Too Much Of Everything

Now, too much of nothing
Can make a man feel ill at ease

“Too Much Of Nothing”
Bob Dylan

But it’s nothing compared to too much of everything.

I remember going to college where there was one snowy television station, one lame college radio outlet and one movie theatre, never mind no internet or cell phones. You had to talk to people for your entertainment.

I also remember being bored in high school. With the same damn records to play.

Now I’m so busy catching up that I constantly feel left behind and to employ the old cliche I frequently want to stop the world and get off. I used to be a connoisseur, I used to be comprehensive, that’s nearly impossible in today’s overloaded word.

TOO MUCH:

NEWS

Used to be you could watch the 7 o’clock network report and believe you knew what was going on. Back before TV news switched to cable in the eighties and then mutated into opposing views. Yes, you need to watch MSNBC and Fox to get a fix on our country. But each do little reporting, so you’ve got to go to the papers. The “New York Times” has boots on the ground, but it still doesn’t cover certain business stories, so you need the “Wall Street Journal.” Meanwhile, online you can check out the news of the world, never mind smaller outlets and opinions, because we’ve learned in the internet era that the big boys are last and they often miss things, stories start in the bulrushes. And we’re confronted with news everywhere we go, whenever we launch our browser, whenever we pick up our phone, and at first it’s thrilling, then it becomes overwhelming, and you think you know what’s going on but the truth is you might know less. And did I used to be concerned if the head of Pimco jumped ship?

SOCIAL MEDIA

Some people are building shrines to themselves on Facebook, othersĀ  have six figures of tweets despite having followers in the triple digits, or the low fours. What makes them keep tweeting? They want acknowledgement. But for all the people posting, reading is a full time job. The news media above keeps telling us social media is where it’s at, but who’s got the time to read everybody’s feed?

RESTAURANTS

They’re reviewed everywhere. And you can check them out in Zagat and Yelp, but our country’s financial condition is teetering, most can’t afford to eat out every night, and by time you check out a coupe of eateries the trends have changed and you’ve got to be a four hundred pound foodie to get a fix on the scene.

Then there are the food trucks, which don’t even stay in the same place!

MUSIC

Radio played the best of everything, the deejay was trustworthy. Now radio has very narrow verticals and there are so many options, like Pandora and Sirius XM and iTunes Radio and… And you listen to streams that are completely different from what others listen to, so you don’t feel integrated into society.

Meanwhile, you’re inundated with new album releases. Here’s Robert Plant! Here’s Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett! Here’s someone you’ve never heard of! And they’ve all got albums in the neighborhood of an hour long and your time is eaten up trying to catch up with everything else, so in most cases you don’t even bother. You want music to be bite-sized, maybe you’ve got time for an EP, but that would require the artist to believe he’s not that important, not deserving of all your time, and they feel otherwise. Just like the people posting on Facebook, since they’ve got the tools, they want to use them, and then tell everybody to pay attention. And if you’re making you’ve got little time to listen, so you end up behind the curve and without influences, or you’re so busy social networking your music ain’t great.

E-MAIL

Maybe it’s important. But oftentimes it’s the ad from the corporation you interacted with once, spamming away. And then there’s the dreaded cc. And it’s an endless waterfall of information, and your job is to extract nuggets. And everybody tells you not to take it all too seriously, to have digital-free days, but they also tell you to pay attention and apply yourself and you’re left wondering which is it?

I could say I wish I was a millennial, so I could surf all this info. But I’ve learned from millennials they’re overwhelmed too. Then again, if information overload was all I knew, it would be easier to cope with.

And the truth is just like with income inequality, we’re shifting to a world of haves and have-nots, with those at the top of the pyramid getting all the attention, but this just causes those left out to yell and kick louder, demanding our attention.

And there seems to be no center. We’ve got government on the loose, beholden to the fat cats who think since they’re rich they know. And people don’t vote because they can’t grasp the issues and there are too many elections, never mind the underlying disillusionment. And really, you want me to get into my car and battle traffic to pull some levers?

I DON’T HAVE TIME!

P.S. Never mind too many TV shows and too much music at our fingertips and too many apps and…

Thom Yorke’s BitTorrent Album

The enemy is obscurity.

Atoms For Peace didn’t do so well the second time around, what makes Thom Yorke think people are waiting for his new solo album, never mind interested in paying for it?

