Howard Stern

He was so NICE!

The highlight of last year occurred…

When I was at this surgeon’s house to see Leon Bridges, a benefit for MusiCares. I was not planning to go, but Lisa said it would end by 9:15, and there was no way I was gonna fall asleep before that.

You see the next morning I was going to be on the Howard Stern WrapUp Show.

So, we’re hanging, it’s me, Lisa, Michael McDonald and Jimmy Kimmel. And Michael got distracted and there was a moment of silence so I told Jimmy I was going to do his buddy’s radio show the next morning, he and Howard are best friends. And Jimmy looked at me quizzically and said “They can do that?” And I told him they’d sent me a suitcase and you hooked it up to the internet and Jimmy said…ARE YOU A MEMBER OF THE WACK PACK?

And then Michael re-entered the conversation.

And I’m standing there thinking Jimmy doesn’t understand, he thinks I’m some oddball and I must set the record straight.

So when a break in the conversation occurred, I told Jimmy I was gonna be on because I wrote this newsletter that Howard gets.

And Jimmy leans back, looks me in the eye and says…YOU’RE BOB LEFSETZ! HOWARD TALKS ABOUT YOU ALL THE TIME!

It’s the little things that keep you going. Money counts, but experiences like this are priceless.

Still, Howard’s a noted recluse, and the last thing I want to do is come across as a creepy fan, so…

I was anxious about the interaction, assuming I’d get to meet him at all. But when we got off the elevator, Steve Brandano told us that Howard wanted to say hi, just before the WrapUp Show began.

And they put you in a green room with your name on the door and it’s funny, being on the Stern Show is the epitome of cool. The mainstream media writes about Jimmy Fallon, but he’s a kiss-ass in a world where people are struggling to get by and only Howard speaks the truth.

And after Bababooey came in to discuss Oldchella, I saw Ronnie Mund through the door. I asked him if he could let me into the bathroom, the same one Beetlejuice crapped all over. I said, “Ronnie…” Like we were old buddies, like we saw each other every day.

And then Steve said to get ready, Robin was winding up the news, the show could end in five minutes…or maybe twenty.

It was closer to twenty when Felice and I were escorted into the inner sanctum. It’s dark, Howard’s behind a bank of monitors, and he looks me in the eye and SMILES!

I immediately notice the dental work, perfect, unlike Gary’s caps.

And I’m wondering, how do I start?

But Howard did. He wanted to know whether I wrote in advance, and after telling him no, that it was all based upon instant  inspiration, I apologized for there being too much. But then Howard said he kept them in a folder and he read them all and he’s still smiling and I don’t want to be his friend, I don’t need to be his friend, and I know famous people are different than you and me, but he was so open and warm so…

We continued to talk.

About being sixty. About focusing on what we’re good at.

And then Howard started giving me advice. Well, not really, he wondered if I ever thought of including images, spicing up the mailing, and after indicating that I’d just recently considered this…

Steve came in and said we had to go, the WrapUp Show was gonna start…

I was worried we wouldn’t connect, that there wouldn’t be enough to say, but it was free and easy and stimulating, like someone from summer camp I really connected with, I was feeling all warm and fuzzy and…

Then I was in the studio for the WrapUp Show. Where there were six of us around the table, I never knew it took so many people to make radio.

And we talked about Oldchella. I asked John about “Hit ’em with the Hein.” Gary talked about skipping his best friend’s wedding because Howard was doing a pay-per-view and…

I felt like I could stay there all day, like I wanted to bring my sleeping bag and camp out. It was so much FUN!

Grow old enough and you realize it’s solely about people, the hang, being a member of the group. First and foremost, working for Howard Stern is A BLAST!

We conversed for forty minutes, took a couple of phone calls, I did most of the talking, getting to stretch out just like a guest with Howard and then…

It was done. I cut a promo, we went out to reception and…

I was walking on air.

So what did I learn?

That if you work hard enough and long enough, people will recognize you and opportunities will arise. Not only with Howard, but myself…I’M ON THE SHOW!

Next, that you can never pre-judge a celebrity. They’re all just people, and until you’ve been face to face, you’ve got no idea who they really are.

