Mailbag

Re: The Arista Book

Hi Bob,

Thanks for putting a good word in for Mitchel Cohen’s book “Looking For The Magic”. Clive and all the music freaks at Arista tried hard for me back in 1980 when my first album came out. I’ll always be grateful to all of them for that. I was discovered playing at Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street in NYC in July of 1978 when Robert Palmer of the New York Times came to review the headliner. I was opening the show and Don Hill, bless his RnR heart, told Robert he should come early and see the opening act. He came early and wrote a great review that got me signed to Arista.

For me, it was always about the music. I wasn’t looking to get famous. That was never my goal. Fame is a joke. I was just looking to make a living making music. Fame didn’t do Whitney or Michael Jackson any good. And how much fame can you get? And who cares anyway. We’ll all be forgotten at some point down the road no matter how much fame any of us have.

Make no mistake, I’d love to be stinkin’ rich. But surviving and getting to make music and make a living with it was always my goal. I’ve put out 9 albums in the last 12 years on my own label, River House Records. Wall Street doesn’t lose any sleep over how well they do but with the support of great fans and refusing to give in, I’ve been able to make albums I’m really proud of, tour in Europe and the states all these years, pay my bills, and have more fun than ever with all of it.

In 1980 I got to open a tour for The Who across the U.S. It was incredible. If you told me when I was a teenager that I’d get to see The Who from the side of the stage night after night and get to open for them and be able to make albums and a living from the songs I wrote I’d have thought you were smoking too much crack. Now, 42 years after my debut album on Arista, I’m getting to open for The Who again in Bethel, NY on May 28. It’s full circle for me. You can’t make this stuff up. God bless their manager, Bill Curbishley, and Pete and Roger for all their support and generosity.

As I said, for me, it was always about the music, not the glory or the fame. At the end of the day, if the music can bring a hint of redemption, salvation and some joy, to me and others, while being alive here on this earth in these troubled times, count me in. It’s more than worth it.

Here’s to passion. Here’s to believing in what you do no matter what the cost. And here’s to more music and magic on the road ahead.

Well done Mitchell on your fine book! And thanks Bob for shining a light on it.

All best,

Willie Nile

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Subject: Skunk

Hi Bob

Thanks for the great interview with Jeff Skunk Baxter. He went to the Taft School in CT as mentioned on your interview. He didn’t mention he ended up donating to the school a small but incredible recording studio that featured a 16 track tape recording console and some solid outboard gear that lived in the basement of the school library.

When I visited the school in 1988 on my tour of boarding schools that was the main draw for me. I ended up choosing to go to Taft because of Skunk and ended up practically living in that studio during my time there having fun making music 

Best,

Josh Gruss

CEO-Round Hill Music

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Subject: Re: Re-The Skunk Baxter Podcast

I don’t know how many people I’ve told about the Skunk Baxter podcast.

I’ve known him for several years and have played the D.C. event. 

You did a masterful job of giving him the reins. It’s hard to believe that people as compelling and diverse as Skunk exist. There wasn’t a dull moment.

Well done,

Ronnie Dunn

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Subject: Re: Capitalism

I was in the record distribution biz when The Bee Gees Sgt Pepper album was released, and we were shipped a bunch of pallets , all “on wheels”, to be returned before the bill came due.  This let  RSO report huge sales based on product that never stuck, but gave all the RSO honcho’s their sales bonuses on a “hit” album that never was, and let us hit our sales goals.  So many games were played and so much unneeded product crated that ultimately went into cutout bins or landfills somewhere.  The whole business was constructed so that a few “moguls” could prosper and leave the creators in the dirt.  Has it changed, or are we still dealing with the wheels and the  road they run on?

Marty Jorgensen

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From: Charlie Brusco

Subject: Re: Re-The Arista Book

Hey Bob …. I look forward to reading the Mitchell Cohen Arista book as the Outlaws my client in 1974 was the 1st rock act signed to Arista Records. Bob Fieden an Arista A&R ma found the band through Peter Rudge who managed Skynyrd at the time suggested Bob see the band. Bob saw the band play with Skynyrd in Orlando and next thing you know Clive was in Columbus GA and soon after we were launching a career. Many battles with Clive over song selection for records but some of the best and most dedicated people I have had the pleasure of working with in my 47 plus years… Bob Fieden, Rick Dobbis, Michael Klenfner, Michael Lippman, Rose Marino Richard Palmese all the mention of still bring a smile to my face. I look forward to reading the book.

Now back to the biggest touring summer in history.

Cheers,

Charlie

Red Light Atlanta

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Subject: RE: Re-The Arista Book

Dear Bob,

In 1988 When most a&r men could have cared less about me or what I had done (play on the Rolling Stones’ METAMORPHOSIS, produce Alex Chilton’s 1st solo album, play in the Jim Carroll Band) or was about to do (produce B.B. King, Frank Black, Little Milton, Steve Cropper etc.), Mitchell Cohen took a song my wife and I wrote with Keith Reid (lyricist on all of Procol Harum’s work), “River of No Return,” and put it on the Jeff Healey Band’s debut album SEE THE LIGHT. When it sold over 2 million copies and jump-started my stalled songwriting career, I experienced the Arista Magic first hand without ever having to sign anything over (I kept all my pub). In a business full of goniffs and schnorrers, Mitchell stepped up without asking “What’s in it for me?” so at the very least he deserves gratitude and respect. Thank you, Mitchell, from me, my wife, my songwriting partners, and all of the artists I got to work with because of “River of No Return.” Best of luck with LOOKING FOR THE MAGIC!

Warm regards,

Jon Tiven

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Subject: Re: The Arista Book

Hello Bob –

I met Steve Backer in the late 70’s while working as the jazz buyer at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, MA. Steve would always check in for a sales update on his artists and he graciously invited me to participate on a panel hosted by legendary WBUR DJ Tony Cennamo during the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. After leaving the Coop and moving to NYC, I had the opportunity to work closely with Steve in the late 80’s when he was head of the RCA jazz division for the Novus and Bluebird labels. Along with the lesser known masters of the avant garde, he championed many new lions of the jazz world that otherwise might never have been recognized. Steve was the epitome of cool, a true record guy who gave his all to the artists he signed and his passion for music was infectious. Thanks for the tip, I’m looking forward to reading the book. 

