Frank Gutch Jr: Musicians to Corporate: This Is War!; Mad Anthony’s Brand-Spanking New Video; and Notes Even You Can Play

FrankJr2

Strap yourselves in, sports fans, because this is going to get ugly.  The past few days have given us a flurry of  comments and actions to chew on in this fast growing chaos which is the new landscape of music.

The latest (at least, as of this writing) comes from Matt Pollock via a site named mic.com and before you ask who is he, let me say that I have no idea but that in these days of instant communications and organizations like Faux News, a goose is as good as a gander and you will understand when you hear what this gander has to say.  That’s a fancy though clumsy way to say that truth is truth, unless it comes from the mouths of the Dick Cheneys of the world in which case I will opt for falsehood every time if only because I know for a fact that that guy has been genetically modified to be unable to tell the truth, no matter how long his nose grows.

soundcloudAnyway, Mr. Pollock was spurred to make his statements after finding that, according to Bloomberg News, the Sony and Universal and Warner arms of the music biz (while claiming a whopping 89% of global music sales) are “making a deal” with Soundcloud.  (You can access the full article here)  If Mr. Pollock did his homework correctly, this is yet another shot across the bow of the Good Ship Fairness attempting to negotiate the stormy Sea of Music.  For the corporations it is boiling down to lawyers, guns and money, as Warren Zevon so eloquently put it.  Indeed, it looks as if record companies are grabbing all they can before intellectual property laws can be written to protect those without lawyers, guns and money.  It is a monumental land grab a la The Boer Wars— grab what you can, circle the wagons and, when necessary, use the courts (which you virtually own, anyway).

The labels have not done these things unimpeded, though it may seem so and they have had multiple detractors.  The unfortunate thing, thus far, is that The Opposition has gone it alone and is going it alone.  The Opposition.  I hesitate to use the term because so few have taken up the battle and among those who haven’t, there are detractors, usually in the form of those who claim that it is “just business” and if you don’t like it, get out because, hey, I am a musician and not a lawyer and shouldn’t have to deal with this.  Leave me alone.  I have songs to write.  Sigh.  How little they know history.

rowans-clive_davisThe fact is, there are craters all over the musical landscape, most created by legal eagles and bean counters, who seem to be the core of the music industry these days.  It seems like just yesterday that Clive Davis, the most visible lawyer at that time in the biz, worked his way up from the slime of law to head Columbia Records.  Now, you can’t throw a pop bottle anywhere near a record label or publishing company office without clonking at least a few lawyers on the head.  Music?  While most will argue that it was the beginning of the Golden Age, it was actually the beginning of the end.  Looking back, selling your soul to the company store, which is what you pretty much had to do to get signed to a label, was not necessarily the best way to go.  Unfortunately to so many, it was the only way to go.  The vast majority— vast majority— of musical artists back then have seen no— let me repeat that— no compensation from the labels.  Sure, they got traveling money on occasion and, yes, they seemingly lived like kings, but do you think MCA didn’t charge back The Who when Keith Moon destroyed that hotel room or Phonogram (later, Polygram) didn’t charge back Heartsfield for the limo the label ordered to take them from their hotel room to The Troubadour which was across the street from that venue?  Such are and were the realities of the major labels.  You just don’t realize it because you either don’t care or because the labels buried it under “additional expenses or petty cash.”

trenkelBut I’m not here to talk about the past (though it will rear its ugly head at times).  I am here to follow a few happenings of the recent past— things which have taken place since the digital landslide carried the major labels down the hill.  You want slime?  There is tons of it.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t give you my source(s) for the information.  You see, I subscribe to a site called thetrichordist.com and you will soon discover the reason (which is that all of my links in this part of the column are via The Trichordist— sorry, I couldn’t wait).  I found the site through Dave Trenkel, who is a musician of substance in the Albany/Corvallis area of Oregon and who I met when I was pointed toward Xenat-Ra as a band to watch.  Trenkel plays keyboards with them and a few other combinations-called-bands but which are really more excuses to get together and play than anything.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  It’s just that the musicians in their area are so busy, they find it hard to arrange schedules to create the music they want, so they create when and what they can.  Anyway, Dave and I sat down one evening at the pub of The Calapooia Brewing Company to pass the time and during the conversation, which included a lot of picking apart of the local, regional, national, and international music scenes, Dave mentioned The Trichordist.  It’s the only way I can keep up, he implied.  Now, it’s one of the ways I try to keep from getting too far behind.  But I digress.

