COLUMN FIFTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
A VIEW OF MUSIC AT THE END OF THE '60s
of this article were originally published in the Saturday Evening Post.]
over Hollywood's Sunset Strip and 7,000 miles from his native Liverpool, Derek
Taylor stood looking out the window and muttering that it was the 20th of the
month and none of his accounts had paid him yet.
London, there were rumors that the Beatles would never perform in public again.
In Nashville, they were talking about cowboy singer Johnny Cash making a
tour of prisons to collect an album of jailhouse songs.
In New York, Herman reportedly was looking for a TV job without his
Hermits. The Young Rascals had just
returned from a European tour that netted them a loss of $22,000.
Mod shops were thinking about stocking cowboy shirts.
were being torn between reading Siddhartha and 16 Magazine.
And Bob Dylan was trying to edit 40 hours of film down to a one-hour TV
special. Outside Derek Taylor's
window, the afternoon glowed the way Marilyn Monroe's hair used to do when she
rode down the Sunset Strip in a convertible. In a couple of hours the glow would
vanish, and the Strip would become a battleground, the cops vs. the minimasses,
long-haired, bell-bottomed teenagers hammering their alienation into the
barricades of Hollywood's psychedelic revolution.
upon a time, Derek Taylor was the press officer for the Beatles, now he was the
publicity man for a dozen Top 40 recording stars.
He sat down at his desk and picked up a copy of Record World.
industry," he said, "is booming.
It should do a billion dollars this year.
But it is not in good shape."
the square-ruled towns and dead-end suburbias of America, the guitarist was
still on his way to replacing the football player as the local teenage
idol. The sale of instruments in
the music store on Main Street was up 100 per cent and still headed for new
neighborhood had its rock and roll group and every rock and roll group had its
share of the neighborhood's Beatlemania remnants.
In high school auditoriums across the country, "The Battle of the
Bands" had be come an event as unavoidable as Halloween soap on an
the Lions, the Kiwanians, the Jaycees and the provincial parish priests, rock
and roll had become another Little League.
Meanwhile, the country's middle class family mill kept churning out more
than enough pubescence to fill every seat with a screaming teenager.
in the locally anesthetized corners of drive-in America, a new storefront was
making its improbably gypsy appearance. Usually
with a musical clef painted royally on the door, equipped sometimes with little
more than egg crate liners tacked on the wall for soundproofing, and supported
by the penny trade of local groups who couldn't afford to buy their way through
grander portals, the store called
itself a recording studio.
all, the electronic miracle of Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Sound was still
emanating from what was once a photographer's shop on Detroit's West Grand
Boulevard. With a $700 family loan,
Berry Gordy Jr. had reconverted the photographer's shop into a $25,000,000
record company. The Supremes, The
Miracles, The Four Tops, The Temptations had all been baptized into fame there.
The music business is where storefront churches turn into overnight
It was into one
of -these neighborhood recording studios near Saginaw, Mich., one day last year
that 22-year-old Rudy Martinez brought his band of musicians to record a song he
had written. The recording cost
Martinez $24, which is approximately what R.C.A. Victor would pay for a waste
basket, but this Saginaw studio was the only one available willing to invest in
his group already famous in the firehouse halls and Friday night gyms where the
children of Saginaw's immigrant Mexican auto-working community held their
dances, Martinez took his $24 recording and knocked on the first available door.
It was opened by Saginaw's Joe Gonzales, who had once labored on the assembly
lines, dabbled in real estate, was the proprietor of the El Pato grocery
store, owned the Mexican Food Products Co., operated the El Rancho Motel and who
also put out Mexican records on the Pa-Go-Go and Be-Go labels.
released Martinez' recording on his Pa-Go-Go label and it immediately started
small-changing its way up the sales charts of the record stores and radio
stations in the cities of Michigan's
Bay area. By the time it went on
the air in Flint, Martinez' $24 fantasy had become real enough to stir up gossip
about buying shares in it among the young men in the quicksilver suits who try
to run the nation's Top 40 record industry as a stock broker's business from New
a record happens in the Top 40 market, it often happens in Detroit first.
Flint is as good as the flip side of Detroit and the quicksilver traders
keep their ears tuned to Flint's radio like comedians trying to steal bright
sayings from a kid. It was on a
Friday afternoon during the Great Airplane Strike that Neil Bogard,
Cameo-Parkway's 23-year-old director of sales and promotion and first lieutenant
in charge of everything, decided to call up Joe Gonzales.
wasn't home, he was attending to some business in McAlen, Texas, but instead,
Joe’s wife Lily picked up the phone. Bogard
offered her a $500 deal for Martinez' recording and Lily accepted.
In the next several hours she also accepted an offer of $1,500 from
Roulette Records, another offer of $1,750 from Bogard and another offer of
$2,500 from Roulette. She turned
down a couple of $2,000 offers from Laurie Records and MGM, but they were still
ringing her phone.
5 o'clock, Bogard realized he had better do business with Joe instead of Lily.
Equipped with two blank checks and a set of contracts, he bribed himself
into an airliner seat, flew for 11 hours trying to make the right connections
and finally met Joe the next morning in McAlen. By 6 a.m. Sunday he was back in New York with Rudy Martinez'
$24 tape recording in his attache case. By
Monday morning, the tape was at Cameo-Parkway's pressing plant in Philadelphia.
By Monday afternoon, Bogard had an order for 13,000 copies of the record
from his Detroit distributor. By
the end of the year, the song, Ninety-Six Tears, had sold more than
Martinez, the son of an iron foundry worker in Saginaw, Mich., was now known
around the world as "Question Mark." With his group, The Mysterians,
he was playing to audiences of 10,000 kids at a time.
Nineteen sixty-six was the year that American colleges and universities
started adding Contemporary Popular Music to their curricula and teaching it as
if it were a business administration course.
For the countryside's bottled-up youth, pop music had become the capsule
you swallow to dream the American dream. Singing
had become the quickest, easiest and surest way to cry out in the wilderness for
personal fame. The record business
had become the only possible profession for someone with no other ambition than
to be a teenage millionaire.
transistor radio had become the instrument of cultural godhood.
Brown, the king of rhythm and blues, was vapor-trailing across America's
increasingly integrated heavens in his own newly purchased private jet,
traveling to 300 one-nighters a year, collecting more than $1,000,000 at the box
office for them and inciting crowds of thousands to mass frenzies with a message
that each one in the crowd seemed to take personally.
The Lovin' Spoonful, four countrified city expatriates, were ladeling out their “good time
Stardom with all the harmony, spectacle and impact of three angels and a reincarnated ton of bricks
to an America so in need of good times that MGM Records paid them a confident $1
million advance in its rush to sign them up to a recording contract which won't go
into effect until 1970.
Mamas and Papas, already as much of a household word as Sophie Tucker, had
become so rich so fast that, just on a whim, they bought out Carnegie Hall to
produce their own concert, flying in from Los Angeles for the night, arriving to
find sidewalk scalpers hawking tickets at three times the price, and then flying
home again, falling asleep on the plane to mutual nods about what a nice time
Mamas and Papas had ascended to to the heaven of stardom with all the harmony,
spectacle and impact of three angels and a reincarnated ton of bricks.
At their public appearances, the teenyboppers would mob Cass Elliot, the
fat one, following her down the street, sneaking up to her hotel rooms, trying
to touch her, calling out her name:
Cass, Oh, Cass!”
the end of 1966, the Pop Scene had blossomed into the pot of gold at the end of
a rainbow, a new garden of Eden, with colors, styles, instrumentation and music
that ranged as far into the brocaded past as into the mysterious future.
Stripes matched with paisley. There
were miniskirts for men and beaded suits for women.
Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones had begun wearing costume jewelry from
Sak's Fifth Avenue.
Greenwich Village, two hip entrepreneurs had bought out the stock of a
theatrical costume company, sight unseen, and in a matter of days, had sold
5,000 costumes to people who wore them into the street.
The Fugs, a group of Lower East Side poets with lyrics banned by the FCC
and a name that some disc jockeys wouldn't even pronounce on the radio, had
succeeded in getting a $25,000 contract with Atlantic Records and an album on
the bestseller charts.
Everett McKinley Dirksen, the fabled honey of his voice dripping off the wax
black edges of a 45 r.p.m. single, had recorded an orchestrated oration called Gallant
Men and, with an "I didn't know you can get paid for doing this,
too," announced plans for another record of himself reading from the Bible.
Sinatra, Frank's young daughter, the convenient discovery of a record company
owned by her father and the rock and roll protest balladeer of all the
underprivileged girls of Bel Air, had already collected one gold record and was
about to collect a second, which was twice as many as Frank Sinatra ever got in
his entire 26-year career.
Shankar india's most celebrated classical musician had become, at the age of 47,
an American folk hero and an English pop star, with teenyboppers in his
audiences, write-ups about him in their fan magazines and Beatle guitarist
George Harrison sitting at his feet, his most dedicated pupil of the sitar.
In India, the sitar is a holy instrument of religious magic.
In England and America, the sitar was being used on rock and roll
is silly, it is childish, it is a gimmick," commented Shankar with a smile
that spread across his face like a rope climbing into thin air.
In America, musicians who agreed with Shankar hunted through their
country music attics and dusted off the pedal steel guitar, an authentic
entire music industry has matriculated to a point where everybody is
articulating in a different way," said disc jockey Murray (The K) Kaufman,
who has begun to talk like that since he started writing books.
One of the pioneers of hysterical rock and roll programming, Murray was
trying out his new subdued tones on New York's WOR-FM, which was threatening to
revolutionize radio by playing pop music for adults in the same dignified format
that FM usually reserves for classical music.
call it block programming," said Murray, "because we're creating a new
frame of reference for the Bob Dylans, the Peter, Paul and Marys, the Ian and
Sylvias, the Paul Simons, the Lovin' Spoonfuls and particularly the Beatles,
because the excitement of a couple of years ago, that kind of radio is passé,
and what they're saying musically and lyrically now is so different and so
honest, which we've never had in the music business --- they're really poets who
are reflecting a new attitude which demands a new form of presentation on the
the nation's Top 40 radio stations steadfastly maintained their frenzied
traditions. In Federal Court, a
company called Coed Records, alleging it had paid $19,000 to disc jockeys,
claimed that payola was so commonplace it ought to be allowed to deduct the
money from its income tax as a business expense.
The Rolling Stones released a record called Let's Spend the
Night Together, the radio stations played the other side, Ruby Tuesday.
The Stones nearly walked off the Ed Sullivan Show when Sullivan insisted
they mumble the line, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” During a
performance of the song.
American radio kept busy trying
to keep its
turntables clean of records that dealt with sex and drugs, American songwriters
kept busy outwitting the censors with lyrics that had double, triple and
sometimes multiple meanings. America's
new Generation was creating its own culture and as part of that culture it was
creating its own music and its own language.
then there were The Monkees. Picked
out of a handful of youths who auditioned in answer to a newspaper ad,
publicized with all the freneticism that a $250,000 promotion fund could buy,
backed by expert musicians hired to play the sound tracks of their records for
them and blessed with the talent of some of America's most experienced hit
songwriters, all of whom were instructed to "make it sound fresh, like
early Beatles," The Monkees in six months seemed on the way to becoming
the most popular group in the world.
success stunned even their manufacturers, who had designed Tne Monkees primarily
for a weekly half-hour comedy television show.
When the show went on the air last September, it was almost booed right
off by the ratings. Then The
Monkees' records were released and the sales figures started rising beyond
first single sold 1,200,000 copies, the first album sold 3,300,000, the second
single sold 3,100,000 and by the time the second album was put on the market,
advance sales totaled 2,500,000 in three weeks.
think The Monkees are outselling Elvis Presley and the Beatles at the same point
in their careers,” one R.C.A. Victor official cautiously volunteered.
