So Howard Stern is sitting at home during Christmas vacation and he gets a call saying Paul is on the line. It’s weird that the head of NBC alternative programming responsible for "America’s Got Talent" would ring him, there’s no business pending, but it’s nice so Howard starts waxing rhapsodic, talking about the publicity, thanking Paul for getting him on the show, that it wouldn’t have happened without his efforts, but as the call proceeds, it’s getting kind of weird.
And that’s when Howard realizes. It’s not Paul Telegdy, but PAUL McCARTNEY!
Who’d think that Paul McCartney would call you on the phone? You’re sitting there in your bedroom at age ten, listening to "Meet The Beatles", and you fast forward and Paul is looking for you? Never crossed Howard’s mind.
Turns out McCartney wanted to thank Stern, for saying good stuff about "Oo You", which I love too, that initial solo album is a killer, it was unjustly pooh-poohed because it coincided with the breakup of the Beatles.
And thinking about it a few days later, how cool the call was, Howard decided to call his number one fan, Maryanne From Brooklyn, who phones in every day, but never asks for anything.
But the number he gets from his producer is bad and while he’s sitting there waiting for a good one, his wife says he should drunk dial his fans, to go on Twitter, ask for numbers and make calls.
This he did.
I caught it because of the sudden appearance of endless Stern entries in Tweetdeck. Then there was national publicity. And speaking about it on his radio show, Howard said no one had done it before, because no one was innovative, no one had an original thought.
Think about it. What’s the biggest distribution story of the twenty first century? Radiohead’s "In Rainbows". Just a post online and the word spread. No publicist was involved. It was so cool that now the band is more famous for this stunt than they are for "OK Computer".
But the rest of the acts? They’re just hiring the producer du jour and making records that sound like everybody else’s.
Remember the old days? When you’d schlepp your albums to your friend’s house, insisting that he just had to hear THIS? I’ll never forget listening to "Flower Punk" on "We’re Only In It For The Money", where two tales are being told at the end of the track in the respective channels… How did Zappa come up with this shit?
That’s what we were always thinking. Yes, which is still not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame… When "Roundabout" hit the airwaves, it was unique. Remember when Tull did "Thick As A Brick"? A whole album, one song? The artists were set free! If there was a man, they didn’t listen to him.
It’s so different from today. Where everybody in music thinks about money first and creativity second. That’s reversed.
Great art is always about conception. That’s what built Jackson Pollock’s career. Anybody could drip paint on a canvas, but he was the only one to think of it!
Not every idea is good. But you’re better off coming up with a good one than endlessly posting on Facebook.
Then again, one advantage Howard Stern has is he’s on the radio every day (even if it’s repeats!) He’s in your mind, he can fight back if he’s abused. That’s a modern celebrity. The days of wandering down from your castle every once in a while to make a pronouncement, keeping the public, your fans, at bay, are done. You’ve got to get down in the pit!
Stardom is completely different today. Anyone can be famous. Just ask Snooki or Kim Kardashian. But a real star has substance. And it’s this innovation, this mental capacity to put us through the bends, that elicits reverence.
You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be slick, you just have to get us looking at the world in a different way.