Monday, August 06, 2007

MUSICAL LULLS AND A TRAVELOGUE TO BASEBALL LAND

MUSICAL LULLS AND A TRAVELOGUE TO BASEBALL LAND



In the early 50’s, it was Doggie in the Window era. Mitch Miller, Doris Day and the like were making snappy and happy songs. The underground was brewing with a sonic gumbo of Black artists and Hillbillies, but in the mainstream, it was all pretty, safe and happy. A musical LULL. During lulls, the mainstream music culture:

*Features harmless lyrics by harmless artists.

*Labels/Moguls are in control and the formula is followed closely

*The “look” is non threatening.

*Dancing is at a popularity peak as people dance and hum…but don’t really LISTEN.

*Music has minimal impact on culture other than being a soundtrack

*There’s an underground happening, but it is still out of reach to the masses.

*It’s about tabloids more than musical notes.

*Music media is on autopilot.

*Mc Donalds Pop rules. Predictable…safe…consistent with few surprises. Musical originators are copied, cleansed for mass consumption and formularized.

*Artists have short life spans....and become trivia questions


Then—There are intense periods. Periods of tremendous change compressed into a short period of time. During Intense periods:

*The old wave hits a brick wall.

*The “sound” changes. New instruments…new techniques…new recording methods.

*The “look” is new…different and scary.

*Satan is responsible according to many.

*Listening Technology changes.

*Music impacts culture profoundly. There are fights over music.

*Artists are in control.

*People dance less and start listening more

*The "next generation" of long term artists emerge

*Music Media goes through explosive evolution.

*Not a lot of copying artists--everyone is too busy creating their own sound or contributing to the movement.

The intense periods happened: 1955 (Rock n Roll); 1964 (Liverpool); 1969 (Everything); 1980 (New Wave); 1993 (Grunge). All of the above characteristics happened during these periods…and all of the ‘lull’ characteristics happened between these periods. Take the intense period of ’69:

--All over for the old wave. Paul Revere and the Raiders hit the wall.

--Fuzz tones to synths to an arms race over number of tracks and amplifier output changed the sound. The modification and enlargement of traditional instruments.

--Musicianship was a selling point

--Lyrics were social statements

--Junior came home from college looking like a hippie and got thrown out of the house.

--Satan was responsible for the Iron Butterfly

--Stereo revolutionized listening as it became mainstream.

--FM emerged as a force

--Walk into the wrong bar and play Hendrix on the jukebox and a fight would ensue

--No one told Cream how to write a song or to keep it 3 minutes.

The next generation of artists is created. Lasting artists.

*You don’t DANCE to Abbey Road. You LISTEN.

This is all highly CONDENSED and probably arguable, but due to space and finger strength limitations I can’t get into all of the details, but suffice to say, we are IN a musical lull...live with it (and of course some prosper mightily from it)—or try to be part of the change. There WILL be another intense period. In ’62 amidst every singer named Bobby, in ’66 amidst the canned Monkees, in ’76 amongst the sappy pop, 86 with mindless hair bands, and now---it’s a lull. Like before—the lull makers hit the wall. Lulls still create fans! If you were in your musically formative 16-20 years during a lull—you still LOVE that music—but BIG PICTURE—the intense periods are where the shocking change happens. And of course there are a few artists that cut through. Elvis, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Sinatra—but those are the RARE ‘timeless’ artists that will be around in 200 years…can’t say that about more than a handful.

Speaking of change…funny how the word “Green” changes. In 1957, I believe KJR in Seattle did a campaign about the competition being “Green” with envy over the new KJR. In ’67, WCFL did a “Think Green” $$ campaign, now Green is about Global Warming.