When, convinced they could play their own instruments well enough, The
Monkees attempted a personal appearance tour. They grossed nearly $500,000 in a
few days. Monkee belts, Monkee
hats, Monkee books, Monkee magazines, Monkee wallets and Monkee handbags started
swinging from,dime store racks, and Monkee royalties were expected to run into
a music industry that saw the figures through accountant eyes, The Monkees'
triumph didn't belong so much to the four boys who answered the newspaper ad as
it did to Donnie Kirshner, the Brill Building music publisher who was known as
the Man With The Golden Ear. But
that was during the days when he ruled the pop charts in the days before Bob
Dylan, the Beatles and Motown's Berry Gordy Jr.
president of Colgems Records and music supervisor of The Monkees, Kirshner put
up cash, helped tap the pockets of other investors, hand-picked the musicians,
ordered the songs custom-written, told The Monkees how to sing them, produced
the records and merchandised them. On
the other hand, The Monkees, packaged and marketed in the same way that their
sponsors produce a box of sugar-coated crisp, had begun to feel that their own
personalities had as much to do with the success of the package as the
vacuum-sealed silver foil they came wrapped in.
the end of the year, Kirshner was arguing with his partners over whether the
records were more important than the TV show and The Monkees were arguing with
Kirshner over whether they could write their own songs and play the music on
their own records.
like somebody predicted it,” said one musician viewing the whole pop scene
with the amusement of someone who had bought his fame with 10 years of one-nighters---he’d
played country blues guitar in every town that ever canceled a postage stamp.
. . Predicted that three years after the Beatles, someone would get the idea of
putting a group together like the Monkees and putting them on television, and
they'd become very big, almost as big as the Beatles, and that they'd go on tour
and gross nearly $500,000 in days and that after they got very big they'd
start hassling their producers and want to do their own stuff.
But they seem pretty groovy, they seem like they'd be able to do their
thing and not have to worry about it. Did
you know that Mike Nesmith wrote Mary,Mary" That's a groovy
song. Even Paul Butterfield
recorded Mary, Mary."
in London, a former school teacher, airport control tower technician, amateur
playwright, bumper-sticker manufacturer, billboard inspector and part-time
manager of English pop star Donovan started listening with square-eyed
romanticism to the wound-up gramaphone sounds of Rudy Vallee's 1930s.
His name was Geoff Stephens and, talking through his straw hat, laughing up his mod sleeves and singing through a megaphone, he formed The New Vaudeville Band, reproducing the
with the Pop Music
Vallee sound on a record called Winchester Cathedral.
The record sold enough copies to prompt Rudy Vallee himself into poking
his nasality through the camp curtains of his later years.
Immediately, Vallee released a recording of his own version of the song.
with all its strange new colors, blooms and milliondollar cultivations, there
was something wrong with the Pop music garden.
No one seemed to know exactly what the trouble was, whether the garden
was becoming overgrown, whether it needed weeding, whether its blossoms were too
precious or whether too many of its flowers were really artificial.
No one seemed to know even whether there actually was something wrong.
there was something different. As
dazzling as pop music
had become, it also
had lost much of its excitement.
When The Lovin' Spoonful returned from a Midwestern tour last December,
they had to pay a bill of $252.08 to repair the dents, scratches and footprints
their fans had put on their rented cars.
no matter how you cut the mustard," John Sebastian, the Spoonful's youthful
moon-shaded leader reported afterwards, "there's nothing happening in the
Midwest. There's a big decline in
the Beatlemania bag of screaming and franticness.
You only see that in the rural areas where the kids are reacting to a
hypnosis. A hypnosis by the mass
media, the radio and the newspapers, which tell them, 'When you see the
prototypes, you gotta scream.' But then none of us are really the screamy type
anyway. And our music---it doesn't
really sound that screamy."
were still teenyboppers and they were now trying to rip The Monkees into
souvenir shreds. But they weren’t teenyboppers so much as they were
tennyweenyboppers, acting not so much out of spontaneity as out of emulation of
their older sisters---just as The Monkees were following a script shamelessly
copied from the Beatles.
shrieking mobs who had flung themselves at Bob Dylan, besieged the Beatles and
rushed the stage of The Rolling Stones were three years older now.
The teenage scream which had bugled the start of their cultural rebellion
had become a golden oldie. The
excitement of their troubadored promise of better times had been tranquilized by
the hard work of trying to fulfill the promise.
fans who had once trampled one another, crushed one another, and shrieked selves
deaf just to see their rock and roll heroes were now filling auditoriums
to hear them. The kids
were listening to the music and listening
to the words. Pop was no longer
just a teenage phenomenon.
his office on the Sunset Strip, Derek Taylor lit a filtertip cigarette, one of
the favorite brands along the Anglo-American jet trails of the pop music
pioneers. On his desk was a
newspaper clipping about a Catholic priest, who for two years had been touring
the country giving lectures based on a Saturday Evening Post article
which had quoted him as saying that the Beatles were anti-Christ.
the sunglow of his office windows, the grass of the Hollywood Hills could be
seen climbing up to the castled doorsteps of the aging Lords of Entertainment.
For half a century, Hollywood had been trying to re-create the world in
its own celluloid image and now a movie star was governor of California.
At the foot of the Hollywood Hills stretched Los Angeles, a city of
suburbs laid end to end.
the nation under the
age of 25, California had become America's most populous state, collecting the
drift of the entire country in closed ranks of FHA barbecue pits, the
last frontier of America's middle class. Like
Marilyn Monroe, who used to watch the flashing thunderbolt of the RKO studio
from her girlhood bedroom, the children of Los Angeles could look out their
picture windows and see America's Mount Olympus dancing to the acid rock rhythms
in their heads.
behind the electric gates of his mountaintop
all, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys also lived on one of those mountaintops,
holding water ballets in his heated swimming pool under the eyes of television
cameras and the millions who would eventually watch.
The Byrds were up there, too, all nestled in the same neighborhood, close
enough to one another at least for Byrd Jimmy McQuinn to videotape another
Byrd’s house burning down. McQuinn
sold the videotapes to a Los Angeles television station for its 11 o'clock, news
was changing its cast again. Little
more than a year ago, John and Michelle Philips were two beatnik statistics,
fugitives from the coldwat6r garbage tenements of New York's Lower East Side. The only fantasy they could afford was the dream of becoming
international jewel thieves and their only meal ticket was an American Express
credit card, the bill for which they could never hope to pay.
Now they were half of The Mamas and M Papas and they lived in the mansion
where Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald had once inspired the old-fashioned
lovers of the world.
the Los Angeles sheriff's office was using buses to enforce the 10 p.m.
curfew for kids under 18 and the authorities were trying to close down the
Sunset Strip rock and roll clubs by rescinding their dance hall permits.
in paisley and suede and any costume they could dig up from the days of Charlie
Chaplin, the mini-masses were fighting back with protest marches.
Walt Disney was dead, but amid the young mobs that walked the Strip at
night, the police were arresting life-long Mickey Mouse fans on charges of
possession of narcotics.
an industry," said Derek Taylor, "in which first of all the myth is
that it's grown up. All the
marvelous elements have come together, all the groovy people are now in command. OK. But when the
awards come out at the end of 1966, you open Record World and what do you
find? The top vocalist of the year
is Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. I'm
sure Barry Sadler is a very good soldier, but what has that got to do with
music? All right.
The top female vocalist? Pet
Clark. The top male vocalist?
Frank Sinatra. Number five is Elvis Presley.
The most promising male vocal group?
Tommy James and the Shondells.
a group that made one record that hung around for two years because nobody would
touch it and then by some freak it sells more than a million copies, Hanky
Panky, the all-time definitive piece of crap, a very poor recreation of Be
Bob a Lula, a famous Gene Vincent song. And on
the basis of that, they're voted the most promising male vocal group in
the singles market. And in their
‘thank you’ to the trade, they're photographed up a tree.
Tommy James, clean-cut, hair back, now climbing into trees, where they've
seen other groups being photographed 18 months ago.
let's look at Cash Box. The best artist of 1966 in Cash Box is Gary Lewis for singles.
For albums, it's Frank Sinatra. Somewhere
down the list is Bob Dylan, who has just beaten out John Gary, but above BoD
Dylan is Al Martino. And who is
voted the best newcomer for 1966 in Cash Box"
of which goes to prove that it's quite untrue that the record industry has grown
up. And the reason is that there's no growing up of the public taste.
The same crap is being bought that was bought 10 years ago.
For example, the Beatles' Revolver album was infinitely more
exciting than their Rubber Soul album, but it didn't sell nearly as well. On the other hand, S.R.O., the new Herb Alpert record,
sold 2,000,000 copies in six weeks.
