The Way the Music Died
May 30, 2004 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Interview with David Crosby. "The people who run record companies now wouldn't know a song if it flew up their nose and died. They haven't a clue, and they don't care. You tell them that, and they go, 'Yeah? So, your point is?' Because ...they don't care. They're actually sort of proud that they don't care.... Now they're going in the tank, because the world has changed, and they did not change with it...I think the only way to sell records that I know about now that does look really, really, really promising is iTunes."
posted by weston (44 comments total)
"I think one of the most glaring examples of what they do wrong is they cheat as a matter of policy on paying, because they know that you'll have to, first, hire an accountant and audit them... they do it as a matter of policy. They know they're going to cheat, going in..."
posted by weston at 3:11 PM on May 30, 2004

I watched this online last night. Great piece, really liked the history of the music biz, and what the CD boom did to profit margins and income expectations.
posted by gramcracker at 3:37 PM on May 30, 2004

Nice link, weston, thanks.

David is, by the way, a very active member of the Well, and has been for years now.
posted by digaman at 5:20 PM on May 30, 2004

Good piece last night that gas generated some interesting discussion on a lot of the message boards.

Me, I was more influenced by some postings on a Blog by Ben Weasel. Someone you may not have heard of, but noneteheless, he infulenced a ton of people with his bands over the years. If you don't know who he is, have an intro. Then see his comments about this whoe debate here and a follow-up here.

Some great insite from one a talented, hard-working, independant little guy.
posted by punkrockrat at 6:36 PM on May 30, 2004

"The people who run record companies now wouldn't know a song if it flew up their nose and died."

Dave should know, because he hasn't written a good song in thirty years.
posted by jfuller at 6:41 PM on May 30, 2004

Also, he's had plenty of stuff up his nose.

regretting it already, but unable to resist...
posted by mr_roboto at 6:59 PM on May 30, 2004

jfuller, have you listened to all of his music from the last thirty years? He still knows what is and isn't a good song, group, album, songwriter, etc., even if his songs aren't as good as they used to be. Don't like David Crosby, jfuller? Just say so.

Nice link, weston. His words echo my thoughts and probably many other people's thoughts as well. It's a sad thing to realize that most of the music of today and many of the fashions that go with it are cookie-cutter designs. These days it's so rare that I hear a song and am amazed at how perfect it is. Sigh...
posted by ashbury at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2004

From Ben Weasel:
Many people have written to point out that Internet theft isn’t really theft at all – that it’s copyright infringement, and copyright infringement doesn’t really hurt anyone. Copyright infringement is the term used for theft of intellectual property. Playing games with semantics won’t change that. If you steal a car, you have stolen an actual thing with a visible presence. You’ve also taken the car for yourself, leaving the owner without his car. The argument goes that since stealing a record online is accomplished by copying said record, that no wrong has been committed, because the recording still exists and can still be sold. The problem with this argument is that you have still deprived the owner (in the strictest sense, the label and band) of a sale. Every time an album is stolen online, it represents a physical manifestation of a recording (like a CD) that would’ve – were theft not possible - been sold, depriving both the label and the band (and any middlemen that may have been be involved, such as distributors and stores) of their rightful income.
Circular, spurious logic with a smattering of unsubstantiated opinion. As Lawrence Lessig says:
In the same period that the RIAA estimates that 803 million CDs were sold, the RIAA estimates that 2.1 billion CDs were downloaded for free. [But] although 2.6 times the number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, sales revenue fell by just 6.7 percent [...] If every download was a lost sale - if every use of Kazaa "robbed the author of his profit" - then the industry would have suffered a 100 percent drop in sales, not a 7 percent drop. If 2.6 times the number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, and yet sales revenue dropped by only 6.7 percent, then there is a huge difference between "downloading a song and stealing a CD". [emphasis mine]

Weasel may be talented and hardworking and independent, but he just doesn't get it.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:21 PM on May 30, 2004

jfuller's right, ashbury. David Crosby has always been part of the problem, not the solution. As a once briefly inspired member of the Byrds, he brought happiness and beauty and a new genre of music into the world. His self image and self involvement quickly outran his talent, however, and he spent the next 30 years taking up space in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, padding their albums with his mediocre songs, characterless singing, and wasting vinyl, print and cultural energy in the process. He was one of the 60s-spawned careerists, and rock lifers that squatted down on the music in the early 70s, and refused to get up, smothering all the life and joy and creativity of the previous decade. The fact that this man has been able to make a living in music for all this time more or less proves that the mafia -- some kind of mafia -- runs that business top to bottom.
posted by Faze at 7:29 PM on May 30, 2004

Good interview. Best part of the Frontline episode.

Still, it does sound like sour grapes at times from Mister Crosby. Record companies have always been greedy. They've always focused on the top-selling stuff and ignored everything else. Nothing's changed recently.
posted by destro at 7:37 PM on May 30, 2004

I tend to disagree with Weasel, and do so as a person who actually makes music and gets paid for it periodically, and hopes to get paid more in the future. But my main observation is that Kazaa is a terrible place to get an entire Indie album -- heck, you can't even get all of Mary Chapin Carpenter's Stones in the Road on Kazaa without spending an inordinate amount of time (I've tried, after I lost the copy I had and gave my ex-girlfriend's back to her), and that was a very popular album years back. I find Kazaa is weak for anyone not en vogue now, much more so than Napster or Audiogalaxy. So generally, unless you're already a gold-record sellin' artist, your material is effectively only available in sample-sized portions.

Of course may be I am not enough of a Kazaa master. Or I have too much faith that samples do actually encourage purchase (as they sometimes do for me). Or it may be that I already expect my main income to come from elsewhere, and so I'm somewhat Crosby like in that I take a would-be-nice-but-not-lookin'-for-it approach to money from my music. And I do agree with some of Weasel's ethical points. But overall, I don't think online free distribution will mean the end of Indie Music or even money for Indie musicians.

I don't listen to Crosby much, but the thing I liked about his interview was not that he called the record corps greedy dinosaurs but his specific mention of some of their sins. Cheating on the accounting alone -- well, if an individual did that, they'd wind up in pound-me-in-the-a** prison for embezzlement. It reminds me a lot of the insurance companies whose game is to avoid payment as long as possible, except, perhaps, worse. Middlemen aren't inherently evil as long as they do what they're supposed to do and are fair. Most major labels abandoned both responsibilities a long time ago and that -- not their defense on copyright issues -- is why they deserve to go down and go down hard.
posted by weston at 7:53 PM on May 30, 2004

Faze, you're welcome to your opinion, but I think you're wrong on a few counts. First, he wasn't taking up space in CSN and sometimes Y - he was a fully contributing and valuable singer and songwriter, not to mention having a distinctive playing sound. I'm not going to bother going over all the great songs he did in the late sixties and early seventies, but I will say that he brought, and still brings, a certain melodic quality to his harmonies that few other groups can imitate. For this characteristic alone he should be respected.

He should also be respected for speaking his mind about the music business. He may have been smothering all the life and joy and creativity but he is still a veteran of the sixties and seventies and is truly one of the greats that have come out of rock and roll. I wish that more of the icons of rock music, such as Robert Plant, Bono, Joni Mitchell, Ozzy Ozbourne, Pete Townsend, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Elvis Costello and so on would come out about the music business and start a new revolution. Lord knows they have the clout to get any message they want heard out to the masses.

destro, I don't think he thinks the music business back in the day was some sort eden. Business has always been business and the first rule is always "how much money will I make". His point is that the business was run by people who cared about the music and the money, in whatever order of importance that they might have been.

People like Clive Davis, who signed on Dylan, Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Billy Joel, Big Brother and the Holding Company and others; David Geffen who took on CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Barbara Streisand and the Eagles; Chris Blackwell formed Island Records and signed on Bob Marley, Tom Waits, Traffic and U2, Roxy Music and King Crimson. These men knew the value of a dollar, were cutthroat at their job, and ultimately, knew when they had some very special music at their fingertips. For these guys, the money and the quality were very rarely separated.