TRAVELOGUE: Flew with Eric Logan and Sandy Girard to the Hall of Fame Induction weekend in Cooperstown. Upon arriving we checked in and went to “The Redneck Barbecue” (real name) for lunch. Logan demanded Barbecue. It wasn’t completely authentic—the music was XM’s Top Tracks channel, but it was OK. Nestled between a mini Putt course and a Go Cart track. After lunch we headed to the Hall of Fame. Bad idea. The town has about 4000 residents, but 250,000 were in town for the weekend. Finding a parking space was challenging. Ended up paying $50 to park for a few hours in some guys muddy back yard. The place was mayhem…but fun. It’s the center of the universe for baseball fans. Passed on the over crowded Hall and met up with Chuck Dickemann who runs our Baseball channels—walked over and said hello to Rob Dibble and Night train Lane at the XM broadcast center—they were interviewing pitching great Vida Blue. It was pretty cool. Then---off to a super exclusive party the Orioles threw for Cal Ripken Jr. WOW. In a tent on an estate overlooking an incredible lake…lavishly catered…ALL friends of Cal. Rod Carew…Jim Palmer…Eddie Murray. They were all there. Eric is buds with Cal so we got some face time. Great guy---TALL! Very down to earth and sincere. This was NOT a fan event, but a very personal one for Cal…it was memorable. We left with Cal Ripken wine. Two bottles in a box with an Orioles logo. Hit Main Street to buy baseball memorabilia. Every person walked up and offered up to $1000 for the wine. Pretty collectible I guess. The stores there are unreal. Heaven. Nothing like the junk you see at most stadium gift shops. Sandy Girard doesn’t like baseball so she waited on the street in 90 degree heat…very unhappy…as Eric and I hit EVERY store. Bought custom bats…photos…even Mets gear for Lou Brutus who begged before we left. I’m a White Sox fan and it was hard to find much as everything was Yankees and Red Sox with some Dodgers (Brooklyn) stuff thrown in…but it was so great. The real deal for real fans. Made the mistake of cooing over a 1965 photo of knuckleball great Hoyt Wilhelm and was attacked by some guy who went on and on….and on about his collection of Wilhelm cards. It was THAT kind of scene. Had to duck into an alley to escape the guy.

Back to the hotel for a break. Feet were hurting and drenched in sweat. Had a few Gatorades and a cool down before we were to meet up for dinner with the XM crew. Loaded the GPS info into the Hertz rental. Went to Sabatini’s Restaurant. One problem, never found it. GPS took us to a corn field. Almost ran into a Deer and a Cow trying to find it. Logan was having a tantrum…Sandy was still upset that we stranded her on the street while lusting for memorabilia. We dropped her off at her hotel as it was now about 10pm. What a dump. The ONLY hotel with a room. Hookers outside and this is Oneonta, New York! Stopped at Wendy’s (Eric’s favorite) and headed back to our Hotel—The Ho Jo. Pretty lame and overpriced, but clean. Kept getting nasty emails from Sandy about the roaches, odors and general disgust at her room at the SUPER 8. Next morning, we met her—still unhappy—and went to he Neptune Diner. A Northeast Classic. As every place we went, they were blasting XM. The local stations are unmistakable and unmemorable. Dead Air…Bad puking DJ’s. Laughable “slogans”. No wonder every store and restaurant had satellite. Over breakfast and the XM 70’s Channel, we decided that we’d seen it all. The Ripken party, the memorabilia…the vibe. Wonderful trip. The actual induction was later in the day but we decided to bag it as the crowds were predicted to be of riotous scale. Plus big storms were threatening. Filed a flight plan and headed back to Oneonta Airport. Just as we got there—a throng of fans were waiting at the Mayberryesque ramp. John Travolta was flying in. Had a King Air—nice plane but was expecting a jet. Revved up the plane and took off into a low overcast. Up on top of the clouds, we had nice weather—until hitting Lancaster, PA—then the huge storms came in. We navigated around them of course, but Sandy was half asleep in the back hearing me and Eric talk about “Damn—check that one out—tornado…” on the onboard NEXRAD. Freaked her out. After her devastating waits while we memorabilia hunted…the bad hotel…the restaurant that never was…now this! Landed safely back in DC, but Sandy has not yet recovered.


Occasionally across XM, you’ll hear “lazy words”. These are tired words that:

Have no traction because no-one believes it.
Are old school
Drag us down the dated FM path
Are easy to use because…they’re easy to use…

These aren’t words that’ll kill us…but they do contribute to sounding less-than-sincere. Among those words:

GREAT “You’ll hear Great….”
YOUR FAVORITE “hear all your favorite…”
BEST “For the Best in…”

I encourage us to try alternate words that say the same thing—but in a more XM way

Heard a Deep Tracks promo. Great example of NOT using “lazy words”. They used the line “handcrafted sets” (as has the Loft for a long time) to describe the music programming on the channel. They COULD have used “All your Deep Classic Rock Favorites” or something silly like that. Think about it: “Handcrafted Sets”. It’s original, says what it is and illustrates exactly what is special about XM in a world of computer crafted sets

Finally---Derek De Bastos, John Dealy (aka Johnny D/aka Business God aka/Has been involved since the early 90’s), Jeff Snyder, Dan Murphy and others were also here during the pre XM Summer of Love in 1998. I indicated that I was the sole remaining non Chairman level employee. Well— Derek, John, Jeff, Dan and others were also here on the scene and qualify for full recognition as true XM veterans.





