SFJ: There’s a lot to talk about in that it mirrors the larger economy… You know, all the mergers that happened at the corporate level are now happening at the musical level. I was talking to someone who was handwringing about Spotify, a fellow musician who wrote an editorial, and when we were talking about the whole thing, he said, “You know, there’s no reason to yell at any particular party, because they all have equity in each other. It’s all one thing, and they’re completely aligned against the artist in every case.”
What we had in the ’90s was… what another very famous, huge record executive [said to me] in a very, very hilarious way. We went to his Fifth Avenue townhouse, gorgeous space, and he said—maybe I’ll give it away if I can do his accent properly—but he said [Affects accent.], “You know what this is? This right here? It’s stupid money. It’s CD money. That’s the kind of money that made dumb people feel smart.” You have the biggest fucking markup in retail history, and somehow in one winter, the music business—with Phillips leading the way—said, “Hey, that $7.99 album you love? Guess what? Your lucky day: You get to buy it for $18.99, it’s going to sound worse, and you have to buy fucking pieces of equipment.” And everyone said, “Great, I’d like to buy more of them please.” And so there was this incredible surplus of money. And then musicians like me [Frere-Jones played in the post-rock/punk-funk band Ui at the time. —ed.] get a day job doing very little at Columbia House, and go on tour, because those jobs existed.
Reader Vali C. writes:
In The Mayor of MacDougal Street:
Dave Van Ronk claims that this recordinghttp://www.folkways.si.edu/sounds-of-a-tropical-rain-forest-produced-for-the-american-museum-of-natural-history/album/smithsonianwas completely faked. Instead of recording sounds of the south american rainforest, two of his friends made bird noises in the shower and sold it to folkways. Even after Folkways realized it was a fake, they decided to keep it in the catalog.
Green sounds of the tropical rain forest: black howler monkeys, toucans and chachalaca dominate the dry season while tree toads, Bufo marinus(South American toads) and parakeets accompany the rainy season. Recorded in the Peruvian Amazon region called Montaña and possibly under the showerhead of a Manhattan apartment.
One reader writes:
You don’t like Steve Albini? You realise he made all of the best albums of the 90’s from
Nirvana to nick cave and he has own band that have been playing for 20 years for the love of it.
Their MO is that you can’t tap your foot along to any of their songs and then they fuck around. They play primavera every year for the love of it.
Listen to his band Shellac’s ‘prayer to god’, ‘squirrel song’ ‘dude, incredible’ and ‘end of radio’. Tap your foot. Listen to how much he takes the piss.
He made an entire album about surveyors for god’s sake.
I’m trying here.
I have pretty much zero interest in the kind of music Steve Albini plays but whenever I come across an interview or something with him, he always strikes me as remarkably clear-headed about the realities of making money as an artist.
Take this profile in Psychology Today (what?) by Michael Friedman:
“There are kind of two perspectives on business. One of them is that a business exists to make money for the investor class that has a stake in that business. That’s one perspective. So, from a stock-market perspective, from a shareholder perspective, from an investor perspective, that from any publicly held company’s perspective, the company’s reason to exist is to make money for those people,” he explained. “And if you’re not making money, you’re a failing company. If its share price doesn’t go up, then the company’s failing, whether you’re making a profit or not. The idea is that the fundamental reason for that company to be there is to make money.”
Albini contrasts this approach to how he runs his business. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, from someone like me — someone who builds a business for a reason — the reason my company exists is to make recordings of music. And in so doing, every now and again we’ll turn a profit. But that’s not why we’re in business. We’re not in business so that we can make money. And there’s a pretty strong argument that most businesses that are not part of the public sphere, not part of the investment transaction or equity management or whatever, most businesses operate on that level,” he said.
“Like a bakery opens because a guy wants to make bread. A tavern opens because a guy wants to serve beer to people. That’s why people start businesses. It’s because they want to do something with their time. They want that enterprise to be how they spend their days. But from an academic standpoint or from an analytical standpoint or from the standpoint of publicly held companies and investment class and everything, the reason the company started is meaningless. All they want to know is the share price going up. And for people like me that seems insane.”
“It’s like defining a marriage by the size of the house it occupies as opposed to defining the marriage by the love between two people and the life they build for themselves and the experience they share as part of the marriage. That’s the difference between the people who don’t get it (that you’re talking about), business people who can’t seem to buy into the greater culture of their business, and entrepreneurs, who started the business because the business itself means a lot to them.
