Long Road Out Of Eden

Doing my back exercises before packing for a trip last night I fired up the title track of the Eagles’ new album. And realized it was no longer 1976, only fans had heard it. Don Henley has gone from being a ubiquitous god, a rock star we follow the steps of, to just another niche player. Today everybody is a niche player.

You might point to the Top Forty wonders, like Rihanna. Talk about their ubiquity. But they’re like comets, momentary flashes in the sky. Here, then gone. The stars remain. An informed gazer might be able to pick out the Big Dipper or the North Star, but to most people it’s an endless morass. If you live outside of an urban, smog-filled area and can see the stars at all.

In today’s "Los Angeles Times", Ann Powers debates the role of the critic. I’d say the critic is dead. But maybe the role is being redefined. Instead of being anointed by a publisher, by Jann Wenner or the head of the arts department at a daily newspaper, the public is anointing trusted sources. And these sources are solely about the music, not subject to the maelstrom of change affecting those who are writing for a living, for people who don’t care.

I’m not going to say no one reads the newspaper. But the people the critics are trying to influence are not reading, certainly not the masses. Music is something you hear, why would you want to read about it and then fire up your computer to hear it when you can hear it instantly astride/inside the music blog. As for clips on newspaper sites, so worried about rights and copyright infringement, asking for permission, that’s the last place people look. If they want thirty second snippets, they can go to iTunes, if they want the whole track they can go to MySpace and YouTube.

There’s been an incredible democratization of the music world. Mainstream critics mean less than your buddy. Just like word of mouth is more important than movie reviews. The buzz rules. And the buzz rules in music. No amount of hype can bring Lenny Kravitz back from the dead. No number of fashion shoots, explanatory stories. He stopped making great music and everybody online knows it. Used to be we had no choice, we were subjected to his visage on TV. But we don’t go to television for music anymore.

If you’re looking for a center, if you’re looking for a hub from which the spokes of the wheel emanate, your concept of the cultural landscape is antiquated, completely out of date. Sure, "American Idol" and "Dancing With The Stars" might top the ratings, but they pull a fraction of the viewers of what pre-cable network shows once did.

Can Don Henley and the Eagles grow their footprint? Expose their new material?

Well, they released a single which got some country and AC airplay. But it wasn’t "Take It Easy", it didn’t generate any cultural heat. After that… Billy Joel had some kid cut his tune. No one cared. Because it’s not about ageism, no matter what Elton John thinks. You can follow Gene Simmons to reality TV, but all you sacrifice is your integrity, not that Gene ever had any. In other words you can set yourself aflame and a certain number of people look, but in a few hours there will be a new headline on TMZ or PerezHilton, you’ll be moved down the page, into obscurity.

But TMZ and PerezHilton do their jobs better than "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood". Unfettered, with a new code of ethics, not restrained by convention, they’re delivering the dirt the people want, instantly. New acts and new writers will capture the public’s eyes and ears. Ones more in tune with the audience, reporting to the ultimate customer, not their boss.

Is the foregoing depressing? Absolutely. We want rallying points. We want subjects of discussion. And if there’s a new center, it’s not even on the horizon, it’s far off in the distance. But one thing we know, the custodians of the old power are not going quietly into the night. They employ a disinformation campaign equivalent to that of a third world dictator. The truth is Ann Powers no longer matters. Nor do Jon Pareles and Kelefa Sanneh. They don’t drive the culture, they don’t make hit records, they’re sideshows. Pitchforkmedia has more power. And, if you’re looking for power, it’s more difficult than ever. For not only is it difficult to achieve critical mass, when you do, the warts on your ambition come to the surface, like with Mark Zuckerberg, you’re revealed to be the arrogant, money-grubbing, power-hungry person you truly are.

I’m thankful for the audience I’ve got. I wonder if I’ve hit a wall. But at least the people reading are truly interested. And that’s what you need today, dedicated fans, not casual readers of general interest publications.

And I’m going to use my pulpit to have you check out "Long Road Out Of Eden", as a social experience if nothing else. It’s got nothing to do with whether you love or hate the Eagles, never mind Don Henley. It’s about going into the time capsule and experiencing what the 1970s were like, when we lived for the radio, when we spun vinyl records in darkened rooms, when music wasn’t shaped for the radio, but the listener.

I’ll give you a YouTube link. It’s not the complete song, but most of it. If I searched harder online, I’m sure I could find the whole ten minute track. You can find everything online. Locking up the music is fruitless. And what’s the point? Your main threshold, your big challenge is getting people to listen. For, if they listen they might become fans. How you monetize this relationship? I’ll leave that to you.

But know that I’m not getting paid here. I’m even going to endure hate mail. Just for the chance to put you in the same mood I’m in, when I listen to this track. How I’m reminded of who I used to be, how my whole life is laid out in relief. That’s the goal, not to provide a fleeting soundtrack for fucking, but to deliver life enhancement, that sticks. That’s what the Raconteurs are trying to do. And the usual suspect filters are not interested in this process. They need to be first, their own ego is involved. The music is a tool. But the music, when done right, is life itself.

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