Rob Light On Bobby Brooks

Tomorrow is the 25th Anniversary of a tragic day. On that day, 25 years ago…a helicopter went down traveling from Alpine Valley to Chicago, post a legendary show that featured Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray. Stevie Ray Vaughan was on that helicopter, and therefore will be a big topic of conversation, radio tributes and the like.

There were three others on that helicopter, bodyguard Nigel Brown, tour manager Colin Smythe and legendary agent Bobby Brooks. My heart goes out to the loved ones of Nigel, Colin and Stevie. But I wanted August 27th to be more than an reminder of a sad day; for me it is really about Bobby.

There are few legacies in the music business…even the greatest of the great become footnotes as the generations pass…most label execs today don’t really know who Walter Yetnikoff, Mo Ostin, or Joe Smith were or what they accomplished, great managers like Dee Anthony, Peter Grant, David Krebs and Steve Leber are rarely discussed, groundbreaking promoters like Bill Graham, Cecil Corbett, Jack Boyle and Jules Belkin are not mentioned; and even Frank Barsalona, who invented the profession that is the modern day agent goes unknown to this generation. (Forgive me for all the names I could have and should have included).

Bobby was 34 when he died. By most measures, he was just starting in the business. Yet his memorial was so big it was held at the Universal Amphitheatre with over 3000 in attendance. How does such a young man have that much impact on an industry?

Bobby was special in a totally unique way…and I would be heartbroken if this anniversary passed without some acknowledgment and insight into this wonderful soul.

He grew up in New Jersey, found music in the late sixties, and went to St. John’s in the early seventies. He was the college concert chairman, and all he ever wanted to do was book bands. I met him at a college convention in 1976, was amazed at how quickly he made friends, how much he knew about the business and the music, and how badly he wanted to be a part of it. His passion was both inspiring and overwhelming. He LOVED music, especially live music…and he would go anywhere and everywhere to see it, and nothing would keep him from working in an industry that was his calling.

Out of college in 1977, Bobby went to the mailroom at ICM. He got out of the mailroom in a matter of weeks, and was made an agent in less than a year. In 1987, he was the fifth agent to join CAA’s music department…and was a critical component to CAA music’s early explosive growth.

You might be thinking, so what.

But Bobby was one of a kind. When you first met him, you thought, “Who is this nerdy guy, with the big horn-rimmed glasses?” Yet, he had a unique ability to befriend everyone…not just artists, managers, and executives…but every assistant, every security guard, every roadie, every person in a box office…he knew and remembered all of them, embraced them, made them laugh, interacted with them…and in turn every one of them would bend over backwards to help him and support him. He loved music, and so could talk about songs, songwriters, producers, and when and where records were recorded. And the artists loved him for that! His clients included, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins, America and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and so many more). All selling out arenas, and amphitheatres, and all benefiting from Bobby’s vision, and embrace of their talents.

He had a passion for the artist and the art, and knew how to express it in the most sincere way. He was never selling you; because he was always so enthusiastic that you felt like you were being let in on something great.

Bobby had a wickedly, devilish sense of humor, that would allow him to disarm any situation, unwinding the most complicated problem, while making you blush and laugh out loud. At the same time, he was kind and giving and always, always a loyal friend.

He brought a sense of joy, childish innocence and awe to his job…as he stood backstage at a show, he would comment on how he could not believe he was there, and that he would pay to have the job. Were he alive today, he would be running a major agency, have a client list that would be the envy of all, would be making everyone laugh (CEOs, young executives and parking attendants alike), and he would be at every concert, every festival, and every awards show in a bit of awe that he was in this business. Because despite the embrace and success, he was never quite sure he belonged.

The memorial at Universal was a who’s who of the music industry as well as countless people whom no one would recognize- because Bobby touched them all. Graham Nash and Jackson Browne sang, and tributes from the heart poured out from numerous speakers. It was one of the saddest days I will ever know, and yet it was a celebration of a man who touched so many lives with simple acts of kindness, recognition, follow-up, love and friendship. And therein lies what is so special and unique about Bobby, HE CARED!

There are so many great and funny stories to tell, I will leave it to others to share theirs.

I don’t expect the newer generations to care much about the person (though I wish they would, history is so important). But, it is my hope it that my dear friend, Bobby Brooks, will remind people that reveling in what you do, embracing all those around you, and loving the art and the artist, can make for a very special life. A life we honor today, 25 years after it was taken too soon.

I miss you my friend!

Tech Specs

There are few things as gratifying in this crazy mixed-up world than navigating the digital morass and making things work.

Greetings from Colorado, where I’ve been sick as a dog.