I'm not saying that people like them don't exist anymore, or that the artists of today have less merit; I am saying that those who value the integrity and quality of the music over the dollar value are a very small minority. And how could they not be? When Spears and Aguilara make the company a gazillion dollars, when the latest boy or girl band is created to give the suits another gazillion dollars, who wouldn't want to be part of that?
posted by ashbury at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2004

he hasn't written a good song in thirty years

Since you're so confident in your opinions, faze and jfuller, I assume you're quite familiar with "Delta," "Morrison," "Climber," "Rusty and Blue," "Tracks in the Dust," "Shadow Captain," "Distances," and the other songs (half of that list composed in the last few years) that you're dismissing.

And Miles Davis was clearly so misguided about Crosby's "characterless song" "Guinnevere" that he recorded a 30-minute version of it. But what did he know.
posted by digaman at 8:31 PM on May 30, 2004

Most excellent link, weston. Thanks. Love how Crosby gave the thumbs-up to iTunes.
posted by Lynsey at 9:06 PM on May 30, 2004

It's the kids go to the record store, and the kids are -- I was going to say "stupid," but they're not. They're just ignorant.

That will make him a lot of new fans . . . .
posted by LeLiLo at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2004

weston - I'm afraid that crooked dealing like the record companies' can be found in many businesses. The music industry's just a little more blatant about it.
posted by pyramid termite at 10:46 PM on May 30, 2004

I too make music and give it away (and sell it when I can), and I couldn't agree with Crosby more. Even if he does come off as a bit of a crotchety old fart wagging his finger at the stupid -- sorry, ignorant kids and their infernal noise. You can't deny that he's got the perspective, and his talent (over the course of his career, and which is not completely gone) still speaks for itself.

I'll be dancing on the graves of these corporations when they fall, which can't happen fast enough. I fear, though, that it'll be another decade or more before the Music Industry's openly corrupt iron fist finally rusts through.
posted by chicobangs at 11:24 PM on May 30, 2004

He clearly hasn't a clue what iTunes is about. He slags of record labels (accurately I think), predicts their down fall (here's hoping), and then praises iTunes which is the record labels last great hope of survival.

Yes folks you can pay more for the music you want, with more restrictions, less portability and this is meant to be a good thing. Christ.
posted by dodgygeezer at 3:24 AM on May 31, 2004

I also think that you could interview almost anyone who's been in the music industry for twenty or thirty years and they'll tell you much the same thing.

As Andy Partridge of XTC says in this interview:
"The industry runs on signing young bands with a short shelf-life. There's an assumption they'll soon argue among themselves and go back to the building site. Ninety per cent of the groups you see on Top of the Pops aren't making a penny, and never will. Record companies dislike bands with longevity, because eventually they want to know where the money's going. Hang around long enough and your eyes get opened."
posted by dodgygeezer at 3:52 AM on May 31, 2004

"...anyone who's been in the music industry for twenty or thirty years"
Hey, nobody should be in the music industry for twenty or thirty years. It's this assumption of careerism that ruined the music -- the idea that this thing you do as an effusion of your ordinary 18-year-old exuberance should be dragged out any longer than three to four years at most has led to gross artistic distortions -- such as the life of David Crosby, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, and other middle-aged plastic and vinyl wasters. Rock is not a career. It's a brief spurt of pleasure. Do your thing, then pull out.

posted by Faze at 6:11 AM on May 31, 2004

Rock is not a career. It's a brief spurt of pleasure. Do your thing, then pull out.

Right. It is a single thing, flawless and permanent and unchangeable. Do not attempt to redefine it or your place in it. Do not under any circumstances give in to the urge to experiment or evolve.

Crikey. Speaking of brief spurts of (self-)pleasure . . .

Anyway, the full Frontline doc is well worth watching, and to this viewer, anyway, Crosby's depth of experience and breadth of perspective added considerable insight. The truly pathetic part about this debate is that even five years on the music industry hasn't moved past panic, fearmongering and damage control.
posted by gompa at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2004

"Weasel may be talented and hardworking and independent, but he just doesn't get it."

