Chris Collingwood In A Backyard

He met Mitchell Froom on LinkedIn.

His then manager said the uber-producer wouldn’t be interested, that they couldn’t afford him. Chris expected this high-powered majordomo to take matters into his own hands, that’s why you sign with the movers and shakers, their relationships, their access, but it turned out Chris made more progress by himself.

Welcome to the modern music business, where the acts do all the heavy lifting unless they’re label superstars, and the superstars make all the money and if you don’t get the big label push you can’t get significant traction.

Chris Collingwood was one half of Fountains Of Wayne, two school buddies from Williams, they made revered LPs with one big MTV hit and now they’re on semi-permanent hiatus, Chris has got to do it for himself. And he did, he cut this album with Mr. Froom and he’s now on the road promoting it.

His manager implored me to come see him Friday night at McCabe’s.

But already being booked at the Forum I grasped the chance to see him in Chris Palmeri’s backyard this afternoon.

Chris Palmeri?

I’ve got no idea either. He’s a fan, he writes for Bloomberg, I accepted the invitation, if you don’t leave the house you’ll never have a new experience.

And I didn’t know a single soul there, all thirty and fortysomething couples with kids. That’s the strange thing about music, all the focus is on the barely pubescent but the older folks have a passion…

And Chris introduced me to Tom Vickers, who started out writing for “Rolling Stone” and then ended up working for George Clinton and major labels.

Tom’s done now.

That’s the story of the baby boomers, if we’re not running it, we’re in the rearview mirror, we’re out of the loop. Tom had gone to a screening of a movie about rock critics, it’s on Hulu right now, and he said to see where these folks are today… They followed the muse and it left them on the side of the road, broke, with no direction home.

They don’t tell you this when you’re growing up.

Not in the sixties anyway. Today the kids don’t want to be left behind, they’re all like Alex Keaton on “Family Ties,” young Republicans looking to work for the man. Because if you’re not getting ahead today, you’re being left behind. Whereas back then, the music was enough.

So Chris is on tour with Squeeze, and the label paid half his tour support in merch, vinyl and CDs, they said he could make up the difference.

But Chris doesn’t want to ask.

Today you’ve got to be artist and salesman. Which is why the salesmen are triumphant. Come on, does anybody sell better than Kanye? But usually the artistic temperament is separate from sales, artists depend upon someone else, and when they’ve got to take on the mantle…

I told Chris to make it a funny story, to tell it from the stage, the truth with a twist, kinda like Tom Rush. Tom says to buy the merch so his daughter can go to college, and if people buy enough merch she won’t have to go to college! The truth is Tom does have a daughter in high school…

We’re all trying to get along.

In a world where it’s nearly impossible to get noticed.

What if it doesn’t work out?

In the nineties Chris was a programmer. Ironically, his expertise in SQL and Ruby still flies, he could work. And in the past year he’s taken courses to brush up, not that he’s planning to enter the world of bits and bytes, but…

Not everybody can be famous, not everybody can be rich. And few can continue to be rich and famous, even if they once broke through. What are you gonna do when the well runs dry, when people no longer care, when your bank account is empty and all you’ve got is your memories?

This is the issue confronting not only the acts, but the employees, those whose shoulders the empire was built upon. They’re no longer needed, but they’re not yet dead. What now?

Maybe you inherited enough money.

But if you’re trying to get along on social security…

It was different back then, because the music was EVERYTHING! A culture whose institutions built an edifice parallel to traditional reality. There were not only the labels, but the radio stations… It’s like our religion died and it was replaced with a faux belief that we just cannot fathom.

And there’s so much noise that even if you’re great it’s hard to get noticed.

I didn’t mean this to be depressing. I spent an afternoon in the California sunshine, everybody wearing shorts on this ninety degree day. The music washed over us, we were living the life.

But when I scratched beneath the surface…

Nobody likes to complain.

But there’s a lot to complain about.

You want to do it. You’re privileged to do it. You’ve got to do all the heavy lifting and oftentimes you can’t tell whether you’re making progress or not.

But the believers keep you on course. A young woman flew in from Japan to sell the merch. It’s these fans who keep us going.

But where are we going to?

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