The point is, I have waded my way through a huge number of articles and commentaries The Trichordist has either posted or linked to and some of these you will probably find interesting, if you care about music, musicians or the music industry at all.

For instance, Pandora has been coming under a lot of fire these days.  If ever there was a company (besides Spotify) which begs for a musician’s karate chop, its is Pandora.  Not that long ago, they were the ones who went whining to Congress (or any of the other government arms), begging for respite from a deal they had agreed to, to whit, the compensation to musicians and songwriters.  Tim Westergren, who headed Pandora’s descent into satanic hell while claiming to be a savior, sobbed corporate blues to anyone in Washington DC who would listen— while pocketing quite a few million into his personal bank account.  We can’t afford the agreed upon figure, he sniveled, I am sure looking all the while like asshat and congressional joke John Boehner at his whimpering best.  We will die without respite (whimper, choke, snark).  To little avail (though one can never be sure because much of the numbers involved seem to be hard to uncover, in spite of their so-called “public” aspects).

christopher-harrisonWell, the truth is that Pandora has yet to buckle, that they are more than likely at the top of many investors’ buy lists and that they have recently shoved Westergren aside for the new asshat-on-the-block, one Christopher Harrison.  In a July 23rd editorial (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here), The Trichordist paints Harrison as Songwriter Enemy #1, claiming, like Bob Eucker in the movie Major League, that he would throw at his own kid in a father/son baseball game.  And the argument seems valid.

For one thing, Pandora is standing arms-linked with radio giants Sirius and Clear Channel in not paying royalties for music recorded before 1972.  Universal had made a similar statement in the not too recent past, apologizing while stating that they didn’t have to pay the royalties they already had, but they’re such nice guys and all.  So what these corporations/companies are saying, in tandem, is that neither Led Zeppelin (to make it easy on the dunderheads who listen to them) nor Jefferson Airplane nor anyone linked to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot (his pre-1972 recordings) nor anyone else will see a thin red dime from the airplay (read, streaming) that they provide.  In essence, it is a giant middle finger up the ass of artists and songwriters alike.  Hear that rumbling?  It is the sound of musicians and songwriters awakening.

pandora-divesI would laugh out loud at one of Pandora‘s earlier pranks if I didn’t think their mafia tactics abhorrent.  I mean was it a slip of the pen when Chris Harrison wrote a letter to the broadcasting powers-that-be asking for the same cheap(er) rates per-play that Clear Channel had?  Understand that Pandora is not considered a terrestrial (meaning regular radio) operation and has to play by a different set of rules, yet they claimed to have purchased at least a minority interest in a radio station in South Dakota and claimed to be eligible for the lower terrestrial rates.  As that turned out, they did not have interest in a radio station, in South Dakota or anywhere else, which in certain parts of the world would be considered a— ahem— lie.  An outright lie.  Now, I know the courts have loosened up the whole definition of untruth and all, but in my world, as Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin sing, “half a truth is a whole lie” (Follow Me to the South from their outstanding mini-LP, Wild Rabbit) and what Harrison wrote is, to me, a whole lie.  Lawyers, guns and money, eh?

While that may seem a little dry to many of you, let’s take a quick look at what some of the artists are saying.  Not all of them are being quiet and all, I think, are keeping an eye on developments.  Whatever happens does, after all, affect their bottom lines, even if they are no longer pursuing a career in music (hey, some of them like to eat),  I plugged into the FB page of Elliott Randall, a guitarist or maybe even just a musician of no mean repute, and he is paying attention.  James Lee Stanley is watching closely.  Jubal Lee Young (who has a new album coming out September 16th, or so he claims) has his ear to the ground and so many more are watching the headlines if not digging into the specifics of a number of stories.

RosanneCashRosanneCashIn case you missed it, Rosanne Cash testified before Congress after being asked by The Americana Music Association to do so on behalf of Americana artists, especially the Indies.  It was a personal and heartfelt statement and covered the broad range of what music is and does, though knowing if certain congressmen were involved, it fell on deaf ears and cold hearts.  Read it in its entirety here and be aware that American Songwriter is a magazine/site which supports the musicians and composers fully.