Actually, the only thing he "doesn't get" is the money that is due to him by writing, recording, and producing a CD that people steal on the internet instead of buying.
posted by punkrockrat at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2004

David Crosby's a musician???

posted by The Card Cheat at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2004

Actually, the only thing David Crosby "doesn't get" is the millions and millions of dollars he earned the record companies over the years, of which he has seen way less than his fair share.

And he's one of the great success stories in music history. After him, there's a BIG dropoff. You get the XTC's of the world, who sold deep into the seven figures, buying mansions and yachts and coke for executives all over (tell me I'm wrong about this, I dare you), and Colin Moulding had to take a second job as a repo man to pay his bills?

Free downloads are chickenfeed in comparison to what the labels are doing to these people.

I can't believe we're still having this conversation 5 years on.
posted by chicobangs at 9:14 AM on May 31, 2004

And the same goes for Ben Weasel, by the way, who I'd bet isn't living all that large, whether he's working a second job or not.
posted by chicobangs at 9:15 AM on May 31, 2004

It's this assumption of careerism that ruined the music

Oh, is that what did it? Damn, thanks for clearing that up. But, uh, while you're on the line, how exactly has the "assumption of careerism" "ruined the music"? I mean, you wouldn't be engaging in hyperbole or anything, laying the blame for the industry's ills on something you don't like, without any rational basis or anything, would you?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:58 AM on May 31, 2004

Damn that Johnny Cash and his careerism
posted by destro at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2004

Faze, thanks for citing Elvis Costello as another "middle-aged plastic and vinyl waster." Helps me contextualize the rest of your posts.
posted by digaman at 12:41 PM on May 31, 2004

destro -- Johnny Cash is the perfect example of a career that shouldn't have gone past it's first five years. His whole output after his earliest Columbia sides, is one big question: "What the hell do I do now?" Johnny Cash is one of those people who are much better in concept than execution, and -- really -- after the Sun side, I'd much rather think about Johnny Cash than have to listen to him. The ultimate disgrace was the way his poor dead voice was hauled out of the grave again and again over the last 20 years of his life, and paraded around decorated in a mythology that croaky, tuneless old thing just couldn't carry.
The "assumption of careerism" is a band's belief that it is owed a living out of its music, rather than the profits from a quick sale -- such as when you sell a house. Just because you made three good albums doesn't give you the right to expect to make 20 more crappy albums, and get paid for it. That's the Johnny Cash story, the David Crosby story, the Rolling Stones story (make that six good albums and 10,000 crappy albums), the Joni Mitchell story, the Miles Davis story, the Stevie Wonder story, etc. Give me a group like the ABBAs or the Raspberries, who cut their gems, and cut out.
posted by Faze at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2004

Miles Davis... three good albums

Oh, *I* get it now. This "faze" identity is a self-parody.

If not...

Birth of the Cool
Kind of Blue
Miles Smiles
Filles De Kilimanjaro
In A Silent Way
Bitches Brew

...which nine of those albums were the expendable "crappy" ones?
posted by digaman at 1:14 PM on May 31, 2004

Well, to be fair, Nefertiti and ESP were not his best work. But on the other hand, you forgot Agharta and Pangaea, two of the most amazing records ever made, and both of which defy categorization.

Between that and Messrs. Costello and Cash (whose art was relevant and compelling up to the moment of his death), I feel comfortable ignoring Faze's ill-conceived musical opinions from here on out.
posted by chicobangs at 1:23 PM on May 31, 2004

I think Chicobangs is addressing me so I'm going to explain my point of view:
If you think the music industry sucks, and that it's wallowing in a pit of it's own making you shouldn't be supporting iTunes.

