iLX-W650

My car radio broke. I turned it on and all I got was static.

Now my friend Jeff says it’s because I started my car with the a/c on, but I’d never had a problem previously. And then I realized I could get FM, but the tuner skipped over Sirius, and on XM I got the aforementioned static. Yes, I have both in my car, it’s a legacy from when the outlets were different. And to tell you the truth, I still used both, each tuner had pluses and minuses. So I could still listen to FM, but…

I haven’t had that spirit in my car since 2003, when I first got XM.

Oh, I tried. It was execrable. Unlistenable. Jive with too many commercials, and the inability to click to scores of music stations if I didn’t like what was playing.

And this was bad timing. I was involved in a major project, not work, but personal, and I had no time. And I start calculating when I can get the radio fixed…two weeks?

But then I decided to drive to the car stereo place anyway, just for a reading, because the fact that the tuner just skipped over Sirius was so strange.

Now you’ve got to know, car stereo places are going out of business in droves. You see cars come with much better stereos, and with most brands you can pay for an upgrade, Felice’s Lexus even has a Nakamichi system…but it’s nothing to write home about. But I figured if I purchased a new car, which’ll have to happen someday, although my goal was to keep driving this one until we got to driverless automobiles, I’d stick with the upgraded factory radio.

Now, no way.

So the place I go to, on Wilshire in Santa Monica, is now called Al & Ed’s. But the truth is Al & Ed’s is a centralized buying service, the shop is totally independent, but would my installer still be there? I’d driven by hundreds of times, the shop was still open.

And when I got into the driveway, I called out for Robert, and he was still there!

I mean it was a major installation. Took days back in 2005. And then the Audison amp blew up and had to be replaced by a JL, which costs a grand itself, but I had no choice.

But that was about five years ago.

So I explain the problem to Robert, and he says he’ll have to troubleshoot. Now it’s a game of money, do you pay to find out or just start over, with a new unit. And I’ve been down this route before, my previous Alpine head units lasted four or five years max. And if I got them fixed I was absent sound for a couple of weeks and then they broke again soon thereafter. And this Alpine had lasted 14 years. So I asked Robert, “What about a new radio?”

And he started to smile. He started talking about Alpine’s new flat screens.

But I didn’t want no stinking flat screen, I figured that was an advertisement for theft, and in one car I lost five radios and in another one one and the issue isn’t so much the radio itself, but the destruction to the dash. So, I wanted a radio with a removable faceplate. To tell you the truth, I’d done research the night before, but it was hard to figure out. The digital screen seemed to come with an amplifier, which I didn’t need. And I couldn’t figure out what the best of the traditional units was.

But Robert told me I could get a traditional one DIN radio for $249, plus $150 installation.

But the iLX-W650, the flat screen digital item, sans amp, was only $300.

And I’m still talking about theft when Robert quiets me down and says NO ONE STEALS CAR RADIOS ANYMORE, THEY’RE TOO CHEAP!

Yup, there used to be $1000 head units. You couldn’t buy anything worth owning for under $500.

And I’m questioning Robert, I mean really, no one’s gonna steal it?

And he told me it was BOLTED IN!

But if they didn’t steal radios, did they still steal airbags?

No, Robert told me it was down to catalytic converters now.

So I said yes, but they didn’t have one in stock and I had no time to get it installed that day anyway and he took down my number, and…

I didn’t hear from him.

I mean I told him Friday was good, I was gonna be in the neighborhood, I mean I was slammed every day before, but I got worried when the phone didn’t ring so I stopped by late Thursday afternoon and Richard, the proprietor, told me they were having one Ubered over from the warehouse, and it would be here soon, and Robert could install it today if he had the time.

But he didn’t. You see he was working on this Porsche.

I mean they work on high end/exotic cars there. One guy has 80k into a classic Z28 Camaro. The trunk has giant amps and two batteries, one solely for the stereo if the car is not in motion.

But Thursday was gonna be tight anyway, because I was going to Pasadena to see the Stones.

Now earlier in the week, dying without Howard and music, I streamed SiriusXM from my phone. Which really wasn’t quite loud enough. Then again, my timing was good, Howard was on vacation.

But then I rode in silence. Which is weird, but you’re not so concerned with what you’re missing. It’s an alternative universe, just you and your machine. The only audio I had was listening to WAZE.

But early Friday morning I dropped my car off, well, early by my standards, 10 AM, and then I went about my business.

I got a call from Robert that the radio was done at 12:30, but I was hung up until 3, when I finally Ubered over.

Now the iLX-W650 fits perfectly. You see, my car originally came with a double DIN radio, the factory model which I canned immediately, and the iLX-W650 is double DIN, so it looked like it was a factory installation, but in 2005 no Saab/Subarus came with screens.

And Robert’s showing me how to use it. And it’s both complicated and simple. I mean you can go down through the menus to acute audio control, multiple bands of EQ, and there are a ton of apps.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, the iLX-W650 comes with CARPLAY! (And Android Auto too, if you’re of that persuasion.) So you see your iPhone screen on the screen. Hell, Toyota just went CarPlay THIS YEAR! I’ve got all the features of a brand new car in my old one, thanks to this cheap unit (although by time I paid for installation and the SiriusXM brick and tax, it was over $600).

So I text Richie at Sirius to turn on my radio, but he says to wait 45 minutes, which is cool, because it’s already after closing time on the east coast, where he’s based.

And I pull out on to Wilshire and…

Now you’ve got to know, my car stereo is top shelf. It’s got the best Focal speakers. Two ways in the front doors and full range in the back. And in the trunk I’ve got a giant AVI subwoofer. Actually, it takes up more than a third of the trunk, or the area behind the back seat in my mini-station wagon. Now I tried to go without the subwoofer, but there was just no bottom, I popped for it, and it was another grand with installation back when.

So, Robert put a USB cable in my glovebox. So I could plug my iPhone in and get full service CarPlay. And he demonstrated it at the shop, but I didn’t have a USB to Lightning cable, so I had to stream via Bluetooth.

Oh, also Robert put in a switch, so I can address all the apps while driving, which is normally taboo, they don’t want you watching video.

So I’m stuck in traffic, barely moving, and I Bluetooth my library to the iLX-W650. WHEW!

Now you lose something streaming via Bluetooth, a direct connection is better, it certainly gives you more bottom, but I was ASTOUNDED at the sound, absolutely FLOORED!

Then I switched to Amazon Music, so I could call out tracks while driving, I tried out “Ten Years Gone” and it was…AS GOOD AS THE RECORD!

Of course the iLX-W650 has Siri too, for Apple Music, but I’ve got to read the manual to figure that out.

And all the old tracks I’m playing are new again. I just can’t believe how incredible it sounds!

Now I hear from Richie on the 405, he sends a text, which if I click will give me Sirius, and I do, and it happens instantly, much faster than on my old radios, and suddenly I’m back in action, I’ve got all my stations, my tunes, I’m ECSTATIC!

I remember when I put an aftermarket stereo in my second BMW, back in ’85. My shrink said $2600 was a luxury for most, but one of the things I lived for was driving around in my car listening to music and for me it was a NECESSITY!

And I’m in my automobile, a/c cranking, and I’m in my own private reverie, my own private Idaho, and that’s what I want to do, immediately go on a long road trip, just to listen to my stereo.

I mean I was in traffic for an hour, but I still couldn’t get out of the car when I got home! I was shuffling through songs, listening to how they sounded, you know, like when you buy a brand new home stereo.

But no one buys a brand new home stereo anymore. Tweaks gobble up hundred thousand dollar units, but they’re more into the gear than the music, and for most people a portable Sonos unit will suffice. But if you remember the days of the big rigs…

And I’m driving in my car, inside my own cocoon, it’s like wearing headphones without the earcups, and I realize the music in my car sounds better than the music in almost everybody’s listening environment. I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before.

And when I got home I insisted Felice sit inside and take a listen. She doesn’t care, but she got it.

And Richard told me they’re still upgrading cars, mostly high end models for high end people. They keep the head unit, and they change everything else, except some cars have a built-in amplifier, which you wish you didn’t have.

So I realized, if I ever get a new car, I’m gonna have to pony up again, I just can’t live with even the factory upgrade, you see the manufacturers don’t believe anybody will pay so much extra for the top shelf gear.