Bob Anderson

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Subject: RE: Capitalism

At Capitol-EMI we didn’t just load out excess tonnage at year’s end.  Rather, we dumped it all out there at the end of each quarter.

The practice seemed to intensify in the 1990s.  Our ability to clog the retail pipeline was limited, but one-stops and rack jobbers always had warehouse floor space available for rent, so that’s where most of the stuff went.

While our loading propensity may have stood out among the majors, we definitely weren’t the only ones hiding shopping carts piled high with unsold LPs behind the furnace in retail stockrooms.

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From: Brenda Hoffert

Subject: Lighthouse – One Fine Morning – Horn Playlist

Dear Bob,

I’m reaching out to thank you, both as Lighthouse’s manager and as its number one fan, for including One Fine Morning in your horn songs playlist. 

Lighthouse had several reunions but permanently reunited in 1992 and have been rocking it out, with mostly the same line-up, ever since. We celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2019.

Lighthouse performs mostly in Canada but have been performing on the fabulous Moody Blues Cruises – now titled the On the Blue Reunion with Justin Hayward. 

Love the Lefsetz letter. Lighthouse was honoured to be included!

Very best,

Brenda

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Subject: Re: Re-Desperado

Bob –

 

Every time I see an Eagles post, I can’t help but think…I was 15 years old working at a little rural radio station in southern Indiana. (I’d been hired simply because my Dad owned a local grocery store and they thought if they hired his kid to be a DJ, the father would buy more commercials…)

 

Given my radio job, the County Fair asked me to introduce the evening’s entertainment for a show in front of the grandstand…Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band touring for an album, “Rudy the Fifth.” I had heard of Nelson, obviously…and had even heard of the steel guitar player, Tom Brumley, because he played on all of Buck Owens’ hits like “Together Again.” Now I realize that they were on the vanguard of country rock…

 

The bass player and I were chatting before the gig…cool guy…he noted that he was from a small town like this one, only in Nebraska. Mentioned he only had a couple more dates with Rick Nelson, then he and some friends were starting their own band.

 

He said, “So, if you see anything by Eagles…I hope you’ll play us on the radio.”  Randy Meisner…who is often forgotten among Henley, Frey, Walsh…but his soaring vocals established the distinctive sound as much as anyone in the original lineup. His contribution to creating music royalty should never be overlooked.

 

Scott McKain

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Subject: Felix Cavaliere, etc.

Hi Bob, 

I’ve been enjoying your emails and podcasts, even when the subject matter is not quite up my alley.  You come from a time and a place that connects with me.  Our lunch several years ago reaffirmed my initial first impressions.  You have strong opinions, eloquently and vividly expressed.  Sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I don’t, but I am always stimulated.  A good thing…..

I’m writing to ask a favor of sorts.  I listened to your Felix Cavaliere podcast and I would like to contact him, not just to tell him how much I enjoyed his thoughts and, of course, his music but to remind him of a very significant time in my life.  You see, I was on the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars that you discuss with him early in your podcast!!!!  It was my first job in Show Business and I was the main program seller….I went out in the audience during the show and sold programs with photos and bios of the stars.  I traveled on the tour bus overnight to the next gig, places like Waycross GA, Eldorado ARK, Wheeling WVA.  As Felix mentioned, the Rascals traveled on their own van but I ended up on it a few times.  I was always impressed with Felix…..not just his talents but his intellect and maturity.  Most of all, he was a gentleman and one time he let me play the maracas when they played an impromptu set in a hotel lobby, as I remember it.  I learned a life lesson on that tour that shaped my career:  The tour bus would pull into the parking lot of our next motel/Holiday Inn and a cluster of the town’s young ladies would gather around the door of the bus, waiting for their heroes to come out.  I came out and they asked for my autograph and asked if I was available later.  I said that I was only the program seller and the musicians hadn’t come off the bus yet.  They would say to me that it didn’t matter what I did because I was “on the bus”.

I resolved then and there that I would have a career in which I was “on the bus”.  I went into the William Morris mailroom after Wesleyan and started a run of 40 years in the agency business at WMA and CAA and then on to managing and producing…..Lots of fun, lots of memories and always happy to be “on the bus”.  That tour gave me the taste of what I wanted to do, and I did it.

I’d appreciate it if you would give me his email address or a way to contact him so I could tell him how my brief interaction with him literally influenced my life.  He won’t remember me but I sure remember him.

Thanks, Bob.

Rick Nicita

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From: Nick Lawson

Subject: Re: Mailbag

I got the new beats to listen to spatial audio and its amazing. 

For months i had a reminder to cancel spotify and could never do it.  Their personal mixes and suggested listening is so good.  They also added an “enhance” feature you could do to your own playlists and the additions are awesome.

Apple music feels more like radio, you pick a genre and that’s really all you can do. Spotify still feels like its my music, personally.

Still paying for both, the spatial audio really is amazing.  Its like the old days – i hit play and close my eyes and drift away.   But its the same as my turntable – its amazing for when and where the situation is right to listen.

Spotify still the go to for every day, working, driving, etc…

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From: Greg Upham

Subject: Re: The Coachella Backlash

Bob

Looking at this from three different levels

1,000 ft – I have teenagers and all they care about is what’s happening in the digital space.  EVERYTHING is documented and posted because if it wasn’t captured, it didn’t happen.  Which means everything is a backdrop for your documented life.  Coachella isn’t unique but maybe a salient illustration.  I don’t care about influencers and if you do…and you don’t have something to sell…you are wasting your time.  Influencers are a scam.  Why?

10,000 ft – “influencer” is basically somebody who has an audience you can identify demographically and sell to.  Nobody cares about the influencer as a person.  Not their audience or the sponsors.  What matters is what they are selling.  Here’s a test: if Jake Paul dies are people going to be sad or riveted?  Would his brother capitalize and…wait for it….monetize?  Bad luck is gold for this crowd because it gives them content and a storyline.  Their poor coachella experience can be turned into inflated outrage and drive impressions.

100,000 ft – this country has turned into a giant shopping mall.  I defy you to find anything, anything that hasn’t been monetized.  The United States is nothing but a giant marketplace.  Nobody gives a shit about anybody else, unless they are rich or can make you money.  Or both.

In this country money is all that matters.  Values are something used against you by the political opposition (can you believe they believe that?) so some guy can get elected, wield power and influence, and control money.  For that matter, so is the consumer internet.

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From: Carl Gunell

Subject: Re: The State Of The Union

The US fixation on taxation is irrelevant.  Sure, taxes in Sweden (where I was born) are somewhat higher than the US.  But so is disposable income which is a more relevant measurement.  Scandinavians have higher disposable income because they do not have to worry about paying for healthcare and education.

That’s why many people can use some of their five weeks vacation to travel and see the world.  Travel have contributed to the the general public having a much more insightful and balanced view of the world.  Few Americans may have visited Scandinavia, but a lot of Scandinavians have visited the US.   The views of America in Scandinavia is not only based on hearsay.

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From: Robin G

Subject: Re: Re-Abortion

I concur with Pam Arnold who replied here…regarding the hypocrisy. Certainly I am aware this is not an earth shattering surprise yet it really is off-putting to be face to face with it in a clinic setting.

The hypocrisy.

The moms, the grandmas, the women seeking abortion care themselves who “don’t believe in it”.

As a counselor at a clinic, for many years, I saw this often.

We used to say amongst ourselves that we were the clinic of choice for the antis.

Groan, I know.

The only reason anyone was turned away was for hostility, racism, non-compliance.

As far as actions not meeting their stated position on abortion …we put together a plan for decision making and would possibly r/s their appointment for another day, many would leave and return to have an abortion.

In almost 20 years only one family didn’t return and we heard later they went to another clinic…after some medical records were shared between providers.

All this to say, the force to not be pregnant when you don’t want to be is powerful…

it’s such a shame that those who protest and have a public persona of religious opposition don’t/won’t support and vote for what they DO not what they say.

The privilege, the selfishness…it’s exhausting and oh so painful to watch.

Robin Gelberg

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From: Randy Dawson

Subject: Re: Re-Abortion

Bob, as usual i am late to the table. lotta shit going on in my life since Christmas.. bin sick all winter…wanna start off by saying i am in a way responsible for three abortions. Pressure. Not proud of it. The first was when my ex wife went behind my back and had a DNC and while admitting it just had to tell me it was a boy. She destroyed my only chance of a son. Got two girls! They are now successful women. Very proud of them. Not very proud of myself that she didn’t feel that she could come to me and say we could be expecting another child. Pressure. We were both working very hard at decent jobs. Why do women have to hide important decisions?..The answer? Men are assholes.  Plain and simple.. That was not a deal breaker. I took my disappointment on the chin as stunning as it was. I will never marry again.because i’m not up to the task.. Women should have the right to their own bodies. The injustices they have and still endure is a disgrace to mankind. A smart man walks away from an unworkable situation with a spouse. Ya don’t stick around and beat them into submission.   That’s a coward. It’s incredible from a Canadian perspective that a country as progessive as the USA is arguing about something that was decided decades ago for the betterment of society. Very sad.. Keep up the good work pal.

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From: Erin Dineen

Subject: A Little More Abortion

Hi Bob,

My two careers just collided in a fantastic way: I worked for 25 years in the music business in London, and I’m now working for Erwin Chemerinsky, leading the alumni relations team at Berkeley Law. I encourage any and all to read Erwin’s op-eds.   He is also the author of fourteen books, including leading casebooks and treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction.  His most recent books are Presumed Guilty:  How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights, and The Religion Clauses:  The Case for Separating Church and State. He is one of the – if not THE – most influential people in legal education in the United States. And he just happens to be the best boss I’ve ever had – by a mile – and talks with me as passionately about baseball as he does about constitutional law. He’s so incredibly awesome that I forgive him for being a Dodgers fan. 

Thanks for quoting his piece.

Erin Dineen (lifelong San Francisco Giants fan)

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From: Steve Storms

Subject: Re: Spotifty Changes

Date: April 27, 2022 at 11:35:23 AM MDT

Hi Bob. I hope you’re doing well.

It’s been nearly a month since you sent this April 1st email. Yet I have not seen nor heard anything more about all of the Spotify changes you mentioned.

Certainly no evidence of Neil returning to the service.

Perhaps these things take time but it is a bit surprising that there’s been nothing further about this to the best of my knowledge.

It seemed like you had a huge exclusive scoop on the story but now wondering if your information was I error?

Hope to hear more from you soon in an upcoming email!

All the best

Steve

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From: Mike Gormley

Subject: Dave Robinson..

I’m listening to your Dave Robinson interview and it’s so great to hear his voice after many years lacking communication.

Story, if I may.  It’s mid-70s and I’m in London on business, staying at a very nice hotel. Upon waking up one day I felt funky..a touch of the flu is how it felt so I cancelled a couple of appoihtments. At some point there is a knock on the door of my room and it’s Dave Robinson. With a bag of bananas. We sat on the bed watching TV, emptying the bag. I felt fine by mid-day.

Great guy.

Mike Gormley

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From: Mike Bone

Subject: Re: Dave Robinson-This Week’s Podcast

I enjoyed your interview with Dave Robinson.  I thought your readers MIGHT like to hear some other stories about Robbo.

 

Dave and I worked together at American Recordings in the early 1990’s.  Dave worked in London, I worked in LA.  We had a band, the Jayhawks, that was set to tour Britain.  They had brought a woman keyboard player with them and she wanted a Hammond B3 organ for the tour.  Dave put in a check request from our partner label and was told that there was a “warehouse full of equipment” that the company owned and to just go over and pick up a B3 for the tour.  This was the WRONG thing to say to Dave Robinson.  