Now I can forgive an old timer like Crosby his ignorance of the digital world, in the same way Crosby forgives the young-uns their ignorance of the musical world. Crosby has at some point heard about something called iTunes somewhere that makes money for artists but he hasn't quite filled in the blanks yet. He may realize it uses DRM but doesn't quite understand what that means. He clearly doesn't realize that it gives the music industry unprecedented control over what you listen to even when you've paid for it. He clearly doesn't realize that iTunes already charges a premium and that if the industry gets it's way it'll be charging even more. And he clearly doesn't realize that when the industry tells Apple to jump, they better start leaping.

As a side issue, Andy Partridge has spoken out over free downloads many a time but now they are making tentative moves in the right direction. From their site you can download non-DRM tracks for 60p each. OK, the tracks are only going to interest hard-core fans but if they're going to take the same approach as Warp with their Bleep site this should be applauded.
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:37 PM on May 31, 2004

digaman and chicobangs, You guys don't demand enough from these artists. A few good cuts here and there do not make a good album. Johnny Cash I can't really blame, because his heart was in the right place, and if God had given him more than a teaspoonful of talent, and a voice with more than two notes, and the ability to write song that didn't ride on Luther Perkins' "boom-chicka-boom" guitar, I know he would have churned out dynamite, crowd pleasing numbers up until his last breath. But after Sam Philips got the best out of him, he more or less couldn't do much besides look craggy and impressive looking out from the collar of a black coat. Miles Davis maneuvered himself artistically to a point where you just threw up your hands and said, "Who knows?" until "Bitches Brew," where he more or less announced his definitive pact with the devil, and launched ten thousand fusion furies across the earth to numb whatever portion of the 70s music world hadn't already been suffocated under the career pretensions of the Neil Youngs, Jackson Browns, Paul McCartneys, George Harrisons, Ray Charles's and Carol Kings of the business. Elvis Costello presents the real mystery, in that he actually has talent, and seems like he could sit down and write another hit song like "Girls Talk" or "You Bowed Down," any time he wanted to set down his cheeseburger and put his mind to it. But his audience doesn't demand it. They sit on their rear ends, mindlessly applauding his self-indulgent maundering, instead of rushing the stage and pantsing the guy. "You get your bags back when you write a good song, and not one second sooner." Chicobangs, can look me in the eye and honestly say that there's nothing you like better than getting out on the road in your red convertible, firing up the CD player and blasting "The Juliet Letters"? Do you come home after a hard days work, pop open a beer, and crank up "Red Like a Rose?" Make these people work for a living if they want a "career" in music. Otherwise, thank 'em for their few good songs, and let 'em get jobs in the real world.
posted by Faze at 2:38 PM on May 31, 2004

Gosh Faze, you have convinced me that the music I like sucks. Let me guess. You are 22 years old.
posted by monkeyman at 4:05 PM on May 31, 2004

Faze, much as I want to refute your latest post in this thread, I have to admit that you do have a very valid point - many of the artists you have mentioned could very well have cut their losses, so to speak, and stopped producing new albums ten or fifteen years after they started making music. People like Bob Dylan, who's 80's output was wasted yet somehow gets a grammy in the 90's, or Rod Stewart who keeps putting out the same album, Phil Collins who ruined Genesis with his pop sensibilities and then moved on the movie soundtrack graveyard, or even Elton fucking John who apparently has had a top twenty song for 25 years straight - these artists drive me nuts because they can't compare with what's new, they can't compare with their old material, but they can rehash their own sound.

The thing of it is, they are consumate performers because they've been doing it for so long. Paul McCartney still sells out stadiums wherever he goes, and he should, despite the fact that he's as old as the hills. The Rolling Stones should sell out at every stop they make, even if they haven't made a decent album in over two decades (altho Keith Richards did two or three albums in the 80's that were fantastic, so maybe he's an exception that proves the rule) because they have so much history and put on a really really good show.

So yeah, faze, you're right - some of these careerist bands do have a chip on their shoulder and expect everybody to bow down before their every new album. I also think that some of them, perhaps the majority of them, keep doing music because they love to make music and wouldn't want to do anything else, just as much as a writer has to continue writing, or a painter has to continue painting. And since they often so much money that it isn't an issue, why shouldn't they continue to make music, even if it does suck? We certainly don't have to buy it.

And then again, perhaps these old fogeys can surprise us - Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson did a VH1 storytellers CD in '99 that is downright fantastic. Aerosmith's new Honkin' on Bobo is surprisingly and refreshingly good, and actually does sound like their 70's material without sounding like their rehashing it. The aforementioned XTC put out Apple Venus volume 1 and it was great. Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music switched gears a few years ago and put out a jazz CD which was pretty good. Ozzie cut his first album with Sabbath in 1970, setting a new standard in metal, and was still doing it in '91 with No More Tears, which was by no means a benchmark album, but it certainly wasn't a slouch by any definition of the term.

A few good cuts here and there do not make a good album. I think I have a vague memory of a group getting sued by its fans for not having a good enough album. If memory serves me correctly, the group released two songs that received major airplay, but the album itself bit. I would love to see more of that (the fans lashing out), even if it isn't really feasible.

Faze, you're right, but your brush is very broad and is tar and feathering too many people for the wrong reasons.
posted by ashbury at 4:18 PM on May 31, 2004

While I wouldn't disagree that there are plenty of artists who should have quit while they were ahead, others remain brilliant, and grow beyond -- *ahem* -- some people's ability to understand them. Elvis Costello could sit down and write another hit like his earliest work? Yeah, he could, but why the fuck would he want to, and why the fuck would any of us want him to? He did his pop single bit, now he's doing something else. The fact that an artist doesn't continue to crank out imitations of his younger self is hardly a vice: it's what distinguishes him from a hack.

Point two: aging, past it artists, even when they really deserve that description, are not "ruining music". Don't like 'em, don't listent to 'em. Lots of people don't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:24 PM on May 31, 2004

dodgygeezer, I was actually agreeing with you.

While I haven't used iTunes and so can't comment on it specifically, I have nothing against the idea and can see the future in its business model or one that's similar.

And their personal opinions aside, an act like XTC (which has not only made great music, but sold a few million copies of their records) should not have two of their three members working a side job -- as repo men, of all things -- in order to pay the bills. Free downloads did not force them into having to moonlight. Draconian record contracts did.

(And Fazey, while I appreciate your effort to find the least roadworthy record in EC's canon, I can vouch for that out on the highway, Brutal Youth, King of America or (best of all) Blood and Chocolate sound pretty damned fine.)
posted by chicobangs at 8:28 PM on May 31, 2004

Of course they sound fine. They're great records that no kid could have made. Faze finds those who age in public unpleasant because he has a jones for a certain kind of gutsy adolescent self-possessed superficiality that he then defines as the only kind of music worth making. Believe me, I love that eternally snotty and hookeriffic chutzpah too. I'd certainly rather hear the young Pete Townshend sing "My Generation" than the old Pete Townshend sing "Who Are You?"

But artists who kept producing wisely and well after the initial rushes, buzzes, and industry blow jobs blew over leave us more than a string of hits. Joni Mitchell could never have composed Hejira when she was young, and as you get older, if you want to keep listening to music with guitars and beats, it helps if the lyrics keep with you as you go through life's changes. This being a Crosby-centered topic, I would happily nominate Stephen Stills as a once-prodigious guy who lost his taste and his chops to booze and blow a couple of decades ago and still kept pumping out records and touring. Billy Joel can go drive his car into Stonehenge for all I care, and both Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan look like my grandmother by now. But it's important to have a high-resolution filter for judging whether or not an artist is still innovating or marking time (or worse), and Faze's don't-trust-anyone-over-25 plan is too crude and uninformed.

Anyone who looks at that list of Miles Davis records -- which describes an arc of evolution as astonishing as the Beatles' or the Clash's (or Elvis C's, or Coltrane's, or...) -- and makes some comment about "a few good cuts here and there" is not being serious, even if they're convinced that they are. I like pure uninformed attitude as much as the next dude when it's strutting in tight pants with a guitar on stage, but in a discussion like this, it's just another pose.
posted by digaman at 10:37 PM on May 31, 2004

So faze right now I'm listening to a Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald CD that was produced late in their long musical careers and I have a question for you. Suppose you're Louis Armstrong. In your youth you help to invent jazz. What do you do with the rest of your life? I mean you're not likely to make as large a contribution to music as you did in your youth again so if you continue to produce then you're just a careerist fossil right?