And third, that everybody there thinks they’re playing for the Yankees, and Howard feels a responsibility to take care of them, to make sure everybody gets paid, even though he hates having to be their father.

Oh, and all the crazy interaction happens on-air. There are no private conversations, Howard doesn’t ridicule Gary off mic, only on.

And there’s a whole subculture.

And you may not care, but so many do. Howard Stern eclipses the vaunted Fallon in listeners. He’s the number one promotion outlet, not only because he has an audience, but because his listeners are passionate, people partake, otherwise why would I have bought the Lenny Dykstra book?

And to tell you the truth, I’m still high. We finished five hours ago but…

I’ve been in the zone ever since. Kinda like the first time you had sex. You jumped a hurdle, it felt so good, and the first thing that crossed your mind was…


New York City

Just like I pictured it.

Does anybody get Stevie Wonder references anymore? I just saw a play, so whacked, that asked the same question about Steely Dan. The two characters were Becker and Fagen fanatics, they wondered if we knew the lyrics, anything beyond the band’s William S. Burroughs inspired name and song titles.

Things change, time marches on. I know this because we went yesterday for carrot cake at Lloyd’s, and back in the sixties whites didn’t go to Harlem, not without being mighty anxious, hands in pockets.

Nor, walk after midnight on the streets.

It’s a new New York.

But it’s still Fun City, babe, although the artists can no longer afford to live here anymore.

That was another joke in “Oh, Hello.” Funny how the world runs on art but we only revere money. I’d like to see a banker from Goldman Sachs up on stage, see how he’d do, very poorly, I’m sure. But they walk like royalty amongst us, buying up all the good seats, being pricks like Chris Sacca, pissed they bought bogus tickets to “Hamilton,” after flying in on their private jets to grace us with their presence.

“Billionaire throws Tantrum after being denied entry to ‘Hamilton'”

We went to see “Hamilton” Friday night. The new cast is not as good as the original, although the guy playing Jefferson is cool and…the play remains. It’s an inspiration. Everybody should see it, we need math and science in school, but it’s the art majors and theatre geeks who truly run this world. They influence hearts and minds. Watching “Hamilton” you’re reminded you only do have one shot, and you’d better make the most of it. Who do you want to be? We’ve got a whole generation of the best and the brightest who’ve decided to become financiers and techies, and that’s just sad, only the lowest common denominator goes into music, because the odds are too long and today if you end up poor you’re an untouchable, never mind starving without a roof over your head. But there are outliers, like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Who reach for the stars, playing by nobody else’s rules. Doesn’t matter if you’re the bastard child of a whore, an immigrant in a strange land, you too can make it if you’ve got enough pluck, desire and smarts. And the written word matters, Hamilton utilized it to ensure the passage of his agenda. Hey, I’m writing right now!

And, Saturday, bright and early, we took a cab to Harlem for the aforementioned Lloyd’s:

“A Tiny Bronx Bakery (They’re in Harlem now too…) Churns Out Carrot Cakes That Travel the World”

It was a hole in the wall peopled by workers who didn’t care but it was the best carrot cake I’d ever had, but not by that much. Is it worth the trip? Probably not. But we’re all in search of excellence, certainly that which we can afford, and you too can partake in the pinnacle of carrot cake. Which we ate in front of an apartment building, the only whites in sight, and there, once again, is the change…

From there we took the subway to Ground Zero. You can take a cab, an Uber, but the underground is faster and you get to do so much people watching, New York has got the best in the world. Short ones, tall ones, big ones, small ones…and of multiple ethnicities. You don’t get up close and personal with the rest of humanity in L.A., but you do in New York. And when we emerged from the subway…

We saw the transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava, brand new but a legend already, forget the naysayers, this is breathtaking architecture that both wows you and makes you feel good just to be around.

But we were there for the 9/11 Museum.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

That’s what I took from the museum.

You’ll marvel at the still existing structure, the walls of the “bathtub.” You’ll be affected by the gravitas of the two pools.

But if you pay attention to the exhibit about that fateful day…

You’ll be horrified.

