JUNK CULTURE: AMERICAS NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
JUNK CULTURE: AMERICAS NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
I think American Culture may be having a nervous breakdown. Popular Culture is one of our greatest resources and exports, but “junk” culture is clogging the arteries of our lives. I tune in a “respectable” news channel and hear, in order:
*A critical update on who the Father of Anna Nicole might be, along with ongoing coverage of Anna Nicole’s death. Since when does a trashy bimbo with absolutely no talent but DOES have a skill for attracting attention, warrant ANY coverage on a legitimate news channel? I thought we had tabloids for this stuff...and no she's NOT Marilyn Monroe.
*Ongoing debate about The Dixie Chicks and how “important” they are to the 2008 elections. Huh??? Keep up their rants and it’ll guarantee a Republican President.
*More about the pre-marital sex the astronaut with the attempted murder rap. If as much attention was paid to the positive efforts of NASA we'd have someone on Mars by now.
*An update on Brittney’s partying and a possible split with Paris. Important stuff...
This was NOT on an Entertainment” segment. This was masquerading as “news”. This celebrity thing is WAY out of control. It’s “junk culture”. It’s always existed, but never before have there been literally millions of websites, radio, TV and other outlets to spew this shit….and many people actually DO believe what they hear and read. And think it’s important. It MUST be if “News Alive Action Super Update at 10” is doing the lead story. This is very sick. What’s sick is the degree it is making us a Nation of media cretins. I can’t blame consumers... I can’t blame anyone— but its happening and it’s out of control…and it isn’t one of these old guy things wishing we were back in the 60’s….it’s one of those, we Americans better be careful or we’ll choke on our own trash. It CAN happen here.
Celebrity is weird. There are a ton of classy celebs---Paul Newman seems to be one, certainly Oprah, but with media’s open door policy, it’s the low lifes who “work” to get the ink instead of doing their thing and letting the ink happen that blur fame with stupidity. I sort of understand the celebrity thing---While it’s often based on talent. It’s also frequently based on clinically insecure people with a nice face that work “getting noticed” very hard. That’s the problem—you can’t rely on media to figure out who has talent and who is useless beyond the latest crisis. Who will be here In 5 years and who will be a trivia question? In today’s media environment you can succeed by marketing yourself without a specific skill beyond that…but that inevitably fails and adds to our growing pile of eye and ear junk that fills our culture like a long term disease that is a form of self inflicted terrorism.
I first questioned celebrity with Liz Taylor. I know she was big in the 50’s, but when I started becoming aware, she was someone who got divorced every 3 months, was in and out of rehab and seemed to be a mess…but of course she had her own line of perfume. I have nothing but respect for people who market themselves well, but it is scary that these people have so much traction based solely on their self promotion. But---then I wonder if they REALLY do. Paris and Brittney are popular but I have to believe that except for a naïve 9 year old, they are perceived more as a joke than anything to be taken seriously. And I’ve yet to meet ANYone who takes Anna Nicole’s death as anything more than a feather weight soap opera… more junk culture.
Maybe this celebrity stuff is just a mask for the more serious issues facing the planet. A cheesy release from reality I hope so…but I worry about that for as many people that think it’s a joke---there are just as many that take it seriously. Along with poverty and other demons facing our culture, dumbing down might be the most dangerous of them all. To those who think I’m getting too heavy on this and to lighten up—it’s just “entertainment”—I think you are wrong—it’s the symptom of a cultural nervous breakdown. It CAN happen here.
All of this is like a lot of radio stations who are all about their “message” but have NO substance. It’s all the best, the greatest, the most…complete with direct mail with highly unbelievable faces of “pop stars” and “phoners” with Anna Nicole’s Mom. I just hope we at XM can do our part to be an escape from this level of celebrity madness that WILL drive those who become linked to it, down an inevitable path of failure.