 

Dave was given a key to said warehouse.  He immediately went to a locksmith and had a copy of the key made. Dave then went over to the warehouse and tried his new key.  He then went back to the partner company, returned the original key and said there was nothing in the warehouse that could be used on the tour.  Later, that night, he returned with a truck and loaded up a Hammond B3 with Leslie speakers all in Anvil cases.   Dave gave to the keyboard player the organ, speakers and cases for the tour and to “take home”, a gift from American Recordings. The partner company never missed it.

 

Some months later American Recordings went through an amazing lawsuit with the partner in London.  Dave played a big part in our success in this lawsuit.  He was relentless.  

 

The partner label was headed by a CEO that went home every night sharply at 7PM to have dinner with his family.  He was rigid about spending dinner time with his family.  One rainy night in London, his chauffer driven Jaguar pulled up to the entrance to the company headquarters in Hammersmith to pickup said CEO.  When the CEO got into the back right seat, a soaking wet Dave Robinson got into the back left seat.  Needless to say, the CEO was more than a little unnerved by this.

 

The lawsuit was dragging on in court in London.  The British legal system is different from the US system.  There are barristers, Queens counsels and solicitors.  The judges, barristers and Queens counsels still wear the powdered wigs you see in movies.  It is OLD SCHOOL and regimented.  Your place to stand in the court depends on if you are a barrister or a Queens counsel.  The opposing sides refer to each other as “My learned friend” or “My esteemed colleague” while they really mean, “that idiot over there”.  It is all very interesting. 

 

During the case, the opposing side attempted to introduce into evidence an unauthorized tape recording of a privileged telephone call between American recordings executives and our solicitor.  When this happened, the judge, who had been almost comatose for the entire proceedings, sort of woke up from his nap on the bench and suddenly became VERY interested in this tape….who had made it, how it was obtained, was it bought, how much did it cost etc.   

 

“Persons unknown” had made the tape, it was bought for 500 pounds sterling in cash in a plain brown envelope delivered on railroad platform…..almost spy quality stuff!

 

Needless to say the opposing side realized that they had screwed up BIG TIME by letting anyone even know they had the tape, much less trying to introduce it into evidence.  The person at the company responsible for this debacle was a nasty bit of work I will call Mr. X.

 

Once the lawsuit was resolved, American made a new much bigger, better deal.  Dave and I had lingering animosity for Mr. X.  We wanted to send him a message.  Dave said, leave it with me.

 

Big TVs were just coming into favor in London.  Dave arranged for a MASSIVE TV, the largest available in Great Britain, to be delivered to Mr. X’s office.  The box had a huge metallic bow on it and balloons.  There was a large sign on all 6 sides of the box that said “Thank you Mr. X from your friends at American Recordings”.  We had the box delivered to Mr. X’s office at 11AM so that everyone in the company could see that Mr. X was getting a gift from American Recordings.  By 11:05 everyone in the company was talking about Mr. X and him doing a favor for American Recordings.

 

A couple of years go by, as they tend to do.  Dave and I were no longer at American Recordings.

 

My wife Lori was pregnant with our daughter Mica in 1996, really pregnant.  She was, as they say, heavy with child.

 

Dave calls the house and inquires about Lori….how was she doing, when was her due date, was she having any illness, that sort of thing.  After a couple of these questions, Dave gets down to business.

 

It seems Dave was directing a video for the American punk band, The Descendents. The song was titled “I’m the One”.  The story line of the video had to do with the members of the band being donors at the local sperm bank.  Dave needed a pregnant woman to be in the video.  Lori certainly fit the bill!

 

On the day of the taping Lori and I waited and waited.  Finally, late in the day, Dave and the band roared up like madmen in front of the house in 2 vans.  Dave was frantic.  “Get in. Get in. We are losing the light.”  The Milos Forman of punk was frantic to get the scene shot before sundown.  

 

Near the end of the video, the Descendents dress like sperm in white suits and skateboard down the streets of Santa Monica. 

 

Years went by and the phone rang and it was Dave.  We picked up right where we left off.  His kids were grown.  His marriage was over.  Life.

 

It seemed that one of his boys was coming to Los Angeles for a wedding and needed a place to stay.  DONE!  He stayed with us.

 

Over dinner I told the Jayhawks/Hammond B3 story.  Dave’s son laughed and said…”That explains it.”

 

It seems that one night Dave returned home from work and it was this son’s birthday. Once Dave realized that he had forgotten this important occasion, he apologized, saying he had left his son’s gift at the office.  Dave left to “retrieve his gift”.  

 

45 minutes rolled by and Dave returned home with a Gibson “Les Paul” guitar in a road case complete with band stencils and stickers.

 

Years later, in my dining room, Dave’s son wisely surmised that his father had made another trip to the equipment warehouse under cover of darkness to “retrieve” his son’s birthday gift. 

 

The music business was full of characters………but few as colorful as Dave Robinson.

 

Mike Bone

Re-Kevin Sutter

Kevin was one of my best friends. We saw a lot of shows in the Seattle area over the years. He was a wealth of knowledge about the business. I learned much. We did not hear from Kevin for a few days so I called the police to check on him. He had passed away. He had COPD and died from a cardiac incident according to the coroner. I and many others will miss him. Love you brother !

Rick Mercer, Jr.

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I worked with, “The Sutter-man” at M3 and then followed him to, “Tazmoe Music”!  You would be hard pressed to find another promotion man more passionate about music and the job of promoting it.  Simply, one of a kind and his passing hits me hard and leaves me riddled with guilt that I failed to keep in better contact with him.  You always think there’s never ending time and opportunity to keep in touch until it’s too late.  “The Sutter-man” will be missed.

Mark “Rad-man” Radway

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Sorry to hear about Kevin.

The Silencers owed him a debt of gratitude for his support in the USA.

Even when the American label company turned their backs on us, he didn’t. We so wanted to tour the States again to promote A Blues for Buddha, they never did forgive us for not going right back into the studio after the ’87 US tour, instead we toured Europe.

By the time we released the 2nd album in”89 they were over us and onto the next thing.

Thanks again for your kind words about our music, much appreciated.

All the best

Martin Hanlin

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Wounded, indeed.

I met Kevin in Houston, 1992, the 9th Annual KLOL Rock&Roll Auction….instant brother. You know exactly what I mean.