There seems to be a canard amongst the creative class that the world is against them, that the digerati/techies want to rip them off and the labels want them to be beholden and their only option is to jet us all back to 1995.

But that is patently untrue.

Are you really gonna castigate Spotify and the rest of the streaming services when they pay 70% to rights holders, exactly like the now vaunted iTunes?

Distribution has been flattened. Everything’s available. And the last thing you want to do is put a wall around your content, prohibiting people checking it out on a whim, for free, especially when radio play is a nonstarter, especially when the younger generation knows not to bitch and is all about racking up YouTube plays, which pay quite handsomely when they’re in the triple digit millions, which is the definition of a hit today.

That’s right, Thom Yorke’s album probably won’t contain a hit.

Now don’t get your knickers up in a bunch. If you like Radiohead and its elements, if you’re listening, if Thom’s happy, I’ve got no problem. But Thom can’t keep bitching as fewer and fewer people listen to his music and he looks more like a crybaby Luddite than a cutting edge savant.

No one’s got any time anymore. But if you create something great, that people talk about, that they spread, you can make beaucoup coin today.

But you’ve got to admit the game is different. It’s not so much that you’ve got to throw away recording revenue as you have to see that there are many more avenues to getting paid than there have ever been before. And they’re all based upon the music, so why would you lock up the music behind a glass case? Do they do this at the Apple Store? Of course not, they keep the merchandise out in the open, where you can touch it and feel it and use it, decide if you really want it. And you don’t know until you do. I thought I wanted an iPhone 6 Plus until I tried it out and then decided it was too big. If I’d bought it without touching it first, I’d have been pissed. The same way I have been for eons upon paying my hard-earned cash for albums that were crap that I only played once, even though I loved what came before.

The paradigm has shifted. It’s about plays as opposed to buys. Create something great and you will be paid forever, as people listen down the ages. And of course streaming payments will go up, and to fight this is to be the lone Dutch boy with your finger in the dike, it’s futile.

Your job as a musician is to create great art, not to change the business model. Because the truth is the business model has been changed not by the techies or the labels but the consumer. Sure, they were enabled by the techies, but it turns out the public doesn’t want to pay a lot for an album, oftentimes they don’t want the album at all. If you were a car company and it turned out no one wanted a truck-based SUV would you keep making them and yelling at the public?

Of course not. You’d shift production. In this case, to car-based SUVs.

But I don’t need to push the analogy. The distribution problem has been solved in the music business. Streaming won. To fight this is to be the Grateful Dead back in the seventies, starting their own label not understanding that distribution is key, that it would hamstring them, that getting their albums into all stores was a chore, getting paid almost an impossibility.

But Thom Yorke needs to be right, having railed against streaming in the past.

For this I do not admire him. For a man who can’t change his opinion is a one note blowhard. That’s what life is about, changing your mind, listening to the data and continuing to evaluate, otherwise you’re a politician, and check the ratings of Congresspeople, you don’t want to be them.

And artists have always been about speaking truth to power.

And the power in this case is not Spotify or Capitol or any of the usual suspects, but the public. And the way you speak truth to the public is through your art, your songs, not the penumbra, not your political views or your distribution views or anything that doesn’t hit them squarely in the ears. You lead with your music.

But if people can’t hear it, you’re lost.

“Thom Yorke Releases New Album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes Via BitTorrent”

Rhinofy-Palookaville Primer

You’re not gonna listen to this record. But it’s the best Todd Rundgren album you’ve never heard.

That’s the scourge of the Internet, of the modern era, we’ve got so much information at our fingertips that we don’t bother to partake, hell, some people forward links without listening or reading what they’re sending on!

So I’m wary you won’t listen to “Palookaville.” But I love it. And if you remember Todd’s run, from that initial LP all the way through let’s say “Todd,” when “Palookaville” plays you’ll smile.

Not that it’s imitative. It’s just that it’s a blend of pop and rock and hooks that seem to be dripping off Burtnik’s fingers.

Yes, Glen Burtnik. Who was in “Beatlemania” with Marshall Crenshaw and put out a couple of solo albums on A&M and ultimately joined Styx and a reunited ELO, writing a few hits that keep his bank account flowing along the way, like Patty Smyth and Don Henley’s “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.”

You see I got a call to go to dinner with him, and Dave Frey and Jim Lewi, who’d just formed a new record company with Hollywood Records, the Disney entity. Jim sent the CD, to listen to before eating.