Also, I recognize that different people have different tastes but the fact that anyone could believe that Elvis Costello is more talented than Neil Young or Ray Charles mystifies me. You're right that Costello would probably find it easier to produce a hit record than either Charles or young but that's not the metric you're using, is it?
posted by rdr at 11:29 PM on May 31, 2004

I think Faze's metric is great. For him. However, I think I lost that rulebook of rock and roll a while ago. Or maybe it's this book here, I'm not sure...the pages are all blurry and out of order. There's no author and sometimes while I'm reading it I could swear it's making a different point than it was yesterday. Shtoopit rulebook, I need one that tells me how to feel.
posted by attackthetaxi at 12:51 AM on June 1, 2004

In your youth you help to invent jazz. What do you do with the rest of your life?
If Armstrong had his act together, he might have enjoyed a productive career, and could have contributed at least as much to jazz as Paul Whiteman -- the real "King of Jazz." Instead, he became "Louis Armstrong," never surpassing the Hot Five Days (his only later triumph being a later recreation of the Hot Five), and oppressing the world with his hideous, sweating, pop-eyed countenance, those gigantic teeth, and that grotesque voice -- mangled by decades of daily marijuana smoking. Armstrong oppressed jazz for his whole life, looming over with his big head the same way he did in that Betty Boop cartoon, where his huge face leers down on a terrified Koko the Clown, singing "I'll be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You." The man was way overpraised in his lifetime, and continues to be to this day. There may even be some racism involved, since Armstrong was so horrid-looking, and his voice was so impossible to enjoy, he was put forth as a kind of clown for those white people who couldn't bear the thought of a good-looking, smooth-singing jazz virtuoso (Nat King Cole, say). Ella did okay with her later career. She was not a song-writer, of course.
posted by Faze at 7:11 AM on June 1, 2004

well, besides the fact that the ben weasel blog link has essentially nothing to do with this FPP, i'll comment on it:

before the mp3s, music fans shared underground records by making tapes for each other and sharing. it was cassettes traded around in high school which exposed me to screeching weasel, which led to my purchase of albums. he TOTALLY doesn't get it. especially as a punk rocker/underground musician. tape trading is/was the ESSENCE of underground dissemenation of rock music that wasn't getting played on the radio.

ian mackaye gets it.
posted by glenwood at 7:52 AM on June 1, 2004

Oh, come now, glenwood, Mackaye said what he had to say on Minor Threat's In My Eyes EP. Sure, there were a couple of good sides on the first Fugazi album, but as soon as they started introducing unconventional time changes, they'd fallen victim to an assumption of careerism that sucked the life out of the brief spurt of pleasure that was Out of Step. And anyway American hardcore was little more than sped-up '60s garage, which was nothing more than sped-up '50s rockabilly, which was . . .

[/channelling Faze]

Seriously, though - great interview. Thanks for the link. The difference between the reactions of record label-owner Ian Mackaye and the RIAA's members to the advent of filesharing tells you almost all you need to know about the difference between a self-sustaining music community and a profit-generating music industry:

When I first heard about napster, and those kinds of things, the orignal napster, the idea of having a resource where you could hear music-- it was a giant resource library-- was so intoxicating to me. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. Most music will never be made available commercially because it just doesn't make any sense for it to be made available commercially, you'll never sell enough copies to merit it, but I want to hear Hendrix practicing something, I want to hear a weird Al Jolson recording, I want to hear these things. The idea of going to a computer and listening to them once or twice like you heard them on the radio I think is incredible.
posted by gompa at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2004

Paul Whiteman, "king of jazz"?!

I get it, Faze. You're the Ann Coulter of music.
posted by digaman at 2:25 PM on June 1, 2004

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