Antibiotics, do you take them or not? I wish all the people agitating against GMOs and vaccines would refuse to use antibiotics, not because I want them to be sick, but because I want to eliminate immunity to their effects. That’s what I find fascinating about the firebrands against modern life, they’re quick to use its benefits when they suit them. They’re against stem cell research until it’s going to cure their mother’s cancer, never mind their own. And these same upper class Westsiders who refuse to vaccinate their children don’t think twice about employing modern medicine at the hint of a sniffle. So if I finally decide to take a drug, it won’t work!

Not that I started out on them.

You see I waited a week. As my head spun and then became gripped in a vice and I could not sleep for all the coughing.

I resorted to web research. They said it’s usually a virus. I’m anxious about calling the doctor on the weekend. But then when I had that coughing fit where I felt my insides were turned inside out I saw no other option, I called the doc.

Who was loath to diagnose over the phone. Everybody’s worried about liability. But he did prescribe a Z-Pak.

Z-Pak? I don’t need no stinking Z-Pak, I need the big guns, Biaxin, Cipro, give me something nuclear that will kill everything in sight, I don’t want to wait another week to find out the heavy artillery is required.

Yes, this is how far we’ve come, where the overprescription and overuse of antibiotics has made it so they don’t work.

But mine seems to be.

Which is astounding, now I feel dumb, I should have called earlier. But I can’t be that sick, I’m not entitled to be, until I die. I had visions of Jim Henson twirling in my brain.

Now I’m on my way back.

But being locked up in the condo due to my malaise, Felice wanted to know, DO WE GET NETFLIX?

Ah, what I hate about the technologically-challenged.

I hate that they stretch a non-HD signal to fit the whole screen. I like my people to look normal as opposed to something you’d view through a fisheye lens.

And I hate those all-in-one remote controls. Because they too are a bear to figure out and they eliminate all the utility a power user like me needs. So, either leave out utility in the first place, just allow televisions to go off and on and change channel, or allow me to go behind the scenes and extract the object of my desire.

So, what you’ve got is a bunch of sets with wide pictures and no internet connection. Do I go in deep, do I risk the wrath of the hoi polloi?

OF COURSE!

First I set the picture to a normal width.

And then I try to figure out internet access.

Both TVs are too old, they’ve got no apps.

How about the receiver? Or the Blu-ray player?

DON’T TOUCH THE REMOTE CONTROL! USE THE ALL-IN-ONE ONLY!

Word had come down from on high, from those who’d gotten me into this pickle.

But I couldn’t even find the other remote controls. That’s right, the plethora of devices I needed to do my dirty work were hidden, so no one would mess up the system, it took me fifteen minutes to find them.

But alas, I did.

And I’m pushing buttons and finding out the receiver is too old.

But that Samsung Blu-ray player…it’s got APPS!

But how do you find them?

Samsung put in a chip so slow you could wait for Godot before the screen redraws. And then you’ve got the dreaded system upgrade, which I had to do twice.

And then you’ve got to download the apps. And use the arrow buttons to enter user name and password. But I got Netflix and Amazon working, voila!

But I couldn’t get HBO GO to go.

It’s a complicated procedure. You load the app and get a code. Then you’ve got to get on your laptop and enter it. Only you can’t, you keep getting an error message, saying that Time Warner is tied-up.

I’d like to tie up Time Warner. Dealing with the cable company is the new car buying, you spend hours and you still get screwed, everybody gets a different price. But since the cable providers are so worried about getting screwed by the internet, with the users going straight to the content makers, they put up hurdles that almost no one can jump.

But I love a challenge.

That’s right, I’ve got to tell Time Warner Cable I’m a subscriber before they’ll let me use the HBO I pay for on my distant TV.

But the error message keeps telling me to try again later, that the system is down.

But after three attempts over three hours I no longer believe this, I’ve got to go deeper, I turn to my trusted friend Google.

Where I find everybody’s been tearing their hair out about this for YEARS!

So I’m on the message boards, I’ve got multiple tabs open, and then I discover…

You’ve got to allow third party cookies.

First I thought it was a browser issue. But I stayed in Safari, allowed third party cookies, and I got HBO Go installed in Colorado…AND I FEEL LIKE A KING!

There’s no manual anymore. You can go to school and still not know how to do things. In the free economy there’s no instruction booklet, no help, and the end result is you’re either left out or you must dive in, go up the river in search of solutions.

Recent writing has told us the young ‘uns are not as smart as they appear, they cannot fix everything. But at least they know to push buttons, that you’re on your own. The young ‘uns are inured to the new economy, they realize it’s every man for himself, the oldsters are still waiting for someone to reach out and touch them, make it all good, but if you think that way you’re already on your way out.

We’re all digital miners today. We’re all pioneers in search of gold. Those on the cutting edge wreak havoc with institutions, never mind Ashley Madison, how about UCLA Medical Center, where my details were broached by a hacker? You see knowledge is power, and the knowledge of your digital devices unlocks all kinds of power, it’s like life is a video game and you have to keep going up higher levels.

