Happy Together Tour

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

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

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

In the sixties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for Gary Puckett…

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

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

But Howard Kaylan was not.

Huh?

He was never that thin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT IS!

Bah bah bah…

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

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

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

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

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

But most…

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

But so are we.

These songs are the story of our lives.

Sing along.

I CERTAINLY DID!

Harry Styles At The Forum

It’s the girls who know how to have a good time.

Boys think they control the show. That they are the inheritors of the scene. That they’re what makes it all go forward. But women are the grease, without them the engine doesn’t turn, and the engine was humming last night!

So it’s a secret.

Welcome to 2018, where we’re inundated with news but no one has their finger on the pulse. You’d think Drake is the biggest act in the world, but his shows are not selling out. Sure, there are multiples, sure, prices are high, but if you want a ticket you can get one.

But not for Harry Styles.

His original band, er, act, 1D, had few hits. So how did they sell out stadiums?

Via the internet, the word was spread. And there’s no internet chart, nothing that will tell you what is bubbling up, what is hot, where it’s all going. Oh, there are a lot of prognosticators, usually men, who tell you they have all the answers, but the truth is in today’s world no one does, it’s a veritable Tower of Babel, and if you weren’t in attendance last night, you’d have no idea how big Harry Styles is…

AND HE’S GIGANTIC!

Niall Horan may have more radio hits, but Harry is selling something more than music – sexiness, attraction, connection. To be at a Styles show is to fantasize he’s in love with you, and the amazing thing is it’s plausible, because he may be peacocking, but he’s somehow human, approachable, he’s the man of your dreams.

And he’s a rock star.

This is a rock show.

Forget all the words you hear about dancing and production. Except for the flashy lights, this could be the seventies. There’s a four piece band backing Harry up. It’s all about the music. And the music hearkens back to the past, do you remember MELODY?

It’s like the evolution into hip-hop nation never happened.

And the little girls understand.

But they’re not so little anymore. They’ve grown up. These are the same girls I saw at the Rose Bowl four years ago, but now they’re women, they’ve stuck with Harry, they not only know the old One Direction numbers, but the new ones too, they were there for a celebration.

And Harry delivered it.

First and foremost, he acted the part. Just like Rod Stewart in the early days of the Faces. They were not begging for your attention, but turning on their magnetism and drawing you to them. And Harry had some of Rod’s moves, with his hands up by his head, prancing, it was thrilling to watch.

And unlike Taylor Swift, he’d grown up.

The world is riddled with teen phenom has-beens. Who could never outgrow their puppy love days and replicate them through lines in their face and heart failure. But Harry decided he would evolve, in both music and performance, and that’s a revelation. He didn’t just remake 1D, he went off on his own journey, based on his own taste, AND HIS AUDIENCE FOLLOWED HIM!

It was 95% women. Sure, there were some men in attendance, but whole rows were filled with females. Standing through the entire show. Singing along at the top of their lungs. Sometimes screaming. Short ones, tall ones, big ones, small ones. Not a single one self-conscious, all letting their freak flags fly. With their heads in the sky, when they weren’t pointing their phone cameras at Harry.

Who ran down the middle of the arena to a second stage in the middle of the show. And the fascinating thing was he played to those in the far-back seats, he faced them, not us up front. Playing acoustically. The modern world is all about faking it, about the trappings, but Harry could play and sing and the audience swooned.

There was an Ariana Grande cover.

But there was also a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” a forty-year old nugget. These girls wouldn’t know that, WOULD THEY?

OF COURSE THEY DID!

They’re aware of their rock history, they know who Stevie Nicks is.

And as the show wore on, Harry shed his distance, talked more, engaged as a regular person without becoming schmaltzy. He made a phone call to patron’s mother. He had the assembled multitude sing “Happy Birthday” to three in attendance, one of whom, the guitar player, is dating the drummer…

That was the revelation. I didn’t notice the ponytail at first. But she was pounding like Mick Fleetwood, with flair. She was better than the boys with tattoos, she’d been recruited from Hot Chip.

And the keyboard player was also a woman.

And unlike the rock stars of yore, Harry Styles did not come off as sexist whatsoever, he seemed positively up with the times, while channeling the past.

But if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t know it.

Boys are smug, think they know better, sit in judgment.

It’s the girls who can let loose. Especially when there are no boys around.

But boys wouldn’t know how to act around these girls/women. Boys are afraid. They can’t be free. They huddle amongst their peers and make snide comments, try to get up their gumption to speak, when all the girls want is a partner, not in crime, but in joy.

And you would have observed all this last night, if you’d been in the sold-out arena, where they even sold the seats behind the stage.