You may not have heard of Suzana Barbosa, but you should read the interview posted on the blog page, musictechpolicy (it’s a wordpress site).  Suzana is a musician who took to the roads in protest of absurdly low payment for digitized streaming.  Seems like good ol’ Canada, not to be outdone by the conservative robots in the US of A (What’s good for General Bullmoose, they sing, is good for the USA!), allowed the Pandora mafia access to their law books and decided that it was okay for Pandora to pay about ten percent of the ridiculous sub-basement payments in the States.  She walked and walked and then walked some more and then did a very enlightening interview which you can read here.  I have no idea what this lady sounds like or what kind of music she may write, but she is aces in my book.  Read the interview.  Then you decide.

wpid-youtube-banIn the meantime, the whole YouTube/Indie debacle continues.  Sure it, has quieted down, mainly because of a lot of backtracking on YouTube’s part.  Basically, as far as I can tell, YouTube decided to block certain Indie posts on their sites.  The Indies, by all rights, screamed censorship.  Then sparring began.  The thing I don’t understand about this whole thing is that YouTube had a good thing going.  Did not anyone at that company see that such a move would be detrimental to the company’s whole aura?  Here’s the thing.  I use Facebook because it is a way to keep contact with musicians and the Indie world.   When FB announced that they were changing the face of the company— the rules by which we live on their planet— it seemed to cause a stir but no real trouble.  They have billions still plugged in and that proves that they have done nothing to hurt either the user or the company.  Except that a number of musicians I know have either stopped posting on FB or are posting only a percentage of posts that they used to.  It can spiral, you know.  I saw it happen at Peaches Records.  When money got tight, the knee-jerk reaction was to axe the smaller independent sections like gospel or spoken word.  The thing is, a lot of people who used to drive miles to shop there to buy albums in those categories stopped driving.  They could get the major artists anywhere.  It was the gospel or spoken word or new music artists they came for.  Anyway, here is an older piece which explains certain aspects of the YouTube chaos.  It may not even be applicable anymore, but it sure shows you how corporations, being people, think.  What’s the clown’s name who leads that supposed supreme court?  John Roberts?  You haven’t backed a decision yet that doesn’t make me retch, you hack!  People, my ass!

parkswilsonAnyone who really cares about music beats his own drum now and again and few have more of a right than Van Dyke Parks, who has watched the music industry grow from revolution to revolting over the decades.  I know, I know.  Who wants to hear another whining musician, right?  Well, I do.  Each seems to bring his/her own slant to the picture and God knows we can use all the help we can get when it comes to putting the puzzle together.  For most people not directly involved, the whole thing seems to be about music distribution, right?  Wrong.  The business can be broken down a variety of ways and one of the least respected by corporations, at this time, is the songwriter.  In this piece, Van Dyke (that’s him leaning against that beach guy) lays out the songwriter’s side so the layman can understand it— or at least try to.  Intellectual property is its own world, sports fans, so you have to pay close attention.  Even those of us who have been in the music business for years have trouble understanding just what the hell is going on at times.  Van Dyke, take it away…..

File sharing, dead?  Not according to some people.  What is it about us that we can stop certain wrongs but not others?  Am I for file sharing?  Not really.  But I am not for handing an intermediary a bunch of cash to anyone, corporation or person, because they technically “own the rights” to music.  My way around it?  Purchase directly from the artist, if at all possible.  Not everyone agrees, though, or we would have less of a mess than we do, at least in the etherworld.  I had personal experience with a posting of a not-yet-released album for download on a site which had not even contacted the artist!  Is that illegal?  As hell.  I mean, let’s be fair.  Just because artist A wants you to download for free doesn’t mean that artist B does.  Sheesh!  Anyway, here is the bad news about file sharing.  Something should be done!

COLUMBIA RECORDS T BONE BURNETTMany of you may have read T-Bone Burnett‘s piece on the state of the industry.  Those of you who haven’t, read this.  In fact, those of you who have, read it again.  There is wisdom in those words.