You don’t want to get stuck at go, at the bottom, then you’re left out.

Like so many of my boomer brethren. They don’t know how to extract the power from their devices.

But I do, I’m up for the challenge. And when I succeed, when I make sense of the digital puzzle, I feel like a king.

In my own mind anyway, no one else is paying attention.

But I guess that’s how it is today, you’ve got to have self-satisfaction, it’s astounding anybody can even communicate, especially the oldsters, who have no idea what Kik or Snapchat are, never mind WeChat. As for the youngsters…they’re on overload.

So I look for satiation where I can find it.

And today I got it.

I’ll probably never watch more than an hour on the set, but I broke through, I chased the dragon down the rabbit hole and emerged victorious.

Take that digital industrial complex!

The Billboard Kerfuffle

“Callous Billboard survey asks: Who’s lying, Kesha or Dr. Luke?”

It’s the pursuit of clicks.

And I’d laugh if it wasn’t emblematic of our country at large.

Kind of like this Biden madness. The only person pointing out the fallacy in a Biden run is Nate Silver, who suddenly no longer has a platform of significance, so he’s being drowned out by the prognostications of those looking for clicks, doing so without any data input whatsoever. Forget Silver’s tweets, which are being sent into a no-man’s land from which they will never escape, but on his site, fivethirtyeight.com, they parse the data and show that no one entering the race this late has ever won the nomination:

Joe Biden Is Buying Time By Playing The Media

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Kind of like Lucian Grainge losing his job. Remember that one? A completely insane idea that was cooked up by someone looking to retaliate against Universal Music. But, once again, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Kind of like facts in general. There’s an interesting article in today’s “New York Times” how facts don’t matter, how people are just digging their heels in deeper, flaunting internet searches to boost their position

“The Widening World of Hand-Picked Truths”

It’s what we see everywhere, the disempowered use bogus science and the megaphone of the internet to spread a story that’s just not true. Can you say vaccinations? Then there’s everybody up in arms about GMOs. Label them all you want, but the truth is you’re consuming genetically modified items on a regular basis, it’s how companies compete with pests.

But they cannot stop you. From saying whatever you want. In your ignorance. That’s what “Hamilton” has so right, that you’ve got to be in the room to know what’s going on. But since that excludes nearly everybody, they go online anyway and spew their ignorance.

But the difference is the media is now on the bandwagon. The oldsters wondering how to make the transition to digital and the newbies trying to steal their thunder. And since we live in a world where money is everything, we’ve evolved into a lowest common denominator culture wherein you’ll say anything if it gets clicks.

Otherwise why have this “Billboard” survey.

Talk about a company caught flat-footed by the internet revolution. The outlet still can’t catch up, it still hasn’t figured out how to adequately measure today’s success. They’ve rolled up sales and streams into a concoction no one can understand, that is nearly meaningless, because they’re too afraid to piss off any vested interest.

But the truth is the moribund music industry has no cash to invest in advertising, so “Billboard” has gone mass market. But it doesn’t do this as well as Buzzfeed and the rest of the outlets who started on the internet. So we’ve got endless analysis which is equivalent to “this is what happened, I called the people involved, this is what they said” reported by nobodies who’ll write for someone else soon. Now, more than ever, we want trusted sources, and the writers for “Billboard” are not that.

It’s what we need in America at large. Leaders.

One could argue that Kanye West is one, or was one, before his campaign became about rich fashion houses keeping him down. Huh? Bernie Sanders knows you’ve got to make it about everyman, but Kanye keeps making it about himself. Is this the message we want to send, one of personal aggrievement and aggrandizement?

Which is what we’ve got. Everybody’s online establishing their brand, irrelevant if there’s any content behind it. Interested in himself, not anyone else. And the noise is deafening and the supposed paragons of excellence have punted.

The “Wall Street Journal” has become like its cousin Fox News. Remember when we used to get pissed about the bias of that outlet? Now everybody knows Fox News is Republican blather, not radically different from Rush Limbaugh’s spewings.

And “Billboard” has decided it’s not about facts, but eyeballs. And sure, audience is important, but you used to gain that with gravitas, credibility ruled.

But no one’s home at the outlet anyway. Did they even call a  lawyer before they started the shenanigans? Sure, the people they’re asking about are public figures, but falsehoods only reign unfettered when they’re not said with malicious aforethought. Who’s vetting the rumors spewed by respondents?

Or maybe you can consider it opinion.

But don’t we have too much of that already?

Let’s see what the courts have to say about Dr. Luke and Kesha.

The music business is self-correcting. Do a bad job and you lose your job.

As for “Billboard”…

Want a few hints?

Make a few stars. Have someone on your staff who we can believe in. Hell, even hire a few people who can run stats and interpret them.

