Archive for December, 2012

“Still Stoned!”

December 21, 2012


I had a dream last night. I was piloting a plane. And all the passengers were drunk and insane. Lost all the treasure in an overseas war. It just goes to show you don’t get what you pay for!”

The Rolling Stones — “Doom & Gloom” — December 2012

The world is still here.

So are death, taxes and The Rolling Stones.

Shortly after Eileen and I moved to Des Moines upon my appointment as Program Director of KSO Radio in 1964, a group of young investors brought a new English band into town who were heralded as a bunch of “dirty Beatles”, sporting not only “long hair”, but “street clothing”, an “insolent attitude”, “coarse language” and “rude behavior”. I found the first two allegations to be true, but the last three were nothing more than flamboyant record company press agent drivel.

Their first American release, an explosive remake of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, had not been a smash hit, but had brought them to the public eye. Standing before the microphone in only a partially-filled auditorium with easily less than several hundred in attendance, it was clear the boys were very much on the ascent given the unusually enthusiastic welcome accorded by the crowd following my words of introduction.

“Ladies and Gentleman. The Rolling Stones!!”

I found the Stones to be thoroughly engaging, although genuinely exhausted. They were disappointed in the turnout, but pleased to be playing in “The States” and were convincingly confident that better things lay ahead. They were looking forward to again spending some recording time in Chicago on their tour and were particularly excited about a return visit to Chess Records in the Windy City where Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and other Black Icons had put it in the grooves.

Judging from the title of their first million-seller which was to come out of the Chess sessions, Mick and company certainly found playing within such sacred studio walls the source of inspired “Satisfaction”.

Shortly thereafter, our two year old daughter Laurie stopped repeatedly going “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” like the Beatles and started imitating Mick Jagger’s “Come-On!” which sounded more like “Ka-Mow!” Her Irish grandmother asked me if she had been “exposed to Negroes”. Of course, with her father blasting every cut off “Aftermath” at top volume on the family “Stereo Hi-Fi” from dawn till dusk, she had — and in a particularly important way.

The Rolling Stones’ early successes and later global triumphs brought final international recognition to the primitive urban blues typified by their heroes at Chess Records, especially African-American artists such as Muddy Waters, writer of “Rollin’ Stone”, for which the band is named.

While early Rock & Roll represented an explosive fusion of “Country & Western” and “Rhythm and Blues”, both basic music forms purely American in origin; it was the English who engaged in an amazing resynthesis — elevating “black music” to a position of cultural preeminence in the world of white Rock. It was The Rolling Stones who effectively did this first and, to many and to this day, do it best.

And it’s The Rolling Stones I still find myself listening to these days on my morning walks up Stagecoach, now on an iPod cranked to 11, finding continuing inspiration from a band celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary this very month.

Their newest lyrics are as ancient as their old — eternal, primal hope springing forth — utterly irrepressible even in the worst of horrid circumstance.

National debt? Fiscal cliff? War weapons on civilian streets?

“All I hear is doom and gloom. All is darkness in my room.
Through the night — your face I see.
Baby, come on!
Baby, won’t you dance with me?”

“”Heave Ho-Ho-Ho”

December 9, 2012


It didn’t matter if they’d been naughty or nice.

Last Thursday (12/6/12) yet another several hundred radio employees across the nation were unceremoniously heaved out the door in time for Christmas by Clear Channel Communications, including many who had been at their respective stations for many decades. For any practical purpose, most are discovering they have no place to go. Traditional business models in the broadcast industry have been savaged by unrestrained self-interest. Make no mistake. These are not “layoffs”. They are career executions — loyal service and consistent performance reflecting a job retention value of ice cold zero.

Why not ignore former pledges to serve a community by fulfilling FCC license obligations on airways owned by the people with dozens of employees covering important assignments in news and public affairs programming when you can get away with effectively not offering anything to anyone? After all, isn’t that what makes a market free? Reducing statutory obligations to a desirable state of functional impotency until they mean absolutely nothing?

An accompanying Clear Channel Corporate Press Release patronizingly states: “Like every successful business, our strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company; this creates new jobs and unfortunately eliminates others. These are never easy decisions to make.”

What nonsense. Clear Channel has become alarmingly facile in reaching such determinations, particularly since Bain Capital got involved four years ago. Last week’s gallows drops brought the total body count to over eleven thousand dismissals in the wake of industry consolidation driven by governmental deregulation and the escalation of leveraged borrowing. As far as being a “successful business” is concerned, even as many banks are celebrating the end of a banner year boasting record profits and payoffs, Clear Channel is now over eleven billion dollars in debt with major balloon payments due just around the corner.

This is a pernicious pattern we see elsewhere, most notably in recent days with the much discussed and disgusting Hostess Brand debacle in which 18,500 employees are paying the price for decades of miserable mismanagement — malfeasance continuing with the absurd allegation that demise of the “Ding Dong” represents an unavoidable consequence of American unionism.

Ultimately “Twinkies”, “Ding Dongs” and “Wonder Bread” will rise again as these valuable franchise names are sold to new owners, but with a work force severely crippled in consequential compensation. Meanwhile, former bosses have personally made millions of dollars wheeling and dealing their way out of self imposed crisis after crisis, funded by fast times, hot action and easy money. You can bank on that.

Wild gambits have been paying off far too often for wily gamblers at the escalating expense of all not financially fixed in a wretchedly rigged game.

That’s why I’m so happy Massachusetts Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D) is said to have been chosen for a leading role on the new Senate Banking Committee in our 113th Congress about to convene in January.

Harvard Law Professor Warren handily defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown in November to become the first woman senator in Massachusetts state history and now inherits the seat held for 47 years by the late Edward Kennedy.

Senator Warren’s position on the Banking Committee will come nearly two years after oppositional forces successfully campaigned against her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she both envisioned and created.

Now she’s back to address desperately needed changes, including the introduction of appropriate remedial legislation and reinstitution of the Glass-Steagull Act — abandonment of which in 1999 lead directly to subsequent economic nightmares in 2007.

Here’s hoping 2013 will witness Senator Warren decisively delivering a retributive “Ho-Ho-Ho!” against all those banks that feed wild corporate greed. Wall Street has regarded Elizabeth Warren as an enemy ever since 2008 when she served as chief watchdog in overseeing the seven hundred billion dollar bailout, taking both the institutions involved AND the Federal government to task time and time again for ineptitude and incompetence.

It’s taken her five years to reach a position of prime power.

The last laugh is the longest.