“Let's look at Record World again. The most promising male vocal group in albums in 1966 was The Monkees. Now, The Monkees are a workmanlike group put together like a play is
Like a new car loses its smell of newness, had the English Sound had lost its flavor?
together, through casting. But, if
the most promising group of 1966 was The Monkees, the industry is in a
The English sound had lost its
magic holiday flavor the same way that the inside of a new car inevitably gives
up its joyful scent of newness. In
America, pop music critics were saying that the English sound had died of
exposure. The discoteque scene had
turned into a dreary succession of washed-out nights.
In London, New York and other cities, club owners once faced with the
crush of crowds suddenly were facing the crush of a constable's hammer.
Money was tight. Derek Taylor wasn't the only press agent who had to wait
past the 20th of the month to collect his fees.
town just isn’t there!” cried Steve Paul,
the 25-year-old glow-headed hipster who runs The Scene, once New York's
most fashionable midtown slum rock disco, and he announced a policy of trying to
save his club by booking Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, poetry
readings by Allen Ginsberg and karate demonstrations by his waiters and doormen.
were guessing wrong about artists and artists were guessing wrong about
promoters. Just to lessen the risk, more and more record stars were
turning to the college circuit, where the tickets were all sold at tuition time
and there was no need to gamble on the performer's drawing power or the
promoter's ability to promote. Talent
agencies were boasting about how high their profits were rising but at the same
time they were complaining about how much harder it was to earn them.
record distributors could no longer predict their peak seasons or their best
hits. Like America's population, the music market had exploded into
an incomprehensible chaos of splintered tastes, attitudes, claques and
uncertainties. When business was
good, it was better than ever. When
business was bad, it was worse. Some
said there was a Depression. Others
said that audiences were merely becoming more selective in what they spent their
way, there was less room at the top and more people trying to get there.
Three years ago, before the British captured America's pop charts and pop
started captivating the world, some 200 new record releases a week would come
knocking, at the average radio station door, begging to be played on the air.
There wasn’t enough radio time available to play more than three or
four. By the end of 1966, the
number of new record releases competing for air had exploded like an H-bomb and
they no longer were just knocking on radio station doors.
were trying to sneak in through windows, climb over transoms, shimmy up drain
pipes, parachute onto rooftops and try anything else that might land them on a
disc jockey's turntable. But there
still wasn't enough radio time available to play more than three or four. Like Rudy Martinez’ $24 fantasy, success
in the music business came in the music business came in the most
unexpected ways because it was hardly
expected at all. And even when
success did come,
often turned out not to seem worth the dues paid for it.
wonder, 'Have I really made it?’” said one British pop star. "And then
wonder, 'Am I going to keep on making it?' And you wonder, 'Did I really
do something? Did I deserve to make
it?' And you think, 'Well, at least there's the money.' And you think, 'Well,
so blasted gloomy
now, could I feel any worse without the money?' Like the James Brown song, Money
Won't Change You But Time Will Sure Carry You On.
What's the big thing about having a bunch of teenyboppers screaming
outside your window or trying to crawl into your bed?
And for this, you spend your life imprisoned on airplanes and in hotel
rooms being slave-driven and
cheated by a bunch of cold-blooded
businessmen who don’t give a damn about the bloody hell you have to go
a name, any name, and the chances are that the name already belonged to some pop group
or another, sometime, somewhere. The
Drifters, The Shirelles, The Playboys, The
Shadows, The Penguins, The Chantelles, The King Bees, Mogen David and The Grapes
of Wrath. Pick another name, and
that name probably has been used too. The
Vagrants, The Seeds, The Association, Johnny Hoar and the Hoarmasters, Oedipus
and the Mothers, Judas and the Traitors, The Mothers of invention.
the groups multiply and the competition increases, so does the strain for
originality. The Buffalo Springfield, The Jefferson Airplane, The Sopwith Camel,
The Grateful Dead, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The American Blues and The
s as if everybody's already done everything, and it's getting harder to think of
new things to do," explained one American guitarist.
some groups, success was an appearance on an afternoon rock and roll program on
the ultra-high-frequency television station in the nearest city.
For some groups, success was a good yearly wage picked from the bandstand
dregs of beery suburban roadhouses with the groups' names prominently mentioned
in radio commercials on stations that otherwise refused to play their records.
some groups, success was a Number 1 hit on the pop charts followed by a Number
32 hit followed by a return to the anonymity of everlasting fame in the
neighborhood and perhaps a gas station job.