Even better, redesign your site. It’s so poor it takes away from anything written.

And know that when the market is in turmoil, you succeed by going upscale, not downscale. You don’t get down into the pit, you rise above it.

But that’s impossible at “Billboard” today. Because there’s no one home. No one running the operation with any history and understanding of the music business. And the staff… Worthless wimps bloviating about what they don’t know uninterestingly.

So let this be a lesson. Fight back against the inanity. Refuse to let click-bait rule. Know that when this is all done, we’ll have a bunch of winners who extrude comprehension from chaos.

We’ll have a few hit records.

And a few rulers.

We want someone to believe in, who makes sense.

And right now, all we’ve got is Donald Trump. And that’s a start. He’s a beacon for the future. Standing up to Roger Ailes and Fox News. Not worrying about what the establishment thinks.

But Trump is a buffoon who can’t win.

But there are a bunch of winners out there. Let’s get behind them and weed out all the nonsense.

Like the kind you find in “Billboard.”

Penn Jillette On Here’s The Thing

Here’s The Thing – Penn Jillette’s Marathon Life in Magic

I’m curious. Everybody’s got a story and I want to hear it. I’ll posit your story is your life’s work, how can you convey your experiences such that a listener will get the gist of who you are, where you’re coming from, what you’re about.

Back before David Letterman turned late night into a comedy program, Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett interviewed people. They didn’t have to come prepared with a funny story, they just had to answer the questions, they just had to be real, they just had to be themselves.

And this is the underbelly of the podcast revolution. Human beings are long-winded, they’ve got a lot to say, and the truth is we want to hear it. How did you get here? Are you happy? What’s the truth behind that rumor? These questions are all answered in podcasts, and right now the man doing the best job as inquisitor is Alec Baldwin.

Who knew? Short-fused actor turns out to be an intellectual, who can banter with the best of them. That’s right, asking questions is not enough, you’ve got to parse the answers, know when to go deeper. And when you’ve got a guest who’s willing, the results are stunning.

I’m not a huge fan of magic, or juggling. But I love Penn & Teller. Because they know the whole thing is a ruse, that there is no magic, that there is no channeling. They’re a constant warning to raise your level of perception, to realize this world is full of hokum and once you become a victim, you’re hopeless. And Penn goes into this, when he found out Kreskin was faking it, he became completely disillusioned. But, if it’s presented on stage, if people go home knowing you didn’t saw that woman in half and you didn’t read anybody’s mind, he’s comfortable with that.

What is Penn’s career based on?

Juggling. Takes six years to be good. That’s why the teen phenoms come and go. There’s no there there, they’ve never done the work.

And after practicing, the work Penn Jillette did was street-performing.

But not like everybody else. He wore a three thousand dollar watch, a multi-thousand dollar suit. Because his goal was to get you to put a twenty in the hat, not a quarter. Penn defined his goals and knew how to get there. And knew if you were just like everybody else, you had no chance.

What else did Penn possess?

An incredible line of b.s. That’s how you succeed in the world. Through conversation. You have to know how to open the door and then put your foot in it and keep it open, a skill most don’t have, never mind work on. “Pay attention to my stuff!” is not banter, and it doesn’t work. Penn got the drama critic of the “Philadelphia Inquirer” to come to his magic show by not only going to see him, but demonstrating his wares live, to the point the critic was intrigued. Professionals are all jaded, they’re suckers for something new and good, and only that.

And, Penn was willing to stand up for himself. That’s the difference between baby boomers and millennials. Question authority, speak truth to power, the boomers were taught by their heroes, to let their freak flags fly and be themselves. Whereas millennials are all about fitting in. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t work in a cubicle farm, busy praising everybody else’s work and eating lunch together and being nice. Winners are unique loners, like Penn. He can only be himself. And this is what draws people to him. He told the “Inquirer” critic his review was crap, that he misunderstood the show. The “Inquirer” critic then asked Penn for an interview and the right to re-review the show.

Not that every authority figure is amenable. But life is long and hard, and if you’re busy sucking up you might make it to the top of the corporation, but you’ll never make it to the top of the art heap.

At least not before. In today’s me-too world, that’s what people expect. And then “Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton” blow everybody away and clean up all the money.

As for music… If you’ve read an interesting interview with one of today’s stars you probably think the Top Ten is fantastic. But you can’t even say that, you’re castigated for being a naysayer if you decry what’s popular and laugh at what’s unpopular, like jazz and classical, whose proponents believe they got screwed instead of seeing times changed and to win today…you’ve got to be Dudamel, a man of the people who’s a great performer with his own mind.

We’re looking for individuals. Who are probably gonna make it long after they started. Overnight success is about old men propping you up, you’re just a figurehead.

But everybody says not to take a risk, to make it bite-sized, to make it palatable.

But that’s not what they do in podcasts.