In the early 50’s, it was Doggie in the Window era. Mitch Miller, Doris Day and the like were making snappy and happy songs. The underground was brewing with a sonic gumbo of Black artists and Hillbillies, but in the mainstream, it was all pretty, safe and happy. A musical LULL. During lulls, the mainstream music culture:

*Features harmless lyrics by harmless artists.

*Labels/Moguls are in control and the formula is followed closely

*The “look” is non threatening.

*Dancing is at a popularity peak as people dance and hum…but don’t really LISTEN.

*Music has minimal impact on culture other than being a soundtrack

*There’s an underground happening, but it is still out of reach to the masses.

*It’s about tabloids more than musical notes.

*Music media is on autopilot.

*Mc Donalds Pop rules. Predictable…safe…consistent with few surprises. Musical originators are copied, cleansed for mass consumption and formularized.

*Artists have short life spans....and become trivia questions


Then—There are intense periods. Periods of tremendous change compressed into a short period of time. During Intense periods:

*The old wave hits a brick wall.

*The “sound” changes. New instruments…new techniques…new recording methods.

*The “look” is new…different and scary.

*Satan is responsible according to many.

*Listening Technology changes.

*Music impacts culture profoundly. There are fights over music.

*Artists are in control.

*People dance less and start listening more

*The "next generation" of long term artists emerge

*Music Media goes through explosive evolution.

*Not a lot of copying artists--everyone is too busy creating their own sound or contributing to the movement.

The intense periods happened: 1955 (Rock n Roll); 1964 (Liverpool); 1969 (Everything); 1980 (New Wave); 1993 (Grunge). All of the above characteristics happened during these periods…and all of the ‘lull’ characteristics happened between these periods. Take the intense period of ’69:

--All over for the old wave. Paul Revere and the Raiders hit the wall.

--Fuzz tones to synths to an arms race over number of tracks and amplifier output changed the sound. The modification and enlargement of traditional instruments.

--Musicianship was a selling point

--Lyrics were social statements

--Junior came home from college looking like a hippie and got thrown out of the house.

--Satan was responsible for the Iron Butterfly

--Stereo revolutionized listening as it became mainstream.

--FM emerged as a force

--Walk into the wrong bar and play Hendrix on the jukebox and a fight would ensue

--No one told Cream how to write a song or to keep it 3 minutes.

The next generation of artists is created. Lasting artists.

*You don’t DANCE to Abbey Road. You LISTEN.

This is all highly CONDENSED and probably arguable, but due to space and finger strength limitations I can’t get into all of the details, but suffice to say, we are IN a musical lull...live with it (and of course some prosper mightily from it)—or try to be part of the change. There WILL be another intense period. In ’62 amidst every singer named Bobby, in ’66 amidst the canned Monkees, in ’76 amongst the sappy pop, 86 with mindless hair bands, and now---it’s a lull. Like before—the lull makers hit the wall. Lulls still create fans! If you were in your musically formative 16-20 years during a lull—you still LOVE that music—but BIG PICTURE—the intense periods are where the shocking change happens. And of course there are a few artists that cut through. Elvis, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Sinatra—but those are the RARE ‘timeless’ artists that will be around in 200 years…can’t say that about more than a handful.

Speaking of change…funny how the word “Green” changes. In 1957, I believe KJR in Seattle did a campaign about the competition being “Green” with envy over the new KJR. In ’67, WCFL did a “Think Green” $$ campaign, now Green is about Global Warming.

TRAVELOGUE: Flew with Eric Logan and Sandy Girard to the Hall of Fame Induction weekend in Cooperstown. Upon arriving we checked in and went to “The Redneck Barbecue” (real name) for lunch. Logan demanded Barbecue. It wasn’t completely authentic—the music was XM’s Top Tracks channel, but it was OK. Nestled between a mini Putt course and a Go Cart track. After lunch we headed to the Hall of Fame. Bad idea. The town has about 4000 residents, but 250,000 were in town for the weekend. Finding a parking space was challenging. Ended up paying $50 to park for a few hours in some guys muddy back yard. The place was mayhem…but fun. It’s the center of the universe for baseball fans. Passed on the over crowded Hall and met up with Chuck Dickemann who runs our Baseball channels—walked over and said hello to Rob Dibble and Night train Lane at the XM broadcast center—they were interviewing pitching great Vida Blue. It was pretty cool. Then---off to a super exclusive party the Orioles threw for Cal Ripken Jr. WOW. In a tent on an estate overlooking an incredible lake…lavishly catered…ALL friends of Cal. Rod Carew…Jim Palmer…Eddie Murray. They were all there. Eric is buds with Cal so we got some face time. Great guy---TALL! Very down to earth and sincere. This was NOT a fan event, but a very personal one for Cal…it was memorable. We left with Cal Ripken wine. Two bottles in a box with an Orioles logo. Hit Main Street to buy baseball memorabilia. Every person walked up and offered up to $1000 for the wine. Pretty collectible I guess. The stores there are unreal. Heaven. Nothing like the junk you see at most stadium gift shops. Sandy Girard doesn’t like baseball so she waited on the street in 90 degree heat…very unhappy…as Eric and I hit EVERY store. Bought custom bats…photos…even Mets gear for Lou Brutus who begged before we left. I’m a White Sox fan and it was hard to find much as everything was Yankees and Red Sox with some Dodgers (Brooklyn) stuff thrown in…but it was so great. The real deal for real fans. Made the mistake of cooing over a 1965 photo of knuckleball great Hoyt Wilhelm and was attacked by some guy who went on and on….and on about his collection of Wilhelm cards. It was THAT kind of scene. Had to duck into an alley to escape the guy.

Back to the hotel for a break. Feet were hurting and drenched in sweat. Had a few Gatorades and a cool down before we were to meet up for dinner with the XM crew. Loaded the GPS info into the Hertz rental. Went to Sabatini’s Restaurant. One problem, never found it. GPS took us to a corn field. Almost ran into a Deer and a Cow trying to find it. Logan was having a tantrum…Sandy was still upset that we stranded her on the street while lusting for memorabilia. We dropped her off at her hotel as it was now about 10pm. What a dump. The ONLY hotel with a room. Hookers outside and this is Oneonta, New York! Stopped at Wendy’s (Eric’s favorite) and headed back to our Hotel—The Ho Jo. Pretty lame and overpriced, but clean. Kept getting nasty emails from Sandy about the roaches, odors and general disgust at her room at the SUPER 8. Next morning, we met her—still unhappy—and went to he Neptune Diner. A Northeast Classic. As every place we went, they were blasting XM. The local stations are unmistakable and unmemorable. Dead Air…Bad puking DJ’s. Laughable “slogans”. No wonder every store and restaurant had satellite. Over breakfast and the XM 70’s Channel, we decided that we’d seen it all. The Ripken party, the memorabilia…the vibe. Wonderful trip. The actual induction was later in the day but we decided to bag it as the crowds were predicted to be of riotous scale. Plus big storms were threatening. Filed a flight plan and headed back to Oneonta Airport. Just as we got there—a throng of fans were waiting at the Mayberryesque ramp. John Travolta was flying in. Had a King Air—nice plane but was expecting a jet. Revved up the plane and took off into a low overcast. Up on top of the clouds, we had nice weather—until hitting Lancaster, PA—then the huge storms came in. We navigated around them of course, but Sandy was half asleep in the back hearing me and Eric talk about “Damn—check that one out—tornado…” on the onboard NEXRAD. Freaked her out. After her devastating waits while we memorabilia hunted…the bad hotel…the restaurant that never was…now this! Landed safely back in DC, but Sandy has not yet recovered.


Occasionally across XM, you’ll hear “lazy words”. These are tired words that:

Have no traction because no-one believes it.
Are old school
Drag us down the dated FM path
Are easy to use because…they’re easy to use…

These aren’t words that’ll kill us…but they do contribute to sounding less-than-sincere. Among those words:

GREAT “You’ll hear Great….”
YOUR FAVORITE “hear all your favorite…”
BEST “For the Best in…”

I encourage us to try alternate words that say the same thing—but in a more XM way

Heard a Deep Tracks promo. Great example of NOT using “lazy words”. They used the line “handcrafted sets” (as has the Loft for a long time) to describe the music programming on the channel. They COULD have used “All your Deep Classic Rock Favorites” or something silly like that. Think about it: “Handcrafted Sets”. It’s original, says what it is and illustrates exactly what is special about XM in a world of computer crafted sets

Finally---Derek De Bastos, John Dealy (aka Johnny D/aka Business God aka/Has been involved since the early 90’s), Jeff Snyder, Dan Murphy and others were also here during the pre XM Summer of Love in 1998. I indicated that I was the sole remaining non Chairman level employee. Well— Derek, John, Jeff, Dan and others were also here on the scene and qualify for full recognition as true XM veterans.

10 Comments:

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Andy Curran said...

Lazy words! This post struck a chord...I worked for one of your "Superstars" stations in 1981-82...WAPI-FM, Birmingham, AL (95 ROCK). Lee Michaels was our assigned consultant. He cam in and gave us a sheet with all of the lame "catch phrases" and "lazy words" and told us that we should start weeding them out of our shows. Somehow I lost that handout. Now I teach media studies and advise the student-run internet radio station. I pieced together some of those "no-nos" by memory, but I'm sure I forgot some. Do you stil have a copy of that handout? If so, could you post it on your blog? Your company's philosophy changed my whole act, and helped me land some a great gig in Cincinnati. Thanks!

 
At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny that all your timeless people are male. For your information Doris Day and Frank Sinatra both sang standards and novelty tunes. Doris Day is timeless, she recorded over 600 songs and, to this day, has millions of fans world wide. Maybe you should listen to some of her songs. Try Latin for Lovers and Duet with Andre Previn for a start.

 
At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahem. Rock 'n' roll started to die when you couldn't dance to it anymore, Lee. Art-school poseurs like Yes and EL&P drained the spirit of youthful energy and rebellion right out of the music. Those qualities wouldn't return to rock till punk and new wave in the late '70s. Rock 'n' roll's got to come from the heart and soul, not from the musical composition textbooks.

 
At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Bruce Ravid said...

Hope you comment on the Bonds record next week. I've had trouble rooting for him because he's just not a good guy. Growing up around Chicago, my idol was Ernie Banks. We had other athletes in Chicago we could look up to all along, who kept their dirty laundry private: Gayle Sayers, Walter Payton, etc. In the 80's here in LA, we had Magic Johnson. We are in such a musical lull when it comes to the mainstream but there is promising stuff out there. I mostly listen to XMU, and Billy plays lots of really compelling artists. (I almost used the word "great") There's got to be a way to get more of that stuff into peoples' ears. I like how hip Ethel has become. Maybe that's a start in the "alternative" world.

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big ups on the Lollapoloza broadcast I wish you guys would have done the same for Bonnaroo. I remember when it used to be live all weekend on the Live channel, the channel that seems to have nothing on it anymore.

 
At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Don Beno said...

Another blog about the ups & downs, the doldrums, the highs of music,etc We all agree with that.

But the great radio stations deal with that. If a CHR has to make a shift to Disco, Urban Cowboy, alternative or power ballads to stay current, it works with the library it has and adjusts rotations accordingly to make the station sound relevant.

Rock radio does the same. Beatles, Black Sabbath, Police, Nirvana or Velruca Salt. What ever the current trends dictate. Heck there was a time when KC & The Sunshine Band and The Knack broke on Rock radio.

My point is that if your radio station or channel is only about music....or a jukebox....you're only as good as your library and depending on a third party to deliver your success. DON

 
At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of lazy words, how about
"keep it locked"
"all the hits"
"breaking the new music first"
And a promotion for a contest?

All of the above are right out of XM 68 The Heat's playbook. The station and the DJs absolutely REEK of the stench of FM. Hard to believe they went through the XM "brainwashing" that XM DJs are supposedly groomed with. Wake up, 68, this isn't FM and we don't need so-called incentives like concert tickets to listen. Maybe if you caught up with the rest of the XM universe, you'd have more listeners.

 
At 1:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee Abrams: "1980 (New Wave); 1993 (Grunge). All of the above characteristics happened during these periods…and all of the ‘lull’ characteristics happened between these periods."

Lull period? The 80's? According to record sales and concert attendance. The 90's was were the lull occured.

Lee you sound like every corporate suit (See Rolling Stone magazine/The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame) that doesn't understand what Rock n Roll is really about.

The 80's was all about escapism, fun, and SEX! The term Rock n Roll literally means SEX! The term was taken from an old Blues song that said "Let Rock n Roll you all night long".

... and the musicianship was top notch.

Lee, I thought you were different.

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Martin said...

Where's that Theme Time Radio Hour poster you promised?

 
At 2:10 AM, Blogger Todd said...

Damn...what a bunch of "Anonymous" whiners! Must be prize pigs or unemployed GM's! Keep blogging "Duh Trueff" Lee!

Zilla

 

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