Monday, December 10, 2007



George Taylor Morris and I flew up to New York for Artist Confidential with Josh Groban. Big, mostly female crowd was hyper with energy and excitement. I’m not a huge fan of his stuff, but those who were, were electric. Funny thing about Josh. He’s a real nice guy. Reminded me of Larry Bernstein from grade school…the kinda guy who’d come over to my house, read my brothers Playboy’s and talk about our model trains. Then----Josh lets out with this voice! I flashed back to Gomer Pyle…you know, he used to play Gomer, then suddenly launch into a song and he’d transform into this dynamic baritone. Or going WAY back, there was a guy named Frank Fontaine who played Crazy Guggenheim on Jackie Gleason’s variety show. Basically Crazy was mentally impaired. Then Jackie would say “Hey Crazy…how about a song”. And he’d go into this lush NON impaired song. Now, Josh is HARDLY like Crazy or Gomer, in fact he’s wonderfully bright and focused guy, it’s just that his incredible voice has nothing to do with his look.

Josh brought a string section and competent band. He was scared before the show as he’s never done something as intimate as this…once we got rolling he transformed into the ultimate guest. Great music, breezy and caring interaction with the crowd. Wonderful.

Rediscovering my roots. That’s what the Led Zeppelin Channel is doing for me, as is Bob Dylan’s show and Tom Petty’s show. With The Zeppelin Channel, I have really gained a new realization of why I am so enamored with the 1968-1975 era of British Rock. Pink Floyd, early Yes, Jethro Tull, the Who and others all shared a level of intellect that is rare to hear these days in rock. The rediscovery included the cerebral lyrics. Sometimes you are so bombarded by the might of Zeppelins music that you miss the fact that lyrically they were on another planet—in a good way. It WAS rock n roll poetry.

Look at Immigrant song:

We come from the land of the ice and snow,>from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.The hammer of the godsWill drive our ships to new lands,To fight the horde, singing and crying:Valhalla, I am coming!On we sweep with threshing oar,Our only goal will be the western shore.We come from the land of the ice and snow,>from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.How soft your fields so green,Can whisper tales of gore,Of how we calmed the tides of war.We are your overlords.On we sweep with threshing oar,Our only goal will be the western shore.So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins,For peace and trust can win the dayDespite of all your losing.

Some may say it’s overblown and pretentious, but at that time and place, it resonated as an anthem. And if you actually LISTEN, there is a cinematic quality. And it was executed with such swagger and vision, that and argument of pretension is null.

While the band is known for its might, I always viewed them as very cerebral and heady. And even when they were soft, they were always HEAVY, and while they possessed obvious musical skills, you could count on them to deliver an eccentric edge, weather it was backwards mellotrons in Kashmir to ….just about everything they touched.

Too often we look at these artists as “Classic Rock favorites” I always viewed Zeppelin as a ethereal thunder…Yes created audio movies that took you places…The Who were so damn CLEVER, (especially in their under appreciated gem “Sell Out”) Pink Floyd were Technicolor. It’s sad to see that so many people lump these artists together as “Classic Rockers” numbed to the majesty of the music... It’s a lesson in contemporary music to re-discover the music that is in your DNA. I pity the poor programmer that looks at Zeppelin (or other giants) as audience test figures rather than basking in the magic that were soundtracks to souls. Stories. Innovation. Jimmy Page's DADGAD tuning on Kashmir, Chris Squire's re-invention of the function of the bass guitar in early Yes...the list goes on.

The Onion says it all:

Time distortion: You'd be amazed at the number of people that suggested Led Zeppelin was too "young and hard". Then, many said Led Zeppelin is old and irrelevant. Classic Time distortion. The reality is that Stairway to Heaven peaked in 1972. If someone was 18 then, they are going on 54 years old! Hell, Cadillac used them in a campaign. The point here is that they are regrouping for a big show and planning a US Tour...and they are the third highest selling artist in US recording history. They are beyond traditional age definition. They are timeless

I'll bet that newspapers/ TV and others locked into traditional thinking stations give it perfunctory coverage at best. While music may not be a big driver, this is one area where the newspapers/TV can be relevant in this space.

It's all about reverence in all demographics for GREAT artists. When I was 18, a 35 year old song was something like Al Jolsen---didn’t make much sense to a guy who just acquired Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland. But a 35 year old record today can be important and inspirational to al ages. It’s good to see some great artists being discovered. It’s the “Johnny Cash factor”.

Speaking of re-discovery---Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour offers a different kind of discovery. You of course hear his musical POV, but more importantly, his show delivers a rare look at him as a person. Far more so than his movies and 60 Minutes piece. He’s really a funny and interesting guy. Tom Petty’s show is similar, but I get more of a glimpse at Tom’s library from it…as if you’re sitting in his home as he commands the record player—He probably has a record player—and that’s good!

The lady who was almost killed for naming a Teddy Bear in Sudan was released…damn, they’re strict over there!

Went to LA...Of course getting to LA was typical. My plane is still in maintenance so I flew commercial. The plane was packed with holiday amateur travelers. Compounded by a Dulles based TSA that is unbelievably inept and generally rude. I kept my cellphone in my pocket and breezed right through the metal detector...and of course it was rare to find a TSA person with any command of English. In fact, a lot of Middle Easterners manning the posts. Unbelievable. Of course the worst is the amateurs who decide to unpack their cases at the last minute delaying the line. Then the language barrier kicks in as the TSA person yells at the amateur in Farsi.

Imus is back. Big fcking deal. I can't believe the coverage he got. I know he has fans, and that’s great, but he was on a lot of marginal AM’s with generally weak ratings...and then all of this coverage. Fox, CNN, everyone, was doing big special further underscores how completely lost the news media is. Add Al Sharpton and a bunch of other no name pundits in there and it makes election coverage look credible. I still think Imus is a miserable old coot. Again, no bash on those who like’s just that I don’t see the justification for the absurd national coverage.

..No whining...just observing...

Then watched the local TV in LA. Gotta think that the way TV news is presented here in the modern world is really based on 1969 thinking...when there were four local stations battling it out without cable or Internet. It's SO laughably dated. I'll watch Fox, E!, and others... then check the many internet sites, and the local news is CRYING for a radical re-invention to stay even remotely relevant in today’s least one that attacks it with vicious tenacity. Gets it in SYNC. Even the basics are missing: One channel said "We'll be back to the News after these words"...Yeah? What news? Who are you? They didn’t even mention who they are...probably important as my cable has 150 channels. Then 4 minute stores from a miserable looking reporter on some obscure school referendum that affected about 1% of LA...and it was front of a vacant schoolyard. Why?

The “changes” at local TV are a lot like the newspapers. One major paper claimed “they were aggressively making the reader experience more engaging…by making the pages smaller”. Huh?

Whining is one thing--identifying and changing is the better fix.

From the TSA to dated TV...I remain optimistic.


At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was scared before the show as he’s never done something as intimate as this…once we got rolling he transformed into the ultimate guest. Great music, breezy and caring interaction with the crowd. Wonderful.

I was one of the female fans there :) and, yup, you got it absolutely right. I wish he'd do more events like this as opposed to massive arena concerts, but what do I know. One of the Lincoln Center staff there said "I never realised he was SO nice and SO funny..." and it occurred to me that many people just don't get to see that side of him or the side that covers Paul Simon's 'America' with such love and respect.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous DP said...

The people of S.A.C.K Nation need the Baked Goods and D.U.B Radio so that your optimism will not be in vein!!!

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Jay Greathouse said...

While public media has huge impact, there are other factors. The U.S. educational system peaked in the 60's and that prepared many for the more intellectual lyrics. With the dumbing down of the educational system fewer people are prepared to fully appreciate lyrical content from that era.

I believe the disparities in the educational system has led to the increasing fragmentation of demographics and psychographics. You can still find intellectually engaging lyrics being appreciatated by audiences, but the audiences are smaller and more marginalized.

I do not think one can isolate the effect of and response to public media from the social environment.

The long term success of Willie Nelson, for example, I attribute to his engagement of current social issues. Willie Nelson Peace Research Institute illustrates this clearly.

Many current artists avoid his intentional social relevance. I've been told that this is contractual in many cases. The labels restrict current content unlike the freedoms they permitted in the 60's.

Both the intellectual and political climate has experienced cooling in the United States. Do something about that and you will see (hear) a corresponding heat in the lyrics of popular music.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous HiTekGal said...

Thanks for the kind words about Josh. We fans work hard raising funds for his foundation that he cares deeply about, and he is the best!!

Couldn't find the USC research you mentioned in the blog title.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Chuck said...

Speaking of re-discovering your roots. I've been listening to an internet channel programmed by a couple guys operating from a shack in Nicaragua. It's absolutely the best example of roots music programing I've ever heard, and covers all genres. I think you should give these guys a channel on XM. (


Post a Comment

<< Home