And I didn’t bother to play it until I got in the car to drive across town. And from the initial notes I was enthralled. And this is so rare, everything everybody gives you is junk and you get so disillusioned and you’ve got to hold your tongue and…

I couldn’t stop telling Glen how much I liked it.

But Dave and Jim didn’t pick it up. It sank like a stone. Burtnik changed directions, he stopped releasing music. And…

I wonder if that’s the life experience for most of us. We dig down deep, burrow in our hole, and deliver what thrills us and we believe is our best work and then the reaction is…nothing.

It’s hard to keep soldiering on. But the truth is if you’re good, you’ve got fans who believe. It may not be enough, but just because you don’t break through that does not mean you should change direction. Oftentimes it takes a while for the marketplace to catch up with you.

LEARNING TO CRAWL

It starts off with nonsense and then becomes so hooky in fifteen seconds you immediately start to smile.

I wish everybody spamming me with YouTube clips and social media metrics would listen to this first. Burtnik may not sound like Steve Perry, but he can most certainly sing, but even more he can write, and play! The changes, the lyrics…and this is not even the best thing on the album!

But it starts off the experience with sunniness, it’s like someone opening a door, and you want to go inside.

SPIRIT OF A BOY, WISDOM OF A MAN

This ended up being covered by country artists twice, Mark Collie and Randy Travis, the latter had a number two hit with it.

That’s the power of a song, it can work in multiple genres.

“Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man,” sounds nothing like country in this iteration, it’s quiet like something off the initial McCartney solo album, and it’s got an exquisite break, it’s damn good.

LITTLE LUCY’S BLUES

A rocker. One of Burtnik’s favorites, what he saw as a single. Reminds me of nothing so much as the full out numbers on Rundgren’s 1974 double LP “Todd.” It’s the counterbalance to the intimacy of “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man.” Used to be acts didn’t live solely in narrow categories, they could jump around the spectrum.

MY CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

One of my favorites on “Palookaville.” It’s so honest, so sincere, it’s what had us transfixed in front of our record players. You could sing along, but even more you wanted to jump inside the speaker and hang with the singer, you felt he understood you.

WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY

A White Album moment. Yup, Burtnik’s cast aside the electric axe and has sat down on his stool and is picking his acoustic and singing a heartfelt missive from deep on the inside. Back before the days of bad voice shoegazers white suburban boys loved this sound, they could own their wimpy, intimate side. As did girls. How could something this good go by unnoticed?

DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR LOVE

Listen to that guitar sound!

Talk about being energized. This track will have you jumping from your seat eager to enter the action, it’s inspiring, not only in message, but song. Some tracks are just a beat ahead of you, you want to chase them and hang on, to get where they’re going.

ENTRANCE TO THE CLUB

Only 33 seconds long, “Palookaville” is filled with this interstitial material. But unlike the brief numbers that come before, “Entrance to the Club” does not stand alone, it’s of a piece, the introduction to the album’s piece-de-resistance, “The Liars Club.”

THE LIARS CLUB

A tour-de-force. Akin to Todd’s “Just One Victory” at the end of “A Wizard/A True Star.”

It’s got movements and breaks, it’s a roller coaster that’s thrilling but not scary. You’ll listen to this number and it will become your new favorite, you’ll spin it a few times and then tell your best friends about it, you won’t be able to help yourself.

Back when pop did not mean dumb, when rock could be catchy, when the best music was anthemic without being lowest common denominator.

And the women are beautiful
With hearts of pure gold
Their bodies are perfect
And the men are made of steel
The fixtures are shiny, groomed and manicured
And everybody comes to say exactly how they feel

If only it were that way. But the sadness of true life is nowhere in the tone of this track. It’s almost difficult to comprehend the underlying message…if there’s music this irresistible in the world, there is only truth.

Meet me tonight at the liars club
A room full of kindness, more than enough
Everyone’s faithful, everyone’s loved
Meet me tonight at the liars club

Don’t worry about putting on your look, just get in your car and go. Come and join me. Where music changes not only your mood, but your life. Where artists heard the Beatles and couldn’t help but play and tell their stories, when genres were made to be crossed, when rules were made to be broken, when if you could write, play and sing, you were entitled to our attention.