“And there’s literally no way you can turn the second type of businessman into the first type. If somebody is hired to run a company and that company has investors who have expectations, then it is already impossible for that company to mean more to the employees as a concept than a paycheck. Because the value of the company has already been defined by the investor class. Now it is possible for somebody to start as an entrepreneur and then eventually sell off his company into the publicly held market and then he’s transformed from an entrepreneur into that second type of businessman. But it’s literally impossible to go the other way.”
I am a little baffled as to how this guy is, as he says, broke. More:
“Selfishness and greed are among the first things that we are instructed against as children. Like, ‘Don’t be selfish; share with your sister’ or whatever. And I feel like abandoning that principle when it’s money rather than gummy bears involved is fucking ridiculous.”
Albini takes heart that he is not alone: Other artists who have followed in a similar path. He explains: “There’s a Dutch band called The Ex who are an absolute inspiration. They’ve been going for 30 years now. And they originally started as sort of a squatter punk band in the squats in Amsterdam. And they have since built a sustainable, durable career, extraordinary body of work. They’ve been all over the world. They’ve made records with pop musicians and traditional musicians from Ethiopia. They’ve toured every flat spot on the globe. And they’ve all bought homes and raised families and all that sort of stuff — and all of it done in a very natural, very sustainable, very ethical way. They’re not a household name.”
“That’s the difference. If you want to be a household name, you kind of have to participate in the rock-star world of things where you’re either going to be a superstar or you’re going to be nobody. If you just want to play music for the rest of your life, that’s a completely attainable goal,” he said.
in honor of cousin’s birthday, she put me on to this one.
came up on my Spotify. One great sentence after another on her wiki page:
In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). This pairing arose from their common love of jazz.
Her widely regarded beauty and poise (she was a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II) contrasted strongly with her pedestrian appearance and streetwise acting technique (much parodied by impersonators).
London and Troup appeared as panelists on the game show Tattletales several times in the 1970s. In the 1950s, London appeared in an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes singing the “Marlboro Song” and in 1978 appeared in television advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream.
A private and introverted lady, London suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health until her death on October 18, 2000 (the day her husband, Bobby Troup, would have been 82), in Encino, California, at age 74.
In an interview, Mantooth claimed London “was not impish nor a diva. She was a soul, kind of mother. She was the kindest person I have ever known.” He also added, “I don’t know if it was up to her, but Kevin and I were both kept calm by her personality, when we were shooting in the hospital. Only Bobby Troup knew who she was…she was just like Julie! She made us laugh!”
Really enjoyed this AV Club thing about Columbia House:
SFJ: Scattered through many musician interviews and oral histories, you hear a lot of stories of people early on who really did have no other way of getting music, and how important it was to them. And, even as a kid in Fort Greene [in Brooklyn], I subscribed to Columbia House because I wasn’t allowed to go buy things on my own yet. I would wait and wait for my ELO record. One of the most disappointing moments of my life was [when] I came back from vacation knowing that Kiss’ Alive II was going to be in my mailbox, and for some reason the son-of-a-bitch mailman, as if he didn’t know what he was doing, folded the fucking thing in half and put it through the slot.
All: [Rousing chorus of everyone groaning and saying, “Nooooooo!”]
Picked this one up from listening to Aquarium Drunkard‘s playlists on Spotify.
Don’t know anything about Aquarium Drunkard except passed-down oral legend and intend to keep it that way but I’m not the first to discover him — the guy is brightening my life with his (?) music curating.
Sherrill initially planned to have Tucker record “The Happiest Girl In the Whole USA,” but she passed on the tune to Donna Fargo, choosing “Delta Dawn” — a song she heardBette Midler sing on The Tonight Show — instead. Released in the spring of 1972, the song became a hit, peaking at number six on the country charts and scraping the bottom of the pop charts. At first, Columbia Records tried to downplay Tucker’s age, but soon word leaked out and she became a sensation. A year later, Australian singer Helen Reddy would score a No. 1 U.S. pop hit with her version of “Delta Dawn.”
She had begun drinking in her late teens, and she explained how it started: “You send your ass out on the road doing two gigs a night and after all that adoration go back to empty hotel rooms. Loneliness got me into it.” In 1978 Tucker moved to Los Angeles, California, to try, unsuccessfully, to broaden her appeal to pop audiences, and was quickly captivated by the city’s nightlife. She also said that she “was the wildest thing out there. I could stay up longer, drink more and kick the biggest ass in town. I was on the ragged edge.”
Worth having a look at Bette’s version if only for her outfit: