Wow , lots of stuff here.
I will just stick to Bob.
1986- I was 20. My friend Bernard (highschool classmates but we were a year out by then) got me into Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde. His pitch? - Highway 61 everyone should know the words to it. It also helped that later on that year the genius Alan Moore had chapters in the Watchmen (which were coming out monthly) named after HIghway 61 songs.
1988- Todd got me into Empire Burlesque and Infidels. with songs like I &I and What's A Sweetheart Like You (Steal little and they throw you in jail , steal a lot and they make you king). I in turn got him into Randy Newman and Highway 61.
Point being FM radio was good but word of mouth is priceless when it comes to music you will appreciate forever. You remember friends by it.
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On Sat, Mar 7, 2009 at 11:51 AM, Bob Lefsetz <email@example.com> wrote:
Who's a bigger rock star, Bono or Obama?
I saw U2 on Letterman, and what struck me was it was Dave's show. It was like U2 were members of the peanut gallery, brought up on stage at the end of the telecast to perform for the children. How the fuck did we get here? How the fuck did rock and roll as renegade become I'm gonna do whatever the fuck it takes to try and sell my album. And STILL it doesn't sell!
Are you stunned that U2 is predicted to sell 450,000 copies of "No Line On The Horizon" this week? You should be. Because despite all the exposure, despite all the banging on people's heads, most members of the public have shrugged their collective shoulders and moved on, they just don't care.
U2 is BEGGING us to buy their album. As did Bruce Springsteen a month ago. But it's not working. Bruce's album still isn't gold. Marketing is dead. Because people see it for what it is, a push to close you so the perpetrator can get rich. There's no message, no hope, no reward, just a coin in the pocket of the "artist".
Where in the Springsteen hype was the declaration that listening to his new album was gonna change your life? U2 moves their corporation out of Ireland to save taxes and President Obama says the rich must pay their share, so that our country can get back on its feet. Who does the rank and file support?
It ain't Bono and the Edge, no fucking way.
Rock blew up because it existed outside the system. It was a commentary on society. Those who made it were not privileged, it was a way to raise yourself by your bootstraps out of the gutter you were destined to live in. Hell, that was the essence of rap. I may have dropped out of school, I may be a drug dealer, but if I can rhyme really well and get a deejay to lay some cool beats beneath me, the public will gobble my shit up. AND THEY DID!
I believed in rap after the L.A. riots. I said to myself, SHIT, EVERYTHING ICE-T SAID WAS TRUE! What do I know about police brutality, I'm a middle class white living in the leafy suburbs. We all want truth.
People perceive Obama is telling the truth. Not everybody. Not everybody loved the Beatles, to this day some people think the Liverpudlians sucked. Same deal with the Eagles. Owners of the best-selling record in history. You can get tons of people to testify they suck. So when Rush Limbaugh and Fox News castigate Obama, I laugh. Because any denizen of popular culture will tell you it goes with the territory. It's not about the haters, but the believers. The haters don't go to the show, they save their money and stay home. Believers go for the religious experience.
People laughed at the Obama candidacy. HE'S BLACK! And speaking of black, they booed Prince off the stage when he opened for the Stones. But soon, it was all "Little Red Corvette" and "Purple Rain" and the diminutive Minnesotan was the rage, he's still touring on those hits today.
But there was a core who perceived Prince's greatness. I bought "Dirty Mind" on a review, it wasn't even the genre of music I liked, but the beats hooked me and I got hooked on "When You Were Mine". I went to see him at Flipper's roller disco on the night of the Academy Awards, there were maybe forty people there, Prince bounced on the bed, did the full-on arena show and those in attendance were blown away. I became a believer. I had to tell everybody about Prince. Shit, I'm telling you about the show DECADES LATER!
Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic convention. That was his debut gig. Most people don't watch that shit. But this is where he got his initial believers. Who couldn't stop talking about the man when he started his campaign for the Presidency. The rest of the public laughed, or said WHO? Conventional wisdom said it was Hillary's time. But not only did Obama bewitch Hillary and pull ahead, he never lost his temper, he didn't do it the way YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO!
That's the essence of a rock star. Doing it your own way. Not worrying about what everybody else tells you to do. An "American Idol" twat listens to Clive Davis, a rock star gives the septuagenarian the middle finger. Rock stars do it THEIR way!
I wanted Obama to go for Sarah Palin. What a fucking idiot! Rock stars aren't part of the fray, THEY'RE ABOVE THE FRAY!
How about Obama telling the Republicans who chastised his stimulus package at the White House I WON! This is like Led Zeppelin owning their Greek God identities and leaving New York City without all that Madison Square Garden money. If you're a rock star, you make the rules. You don't fight the little battles.
Furthermore, I don't agree with everything Obama has to say. I think the stimulus package is too light. Clean coal? Isn't that an oxymoron? The war in Afghanistan? Didn't the Russians prove you can't win there? That's a rock star. We don't love everything about them, they've got warts. They're not playing to the media, they're charting their own path. And that's what we respect them for. That's who we want to be. Someone who listens to his own drum and follows his instincts. Who changes course when he sees fit as opposed to putting his finger to the wind first.
If you want to make it today you've got to focus less on the sell and more on your essence. Don't be our friend, if you're our friend how can we respect you? You must be better than us! We want to put you on a pedestal, assume the throne and fulfill your destiny! Don't go on a million TV shows trying to corral every last person into paying attention to you. You've got to have an inner glow, that draws us to you!
The old ways are done. If you want to make it today, study the English musicians of yore, or the rappers. You're probably better off if everybody hates you. Know that you can't be a star overnight. Wasn't Obama a community organizer? He paid some dues AND STILL one of the big issues of the election was whether he was experienced enough. If you're still flogging the same debut album made with the usual suspects twenty four months down the line, hoping someone in Des Moines will finally pay attention, you're missing the point. First and foremost you must be an artist. More music and less hype. Artist development is not something a record company executes, it's something the artist himself does! He keeps writing and playing, searching for that Holy Grail. And when the general public finally pays attention, it finds an embarrassment of riches in the act's catalog, that can be listened to and examined.
Pirates didn't kill the music industry. It's the bands. The bands drank the kool-aid. That if they did what their handlers told them to, it would work. Sell out, don't say anything that isn't nice, take the corporate money, do the TV show, make that endorsement, you're a brand, you're a corporation, look to Jack Welch for instruction.
Utter bullshit. If this was the case, how come Leonard Cohen, a seventysomething guy who can barely sing, owns the biggest tour of the year? Because he's AN ARTIST! Who's FLAWED! Didn't he go to the mountaintop looking for enlightenment when Bono was trying to save the world? Didn't he spend years out of the spotlight? Last I checked his music isn't on "Grey's Anatomy", he isn't hawking the latest evanescent product. No, people see Leonard Cohen as an artist and they're drawn to him.
Some things never change. Great artists are not part of the system, they exist outside of it. They're complicated, often unlovable, but their work, we hold it close to our hearts, we treasure it, because it contains a truth absent from our everyday world. What did Mr. Cohen famously say/sing, EVERYBODY KNOWS?
Everybody knows that U2 will do anything to sell a record.
Everybody knows that Bruce Springsteen hasn't made a great album in decades.
Everybody knows Mick Jagger can no longer sing.
Everybody knows the rappers are now more about lifestyle than truth.
Everybody knows that our country is fucked up economically.
Everybody knows that people are hurting.
But the Republicans refuse to admit this, hewing to an ancient, expired doctrine.
Does Obama have the answers? MAYBE NOT! But he's TRYING! That's what we want, limit-testers, who are willing to change their minds, do something new, all in the service of pushing the envelope.
An artist is not afraid of taking the road less-traveled.
And the fan is willing to follow him down the path. If he believes the artist is genuine, making his own decisions, and just isn't another money-hungry asshole trying to make his nut.
And if you're not willing to risk your entire career by taking experimental left turns, you're not an artist. Just ask Bob Dylan or Neil Young.
An artist's career does not just go up, it follows a jagged line, sometime up, sometimes down. As Bob Dylan so famously sang:
"Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don't win the race,_
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth."
Try to find truth, try to be worthy, don't worry about fans, they'll find and follow you if your journey is worthwhile.
(And check out Dylan's "I And I" from "Slow Train Coming". Great lyrics, great delivery, but what puts the track over the top is the mellifluous piano of Barry Beckett and the guitar stylings with the timelessness of the Bible played by Mark Knopfler.)
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