Like you, we talked every week for many years, then it eventually tapered off. That’s just life sometimes. Still, every couple months, Sutterman would call, ask about me, then proceed to tell me everything about HIM! Just part of his charm.

I’m only learning of his passing from your email, and I am crushed.

Thank you for such a passionate and poignant tribute to a wonderful soul.

RIP SUTTERMAN!

Gary Poole

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Thanks for honoring Kevin. He took on my band Visitor Jim and worked us to Triple A radio via his company Tazmoe. He was working Jack Johnson’s debut at the same time, guess which one blew up? But he always treated us with respect. If he liked your music and believed in you as a person, he’d work hard for you. Respect, Kevin

Jimmy Leslie

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Very sad news, Bob, I’m so sorry to hear this. I was the promotions coordinator at Chrysalis with Daniel and Kevin for a short time and interned at IRS before that when Kevin was there. Kevin was kind, fun to be around because I felt he knew so much, a hard worker, intense and smart, helpful when I was just starting out, and a super all-around music guy. I had so much respect for him, seeing him every day doing his job well at Chrysalis every day.

Difficult news.

Beth Winer

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I worked over the last 8-9 years on various projects with Kevin. Every phone call was over 30 mins. Likely an hour. He was one of a kind. We recommended each other often for projects. We liked working together. I remember his bike accident when he had an episode. That was scary but he Bounced back. We talked divorce and life  He always asked about my kids.

I don’t know the last time I talked to him. During the pandemic I know.
Damn. Really bummed to see this one today.

Life is short.
Melissa Dragich

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Oh my gosh! This was certainly not news I was expecting to hear when checking my phone a moment ago on Saturday night.

 

Kevin and I worked at I.R.S. Records together in the ’80s, on opposite coasts, and in nearly opposite disciplines (press – radio). But he couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful, always the extra mile, always the extra phone call…hell, if I needed anything at all, especially while 3,000 miles from home, Kevin was always there to tell me which subway to take, where the stage door was, what the best deli was…he even introduced me to a few key New York press people who became valuable contacts and friends.

 

Kevin introduced me to the word “geek.” He went one farther to coin the word “geekdom” The word seemed more disparaging in 1984 than it is in 2022 when its something of a compliment, tantamount to “maven.” No matter the context, I think of him every time the word comes up in daily dialogue.

 

Kevin and I worked a few projects as indies in the past decade or two. There are a lot of great Triple A promo specialists, but there was something special about Kevin — his passion, his drive, his caring, and, yes, his absolutely endearing geekdom.

Rest up, old soldier until we meet again.

Cary Baker

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Kevin was a good man.  He was always passionate about the music. We weren’t best friends, but we would talk often when I worked at Geffen after he moved to Seattle.
He always said good things about you.
Jim told me of his passing yesterday.

You spoke of him very fondly and beautiful.
Sorry you lost a good friend.
It is very sad.

Alan Oreman

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Remember Kevin from Buffalo when my gig would take me there to write up some band.  Nice guy.  Good times.  Sad side two.

Jonathan Gross

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He worked some singles for us, he was a good guy, sad to hear this.

Mister Zero

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Very sad. Too young. A very good record man. Very sad.

Bob Morellli

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That’s a great and nice thing you did on Kevin. He was a good guy and a music lover. You got it really right.  He was always a big defender of yours too as you know 🙂 You’re a good man for doing this. You don’t get to hear that often do you. .)

Thanks

Harry Levy

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Thank you for this.  I was worried that his passing would go unnoticed in these batsh@#t crazy times.

I met The Sutterman in 82. My passion has always been music [skiing was business for me] and over the years he introduced my to so many artists.  With Kevin I was able to dine with Ian Anderson [who was not in a great mood that eve], hung with Huey Lewis, Blue Rodeo and many others. His care packages came regularly and he turned me on to so much new music.

Kevin [and Glynnis] are the Godparents for our oldest.  We were tight for 40 years.  We had regular check in’s where as you know, you were a listener on those calls.

The music business is brutal and most of the time makes no sense – he lived through it all, the highs and too many lows.  At Christmas I would send him gift cards to Costco to feed his DVD addiction.  I could never repay him for the music he turned me on to – and yes I still listen to Was Not Was and Go West.

He loved his artists and passionately promoting them with anyone.  He made me feel like a music industry insider. Loved that guy (he still called me Dude!).

Stay safe.

Mike

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Very moving column about a former music biz compadre.
You portrayed Kevin’s vibe so well. (He was especially active with us when my brother and I ran the Triple A Summits in Boulder for Gavin up ‘til 2000.) Your piece stresses the deeeeeeep camaraderie of our biz, one I only partially found later in the publishing/literary set with editors, lit agents, writing clients…blah blah. Would have been IMPOSSIBLE to replicate something so priceless anyway.

You touched on the importance of creative career reinvention later on, which some talented passionate lifers like Kevin simply couldn’t achieve. You often say it’s every man for himself, and as gratifying and rewarding our fraternity was/is, many scale a deep chasm towards the end. Maybe that’s the price you pay when you do something you adore for a living…

Keith Zimmerman

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I can’t say I knew Kevin well – but I worked several of those small releases with him. I always enjoyed his love of the game and life. Loved that he called himself Sutterman. He was one of my tribe. I am so sorry to hear that he has passed.

Adam Lewis

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I’m so sad reading this. We spent a wonderful day with him, he drove us all around Seattle in his Acura. He spoke of his role cheering you on through your trials he was so gentle and caring. He won me over when we were driving through residential neighborhoods and he pointed and said “I love this house, it’s just so cute”

He was still angry about his wife leaving him but he then told the story of having the smoked salmon sent from some English rocker to his former father in law.

Wendy Morris

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Wow. Thanks for the memories and words.  I  hired him to do local in Buffalo a real music junkie- I remember the stories he would tell me about his relationship with Ian Anderson.  The above is the same as the below and the below is the above !  Eternal peace-crank it loud and have some of Ian’s salmon  for me!