Not only by the jumpers, the woman who straightened her skirt before taking the plunge, wanting to maintain her dignity, and the melted equipment, airplane fragments and a torn page from the United in-flight magazine, but the perpetrators.

They’re out to get us folks.

Funny how a few bad men can impact the whole world.

Makes you want to ban religion.

And wonder if we can beat them. After all, Yahoo coughs up e-mail addresses, the Russians steal Hillary Clinton’s correspondence and…how secure are we?

They don’t pussyfoot, they include the reports that said this was coming, Cheney’s order to shoot down planes… Those in charge have a lot to answer for, which they refuse to. But the rest of us…alternate from being complacent to being scared. 9/11 really happened. And, unfortunately, it will happen again.

What would you do?

You marvel at the heroes, who lost their lives trying to save others.

We’re all just human, flawed beings, trying to make the best of it.

And speaking of humans, we went to see that play last night, “The Humans,” Frank Rich said it was the best of the year so I wanted to see it. Trusted sources are everything.

And in the play…

Everybody has losses.

I thought it was only me.

Now I’m wondering.

That person who acts like they have it all together, do they? Is every family outing fraught with an undercurrent of discontent, people putting on a brave face for the sake of tradition while desiring to bolt at the first available moment?

I’d share my losses, but they’re too raw. Despite a culture wherein memoirs reign and everybody airs their dirty laundry the truth is most of us don’t, or edit, because we’re ashamed, of the time lost, the bad choices, the negative judgments. Life is not a constant upward axis of success. There are bumps. And how you navigate these…

And from there to the Polo Bar, where Megyn Kelly was dining at the next table. I’d hate to be her, putting on her look just to show up in public, what pressure.

And when in presence of fame you gawk. And then I wondered, what for? What had she done? Other than be attractive and sit behind a news desk. The reporters are the talent here, however few there are in TV news. We venerate the wrong people. Maybe because our culture is bankrupt and there are so few truly deserving of accolades.

And New York is so different from L.A. Nobody else was recognizable at the Polo Bar, but they were all dressed like they should be. Whereas in L.A. at every famous eatery there are household names, oftentimes dressed only one step above homeless people. Flip-flops, right off the beach. Polo shirts. Shorts.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

Then again, that’s the east coast ethos. Who you are is most important.

It’s so confusing.

L.A. is image central, but you can be yourself.

New York is phony, but you’ve got to look good or you’re not granted an entry ticket.

I’m still reeling from Allen Grubman’s comments on my clothing at Michael’s on Friday. I’d put on a nice shirt, but not nice enough.

So, it’s a whirlwind of activity. Tomorrow I’m going to be in the belly of the beast, on the Howard Stern WrapUp Show. Heard around the world but just another event in the Big Apple.

Then again, Desert Trip is exotic if you don’t live in SoCal, where it’s only a drive away.

One thing I know for sure, getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing, travel is more enlightening than any book learning. We’ve got a culture that pats backs congratulating ourselves on how great we are, setting the bar so low while Brits travel the world and become enlightened and…

I’m looking for truth.

Funny where you find it.

Right there at Ground Zero, the truth of life and death and threat.

But even more on the boards of the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Where one man reached for the stars and touched them.

Can Lin-Manuel Miranda repeat the trick?


Then again, Stevie Wonder put out five ground-breaking albums in a row, each one more adventurous and arguably better than its predecessor.

They still mean a lot to me. Every time I walk in Manhattan I sing “Living For The City.”

I’m stayin’ alive, it’s all we can do.

We gather our cultural references, play them back to each other and soldier on. We’re looking for hooks to hang our lives upon.

I found some in the past three days.

Release Radar Notables

“Daddy Was A Badass”
Jesse Dayton

Well Daddy was a badass, ole bit of white trash
Never took nobody’s lip
He was a honky tonk dancer, even beat cancer
Forty years of smokin’, just quit

We went to see Joe King Carrasco, my girlfriend heard him on KROQ, back when it was a free-form station, before it became the ROQ of the 80’s, before it played Human League and Soft Cell, when Deaf School was alternative, Carrasco sat in and she took a liking to him.

