Frank Gutch Jr’s Great Moments In Music History: BREAK OUT THE BRIQUETS, BOYS…LET’S BARBEQUE THE BASTARD!!!

It was the storming of the Bastille and the gunfight at the OK Corral with a trace of hanging Il Duce upside down in the public square (dead, of course).  It all began with a salvo across the bows of the (mostly) independent record stores by one, then three, then four of the six major record labels (How many do we have left, one?) regarding used CDs and the threat to the American way of life.  Wrapping themselves in the American flag and every other tenet of freedom their lawyers could conjure, those labels put the dagger to the throat of retailers everywhere, threatening to cut off co-op advertising to any and all who sold used CDs in their stores.

Co-op advertising? To put it in simple terms, that is money handed by the label to a retail account for purchasing and advertising that label’s product.  You accumulate it by purchasing X amount of product for which you are handed X amount of money to advertise said product.  And all these years, you thought Tower and Peaches was paying out of pocket?  Like that would have ever happened.  The thing you need to keep in mind is that at that time, there were plenty of stores vying for that ad money, though the labels were popping them off, like expert snipers, one at a time.  Co-op was gravy for the big chains.  In most instances, it was life blood for the independents.

So when Sony announced that they were going to stop co-op advertising and CEMA (Capitol), WEA and Uni followed, all hell broke loose.  Hell, hackles raised on the back of my neck though I had no idea why.  Had we been cats, the universal hiss of disapproval would have shattered windows.  Who was “we”?  Every manjack of us who had watched the majors labels playing the game on an uneven field, their field,  for the past couple of decades.  Everyone who tired of the phrase “free enterprise” when applied to radio and records, especially when the only “free” thing was the coke purchased by, you guessed it, the musicians.  It’s called chargeback, folks.  “Louie, go get some drugs.  We’ll charge it to the band.”  It’s no wonder bands never crawl out of the hole.

Well, the acronyms came out of the woodworks.  On the majors’ sides were outfits like the RIAA, NARAS and NARM (hell, no, I ain’t looking them up… I’m on a roll here), and on the independents’ sides were, strangely enough, PGD (Polygram), BMG, the newly formed IMRA (Independent Music Retailers’ Association), the ASPCA, SDS, PETA, M-O-U-S-E and BBQ.  Okay, I lied about everything past IMRA, but BBQ?  Hell, yeah!  That’s where barbecuing that bastard comes in.  Scroll up.  You really have to pay more attention.

That bastard, of course, was Garth Brooks, the meanest, stinkin’est, and vilelest of varmints, and he went on to prove that crap emanates from his mouth even when  he’s not singing.  To hell with them used CD stores, he said.  Let’s cut ’em off!  And they did.  And what happened next was a shitstorm of untold dimensions.  CEMA closed accounts, refused to open others, threatened this and promised that and basically threw free enterprise right out the Capitol window.  And they must have done it without passing it by legal because, as they admitted later, much of what they did wasn’t.  Legal, that is.  There was movement in the FTC as they looked at possible antitrust violations.  There was movement amongst the independents as they looked at ways to fight back.  And there was movement in the Capitol Building as execs single-filed it into the mens rooms, hoping to avoid the press.  The sound of flushing everyone heard were careers circling the drain.

But back to Brooks.  He made statements to the effect that no record store or chain who sold used CDs would be able to purchase his next album.  Period.  In the halls of CEMA, the words rolled like thunder.  Outside, spectators gathered.  More words came.  Specifically, they were “I’ve just done a deal with my label and I need to do all I can to make it a profit and used CDs aren’t going to do my label s—.”  What was that word?  Think now.  I suppose one was not allowed to print “shit” back then. Ah, now you get it. Then they were “The writers are getting nothing, the labels are getting nothing and the artists are getting nothing.  I don’t know how anyone can stand for it.”   And “Between you and me, I wouldn’t buy a CD at $16.95 no matter who it was,” not that that had anything to do with the used CD controversy.  I just like how it made him sound arrogant.  In the July 19, 1993 issue of Hits, this obviously tongue-in-cheek quote appeared:  “Selling records is how songwriters feed their children,” (Brooks) said before preparing some beluga caviar for his own kid’s lunch snack.  “Now they are rewarded for their hard work by getting kicked in the teeth.”  (An aside:  This is a quote!  No one at this website has anything against songwriters, musicians or anyone else involved in the music industry.  Except maybe certain rat bastards who shall remain nameless.)