Harvey Leeds

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Nice piece. I wish there was a fund  established years ago for industry vets like Kevin. I remember suggesting it  but no support then.. I do think “Music Cares” has something to help music vets, but I could be wrong.
I have helped some old record biz pals with “Go Fund Me”,
Thanx again for the good read

Stan Goman

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That’s a very sad story about Kevin. We spoke on the phone a few times, probably about those things you describe as ‘obscure indie records’ but he was a music guy. That’s what I liked about him. Always coming up with ideas and showing enthusiasm.

Then I got to go to Seattle for the first time, probably around 2007 or 08, and I looked him up and called. He asked where I was staying and said he’d come around and show me Seattle. Long story short, that’s exactly what we did. I watched Seattle from his car window and he showed me the sights and finally the cityscape from across the sound. Then he invited me back to his apartment to listen to some tunes and we watched DVDs and just soaked in great music. He was a big fan of David Gilmore live in concert at the time. We traded albums and then he dropped me back to my hotel.

I never forgot those few hours we spent together and one story in particular. Being an Aussie, as we were driving around I asked him how he felt about everyone in the US carrying guns. Its still bizarre to me that the sensible majority have never stood up to the power of the NRA in your weird country, where gun deaths per capita are higher than anywhere else in the world and yet people think they’re safer for actually carrying them. So I said to Kevin, what happens on the roads when the inevitable road rage occurs, do people actually brandish guns? And he said yeh, it was a problem, but he had a solution. As we drove along the highway he reached below his drivers seat and pulled out a massive gun and said, “well I’ve got a bigger one”. I looked in astonishment as he put it back away, more than bemused at this typical display of American bravado.

Kevin, was one of the good ones. VALE.

Rob Scott

The SourceSeeker

Noosa

Australia

Kevin Sutter

He died.

Shortly after my ex-wife moved out, in the spring of ’89, I heard from two people, Daniel Glass and Kevin Sutter. This had nothing to do with my ex being gone, it was serendipitous, but both of these connections served me well over the years, got me through the nineties, which were hell. The fact that I got through them at all was a miracle. I was broke, my dad died, I had an horrific operation…if it weren’t for psychotherapy, I never would have made it through, I wouldn’t be here right now.

Ironically both Daniel and Kevin had worked together at Chrysalis, but Kevin had moved on to RCA, he was staying at Le Parc, where he always stayed thereafter, at least until his fortunes took a turn for the worse, and I believe we went out for sushi, some kind of meal, and then in the bowels of the building, in the parking garage, he slipped a cassette into the tape deck of his rental car and he played me the new Silencers album, “A Blues for Buddha.”

You probably don’t know that record, it was their first one that had the semi hit “Painted Moon,” but “A Blues for Buddha” is also spectacular, and it begins with the song “Answer Me,” which fades in like a pied piper coming over a hill and then lights into a groove and it’s undeniable.

Kevin turned me on to other records, I remember one by Slim Dunlap, but that was after he’d moved to Seattle to work with Jim McKeon.

You see Kevin was a promotion man. A salesman. He started off at CBS in Buffalo, after RCA he worked at East West, but then the major label gigs dried up. For a while there, radio promo people were making seven figures, not that Kevin was ever in that league, but even a regional guy did very well in those years, and they were mostly guys, but there have been spectacular female promotion people too.

And once you get the music business bug, you can’t let it go. It’s very hard to go straight. First you go independent, hoping it’s just an interim gig, before you land another major label job. Then you go to work for somebody else on a full time basis, an established indie, and then ultimately you work for yourself, on ever more minor records.

And this was in an era when there were still six major labels. And the casts changed on a regular basis. That’s not so true anymore, then again the labels don’t have the power they used to, they’re sharing it with the promoters.

So Jim McKeon was a radio guy who’d set up an indie shop in Seattle and Kevin moved there. The timing was right, he was just breaking up with his wife. He never got remarried, and neither did Glynnis. Actually, I never heard of another girlfriend. Glynnis called him for a while, from Arizona, where she had a relative, where she’d gone to get a gig in the airline business, but I haven’t gotten a report recently, that all dried up.

I got the impression that Glynnis’s family always thought Kevin wasn’t good enough for her. They’d met in Buffalo. Neither graduated from college. But Glynnis’s family was full of high achievers, her father was a doctor. And Kevin was arrested his first night at college.

It was somewhere in the Midwest, Memphis I recall, I can’t remember the name of the institution, but it was a wrong place wrong time kind of situation, and college did not stick.

As for Kevin’s background, he came from the Island. As in Long Island. And I remember his father was ill, from either a work accident or something from birth, and had passed, and Kevin was flying high in the music business…

And then he was not.

Kevin was doing well in Seattle. Ultimately McKeon left and Kevin ran the operation himself. He had a car, one of those early Acuras with that sloping rear end. And then a boat. And he insisted I come visit him. This I did. In the summer of ’93.

You see Kevin called me every week, not to pitch me, but to talk. In an era when my phone did not ring. He introduced me to his pal Jeff Laufer, who’d also worked at Chrysalis, and I fell in with Jeff’s family, they were very good to me.

But when my fortunes started to turn, upon the arrival of the new century, I…was ultimately too busy to talk to Kevin for an hour every week. And he did not have a computer at first. You may not remember those days, when everybody was not computer literate, but that was the case in the music business until about ten or twelve years ago, when computers were easier to use and there was no choice.

But then I heard that Kevin had a heart problem.

It’s a terrible story. Business had gone bad. Kevin had to sell his boat, and then his car, and then he let his health insurance lapse.

And that’s when it happens.

He went for help a little too late, but he made it through and was upbeat. Most of the time Kevin was upbeat.

And he was really into collecting physical product, especially DVDs, that was his idea of a good time, to pull up one of his DVDs and watch a movie. He continued to do that.

And he continued to be an indie promotion man. With ever more obscure indie records.

But last fall he called it quits. Or maybe it was the fall before, I’d have to look at my e-mail to be sure, and I don’t feel like doing that, it will wound me further. He said he was fed up, it was too hard, with too little money.

He moved from the city to the suburbs, and ultimately his mother died and I heard he was going to inherit some money, which I felt good about, he’d make it through.

But then when I wrote about not taking Social Security early, he immediately e-mailed me angry. He had to take Social Security. His accountant told him it was the only way he could make it through.