If you think Pandora is the only monster out there, here is a piece about your favorite retailer (or “etailer”— I hate the cutesiness of words like that), the company which wants to drone in your latest acquisitions for one whole lot of money (rich people like to spend their money on more than just electronic devices, folks, and I’ll bet some asshat somewhere can wait to have that 72” TV airlifted to their front porch).  Does the United States suck enough yet?  Evidently not, judging by the fads which are seemingly the only things supporting the economy.  Probably to subsidize such absurdities, Amazon wants to screw musicians.  Here’s how they hope to do it.  Do I buy from Amazon?  Only when I really need something and only when I cannot get it from another source.  This is only one of the reasons why.

2013BillyBraggAndyWhalePress180113Billy Bragg and Beggars Group came down on YouTube even before YouTube pulled the Indie gambit (read it here), want to know why digital streamers and major labels are scrambling? (read that here), want a laugh and at the same time learn how Camper Van Beethoven made more money than Twitter? (read that here), want East Bay Ray to explain why if you post something on the Net, no matter what it is, it is fair game to corporations?  (read that here).  Damn!  I’m giving you the good stuff!

Music Notes smallNotes…. I know.  I have given you a week’s worth of homework, but that’s cool.  You have a week before the pop quiz.  Seriously, if you haven’t thought about the ethics and morality of all that is shaking out in music and in all intellectual property, perhaps you should.  Otherwise you will look like the conservatives who swear that the good ol’ US of A is a democracy and then look at you with wonder when you ask for a definition.  Now for some fun stuff.  I have found a few really cool videos you might like, so what say we head for….

  1. …. Hot damn! Mad Anthony is ready to break out all over!  Here it is, their new single, Sank For Days!  I will bet this freaking rocks out when they play it live!

Finally!  I can put to rest that age old question, who had the first hit with Louie Louie.  Christ, but the question has been following me since I first heard it back in ’61 or so.  It was, as I so ably remembered, The Wailers feat. Rockin’ Robin Roberts!  The thing is, over the years you have a tendency to forget or to alter your realities because life gets in the way and we know how important music trivia is next to that next meal or rent.  But it was 1961 and it was Roberts and crew.  And here is something I did not know.  While I was aware that Little Bill of Little Bill & The Blue Notes has been credited for finding the song and turning it into a Pac NW dance standard, Robin Roberts spent a short stint with Bill & the Notes before exiting, stage left, to join The Wailers, taking the song with him.  Whew!  I’ve been placed in the midst of the question about who was the first many times and always stuck to my guns that the first I heard was by Roberts & said Wailers, but was always afraid to nail it down for fear of getting it wrong.  Well, I was right!  So take that, all of you so-called music experts!  And here it is— circa 1961!  Available from Etiquette/Norton Records on a 45, even, backed with The Sonics’ version of the song!

This is a light show away from psychedelia and the late sixties.

The Shook Twins and guests.

I know colleague Roxanne Tellier mainly as a writer.  This is a side I am just beginning to discover.  Her band, Delta Tango, circa 1995.

danphelpsguitarheadI have been following Dan Phelps (they call him guitarhead for good reason) for almost a decade now and have never been disappointed at his adventurousness when it comes to music.  He is quiet in terms of presence, preferring to save his energy for his music, so I was quite surprised to find this posted on one of his social media pages:

I’ve been furiously overdubbing, tweaking, and freaking on this new EP, tentatively titled “Death under the Rainbows.” It’s instrumental music with a dark sense of humor. It’s like a moody feline that only wants to show affection on it’s terms. It features a far flung cast of interesting musicians, from sessions many months apart. You’ll *probably* hear James McAlister, Blair Sinta, Steve Brewster, Arron Steele, Viktor Krauss, Matt Pierson, and Steve Moore on it. I’m planning to release it digitally in the fall.  Also deep into finishing the packaging and manufacturing of my next vinyl release, Spirits Drifted, which will also be out in the fall. It’s also an EP, but will be released on 12″ vinyl w/ art-object level packaging. It will be a thing of beauty. Additionally, if you buy the vinyl you will hear 100% analog sounds – music that has never been digitized. If you care about that kind of thing.  Lastly, if any of you new to following me and have never heard it…a few years ago I released and album that I still think is pretty good. And is very yellow. Please take it for a spin. That spin can be accessed here.  And it is worth it.