But I will!

iLX-W650

The Tech Backlash

The problem isn’t so much that these companies are too big, but that they’ve lost control of their platforms.

Today the WSJ printed an exhaustive article about the sale of unsafe/fake/substandard merchandise on Amazon.

Once again, these tech companies are far ahead of the politicians, who’ve got no idea how they really work. The truth is that over half of sales on Amazon are from third parties, and the number is increasing. Furthermore, Amazon makes more money on third party products than it does on those it sells itself. In other words, Amazon is primarily a distribution company, but it’s got no idea what it’s distributing.

HOW CAN THIS BE?

This is what happens when you live in the land of visionaries focused first and foremost on profits, where their solution is always algorithms as opposed to human hands/eyeballs.

Not that there is not duplicity. Earlier this week, the WSJ printed an exhaustive analysis of how people are overpaying for bandwidth, as in they don’t need that much and they’re paying too much for what they do have. In other words, most people don’t need 100 Mbps down, never mind a multiple of that, and the cable companies trick customers into paying for higher speeds, often as freebies that expire.

Welcome to the information age, where there’s no consensus and the word can’t get out.

Now if this had been ten years ago, fifteen, these “Wall Street Journal” investigations would be all over the papers and TV, everybody would be aware of them. But today, the WSJ is a sideshow in news. Everything’s gone topsy-turvy. We pay attention to the talking heads/arguers on cable news and are exposed to disinformation online, to the point where the truth has little traction. Furthermore, there are bad actors doing their best to counter truth with falsehood, which is why YouTube shut down so many channels of propaganda re the Hong Kong protests. That’s right, in China people don’t know the truth. Now the perpetrators are trying to spread these falsehoods to not only Hong Kong, but the rest of the world, to change perception and quell unrest.

But we don’t believe this happens in the U.S. Mueller says the Russians are messing with our elections right now and the President pooh-poohs it. It’s as if D.C. is analog while the rest of the country is digital. And since everybody’s on their own in America, and tort lawyers are the enemy, if you’re the victim of an unsafe product, already banned but sold on Amazon, good luck fighting back. Especially if the seller is unfindable or out of business, which is oftentimes the case.

The lunatics have taken over the internet. It’s not only 8chan, but the big name companies, i.e. Amazon, Facebook and Google. Somehow, Apple has remained outside this fray, locking up its platform with rules for safety. But when it kicked the big guys out of their App Store (yup, the household names were hoovering up data from its customers via their apps), somehow Apple becomes the bad guy and relents. And the truth is, while most of the profits lay with Apple, the upscale choice, the world is dominated by Android with holes galore. That’s what happens when something is free, you’ve got to pay for it somehow.

So while the big bad tech companies are labeled as all-powerful monopolies, the truth that is being revealed is that they’ve lost control of their platforms, with seemingly no ability to get it back. If Amazon discontinues third party selling, its profits will crater, and investors won’t stand for it. There’s not enough money in the world to vet all YouTube videos. And Facebook is the land of Whac-A-Mole, only the platform doesn’t seem aware of the moles and doesn’t have enough firepower to quash them.

This was happening in front of our very eyes. But we became addicted to these services, and humans have an urge to connect, and are lazy and like delivery and are addicted to low prices. StubHub proffers an all-in price right upfront and sales tank. Somehow the public likes deception.

This is the story of our age, how no one is in control and nobody is talking about it. We’re busy raging about Trump when our nation is being eaten up and torn apart from the inside. Hell, look at spam e-mail, after two and a half decades it’s still an issue, and phishing scams are still prevalent. And now the big story is fighting robocalls. But there’s always a provider who will allow them (they’re sent via the internet, i.e. VOIP). This is a quality of life issue. But the truth is most people will not answer a phone call unless they know who’s on the line. But somehow these same people will wander into the wilderness and play on social networks and buy from Amazon.

It’s like one of those alien/monster movies. Or like “2001.” We’ve built the platforms and now they’ve turned on us and are wreaking havoc.

And the word is just getting out, and no one has got a solution.

And no one can get the word out accurately to the masses. We’re in our own silos, with our own tribes, and we don’t trust anything from outsiders.

Once upon a time we believed in musicians.

But then they put money before art and lost our faith.