But Kevin continued to e-mail me. Especially when I wrote something political. You see Kevin was a dyed-in-the-wool left winger. A classic liberal. He was pissed off the way things were going and he was not afraid of saying so. And Kevin knew the story, he was not uninformed. It made me feel good to hear from him.

But I won’t hear from him anymore.

I remember Kevin was a couple of years younger than I am. He was tallish, slim, never overweight, and always alive, he was optimistic. But he could be intense, almost all promo people can be that way, especially when they feel a favor is not being repaid.

And now Kevin is gone.

The details? I don’t know them, I might never know them. I got a text from Jeff, he didn’t know them either, just that Kevin’s landlord called him, he’d found his number in Kevin’s desk. But probing deeper Jeff told me Kevin’s health had not been good, and Kevin insisted Jeff not ask him about it when he called.

So another member of the tribe is gone.

Kevin was a rock and roller through and through. Once he got bitten, he never went straight. He still got excited about new records.

People are complicated. Relationships are complicated. They go through changes. But you remember when someone has been good to you, and if you’re someone like me you keep repaying that debt, because they helped you make it through.

I don’t know why Kevin couldn’t make it through. Jeff said he’d been depressed. But he’s not the only one. Sell your soul for rock and roll and it can look very ugly at the end. Kevin’s not the only one, I know other record company employees who could never go straight, could never accept being on the outside, and lost a hell of a lot in the process.

So I’m off-kilter. Numb.

But life goes on.

It can end any day. Embrace it. If you don’t do it now, you’re just going to do it one year later as Warren Miller said, or maybe not at all.

And too many people care about unborn babies more than older people down on their luck. Kevin should have been living in Margaritaville or some other retirement village, with people just like himself, not alone.

But now he’s alone forever.

It’s a tragedy.

Capitalism

The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is take a pee. And this makes no sense to me. I mean I’ve already gotten up to take a leak multiple times during the night, it’s the scourge of the enlarged prostate, you’ll be familiar with it if you live long enough. And the funny thing is sometimes I’ve only peed forty five minutes before. You know, when you wake up but it’s still too early to get up and you ultimately lie in bed until the appointed time? How can I still have pee less than an hour later? I never wake up dry, I’m flummoxed.

After that I find some clothes. Although I’m cool with walking around the house naked, but that’s not Felice’s style. And I always debate what I’m going to wear, is it going to last the whole day long? I mean we had a cold streak here in L.A. last week, I broke out the heavy sweatpants and the long-sleeve t-shirts, but if it warms up during the day I might change to a short-sleeve t, and am I going to wear the same clothes later? And then I remember there’s a washer and dryer in the house, that I can wear as many clothes as I want and never freak out that the closet is bare, I can just fire up the machines. Yes, that’s my idea of living, of making it, when you have your own washer and dryer.

And then I get my phone. I do not keep it by my bed. Then I’d never get to sleep, I get e-mail all through the night. And you know you can’t resist that chime. And then there are the people who complain if you e-mail or text them after eleven, sometimes nine or ten, it’s a rule, you get old and you must go to bed earlier. Why would you want to wake up when it’s dark? Don’t these people know you can silence the ringer/chime? But oldsters are not tech-savvy. Now I’ll get e-mail from those who are. So this rule doesn’t apply to you, nothing is completely black and white, get over it.

And the first thing I do when I pick up my phone is look at the messages on the lock screen. I scroll through them, see if anything’s mega-important. And if there is, I open that message immediately, although for some reason I understand messages better on my computer than my phone, maybe because it’s all on one screen, I don’t have to scroll, end result being I sometimes get all heated up when the truth is I shouldn’t be, but I don’t know this until I fire up my computer and then…if there are no important messages, I start going to my sites.

There are too many of them. But usually I start with the “New York Times,” to see if the world blew up. And then it’s the “Washington Post.” And then I go to the “Los Angeles Times” and the “Wall Street Journal” and then I start scrolling my Twitter feed, which is in order of posting, I don’t believe in the algorithm, there’s no algorithm that replicates the needs and wants of a person.

Did I tell you I do all this on the pot?

Yes, that’s my secret space. And sometimes I don’t even have to go number two but I sit down anyway. And unless I have an obligation, I’m usually on the throne for about half an hour, catching up, before I go into the kitchen and read the newspapers, which are really yesterday’s news, some of which I’ve already seen.

And after scrolling through my Twitter feed, and I use an app with no ads, but I don’t want to tell you which one, because then they’ll eliminate it, I go back to the “New York Times,” to go beyond the headlines, to take the temperature of the country, to get up to speed.

And this morning, they already posted tomorrow’s Maureen Dowd column. She nailed it last week, but she usually doesn’t. She gets caught up in style and analogy and the ultimate result is blah. And then I see that Kara Swisher wrote about Elon Musk and Twitter. Okay, she’s got wider distribution than me, she’s gonna trump me, but despite a strong beginning, which Kara is famous for, the piece petered out, made no new points, gave no new insights, so I won that battle. Did I tell you I’m competitive? You probably are too, but the only person you tell is yourself.

And then I find this piece in the Business section entitled:

“How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed – The Onetime ‘manager of the century’ paved the way for C.E.O.s to moonlight as internet trolls.”: https://nyti.ms/386Y2Lr

Now I’m sick of reading about Jack Welch, because the truth is he cooked the books at G.E. and after he left the whole enterprise crumbled. Makes me crazy when these self-promoting crooks are lionized. But
‘internet troll’? That didn’t compute.

Yes, I’d forgotten how Welch supported Trump and was spewing lies about Obama online. But I do remember how his successors couldn’t salvage the company, selling one division after another, getting out of the lauded finance business to the point where the G.E. of yore is no longer going to exist.

But I’m reading this article and this is exactly what this guy is saying! No one could hit their projected targets for years without financial shenanigans. Welch used the finance unit to make the numbers right. Forget the underlying business, it was all about keeping Wall Street happy and getting paid, beaucoup bucks, Welch’s severance package was $417 million!

But then it got worse. The author started talking about how Welch’s proteges had gone on to ruin one company after another. Yes, it was a Welch acolyte who ran Boeing into not only the ground, but trouble. The same guy who operated out of St. Louis instead of Chicago where the previous Welch follower took the company for tax reasons.

Yes, this was the Welch paradigm. Cut costs, make the numbers look right and then pay yourself handsomely. And that’s the game being played today.

And then there was that article in the “Wall Street Journal.” I found this in the physical copy. Yes, you see things in the printed version you don’t see online. They’re there online, but you consume the news differently on a screen, you want the headlines, you don’t go that deep, after all you have no TIME!

“Mercedes-Benz’s Luxury Pitch Needs Tougher Road Testing – Consumers see the German car brand as more luxurious than investors do. Only smooth driving in stormy conditions can bridge the gap.”: https://on.wsj.com/39I8o4W

That article is behind a paywall, because only the headlines are available for free, if you want the complete news you’ve got to pay for it, and most people don’t want to, and therefore they’re subject to television, which tells you so much less under the pretense you’re being told more, and just gets its news from the “Times” anyway. But if you could read it you’d find out that…

People love their MBZ’s. The company is making big bucks. It’s just that the stock price does not reflect this. So the CEO’s solution? He’s gonna stop making cheaper cars and change the mix to focus on ever more expensive upscale luxury ones to improve the margins. You know, ones that start at a hundred thousand euros, which is a hundred and six thousand dollars, and you know the euro is tanking against the dollar, don’t you? It’s a good time to go to the EU, assuming you’ve already had Omicron and don’t venture too close to Ukraine.

This is completely contrary to the MBZ focus of decades. Yes, get people hooked on the brand because then they’ll keep on moving up the ladder. That’s the game in the car world, hook ’em and keep ’em. And if you lease it’s played even harder, they’re always trying to get you to re-up, and they’ll forgo physical damage and too many miles to get you behind the wheel of a brand new car. But this guy doesn’t care about the business, the brand, the cars, he only cares about the MONEY, Wall Street!

But this guy won’t be there too long anyway. The people who run these companies are rarely car guys, rarely experts in the field at any company, they’re financial engineers, satiating Wall Street. If the company suffers in the process? So be it, that’s ultimately somebody else’s problem.

Jack Welch is dead. Youngsters probably have no idea who he is. They probably stopped teaching his philosophy at business school, then again that’s a problem, people don’t want to get an MBA anymore, not in the same numbers.

You makes your money and you keep it! Doesn’t matter what happens thereafter. The story on Wall Street is how all the stockholders are voting against corporate pay packages, but that’s only symbolic, there are no teeth in that vote under the law.

And one can say Jack Welch is responsible for these insane executive pay packages. Yup, you’ve got to pay the new guy what his peers are getting, who get what they’re getting because some guy who worked at G.E. got overpaid to begin with!

But I’m just sitting by the side of the road observing all this.

You can’t criticize anybody who makes big bucks. That’s what outsiders don’t know about the music business. No one cares about the art, they only care about the money! The acts come and go, the suits remain. The decision is based on money, the exec’s pay, not the act’s pay. Of course there are exceptions, people give lip service to the opposite take, but don’t believe it, people say one thing and do another all day long.

As for the Jack Welch style, of cooking the books, EMI was famous for this, shipping product at the end of the year to make their numbers, so the execs got bonuses, and then the retailers ultimately returned the product, after the execs banked the cash. Guy Hands realized all this, tried to make it news, but the record biz is an inside game, so he was excised, after grossly overpaying for the assets to begin with, based on these cooked numbers. Quick, who was running Capitol, EMI’s flagship American label, when Hands bought EMI? You’ve got no idea, but be sure that person was paid seven figures per annum, at least.

And as opposed to wanting to put a stake in the heart of these business practices, the outsiders, the hoi polloi, just want to get in. That’s the goal of a “musician” today, to become a brand. They want that money!

And the GOP stripped the IRS, so your odds of getting audited are higher if you’re poor, which makes no sense whatsoever, and in truth there are not enough auditors to go over the returns anyway. So, you hire an expensive lawyer that cooks up a gray scheme and you’re never caught and if you are you blame it on the attorneys and accountants, disproving intent, so you don’t go to jail. As for payment? If there’s one at all, there’s a settlement.

Everything I said above is true. Tell yourself otherwise, listen to scuttlebutt, both on the TV and the computer, saying different, but that’s either intentional obfuscation or ignorance. If people found out how the game is really played, they’d be up in arms, totally pissed! Instead, they’re focused on a “stolen” election with no provable fraud whatsoever. And you’re surprised these business people skate?

That’s America folks. That’s the country you live in. Where who is lauded today is exposed thereafter, but the conveyor belt of news moves so fast the story is buried, or it was too long in the past to worry about, or the perp is now dead, and the big wheel keeps on turnin’, and then one day you find out you missed the gravy train or…

You realize it when you’re still playing the game, and you form a union. This is Amazon’s, Starbucks’ and the car companies’ worst nightmare. “You can’t form a union, it will affect our profits, it will affect our stock!” People are fungible, but the company must carry on. And first and foremost investors must get a return on their money.

And like the record company titans of yore, rather than give workers what they deserve, their royalties, they give them a Cadillac, or some other token that’s worth less than what they’re entitled to.

And if you expose all this, if you agitate for change, you’re excoriated, because no one wants to admit they’re a failure, or their career is stalled, they’ve been sold the American Dream, which George Carlin has labeled a nightmare, and he’s right.

But USA! USA! USA!

Make America Great Again?

These are the same leaders who ruined it for everybody but themselves. As for change, it must happen slowly, unless it benefits the rich, like tax cuts.

So these problems will only be resolved when people wake up.

But that’s too painful, which is why so many take drugs. I mean how could you work some of these jobs straight? And it’s Purdue Pharma and Wall Street who created this mess. Got the public hooked, after the prescriptions ran out they went to heroin, sold by Mexicans, which is now laced with fentanyl, which is killing our youth 24/7.

But it’s their fault, they must take personal responsibility.

Well when do these corporations take responsibility, the people making these decisions?

NEVER!