hawkwindI only saw Hawkwind once and I wasn’t there to see them but their opening band, ManMan had just played a hell of a set and the roadies spent quite a bit of time shuffling equipment and knocking things over and falling off the stage (luckily, it was a short fall), all of this happening because the lights were off.  I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was not going to be something I had experienced before because while not a real fan, I knew their music well, most of my friends being enamored of the band.  In the dark, the short blasts and grunts and sounds of crashing cymbals and God knows what else were amplified and startling.  The crowd waited and waited some more and eyes had pretty much adjusted to the dark when, WHAM!  Sirens and flashing lights and incredibly loud noises and amp farts shocked us to submission and by the time we had recovered, if recovered be the word, we were in another universe, one of droning sound and pounding drums and the emergence of a man-lizard from behind amps shooting pain into the eardrums and many of us— the smart ones— cowered and watched with hands pressed against ears.  Man was well-balanced but loud.  Hawkwind was frightening.  By the time it was over, my ears rang and I had trouble keeping my balance, but I had been converted.  Now I understood why my friends loved those guys!  And to this day, I maintain that you can’t understand Hawkwind until you have heard all of Hawkwind and not just this album or that.  If you really want to understand, this documentary is as good a place as any to start.  I mean, if I had to relive the sixties and seventies, it wouldn’t be through the likes of Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, it would be through the manic likes of bands like HawkwindThose guys helped define the edge of music.  They drew lines in sand and then stepped over them to draw new ones.

This is just plain cool!  I saw Rebecca Pidgeon in Portland, opening for Marc Cohn, and she only had a guitarist.  As excellent as it was, I felt she would be better with a full band.  This proves it!

And as long as I’m on the subject of Ms. Pidgeon, please allow me to runt his video past you once again.  From her latest album, Blue Dress On.  I do believe I am falling in love.  Again.

Ever hear of a band known as Warm?  Me, neither, but there were tons of bands coming out of the woodworks in the sixties and I missed a lot of them.  Pretty good for the time and I can’t even imagine what they were live.  Damn impressive, I’m imagining.  One thing I do like about these guys is their equipment.  That’s how I remember so many bands back then— Fender amps stacked across the backs of the stages.  I’m not badmouthing Pignose or Voxx or Marshall, but the king amp in my day was the Fender— preferably the Showman or Super Showman.  If you had those, you were riding the crest of the wave.  An aside— when the guitarist in a band I played in, Lee Eide, saw The Buffalo Springfield back in the early days, he sketched out their stage setup.  I was intrigued by Stephen Stills‘ setup— two Fender Twin Reverbs, one behind the other.  Lee said the controlled feedback was amazing.

Bob Segarini is going to love this one.  Documenter Chuck Stenburg, who if you read this column regularly should recognize as the guy who put together the documentary of Ed Dougherty of Salem Oregon’s EJD Enterprises of the sixties, got DJ Roger W. Morgan to put together some remembrances of his days working with Dougherty.  He talks of the days of the Salem Armory, his contacts with Paul Revere & The Raiders and Sonny & Cher and Mama Cass and the pictures they came up with are amazing, especially at the last when Jim Hunter (I assume, his DJ alias) got his hair shaved at the Sonny & Cher dance/concert.  I bring your attention to the small speakers which comprise the PA system.  Yes, it was really that way back then.  Oh, and I am guessing here, but I do believe that Morgan/Hunter is the same Gentleman Jim Hunter who spent time on radio station KRKT in Albany Oregon and who broadcast live from the brand spanking new T&R Restaurant sign just erected next to I-5.  For me, these are precious memories.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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.” 

 

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Musicians to Corporate: This Is War!; Mad Anthony’s Brand-Spanking New Video; and Notes Even You Can Play”

  1. thanks so much, Frank, for including the slideshow I put together for the Delta Tango cut. As a much younger interpreter, I saw it as a song one could lift a stein to. The woman I am now sees it as a plea for mercy to the disenfranchised. Thanks for bringing it forward for inclusion in your column.

    • I included it for the music, Roxanne. And lift my stein to the disenfranchised as a consequence.

      • Peter Verity (the writer of this song) said, “It had been so long since I have listened to the song i found myself somehow outside it. I never realized it was anthem like, I thought it was just a little three quarter ditty i wrote in an afternoon when i was sitting around. Pictures add a solemnity to it and give it more weight.”
        People are very visual. There’s been far more attention given to this clip, and the one I put up yesterday, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlbGNvlQhy8) than to just the song on Reverbnation.

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