Well, one of those spectators who had gathered was Terry Currier, longtime head chef at the Music Millennium in Portland, Oregon.  Outraged, he put his head together with a few calmer heads and came up with a plan.  We’ll barbecue the bastard, he said.  We’ll invite anyone who has Garth Brooks product to a barbecue, we’ll give them fair market value for that product and we’ll grill it.  CD, cassette or album (that would be vinyl, for the uninformed).  And that’s what they did.  The EPA would have had a field day.  On July 9, 1993, Music Millennium barbecued Garth Brooks.  The local TV stations were there.  Forbes magazine was there.  Currier and Music Millennium was even featured in PEOPLE magazine.

And after that, Currier and crew took the barbecue on the road.  Wait!  What was that?  ON THE ROAD!!!???  Yep.  Currier packed up a van and headed down the coast, stopping at stores which also wanted to barbecue.

It all ended with the majors caving.  Legally, they had no leg to stand on and maybe you don’t know this, without legal the majors have nothing.  Most of the real music people had already left, fleeing like rats off a sinking ship.  Pretty much all that was left were lawyers and bean counters.  And that’s all there was except I left out a bunch of things about The Wherehouse, which had sued CEMA and made the whole thing front page news in the Trades.  And the whole raft of independent record stores who also raised holy hell.  I could fill a book and that kind of space, I don’t have.  Let us just say that it was a mess and one of the few in which the little guys won.

Sorry you missed it?  Keep your eyes open.  There are other storms a-brewin’.  Over the 35-year limit on copyrights in music (Here come the majors again, trying to rewrite what isn’t in their favor).  Over digital sharing (You thought the issue was dead?  Think again, my friends.).  Over Internet and digital radio.  Over anything they can think of.  Hell, the majors are still chasing elementary school kids and their parents about illegal downloading.  Let’s face it.  Wherever there is money to be made, even if they do little to make it, the bastards will be there to pick up loose coins.  These days, though, I have confidence.  Those bastards are beatable.  The independent record stores proved it.  With luck, next time we might even be able to barbecue the bastards themselves.  Now, THAT I would drive hundreds of miles to see.

As for music…..

I will be heading north to see Ollabelle this Friday at the Aladdin Theater in Portland.  They will play an opening set and will be David Bromberg‘s opening band.  I’ve been looking forward to this since the tour was announced, Ollabelle having as two of its members Glenn  Patscha, who has put out an outstanding album titled Songs From the Jefferson Highway, and Byron Isaacs, who is preparing his own release of The Disappearing Man.  Two exceptional albums.  And I’ve heard Ollabelle‘s latest, Neon Blue BirdIt’s a killer.  I’m pumped.

I am presently preparing a lengthy, in-depth piece on one of my favorite newer bands, Research Turtles, who hail from Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Segarini and I share a common bond with these guys.  They are power pop monsters.  I’ll keep you posted and provide links.

Seattle may be known for a number of bands, but none— none— have impressed me as much as The Green Pajamas, who just released a new album titled Green Pajama Country!.  While it’s not really country (I have yet to hear a GP album which is not mostly just GP), it has twang here and there and is another in a lo-o-o-ng string of outstanding albums.

And I’ll be getting a Christmas column together soon.  I am a firm believer that Santa wants us to give music for Christmas for a number of reasons, not the least of which is supporting musicians.  I’ll be pointing toward the best of the indies and will try to get the other writers here at DBAWIS to contribute as well.

So until next time, please remember that not all of us in the States voted for Bush and those of us who didn’t probably hated him more than you did.

Segarini says I have to write my own byline, so here it is.  “Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew.  He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row).  He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted.  Read at your own peril.”

4 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr’s Great Moments In Music History: BREAK OUT THE BRIQUETS, BOYS…LET’S BARBEQUE THE BASTARD!!!”

  1. Jim Chisholm in Campbell River Says:

    More sauce on that grille please. excellent post Frank. And i hear that Garth essentially left the buisness years ago. I can think of a few reasons why!
    BTW My Christmas list is growing.

  2. In the interest of full disclosure, Frank should also mention his time at indie record stores buying the indie stock.

    Nice article. I hope you can keep it up. You set the bar pretty high.

  3. […] is one of the handful who have chosen to align themselves with Wal-Mart.  Need I say more?  (To read more about the Garth Brooks debacle and Terry Currier and Music Millennium’s involveme…— titled Break Out the Briquets, Boys…  Let’s Barbeque the Bastard!!!, it’s […]

  4. […] He declared war on both Capitol and Brooks, using his favorite weapon, The Truth! He invited anyone who wished to to bring their Garth albums, CDs, or whatever down to  the store so they could barbeque them, a move which gained plenty of publicity for the plight of small record stores everywhere. It worked so well that Currier scheduled a run down the West Coast, doing the same at various record stores who invited him. Read what I wrote about it back in 2011 when I first started writing for DBAWIS HERE […]

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