I rarely hear from Burtnik anymore. I just saw online he’s going out with ELO II. I’ve got no idea if he’s financially struggling or smiling all the while.

All I do know is it’s records like this that are the bedrock of my life. That make me feel like life is worth living.

And there’s a good chance you’ll feel that way too, so LISTEN!

Rhinofy-Palookaville Primer

Ignorance

1. If you’ve got a contract and you’re using an aged handset, the joke’s on you.

Built into every cellphone contract is payment for the device. Just like there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as a free cellphone. Get a new one every two years. And now, if you’re upgrading to a new iPhone, you can get $200 credit for anything back to a 4, so don’t delay. And don’t be holier-than-thou telling us you don’t need one. You do need LTE. And you do need to wake up and realize you’re paying for a new phone every two years whether you’re getting one or not.

2. Record contracts are bad because of leverage.

That’s the American way, you bargain for a result. Gain leverage and your terms improve. How do you gain leverage when dealing with a record company? Bring in results…sales/streams of music and videos, ticket counts and merch numbers. Because odds of success are so low, the label spreads risk over many. If everybody hit, you’d get better terms. Have success and you can renegotiate, or refuse to work, or play out the contract and sign on better terms with someone else. Or, if you believe in yourself that much, you can start your own label. But if you’re bitching about leverage you’re no different from a homeless man decrying he can’t date supermodels, you’re delusional.

As for labels’ refusal to live up to contract terms and account properly, that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

3. Streaming services are the solution, not the enemy.

This has me tearing what little hair I have left from my head. Talk to Daniel Ek, hell, just read some of his interviews. The main goal of Spotify was to fight piracy, and it and YouTube have done a good job of doing this. They both pay, prior to them you were getting nothing. As for downloads…they were always dwarfed by piracy. To make streaming services the enemy is to be ignorant of Internet history. As for better songwriter royalties at Pandora and payment on pre-1972 recordings, those are different issues.

4. All fees don’t go to Ticketmaster.

No matter how much I say this, people still can’t comprehend it. Sure, TM takes a cut, but so do the building, the promoter and sometimes even the act. It’s a system to defraud you and keep the usual suspects in power while protecting the image of the acts.

5. Sprint and T-Mobile service is inferior, that’s why they’re cheaper.

For a generation supposedly immune to advertising I’m stunned that people believe they can pay less and get just as much. Sure, in some markets one service might triumph, but Google will tell you the dominant carrier in America is Verizon, which is usually the most expensive, and therefore the company doesn’t lower its rates, because customers clamor for usability and dependability. If you’re happy with slower speeds and dropped calls by all means sign up with Sprint or T-Mobile, but please don’t point to the ads to say their service is just as good. And don’t e-mail me and tell me your mileage is different, ain’t that America where everybody testifies what they own is the best. Reminds me of skiing, where everybody on the lift says they love their skis…that’s right, they paid for them!

6. Japan builds the most reliable automobiles.

Doubt me? Just check the “Consumer Reports” ratings. You may think you’re saving a few bucks on an American car, but just compare residual values, never mind repair costs. If you’re broke, I have sympathy for you, but if you’re cheap, I don’t. You get what you pay for, and sure, luxury items may be overpriced, but frequently a deal is anything but.

7. Most people are not power users.

Those are the primary consumers of Android phones, the techies and the cheap. Sure, some iPhone customers buy for fashion, but most Apple acolytes are adherents to the ecosystem because their devices integrate seamlessly and just work. Some people soup up their cars, most people are satisfied with stock.

8. BlackBerry is history.

My inbox is populated with BlackBerry owners testifying about the new Passport. Well, it finally came out and the reviews are not good. The primary complaint is the keyboard sucks! If you think BlackBerry handsets can come back, you probably believe Gerardo and Jimmy Ray can have another hit.

9. Samsung is being challenged at both ends.

iPhone is distinguishing itself at the top and cheap Chinese Android phones are squeezing it at the bottom. To survive you’ve got to have your own software as well as hardware, your car not only has to look good, but drive well. Samsung is the new Sony. At least in mobile devices. A premium player who became an also-ran when the products it manufactured became commodities.

10. Google before you ask.

When someone e-mails the most basic of questions I laugh, have they never heard of the Google Machine? Which will not only tell you all about your ex-girlfriend, but how to fix your device and link you to all the information you’ll ever need. Google first, ask questions later.