And then for twenty years we placed our faith in the techies, at least they said they were into the money right up front, and there were a hell of a lot more zeros.

But now the techies have been revealed to be flawed personally, as well as their products.

But few know and few know where to turn. The canard is if you’ve got enough guns you can save yourself. But this is patently untrue. The next war, the coming war, the war that is happening right now, is being waged via 0’s and 1’s, i.e. digitally. Those who can program, who can use the new tools, who understand them, who are aware of their flaws, cannot only run circles around the hoi polloi, but the government itself.

And we argue about social issues because we can’t understand technology.

You have to know how the machine works, you have to have the power of analysis. But in a world where everybody thinks they’re going to be a rapper or an influencer, the hoi polloi have no clue.

And it affects you.

“Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products – Just like tech companies that have struggled to tackle misinformation on their platforms, Amazon has proven unable or unwilling to effectively police third-party sellers on its site”

The Stones At The Rose Bowl

They were rough.

Until “Sympathy For The Devil.”

Sometimes I wish I lived in New York, like last night. Sure, traffic is bad in Manhattan, but you can always take the subway. I read in the “Wall Street Journal” that they expect you to be on time in NYC, whereas in L.A. meetings are always flexible, because of the traffic. WAZE told me to take the 405 way north into the Valley, and to then cut to Pasadena via the 118 and the 210. Which is many more miles than taking the 101 to the 134, but that’s stop and go, and I’d rather go, especially since my car has a standard transmission.

So I ignored the parking instructions, I depended upon the app. And that was a bad choice, because I ended up on the wrong side of the venue. Luckily, there was little traffic to my final destination. And at this point, I was speeding, the only thing my car is good for, and that’s when I saw the cops. You know how it is, you get that sinking feeling and wait for the flashing lights. But they didn’t turn on. Then I went the wrong way down a one way street, which sounds dumb, but if you’d been there… But ultimately I made it to my space. And wondered how in the hell I was gonna find my way back to my car after the show. Lisa said it was between the two palm trees, but they were not the only palm trees.

And then I got in line to get in.

Now it wasn’t until ’72 that you couldn’t get tickets to the Stones. There were seats available in ’69. But after “Brown Sugar,” and the breakup of the Beatles, it left the Stones iconic, it wasn’t until ’78 that they started playing stadiums. A ticket in ’75? Nearly impossible. But a friend got me one in the back bowl of the Forum. And they were rough that night too…

Until they hit “Tumbling Dice.”

So I’m in the queue, waiting to be scanned for security. And that’s where I got to look at the people.

Now in SoCal, you rarely see overweight people. Especially not at a show like this, these attendees don’t only go out once a year, they’re entrenched in entertainment life.

That’s one thing that astounded me…HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE! Now if you were selling shoes, something people need… And everybody with their own personality and social scene…

And what I encountered were old and young people. Not the nearly dead, using walkers, like at the Simon & Garfunkel reunion tour back in ’03, but adults. And their children. There was a dearth of thirtysomethings. Early fortysomethings. You see it was a show for people who’d been there and done that and wanted to show their kids their roots, unlike previous Stones shows. For a long time there, it was execrable. All these people in their leather jackets…they were afraid of the Stones back in the sixties and seventies, they were latecomers in the nineties… They’ve moved on. And what is left is those in their concert t-shirts, who were going to see the Stones one more time.

Yes, this could be the last time, I don’t know…

Oh no!

People had lines in their faces, they were experienced, but they had to make the pilgrimage one more time, for something that is almost gone and whose return might never be.

Now the opener was Kaleo, which actually played rock, what a concept! But the truth is they’re from Iceland, which is not supported by all hip-hop all the time. And standing on the stage watching them, listening to their manager tell their story, who caught them on YouTube and flew over to sign them, I got excited. You remember excitement, don’t you? This was rock and roll. And now rock is dead.

So I got to meet Keith’s guitar tech. You should have seen the row of axes, whew! And the monitor mixer gave me a complete rundown. Remember when we were fascinated with the equipment? When going to the studio was a thrilling event? I’m still interested. Turns out they’ve got a 100 monitors. 100! Almost nobody uses in-ears. And then when Kaleo finished, the stage was cleared. You see Kaleo did not set up in front of the Stones’ equipment, that was all brought out after the opening act. And it’s a rush.

Now I had an all access pass. Yup, on the poster, where they listed them all and what privileges they conveyed, I was at the top of the list, with my picture on the laminate. This goes into my trophy case along with the reserved sign from the Roxy with my name on it.

Now even though I could roam everywhere, I also had them give me a pit pass. Up close and personal. Which kinda makes it like a club show, even though it’s not. And even though you think you’ve seen it all in production, the giant screens, the way they were used, it was something new, you could really see everybody. Even if you were in the way back.

So the opening number…

Is “Street Fighting Man.” I had the set list, but I don’t like to look, but eventually I did. And you know the sound on the record, with its power, how it’s an assault? That was not the sound last night. You see unlike every other band on the planet, the show is the Stones, playing live. The only things that were on hard drive were the choir in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and the rhythm in “Sympathy For The Devil.” And for those who lived through the sixties, who played in garage bands, you know…it never sounds like the record. There are open spaces and mistakes when music is played live, by humans.

So Mick is dancing, just like in that rehearsal video in the dance studio.

And everybody is doing their part.

And I’m thinking they have balls, to go out and be a rock and roll band in a stadium in 2019, when shows are heavily produced and in your face.

Now the next number was “You Got Me Rocking.” Which curiously didn’t come totally together. It wasn’t that anybody was out of key, it’s just that it did not have the drive of the recording, with the heavy emphasis. They were running through it and it didn’t wholly gel.

But when the number was over, they showed Charlie Watts’s image on the big screen, and he was SMILING!

Now if you’re close you can’t stop looking at Charlie. Ronnie Wood looks like his face was chiseled Brancusi. Keith’s hair is a shadow of its former self. As for Mick, he’s super-skinny, but he too has that craggy face. You stand there and wonder…HOW DID HE BECOME A SEX SYMBOL?

But it’s Charlie, who appears over the hill, nearly dead, who fascinates.

Unlike the metal acts, the famous drummers, he’s got a small kit, no bells and whistles. And he sits there, holding the left stick like a pro, not gripped in his palm, and his body doesn’t move much, and then you realize…this 78 year old guy is the engine of the entire band, AND HE DIGS IT!

So then you start looking around the stage, and you notice the band is having FUN!

Now that’s not how it is today. You work out with a trainer, you try to replicate the records, and you know this tour is about enhancing your brand. Yup, the big money is in the endorsements and privates and you’re just slogging it out on stage, since recordings are no longer that lucrative and it’s hard to gain market share anyway.

But it didn’t start out that way. Before rock, the jazzers, it was a whole life style, they dug it! And the English bands from the sixties, read the old interviews, it was a lark, they didn’t expect it to last. But the most famous, the most legendary rock band extant, still has that same garage/club feeling and attitude, if they’re not having fun, why do it? IT WAS A REVELATION!

But “She’s A Rainbow” was not. It was voted for by the audience. Most people didn’t know it. But unlike on “Satanic Majesties,” it was not a syrup of sound, it fell flat. I just didn’t believe they had the balls to present this. Especially at these prices, in a stadium.

But Mick, he was warming up. He threw off his jacket, he started talking to the audience, and it wasn’t long…before he had them in the palm of his hand. It was fascinating to see a master at work. A whole stadium full of people, and this guy won them over. Showing the power, and the job, of the frontman.

And then he led us into a singalong of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that was reminiscent of the record, but just barely. This used to be a showstopper, but not last night. But just before, “Tumbling Dice” rocked, it delivered.

And then the core four walked down the runway and ultimately played “Sweet Virginia” and “Dead Flowers” acoustically. And Ronnie’s playing leads with no effects, on an acoustic, and that’s not a full sound, but he too is smiling and then you realize…THEY’RE HAVING A GOOD TIME!

And this is also when you realize that Keith is back in form, and digging it too.

As for Charlie… You see that tiny kit and you marvel.

But then came “Sympathy For The Devil.”

Now back in ’75, during the petal stage tour at the Forum, it was “Tumbling Dice.” When everything finally came together and they were the STONES!

It’s kinda like the Dead. They’d play for four hours. One would be unlistenable, two would be okay, but one was TRANSCENDENT! That’s live music, not made by automatons.

