When The Curtain Falls

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He doesn’t always sound like this. That’s right, you’ve got to hear Greta Van Fleet’s rendition of

“Rolling In The Deep” on Spotify

It’s quite remarkable, you’d almost think they wrote it, kinda like Zeppelin being “influenced” by all those blues numbers way back when.

But on “When The Curtain Falls,” Josh Kiszka is channeling Robert Plant from the early seventies and if you were there for the original, you might be offended, but today’s audience was not, and they want something new.

What kind of stereo did you have growing up? My dad supplied us with an endless stream of “record players,” the first one gray, two of them pink, truly, my dad was into deals, with heavy tonearms and built-in speakers that we played our records on. My parents had a Columbia console in the living room, where we never went, with an external speaker that I once connected directly to my electric guitar and blew out the lights in my house, not realizing an amplifier was necessary. And then in the sixties an addition was built behind our split-level and my parents invested in a separates system, with components by ADC, other than the turntable, which was a Garrard, which I had to ask permission to use. By this time my albums were treasured, I never touched the vinyl, I took care of my records, preserving them for posterity, believing they evidenced my identity, and the irony is that vinyl, all of which I still have, is now back, then again the stuff I’ve got was cut analog for analog reproduction, and it makes a difference.

Anyway, my parents had a friend who worked at CBS, who ran their audio division, and when I was a senior in high school my sister and I were blessed by Columbia components, but don’t be too wowed, the speakers were small, the sound was not impressive, but it was certainly better than the all-in-ones.

And I never got a great stereo in college, because my parents wanted me to pay for it, and I had no ready source of income, and they were convinced it would get stolen, that was rampant back then, theft of components, along with bicycles, my white Peugeot was ripped-off the last day of freshman year, but eventually, I found myself ensconced in an apartment in Los Angeles and I bought the stereo of my dreams.

With JBL L100s.

What did you have? Off-brand stuff? That was how Cal Stereo made money, by manufacturing its own no-name speakers. And then there was Rogersound Labs in the Valley, with its own speakers, and if you wanted to spend less, there was the Advent, which superseded KLH and AR, and was pretty damn good for the price, which was $125 at first, and then $149 apiece. But the JBLs, which they used in studios, they retailed for $349 per speaker, and it was hard to get a discount.

And the salesman said the JBLs were bright, and the only amp that would sound good was the Sansui, or the Luxman, which was way out of my price range, so I ended up with an AU11000, sans tuner, but with 110 watts a channel, and that rig brought the THUNDER!

That’s what it was all about.

There’s some thunder today, but really it’s just bass, emanating from jacked-up car stereos playing hip-hop. I’m convinced we get the music our systems can reproduce, and acoustic music sounds bad on MP3s/streams through earbuds, but rock sounds even worse, for that thin-band stuff hip-hop is best, didn’t Beats advertise they came with bottom?

But the thunder was not only bottom, it permeated the entire range. Like that Maxell ad, featuring those JBL L100s, which made the listener’s hair blow back, no one under fifty remembers, but those older than that, we’re all familiar with the image.

So the goal was to get the best stereo your money could buy, drop the needle, and make not only yourself shake, but your whole damn HOUSE! You turned it up loud enough to shut out all surrounding noise, the music soaked up the atmosphere, that was the essence of rock. But when you listen to Greta Van Fleet’s “When The Curtain Falls” on earbuds, computer speakers…

You’re missing the essence, the thunder. It sounds thin, when it’s supposed to sound MASSIVE!

And the funny thing is you’ll dismiss “When The Curtain Falls” at first, assuming you were around way back when, but then you realize it’s more about the riff than the vocal, that the guitar-playing is not that far away from “Houses Of The Holy” and “Physical Graffiti.” Don’t cry heresy, there’s truly similarity, but can the audience be converted without the big rigs, without the stereos of yore?

You remember how it was. Back before iPhones, back before selfies, back when it was about them, not you, when the stars were on stage and you stood in the audience nodding your head, the sound so loud that you couldn’t speak to the person next to you anyway.

That’s how “When The Curtain Falls” should be heard.

And it’s not burning up the streaming services, and the rock radio format is a ghetto. Then again, Charli XCX said radio no longer mattered in “Rolling Stone,” and Five Seconds Of Summer shifted singles midstream, to great success. Meaning…

The old rules are kaput. Now is the time to take chances, like the above cover of “Rolling In The Deep.” You put stuff out and see what resonates. Satiate the core. Let them spread the word. If you’re playing the old game of one track, pushing it for a year, you’re missing out. That’s how you build a track, but not FANS! Fans don’t care if anybody else likes the act, they’re invested, they’re paying fealty, they’ll show up at the gig, where rock is built.

That’s right, today it’s all about the live show, the opposite of the pop ethos, where it’s built on radio and television and you go to hear a perfect rendition live, oftentimes on hard drive, no, with rock you want it to be a bit different, oftentimes a bit faster, with more power, with more energy.

And Greta Van Fleet is succeeding there.

And the key is they’re young. In an era where Vine stars have already gone on to their day jobs. The generations keep changing, and those prognosticating have often seen too much, they can’t see the show through the eyes of the audience.

But if you’re open-minded…

At first you want to turn “When The Curtain Falls” off, it seems ersatz. Then you get to the change, the chorus, and you want to let the track play through, and then that riff infects you and you find yourself playing the track over and over again, forgetting all about Robert Plant.

It’s not “Whole Lotta Love.” But it’s not me-too, at least not when compared to the other rock acts on the scene today.

Greta Van Fleet is just one monster away from breaking through.

Don’t forget, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were long on experience. These guys are brand new, at least to the masses, they’re figuring it out, maybe they’re spearheading a new movement.

Then again, shenanigans on the road are passe, because of camera phones.

But never underestimate the power of music. When done right, it’s not a trifle, it’s not something to be played in the background, rather it’s positively foreground, you need it to stay alive, it makes you feel you’re not alone in this world, it amps up your energy, eliminates your depression, makes you think not being in the mainstream is cool, that you can survive without Instagram followers, as long as this music is channeled into your soul.

But it’s best on a big rig.

Jake Gold/Bob Lefsetz-This Week’s Podcast

That’s right, Jake Gold returns for a wrap-up on this year’s Music Media Summit in Santa Barbara. This is the last podcast in this series, hopefully you enjoyed peeking inside the conference and are motivated to come next year!

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Getting The Story

ASK QUESTIONS

People will tell you anything, but you’ve got to ask them.

This was my father’s mantra, YOU GOTTA ASK!, to the point where I developed social anxiety, I was embarrassed every time he’d engage, but he was right. He also taught me to be nice and make friends. People react positively to niceness. And the game changes, used to be if you said you were a lawyer, you got respect, now people become defensive and give you worse service. Furthermore, my father taught me how to prove a point, by making analogies, by telling stories himself. He’d always call for the president of the company, the person who could make a decision. If the person on the line said the president was out of town, or unavailable all day, my father would ask for the person who would run the company if god forbid the president died, there was always someone in charge. This taught me not to waste time with the person who cannot make a decision. I know, I know, they’re nice, they’re part of the hierarchy, you’re building a relationship, you’re gonna hug the company to death. But if the person in charge says no, you’re screwed, so it’s best to go to the top right away, no matter what anybody says. And the stunning thing is you can reach the top, especially today, with the internet, via Twitter. But don’t be a jerk. If you call the person an a-hole, they’re not going to respond, but if you lay out your problem they oftentimes will, Michael Rapino responds to e-mail and tweets, he wants his customers to be satisfied. But if you’re the squeaky wheel, always complaining, always looking for an edge, you’re gonna win and then ultimately lose, because people can detect this behavior, you don’t want to be a schnorrer. So if you’ve got a problem, if you think there’s an injustice, make contact with the person who can make a decision, who can solve your problem. Tell a story, length is no issue, unless you’re on Twitter, you want to demonstrate that you’re reasonable, but in this case things didn’t work out. Remind me when we’re together to tell you the story of the K2 skis, and my Apple Powerbook…

GAIN BACKGROUND

Today’s story was all about Bill Browder. Who? If you were paying attention, playing the home game, you read my article about his book “Red Notice“.  Putin is pissed about the Magnitsky Act, which Browder made happen. I could explain the news, but if you’re not reading it… But my point is Browder illustrated what is really happening in Russia, the Magnitsky Act is in the news multiple times a month. Furthermore, if you trust Putin today, you didn’t see “Icarus,” wherein Putin lies straight to our faces, that’s right, Bryan Fogel lays out the facts and Putin denies them. Being a citizen of the world is being informed. You can’t know everything, but you want to know a lot, if for no other reason than when you run into someone you know what they’re talking about. Happens to me all the time, someone starts telling me a story and I’m familiar with what they’re talking about because I read the news in the WSJ or the NYT or Bloomberg. The news itself may not help me in my life, but the fact I’m up to speed in conversation pays incredible dividends, people bond to those who know their story.

BE PERSONAL

This relates to the first paragraph above. It’s about people, not facts. I had a two hour lunch with a record company CEO today and we only talked business for five minutes. It’s about the bond, if you keep pitching without a relationship, you’re not gonna get what you want. You have to KNOW these people! That’s how you get a job, no one wants to hire someone they don’t know. They want someone to vouch for you, someone who is intimately familiar with you. That’s right, you cannot get a gig without a connection, and that’s a GOOD thing! Because the world runs on trust and you need people you can trust, you can’t supervise people 24/7, you need to know they’re not only not criminals, but they can do the job, which is all about finishing, which most people cannot, they’ve got so many excuses. If someone blows deadlines, get rid of them/ignore them. There’s rarely a good excuse. They’re just waiting to feel right so they can do the best job, better to find someone who can get the job done, even if it’s not perfect.

ANALYZE

Information is nothing without context. Figure out how to put the pieces together. This is what an elite school will teach you, one with essay exams as opposed to objective tests. I know, I know, there’s this Ivy League backlash, and I’m not saying you cannot make it if you’re from another school, or cannot make it without schooling at all, but that’s a very thin layer of people. What elite institutions do is teach you how to think. It’s not about covering what’s in the book, if you can’t read, you’ve got bigger problems, but how you put the pieces together. Sure, this act grossed a lot last time around, but does that mean they’ll do well this time? Or the gross number is big, but the dates didn’t go clean, does this mean the fanbase is moving on?

ASK MULTIPLE PEOPLE

Don’t trust one person for the answer, even if he or she is an expert. The more people you talk to, the more perspective you get, the more things become clear. This happens to me all the time. I’ll go to one store and hear one story and then to another and that salesperson will contradict the first and then I go to a third establishment and the pieces start to come together. And all information is not created equal, this is the 10,000 hours rule. It’s not about 10,000 hours of practice, it’s about 10,000 hours of HARD practice! If you spend 10,000 hours on the bunny hill, you’ll never be a World Cup skier. So find people who’ve tested themselves.

MOST PEOPLE ARE FULL OF CRAP

Intentionally or not. There was a great story in the NYT a decade ago that independent auto repair shops are not intentionally ripping you off, they’re just incompetent, they think they’re doing a good job. Just because the person telling you the story is confident, that does not make it true. And as a matter of fact, the best sources are frequently less than confident, because they know what they don’t know, they’re always re-evaluating their position. And it’s a rare male who will tell you he does not know something. And males are about ego. They want to look good. So, on many issues, you’re better off asking a woman, if they have expertise in the area.

CONCLUSION/TELLING A STORY

It must be logical, laid out, told in a linear fashion, from beginning to end. I don’t want to go all middle school on you, but too many people don’t know how to tell a story. It’s not important to tell the premise or conclusion first, just that the audience be able to follow it. You’re taking them on a trip, building an edifice, just because it’s clear in your mind that does not mean it’s clear in theirs. Although you will find some people cannot follow a story, no matter how clearly you tell it. But when you tell a story coherently, with confidence, people respect that, you’ll move up the food chain, because no boss can do all the work, they depend upon subordinates, who report to them. They want you to do the work and report. They don’t want to hear your dog ate your homework, what you ate last night, unless it’s relevant. Length is fine, as long as the listener has time.

DON’T HOG THE FLOOR

Don’t talk unless you have something to say, when it comes to business anyway. Some people abhor silence and feel a need to fill it. Train yourself to hold back. He who speaks first rarely triumphs in the end.

LIFE IS MADE UP OF STORIES

Which is why television and movies are so triumphant. It’s all about the narrative, that’s how we communicate. Listen and tell. And if you listen, once again, people will tell you ANYTHING! Because in this alienated, narcissistic world, no one cares how another person feels. There are too many show-offs. You want to make the teller of the story feel comfortable, feel attended to, feel loved. If you hit a roadblock, back off, but this is rarely the case. People not only want to talk, they want to help, as long as you’re not obviously using them. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to get to the ask, the person will offer what you want. If you do get to the ask, don’t see the person as a vehicle, someone to be used and discarded. It’s great if the ask benefits the person asked, but if not, if it’s to your benefit, it’s best if it’s about a problem you have as opposed to jetting you to the top of the class.

COMMUNICATION

Voice, phone calls, text, tweets, that’s what they’re all about, communicating and connecting. And the irony is so much of what is done online is about bragging…I did this or that. Think about entering someone’s heart, that’s where the dividends lie.

Happy Together Tour

There wasn’t one song everybody didn’t know.

That’s the difference between yesterday and today, the ubiquity of the hits. If you were alive, you heard them, they penetrated not only the airwaves, but society, and these acts had a bunch of them.

The surprise was the Cowsills. They were so tight, the harmonies so perfect, it was amazing, you noticed, as you did the band that backed up all the acts, they were superb, proving once again that real music can triumph.

In the sixties.

The other jaw-dropper was Chuck Negron, who sang with oxygen, I kid you not. I even sang along a bit with “Joy To The World,” which I absolutely HATED back when, but with the passage of time…

But this was not a nostalgia show, they were not tugging on our heartstrings, and that was so weird. I expected to sit back in my seat and have the sixties flash before my eyes, but really it was all about the songs, it was a celebration of the songs, you sang along to all of them.

There was a video screen that showed hair products during the Cowsills, did you know Dippity-do had sunscreen? But other than that…

This is a low budget production, even the screen is small. And those in attendance are not hip. The upstairs was filled with the nearly-dead, purchasing their seats on Goldstar. And speaking of upstairs, where we sat, the sound system was inadequate, couldn’t they afford some sound reinforcement for the upper deck at the Saban?

The show began with the Malibooz, who played some surf rock and Walter Egan’s hits, “Magnet and Steel” and “Hot Summer Nights.” It was the latter, and that’s my favorite Egan number, so that was good.

The Cowsills… They were ersatz back then, a slightly hipper Osmonds, but now…

They’ve been knocking around L.A. forever, gigging, waiting for another chance. But the system doesn’t give you one, that’s what players don’t realize, it’s not only how good you are, but whether the label, management and radio want to afford you an opportunity. At least back then you could play in bars, sustain yourself, it’s even harder today. And I found their rendition of “Hair” cringeworthy back in ’69, but here it was good, but not as good as “The Rain, The Park & Other Things.”

Mark Lindsay wanted to convince us that no time had passed. He too had video, of the Paul Revere and the Raider days. And he performed the hits, I liked hearing “Just Like Me” and “Good Thing,” but when he kicked his leg up with “Kicks” I winced… You’re over seventy, so much of the audience is addicted to Grecian Formula, can you act your age, get rid of the sunglasses and shiny suit? But once a teen idol, too many are locked in amber, even though the audience ages, it’s a bit creepy.

But the Association acted its age. In matching white jackets and shoes. And I don’t know why this act doesn’t get more love, their songs were SUPERLATIVE! Not only the not-cheesy “Cherish” and the upbeat “Windy,” but the exquisite “Along Comes Mary” and “Never My Love,” it was their songs that made me feel best.

As for Gary Puckett…

I’d seen him live back then, just as “Young Girl” was rising on the chart, they played it twice. But last night the sound was amped up, it all became a wash. And could you sing “Young Girl” today, I doubt it!

As for Chuck Negron, he’s a survivor, send him to schools to scare students straight. But his voice is mostly intact, powerful, and he’s so happy to be there…

But Howard Kaylan was not.

Huh?

He was never that thin.

Have we hit that era, where acts are trying to fake out the audience?

But the Phlorescent Leech, aka Flo, aka Mark Volman, told us that Howard was in the hospital, they’d thought of canceling the tour, but the show must go on! And his replacement was Ron Dante, of Archies fame, Dante’s a legend, it was good to see him live.

But the stunning highlight of the “Turtles'” performance was…

PEACHES EN REGALIA! That’s right, the opening cut on Zappa’s “Hot Rats,” I was astounded. Yes, it’s played live on “Fillmore East,” two tracks after the Mothers with Flo and Eddie go into “Happy Together” and…

That’s last night, the performance ended with “Happy Together.”

Now that I have memories of. It brings back Stratton and Steph, but really it’s about the sound of the introduction, it’s heavy, pregnant with meaning, we think about them day and night, we do, imagine how the world could be so very right, and then…

IT IS!

Bah bah bah…

You couldn’t help but stand and sing along. Actually, one of the shocks of the evening was the standing ovations, but in this case you weren’t standing for the performance, but your own life, remembering the optimism, the hope.

And now it’s all these years later, you are who you are, you made your choices and you have to accept them, it’s too late to turn back now.

And to a degree the joke is on the acts, they’re prisoners of their success. Have a hit or two and you can’t give up. Then again, these people did it for the applause to begin with. And at this point, a lot of the audience members are richer than the performers, they might not be famous, but get older and fame becomes a joke, why would you want it, it’s meaningless. But the songs…

This evening was a celebration of the songs. Which are blue chip. They don’t sound anything like today’s “hits,” they’ve got melody and changes and were from an era where everybody had a transistor and was listening incessantly. Music drove the culture, we followed it like the World Cup, heroes were larger than life. And there was a dearth of information, you had to go to the show to see them.

And some acts have survived with their reputations intact. Paul McCartney, of course. And Paul Simon. Certainly Bob Dylan.

But most…

Are in the rearview mirror, no matter how big they were at the time.

But so are we.

These songs are the story of our lives.

Sing along.

I CERTAINLY DID!