I won’t say the Whisky was full, I can’t even remember the song we spun at home thereafter, but I’ve still got the vinyl and the t-shirt purchased at the gig from back when it was a badge of honor to be into bands no one had heard of, before no one had heard of most of the bands.

So, this was the last song on my “Release Radar” playlist. And I was immediately enraptured by the lyrics, they showed wit and intelligence, two elements so rarely evidenced in hit music.

I don’t think “Daddy Was A Badass” ultimately makes the Spotify Top 50, but I’m sure I’d have never heard it if it weren’t for Spotify, and I didn’t only listen once, I played it again, to make sure I caught the lyrics, was that really the “University of Texas”? It most certainly was.

I don’t know what fringe artists do these days. Then again, there’s a slew of red dirt acts who can tour Texas to good livings that those outside the Lone Star state have never heard of. It’s a conundrum, we decry the pop hits, but too often what is lauded in other genres is substandard, stuff that no one not already a fan of can be convinced to like.

But I think “Daddy Was A Badass” will crack you up.

“Light Of Day”
Aubrie Sellers

Right now I’m not sure this is the best cut on her album. Now I’m more into “Liar Liar,” but I was walking in the neighborhood and heard that guitar…

If you think playing is irrelevant, that machines rule the world, listen to this. There are great players in Nashville, and some of them are on this record. Used to be our country rock heroes were people who got a ton of press that never got any traction, like that six foot foot tall woman whose name eludes me who was on Columbia and didn’t break through, although her album was okay.

This is better than okay.

Aubrie Sellers is the daughter of Jason Sellers and Lee Ann Womack. And instinctively, I’m against progeny following in their parents’ footsteps, they didn’t have the same hard life, they don’t have the same inspiration, give someone else a chance. But now I’m re-evaluating, it appears, especially in the country world, these kids have the roots in them and therefore they can do something true in a way the newbies affected by all the money cannot, whether it be Patterson Hood, Thomas Rhett or…

Aubrie Sellers.

It’s not only the sound, but the lyrics, they hearken back to days of yore, when you were wronged and pushed back, when you weren’t afraid of airing your dirty laundry, when no one else cared, when there was no TMZ.

The vocal is a bit too pop, but the tracks are earthy and real, if you crossed Skynyrd with Nashville you’d end up with something like this. This is someone to watch and this is the kind of record you play once and then you end up playing again, it grows on you, when almost everything is disposable.

P.S. I’m gonna include “Liar Liar” on the playlist which has a wailing guitar solo but doesn’t grab you immediately like “Light Of Day” but sticks with you even more. I heard “Light Of Day” and had to know more, it’s all hiding in plain sight on the web, you can find out someone’s story, and in this case I wanted to.

Amos Lee

Used to be we depended on radio to turn us on.

Now we count on the playlist.

I know this guy’s name, I think I know his genre, but I couldn’t name a track.

It’s Yom Kippur, I never write on the Jewish holiday, but I’ve had such a tough year I think God will give me a pass, inspired I want to live for another year.

This has got a killer chorus, this is music that penetrates your brain and heart, gets you from the inside, makes you want to see him to feel this as opposed to going to a show so you can take photos and say you were there.

There is hope.

“Wish I Knew You”
The Revivalists

I’d be lying if I told you I listened to everything on my Release Radar playlist all the way through.

But I played this.

This is a strange track where the verse is better than the chorus, usually it’s the reverse. But if the chorus were better, this would be a total winner, it would supersede the cuts above, it has radio potential, it’s genre music that could go all the way, because it’s catchy and infecting.

If only someone had pushed the act a bit further. I don’t need to hear this again and again, but it was a great antidote to the paint-by-numbers country tracks of today, the stuff made to sound inoffensive, formulaic crap made on an assembly line, is that what we’ve come to, are the rules that rigid, where everybody has to make music that sounds exactly like what came before?

These acts did not, they shot for their own version of excellence.

And you can hear it in the grooves.

These are the tracks that popped out of my Release Radar playlist.

Release Radar Notables – Spotify

Amazon Music Unlimited

Do people trust Amazon more than Apple?

We’re gonna find out.

The rap on Apple Music was it was going to win because of trust and credit card numbers. People believed in Apple and it was one click shopping.

Then again, Steve Jobs licensed that technology from Amazon. And with Steve Jobs gone, I trust Jeff Bezos. I never talk to Siri, but I converse with Alexa all the time.

So, the scoop is you can stream all the music for $7.99 a month or $79 a year, assuming you’re a Prime member, and estimates put that at 54 million in the U.S. Amazon has more Prime customers than not. And, they’re paying. Apple might have credit card numbers, but Amazon has the cash. And Prime is addictive, once you buy in, you buy regularly, for that two day shipping, to earn your money back. Will Amazon win in music?

Not at first.

But the target here is Apple, not Spotify. You go for the low hanging fruit. Apple put Rdio out of business, put a dent in the growth of Deezer, as for Tidal…the tide has yet to come in, those musicians at that press conference are out to sea and no one’s throwing them a life preserver. If you’re too anxious to go with the upstart Spotify, Amazon is a safe choice.

But you still have to pay. That’s a big barrier to climb over. But if you are gonna pay…

But music is in Apple’s DNA!

Does anybody use an iPod anymore? Music is fluid, ever-changing, and saying Apple is about music is denying it’s the iPhone company.

But now the price war has begun. Ten bucks a month is too much. Most people never spent $120 a year on music. And the dirty little secret is many people are not paying ten bucks a month anyway, they’re on discount subscriptions.

We’re in search of a relevant price point that will bring everybody on board. Just like with mobile phones, there’s a tipping point, when people say yes.

But baking services into cell phone contracts didn’t juice adoption significantly.

So maybe this is a great big dud. After all, Spotify has a free tier. You can try before you buy. It’s like crack, you get addicted. And the history of the internet is he who gains traction first and sustains it…


Amazon may just be too late. Like with downloads. They sold ’em, but Apple had too much traction, never mind the convenience factor.

Will the software work?

No matter what anybody says, Samsung’s reputation just took a hit. Recall a device once and I cut you a break, twice and I think you’re inept. We expect everything to work right, right out of the box. Will Amazon Music Unlimited’s app do so?

We’ll see!

Amazon failed with the Fire phone.

And my Kindle is a bug-ridden device. Underpowered and frustrating. Apple may have lost a step, but it’s still much better than its competitors.

But one thing we do know is streaming is here to stay. That’s the most significant element of this announcement, the endorsement of streaming. Everybody’s gonna get the memo. That’s right, there are still people on the sidelines who think downloads are best, never mind CDs, they don’t know how streaming apps work, the synching of playlists.

But now that Amazon’s in the game…

Spotify’s got too big a head start. They operate around the world. And they keep innovating. And it’s all they do. Look at what they did with the Echo Nest, there are only a limited number of players in the space.

Apple thought it could win through marketing.

Amazon thinks it can win through name recognition and price.

Spotify is winning on tech, usability…

Then again, Sony lost the VCR wars, Beta was better than VHS but the latter was cheaper.

And now Amazon is cheaper. Never underestimate the price sensitivity of a consumer, especially when the competitor is so well trusted.

Then again, can Spotify match the price?

This is all good for the music industry. Happy days are here again. You can get all the music for one low price a month, there’s a mania about music that’s been absent for far too long, it’s about time we stole the thunder from Netflix.

But you can’t get everything at Netflix.

You can get everything at Amazon, Apple, Deezer, Napster…

One service will be triumphant, because of social, you go where your friends are. Amazon has made its move.

A better move would have been to buy Spotify, then it would be game over.

Who’s got the courage to buy Spotify and win?

Google? Red has got no traction. It bought YouTube, can’t it buy Spotify?

Or how about Apple buying the service, eliminating its bug-ridden crap app. There might be antitrust issues, but we’d have a clear winner.

Price comes first.

Assuming there’s usability.

Then comes social.

These are huge thresholds. With huge implications if you succeed or fail. Apple has been hurt by failing out of the box, it’s like someone who showed up late in crummy clothes asking for a second date.

People are already dating Amazon, that’s what makes it so fascinating.

The future is here.

And it’s so bright, you gotta wear shades.