And now Jagger’s fully into it. Wearing his cape. You can hear every word. It’s almost dangerous.

That’s another thing that cracks you up, all these years later, that once upon a time the Stones were outlaws, as was their music. But today they’re in on the joke, they’re not trying to scare or impress you, they’re with you on this night to remind all those in attendance of the way it used to be. To marinate in our memories. To set our minds free and remember…what this music meant to us.

And then came “Midnight Rambler.”

I’ll stick my knife right down your throat baby, AND IT HURTS!

Ironically, Mick didn’t sing that coda. But when he did sing:

Well you heard about the Boston…
Honey, it’s not one of those

It was like he was telling a story. To those who actually remembered the Boston Strangler. But Mick was telling us the Midnight Rambler was worse. And he was not only telling us the story, he knew this guy.

And this is when he got the whole audience on the edge of its seats, this is when people realized they were seeing the Rolling Stones, this is what they paid for, this is what they were gonna miss when it was gone.

And then Keith sings “You Got The Silver.”

I’d like to tell you his voice was in great shape, but it was not. BUT BOY COULD HE PLAY THOSE CHORDS!

Yup, Keith was doing his thing. Illustrating why he’s a Glimmer Twin, an indispensable member of the band. I still miss Mick Taylor, but watching Keith employ those bar chords, in his tunings, with five strings…IT WAS REVELATORY!

Charlie was good last night, BUT SO WAS KEITH!

It was effortless, it was fun, with his guitar slung low, he was being who he used to be, but decades later, wearing the miles but his smile told you he too was in on the joke, he survived and he’s still doing it, makes you feel all gooey inside, and optimistic!

And from then on, it was all about the energy. Some songs were better than others, but you were on the train, the only one that exists, that takes you to nirvana.

And half of the audience was women. And with Mick only feet away, I got it. It was about sex, it was about dancing, the women were moving like they were possessed. You danced to the Stones, not the Beatles. Women are oftentimes perceived as prim and proper, but Mick Jagger and the band injected the music right into their souls and it forced them to gyrate, to move, as if they had no choice.

And the woman sitting behind me… Couldn’t have been thirty, but she knew all the words, even to “She’s A Rainbow” and “You Got The Silver.” Talk about the smile on HER face!

Yup, everybody got what they came for, even if the Stones delivered it in their own special way. They knew we’d come over to their side, that they’d win us over. If they just did their act and were themselves. On paper you think it’s about the money, but in the flesh you wonder what they’re gonna do at home, play checkers and watch television? No, this is where they belong, on stage, playing music, the only place they’re truly happy, you get the feeling they’d do it if only twenty people were there.

Albeit without those screens!

So you’re in the audience, and you’re jetted back to what once was. You expect Mick to be going through the motions, for Keith to be bored, for there to be a backup drummer, BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT WAS AT ALL! It was like they knew they were good enough, and if we put away our preconceptions and got with the program, we’d be thrilled.

Yup, you see the Stones with preconceptions.

But at this point they’ve got nothing to prove.

So they’re just being themselves.

The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band!

P.S. Eating a bacon-wrapped hot dog in the parking lot after the show, I asked the two teenagers what they thought. THEY LOVED IT, THEY TESTIFIED! But it turns out they were not teenagers, one was reminiscing about taking a course in rock music back in college. And then I asked them if they knew the songs, they said half. And I asked them how much they paid for their seats, they said $147. That seemed reasonable. But they were perched in the back, far up the bowl. So what did they do? THEY JUMPED THE FENCE DOWN TO THE FIELD! As that new wave sage once sang…same as it ever was!

A Tribute To Jerry Weintraub-This Week’s Podcast

A Tribute To Jerry Weintraub, recorded live at the Grammy Museum Thursday, August 14th, featuring John Meglen of Concerts West, Bob Finkelstein of Sinatra Enterprises, Claire Rothman, emeritus GM/VP of the Forum, Peter Jackson, tour manager of the Moody Blues and Eric Clapton, Michael Weintraub and me, as the moderator.

Listen for tales of the impresario who created national touring and promoted such artists at Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bad Company, the Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin, as well as managing John Denver, Bob Dylan and many more.

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