…as predicted last year in an earlier blog—Katie Couric is dead last in the Network News ratings. Of course she is. The bozos at CBS News apparently bought into the “celeb doing news” thing—thank God most of America did not. HOW do these people make these decisions? We at XM make some bad decisions sometimes as everyone does, but something THIS obvious? My problem with most celebrity worship is that celebrating these damned souls takes time away from the celebrities with talent that actually contribute something. Junk culture does NOT nourish our future.
One of the reasons Bob Dylan is so successful and so timeless is that he doesn’t buy into this crap. He remains pure and enigmatic. I STRONGLY believe the attraction of Dylan, Ray Charles and Johnny Cash is that they never went celebrity…or if they did it’s because others positioned them that way, not because they thought they needed to shamelessly self promote. You can say that about a lot of recently emerged artists too. I doubt if you’d see Radiohead announcing a clothing line.
Integrity is inevitably the best sales tool…and the ONLY way to last for more than a tabloid minute.
Art Garfunkel did an artist Confidential. I heard word that he was difficult to deal with. He’s kind of a perfectionist as you’d expect but he was great to deal with as was John Sher, Doug Thayler and Bridget Nolan his managers and crew. About an hour before the show, a guy walks into the studio where I’m hanging with Aaron Lee, Steve Kingston, XM engineer Rob Macomber and host George Taylor Morris. In walks this guy with a baseball cap and a ruffled look asking all kind of questions. We thought it was someone from their road crew and we were nice, but only somewhjat focused. We answered his questions. About 30 minutes later, one of his managers comes back with the guy and introduces him as Art Garfunkel. SHIT! I was expecting that frizzy hair and the face on Bookends. He had a hat and looked fine, but that WAS 40 years ago! Almost blew it! Before the show he has all these ideas about singing along with Scarborough Fair and doing a few other fancy production tricks. We were all a bit worried, but our crack team figured a way to make it happen. I was buried in the Police press conference details as that was about to start...unlike FM, we carried the WHOLE thing live! Our guys worked everything out and after a long soundcheck with about 50 reverb changes, the show was on. Art indeed sang along with Scarborough Fair and demonstrated some verses that never made it to record. EXACTLY what we hope an artist will do in this “workshop” environment, and proceeded to ultra intelligently walk through his career and play 5 or six songs including some gems from his new album of standards. His voice remains absolutely as clear and on the notes as it was during his Simon and Garfunkel days. He’s a truly brilliant guy and the ideal victim for an Artist Confidential. He answered all of the Q&A with the charged audience with grace, humor and intellect. You sometimes forget what an artist like this has been through as we relate more to the songs on the radio than the mind and soul of the person. Art has had hits in the Fifties as Tom & Jerry, the 60’s with Simon & Garfunkel, and solo in every onward decade. The dumbed down music business de-emphasizes these guys favoring the quick jolt of this weeks’ celeb. I’ll take a timeless musical intellect any day---and if you REALLY look at the big picture—so do most people. You just don’t hear about it in the press unless they win some goofy award, which of course he has and will.
REO was in for an Artist Confidential. Loads of fun with the guys after the show at dinner. Huge arguments over Chicago trivia as most of them, and I, are from Chicago. Pulling out blackberries to Google who was the newsman on Channel 7 in 1965…to a violent discussion over who had the hit version of little Latin Lupe Lu---Righteous Brothers? Mitch Ryder? Kingsmen? On to singing the “Garfield Goose” theme (you have to be a child of Chicago to know that one). All in all good fun. Great guys who can still sing, play and write. Pal and XM Family member Jon Anderson of Yes has assembled a group of music student to perform Yes classics. That should be interesting as Yes material is extremely challenging to play with strange time sigs, telepathic changes and structures of epic proportions. They were supposed to play in DC but got snowed in, hopefully they’ll be back—Gotta check that out. I have a LOT of Jon Anderson stories. Yes were my heroes early on and over the years we’ve all grown quite close.
Oh—and Bob Ludwig corrected me on my comments about our visit to his studio:
There was one small error in the blog, we have a 1 inch tape machine with two really huge tracks or, for surround sound analog work, we have the 2 inch machine outside my door with 8 large tracks on it.
My excuse: I was too mesmerized with the sound to take accurate notes.