How many more records would Rudy Martinez be able to smuggle to the top
of the charts?
you slogged through the hungry bog of failure or endured the diamond-studded
torture chamber of success, just to keep on going required the same
near-messianic energy. "And I'11
tell it and speak
it and think it and breathe it. . . And-
I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,” Bob Dylan once wrote.
Even at the height of their popularity, some of the best of the British groups were giving up. Worn out by compromises they had to make among themselves just to stay together,
As for the Beatles, John was beginning an acting career and George was listening to Ravi Shankar records
to the brink of emotional bankruptcy by the outside demands of world fame, and
tired, very tired, The Animals, Manfred Mann and The Yardbirds were disbanding
or rearranging their personnel.
for the Beatles, John was beginning an acting career, Paul was writing the
musical score of a movie, George was listening to Ravi Shankar records with
Donovan and Ringo was planning a big family.
When promoter Sid Bernstein was in London last fall, he offered
Beatle manager Brian Epstein a $1,000,000 guarantee for a Beatle performance in
New York's Shea Stadium next June.
of the circumstances," Epstein replied, "right now it's silly to
"The excitement is
over," Bernstein now says. "The
kids are becoming more discriminating. They
want better musicians, better groups. The
English thing is over, the long-hair craze and the one-hit group craze is over.
It's been oversaturated and over-exposed and it's exhausted the
kids---emotionally, physically and financially.
The big thing now is back to American music.
When I was in Europe, wherever I went, they kept begging for American groups.
They were hungry for American music.”
he first imported the Beatles to America in 1964, Bernstein
claimed he was writing history. Since then, he has all but written himself out
of the promotion business. From 36 promotions in 1965, Bernstein reduced his
efforts to 19 in 1966. This year, he plans only 10.
costs have gotten so high," he explained. "The croups are overpriced,
the insurance and rent have gotten beyond belief, even when you make some money,
the profit is very small. On a
sellout, you're good for a maximum of 20 per cent profit.
Usually on a sellout you're only good for 15 per cent.
When you blow, you can blow three times what you make on a winning show.
Just to break even, you have to pick three out of four right.
To make money, you have to pick four out of five right.
The odds are too damn long."
1966, Bernstein picked 16 out of 19 right but still devoted more and more of his
time to the personal management of The Young Rascals and The Blues Project, two
groups which can't seem to exhaust their promise no matter how hard they try.
When Bernstein promoted the Beatles' performance in Shea Stadium last
summer, the show grossed $250,000, but Bernstein ended up with a net loss of
Beatles are quite wise not to come back,” said David Crosby of The Byrds,
another group which is weary of touring, sick of being screamed at. and
would rather stay home to build in the living room and record albums
the Beatles toured America now ,
there’d be a lot of empty seats. The
same with the Stones. The kids
aren’t going to pay all that money for another 20-minute show in a ball park.
They've seen those four dots before. Many probably just want to preserve
only good thing some groups see in the road sometimes is room service, “and
room service,” as one pop musician observed, “is like eating muzak."
Otherwise, it's financial necessity and the need for personal promotion that
gives a performer the courage to face the highway blues.
good people in the industry," said one top rock and roll booking agent,
“are heartily bored---not in a negative way, but the way they feel is,
'There must be something more to life than what we're doing.' Give an artist a
big enough bank account and a big enough name and he couldn't care less about
going out on the road. The rock and
roll package show has died a few deaths.
only groups like Paul Revere and the Raiders that are capable of going on the
road and really drawing, but now even they are beginning to look at their
music and wonder if it's good enough. Look
down the list. It's all the same
Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, another giant of personal appearances, nothing was
too slight for them to undertake. But
now they've disbanded and Mitch Ryder is touring with a 10-piece orchestra.
The Byrds would put extra men on, but who's going to pay for them? The club
owners are already grumbling over the costs.
Brian Wilson wants a symphony orchestra,
but he hasn't been touring with the Beach Boys for more than a
Beach Boys are still very big in their own areas,
“The Four Seasons? They do good level TV and colleges. Herman's Hermits? Still strong
to take itself seriously
dwindling. The Supremes wouldn't
look at a one-nighter, they'll do the Copa, Coconut Grove, good clubs and good
TV. The Righteous Brothers stick to
colleges and television. The Dave Clark Five?
