a bulletproof car. It’s safe, but it’s not. And the economy is limited, the currency is challenged, to the point where it’s all about lifestyle.

That’s right, in America you work all day to get ahead.

In Colombia, you’re living your life right away, talking, partying and…

Out of this mix comes people like Pablo Escobar.

Sure, he made it in drugs. But he could have succeeded in real life, in a more regulated country, where it wasn’t a free-for-all. Because he knows when to hold ’em and he knows when to fold ’em.

That’s what they don’t tell you about the winners, that they’re charismatic, that they don’t extract every last ounce, that they’re fun to hang with.

And they’re ruthless.

Most people never figure out how the world works. They’re drones in society who think they are free but are far from it.

But if you’re curious and you want a bit more, you peel back the curtain, you get to know a few people, you put the pieces together, and you realize…

There are two Americas. The one they tell you about, and then the real one, the true underbelly of this country.

And if you watch “House of Cards,” you’ll learn more lessons than in a year of college.

And if you watch “Narcos,” you’ll suddenly become aware of the possibilities. Of not only career and wealth, but life. We’re so inured to the way it is, our creature comforts, our safety, that we’re rarely alive. See the images from the streets of Colombia in “Narcos” and your heart will start to beat, you’ll see that everything is up for grabs, and the truth is the sands are constantly shifting, you feel safe, but you’re not.

But not everybody wants to be part of the action. Many are observers.

Well, it’s never been a better time to watch. Because those in the visual industries are testing limits. Forget the talentless YouTube stars. They’re not where the action is. Look to scripted series. Look to what’s on pay outlets, where there are no commercials but quality product. There you will find insight, stimulation and knowledge.

Want to get everybody to pay for streaming music services?

Create content as good as Netflix’s, cutting edge stuff you can’t live without. That which you did not think you needed, but now hold dear.

It’s an amazing time to be alive.

The VMAs

I asked a powerful music PR man why the press never went negative on Taylor Swift.

He said it was about access. As long as she was available, doing interviews, feeding the press stories, coverage would be positive. It’s when you clam up that the media goes wild on you.

Which kind of explains why Kanye West is getting a pass.

Not completely. But here we have an egomaniac with little national traction, when it comes to music, being given a faux award and then rambling on for ten minutes nearly incoherently, sticking it to the man for giving him this award, any award at all. I’d say it’s hypocritical, but what fascinates me is the press is not full of stories about him being a blowhard. Why?

Because everybody in America is trying to get rich and the young are impressionable and if we can just focus on the antics of the young ‘uns we can get ahead.

Meanwhile, ratings for the show go down and one wonders what can be done next, live executions? George Carlin suggested that a while back, that ratings would be killer, but in our short attention span theatre, where everything is plowed under and history is irrelevant, no one seems to know, or get the joke.

Not that you can have a sense of humor these days. Because someone might be offended.

And the way you make hay on the VMAs is to offend. But that concept is so long in the tooth that we laugh when the oldsters get their knickers in a twist, because we know it’s just about attention.

Attention…it’s hard to get in the internet era.

You could make a record, but even that has a hard time triumphing. Happens every once in a while, with “Blurred Lines,” “Royals” and “Uptown Funk,” but what the industry thinks is important most of America does not so the way to get ahead is to be featured on this show, which resembles nothing so much as Halloween. That’s right, you put on a costume and have a night out and then you forget about the whole enterprise until twelve months hence.

The reason the VMAs are irrelevant is because the station no longer airs videos. I’m not saying they should, I’m just saying that in the heyday of the channel what was hyped on the night was exposed thereafter ad infinitum on the channel, and we were all paying attention. It’s a paradigm Beats 1 is trying to resurrect, by banging Halsey. Will it work?

That’s not the issue. We know there are anomalies. But the truth is we all don’t pay attention to anything other than the Super Bowl, which is why an appearance there is so meaningful and powerful. Prince resurrected his career, he can bloviate ignorantly about the internet but we all still care, because we saw him knock them dead at the game, whose contestants and score elude our memory.

That’s the power of music.

But we haven’t had “Little Red Corvette” in such a long time. A track that was indelible and so infectious that it didn’t matter who made it, what the video was like, we needed more.

So, if we were living in the old days, Miley’s manager would have brokered a deal wherein her new tunes would be featured on the outlet, ensuring they were hits. We’d all know them and we’d all talk about them. I give Ms. Cyrus props for dropping her LP right after the show, that’s how you do it, strike when the iron is hot, when the eyes are upon you, in a flash, but no one cares.

That’s the issue in America today.

It’s not that people have a short attention span, it’s just that they’re overwhelmed with product to the point they don’t care about much at all, percentage-wise, and those left out haven’t stopped bitching. Hell, it’s happening in television, read today’s “New York Times.”

But what the “Times” has that those appearing on the VMAs do not is a new paper, they’re in the public eye every day. Whereas you get your shot on the VMAs and if you don’t catch fire, you’re done.

So what have we learned?

If live shows were so important, a gathering of the tribes, ratings would soar, but they don’t. We’ve seen the trick, the antics, the train-wrecks, and it’s no longer new.

But if you’re not featured on one of these shows it’s even harder to get traction.

And everybody who puts money first plays by the rules. Developing acts that fit the paradigm are hyped this way to the point only the ignorant care.

So what’s next?

What I’ve been telling you all along, a whittling of the culture, a reduction of the offerings. Even fewer tracks are going to be hits. And you may not like what is selected, but popularity is everything in today’s culture.

And popularity can be manipulated, but victory truly occurs when the machine melds with quality such that we all care.

We can argue all day long whether “Blurred Lines” rips off Marvin Gaye, but we all agree it’s an infectious track.

As was Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” If only Kanye kut one that good.

But he’s so busy pursuing his power dream of ubiquity that he’s lost focus, he expects us to care, but most don’t.

But no one in the game will admit that.

What the internet has taught us is the consumer is king. It’s happened over and over again. The consumer gave us file-trading then streaming. Don’t blame Spotify, that’s long after the fact.

The consumer wants instant access. The consumer wants a low price.

And most consumers don’t want what the music industry is giving them. And rather than adjust, the players are just doubling-down. Becoming even more crass.

So, the VMAs are irrelevant unless you were on them. Most people didn’t watch them and didn’t care. If you say you hate the tracks, join the club. If you wonder what is going on, the media and powers-that-be believe youth drive the culture.

But we’ve learned the oldsters have the money.

And we all have smartphones.

And we all think we’re hip.

And the way you win is by appealing to everybody.

Don’t expect people to pay attention if you’re niche.

But if you’ve got a great voice, write melodic material with good changes, employ hooky choruses and a bridge, the world is your oyster.

Start there.

“Soul-Searching in TV Land Over the Challenges of a New Golden Age”