But you missed the memo.

As for those in attendance?

THEY NEEDED TO BE THERE!

Strzok

Defiant. Knowledgeable. Unrehearsed. Intense.

THAT’S A ROCK STAR!

I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you’re a Trumpster or not, one thing is clear, you weren’t gonna mess with Peter Strzok.

For far too long the government has been demonized. Taxes. Unions too. Inept people sucking at the tit of the American economy. The right has defined the debate, the left has remained silent, or played into the right’s trap. To the point where people believe government doesn’t work and all politicians are bad and the best idea is to put the government in a tub and drown it.

BUT I’M GLAD PETER STRZOK IS ON OUR SIDE!

This is the guy who captured the illegals. This is the guy who inspired “The Americans.” This is a patriot. This is someone who takes his job seriously. While you’re posting to Instagram, he’s saving your ability to do so. WHAT AN INSPIRATION!

That’s right, I grew up in the sixties, when government was good and you admired the G-Men, I remember buying a book about the Secret Service from the Arrow Book Club, we went to D.C. and marveled at the institutions.

And then Kennedy was shot and hope went out the window.

It hasn’t been the same since.

A worthless war, with too many innocent people killed.

Then a decade of licking our wounds.

And then, starting in the eighties, an endless dash for cash, you’ve got to unfetter the people, RIGHT? You’ve got to take the chains off the corporations, the job-creators, RIGHT? And those job-creators who just got such a big tax cut, who got to repatriate their foreign assets, did they create jobs? NO! They just gave the money back to stockholders, leaving the little man out.

The little man has been left out for far too long.

We venerate the techies, who contributed to this problem. Strzok was concerned about Russian interference in the election, geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg didn’t think it existed.

Thank god there was someone looking at the problem.

We venerate entertainers, whose goal is to become a corporation themselves, when they’re not sucking at the tit of companies, looking for sponsorships. It’s hard to believe in someone who flies private and gets paid by the man, ever hear of a CHILLING EFFECT?

Probably not, you didn’t go to law school, but you consider yourself an expert on the Constitution, after all, you hear about it on Fox News every night, the Founding Fathers, as if they could see the future when you couldn’t even see streaming when it was already HERE!

So Strzok is OFFENDED! You’re not gonna mess with him, he’s gonna PUSH BACK! DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES!

Two can play this game, not only Trump and his cronies.

This guy dedicates his life to the system and now they want to crap all over him?

NO WAY!

This is inspirational, he’s Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.”

Like every antihero in the movie business. American heroes.

Only they weren’t real, Strzok is.

And this game of GOTCHA!

He doesn’t deny he texted, like Trump denying stuff he says which is actually on tape. Rather he owns it. Because he’s HUMAN! We’re all imperfect, you and me especially. Sure, we make mistakes, we are not choirboys, toeing the line 24/7. And don’t we want these nuanced people? You’ve got to cross the line every once in a while to uncover where it’s actually located.

So this guy dedicated his life to the government. He believes in his job. Even though he can’t fly private and can’t sit in the front row. Even though he’s faceless. The work is enough. The penumbra is irrelevant.

But in America at large it’s all about the penumbra, the trappings, fame, the machine needs it, ever more so in this constant news cycle.

But then someone with character and backbone stands up after being picked upon and we experience a reset, we’re reminded what life is all about.

You’ve got to have principles.

You’ve got to believe in your work.

You’ve got to stand up for your beliefs, you can’t just be an obsequious hanger-on.

You’ve got to have character.

That’s right, America has a crisis of character.

And no one expected an FBI agent to point this out, re-center our attention, just by being himself.

We’re used to overprepared weasels who sit there like we’re all friends, like we all get along, when the truth is behind your back they’ll stab you.

With Strzok what you see is what you get.

And not only is that a relief, THAT’S INSPIRING!

P.S. If you’re one of the right wing idiots too dumb to cogitate, who responds with politics, you’re missing the point. That’s like saying you hate pop music so you can’t see the excellence in Adele. An educated person can distance themselves, analyze a situation, acknowledge greatness. But when it’s all about us versus them, it’s no different from the Hatfields and the McCoys. You laughed at them, I hope you’re laughing at yourself now.

Article 13 (And The So-Called Value Gap)

I’m against it.

That’s right, I could say I’m with the industry and have my inbox overflow, but that’s not how I feel.

You can’t hold back the future.

Enough with the “value gap.” The truth is songs are streamed more on Spotify than they are on YouTube these days. Furthermore, YouTube gives people a chance to sample new wares. Sure, I like to see musicians make more money, but the truth is MOST MUSICIANS DON’T DESERVE TO BE PAID!

Now I’ve got your attention.

We’ve entered a new era. Where it’s all about consumption. Anyone can make music, the cost is almost negligible, post it online and dun people to listen to it, BUT THEY DON’T!

Used to be you needed a major label. It was hard to get a deal, but if you did a good chunk of change was spent on recording and promoting you, you were known, you could have a career, even if you never had a hit, even if you never got on the radio. The label kept you in business and you had fans. Now…

No one cares about those acts. With so much music available, the middle artist is getting squeezed out. Not by Google, not by Spotify, but by the CONSUMER! The consumer doesn’t want to listen to your music.

The classic rock acts, the ones bitching five years ago, all their hits now have triple-digit million streams on Spotify, never mind Apple. Sure, they may have crappy legacy deals, but this is not the fault of the streaming service, they’re paying out in excess of fifty percent of the income, they’re cutting a better deal than the physical retailers of yore, and the label has no manufacturing and shipping costs, never mind returns. Such that if you hit, you’re making a fortune. Sure, it’s a winner-take-all world, but that reflects the rest of society, with everything available, people race to quality. Google and Amazon, are you gonna compete with them? It’s like being a nobody and bitching you’re not making the coin of Drake.

And…

The dirty little secret is the industry wants to kill the nooks and crannies, the gems. Napster surfaced all these cuts we never even knew existed. They’re on YouTube now. Hell, in a recent podcast Malcolm Gladwell tells you to go online and watch Sammy Davis, Jr.’s appearance at the 1972 GOP convention. If the music industry had its way, IT WOULD NOT BE AVAILABLE!

Or you could be the inane publishing industry, which killed e-books so it could maintain its old numbers. Amazon wanted to push the industry into the future, GROW the business, with all titles under ten bucks. But NO! (Where is John Belushi when you need him?) Now e-books cost as much as, and sometimes even MORE, than physical. The book industry thinks it won, but it lost. Come on, people don’t want to feel ripped-off. This is how the music industry got into this situation to begin with, with one good track on a fifteen dollar CD. They thought they were ENTITLED to this money. Were buggy-whip manufacturers entitled?

And when rappers sampled old records rightsholders demanded such onerous payments that the hip-hop world gave up on sampling, and then switched to beats. Was this a good thing? I’m not sure, to a great degree melody is gone. I’m not saying that the creators shouldn’t have been paid, but when you try to shut down the present, you oftentimes cripple the future.

That’s right, it could get worse. Kinda like radio after Spitzer. Fearful of indie payments the major stations ONLY played major label material, neutering the decision. Put limits on outlets/distributors and ironically you’re gonna cripple the business, not sustain it.

You thought the music industry would have learned its lesson.

Everybody bitching about streaming…IT’S SAVING THE BUSINESS! Revenues are UP! Maybe not for you, but…bitching about Daniel Ek… Once again, streaming is the greatest thing for labels, FEWER COSTS!

Don’t hold back progress. Otherwise you’re living in France. Trying to protect your culture against globalization, when the truth is globalization is saving music. Not only is Spotify from Sweden, suddenly your music can be heard around the world at almost no cost and all profit. Spotify doesn’t say give us a discounted rate so we can start up in a new country, like the labels did with CDs, they’re paying the freight.

As for musicians lining up behind this bill…

Show me a musician who’s good with business, and I’ll show you a lousy musician.

You’ve got to let the river flow.

Funny how music is all about innovation, but the business is about bringing people into the past.

They said the internet would kill the incentive to make music.

Now there’s more music than ever before.

They said streaming would kill the business, now it’s the savior.

Files were death, now people are lamenting they’re fading.

I’m not saying to trust Google, but just that Google is subject to the same forces everybody else is, without a catalog to leverage its future. In tech, you’re only as good as what you’ve done lately. So you’ve got to continue to improve.

Netflix decimated television. Therefore, Rupert Murdoch is selling Fox assets. Shari Redstone wants to merge CBS with Viacom and sell the whole thing. They want to get out before it all crashes.

Luckily, in music, we’ve figured it out, we’re on an upswing. Not to mention the concert business which is burgeoning out of control. How are people going to hear all that music if not for the internet/streaming/YouTube, they certainly won’t go to a show if they can’t hear it. Today more acts can tour than ever before. Maybe not to millionaire status, but they can speak to their fans…

This is a money grab, pure and simple.

And YouTube is challenged on the handset anyway. It doesn’t translate. It’s a bad product. Which is why Spotify and Apple and Amazon are winning.

DON’T FIGHT THE LAST WAR!

Look ahead.

Things will work out, if you let them.

The future is coming, hold it back to your detriment.