They're probably just vain enough to think they can do it again.
Temptations? They stick to clubs. Donovan?
He's Alexander the Smooth
he has a lot of hit
records and a big underground following, but he just cancelled an American tour.
Sonny and Cher die a death everywhere.
Their singles aren't what they were and their film will mean yes or no
Kinks would flop anywhere. The Four
Tops and the Miracles? They play
clubs. Peter, Paul and Mary? Probably
the best act in America. They could
play Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, wherever they please.
Peter and Gordon? Peter's thoroughly disappointed by the whole thing.
Walker and the All Stars play clubs. Sam
the Sham and the Pharoahs? They're
hard-core rock and roll, they'll try anything for a buck, although Sam is a nice
man personally. Chad and Jeremy? They’re sick and tired of looking at huge
auditoriums, trying to make themselves and very bored just standing there,
singing their hearts out when they'd rather act and do comedies”
From San Francisco, where music
was being mixed with psychedelic light shows, dance halls like the Fillmore
Auditorium were packing thousands into what its owner called a “party
scene." The new sound of groups such as The Moby Grape, The Sopwith Camel,
The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, featuring a 200-pound, bearded
singer named Pig Pen, was making its claim on the pop music future.
In London, where the Beatles
had eschewed commercialism to explore the mysterious inner space of their minds,
manager Brian Epstein was concentrating on The Who, which plays good-time musique
concrête, and on The Lomax Alliance, an attempt at launching the first
major Anglo-American pop group.
In New York, the management firm
of Albert Grossman, fueled by the power of clients such as Bob Dylan and Peter,
Paul and Mary, was pushing Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, folk-rock singer Richie
Havens and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
If there were nothing else to talk about, people in the music business
could always find a conversation behind the question, where was pop going? The
answer seemed to be in the direction of horns, full orchestral sounds, jazz,
blues and country and western.
"This is the year of the
great music explosion," said The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian.
"A Seven is coming up again. Country
and Western is going to come into its own and people are going to realize that
Buck Owens is God. This year is
going to be incredible. Fran
Sinatra will probably make some horrible imitations of Country and Western
tunes, but it'll be groovy to hear white cats imitating white cats."
Meanwhile,a Jesuit priest from
Fordham was touring the country with a lecture entitled, “The Ontology of Bob
Dylan." Of all the trend-setters in contemporary music, Dylan had emerged
as the most influential, and the music industry was waiting to hear what he
would do next. In Woodstock, N.Y.,
where he was convalescing from a broken neck suffered in a motorcycle accident,
Dylan remained incommunicado.
"Dylan has been doing
nothing, absolutely nothing!" said Dylan's guitarist, Jaimie Robertson,
once described by Dylan as "the only mathematical guitar genius I've ever
run into who does not offend my intestinal nervousness with his rear-guard
"He's been looking at the
gate around his house," Robertson said, “and training his dogs how to
Music had begun to take itself seriously. It
had thrown away the silly show biz costumes of Moon and June and was
singing songs of philosophy. Could
it ever free itself completely from commercialism?
A whole new generation of shoe salesmen was busy figuring out ways to
milk a fortune from the word psychedelic.
the singles market of children, pop had taken over the albums market of
adults. It was only a matter of
time before the easy-listening radio stations would have to give up on Perry
Como and start playing the Beatles. Music had become the mass communication of
the young and films had become an expensive sideshow.
It was only a matter of time before Pop would take over the movies as
well. A new aristocracy of cultural
gods was emerging and at the top of the aristocracy were the stars who could
command the awe of the other stars. Bob
Dylan once asked the Beatles if they'd like to trade songs for an album.
The Beatles said y yes.
don't give me no Please Please Me!” Dylan told them.
trade was never made. In the house
organs of the record industry, Dylan was somewhere down the list below Al
Martino and John Gary, but no other single personality had ever exercised so
strong an authority over the music of his time or, for that matter, over the
culture of his generation.
"You know," Dylan once said, "I plan to get into classical music someday. This is just a preparation for it. I mean, that was the main thing all along---why hide it?" ##
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN FIFTY-EIGHT
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address: