Saturday, December 31, 2005

Stand or fall, state your peace tonight

My friend RJ Eskow, writing both at his own place as well as at HuffPo, has started a little 'thing', wherein he asks us to be self-critical. Starting here he says:
Some Democrats would rather be victims than losers, like those who wrote me angry emails after this recent piece. In it, I call Democrat leaders "perennial losers" who lack nerve and don't act tactically. Democrats don't lose, say my correspondents, they win - only to have the elections stolen from them by Diebold, a crooked Supreme Court, and other conspiracies

Fellow HuffPoster Jane Smiley responds thus:
I was thinking that the spy scandal was being expertly taken care of without my input, what with Martin Garbus, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and Barron's magazine hot on the "president's" tail. My plan was to continue reading Les Rougons-Macquart in peace, but then I read RJ Eskow's blog about the Democrats, and while I thought it was insightful and well-argued, there was one thing I disagree with, and that is that the point of the whole spy scandal, now that Bush has been caught and has admitted breaking the law, is not whether the Democrats can find a way to be electable, it is whether the Republican Party is a criminal enterprise, and whether average Republicans, both in and out of the government, are going to countenance and support unnecessary and shamelessly unlawful behavior.

Not being one to give up without a bit of contrast, RJ answers back here:
Jane Smiley has posted an eloquent and well-written piece in response to one of mine entitled "Democrats: Losers or Victims?" In it, she suggests we not concentrate on the Democrats, but on the venality of the GOP, the "winners and perpetrators."

Jane summarizes the lawless and immoral state of the Republican Party well - but, then what?

Who's going to defeat them and take their place? There's no effective and meaningful opposition party. We may agree on who the villains are, but there's no hero in sight. And that means we know how the story's going to end.
I try to define an objective for each post I write - not because I think I'm a world-shaking influence leader, but because somebody's going to read it. So I stop and think - am I trying to cheer up the discouraged, suggest a new perspective on an old issue, encourage the growth of another writer's "meme" that I consider important, or hector progressives and Democrats into more effective and meaningful opposition? I'd put the "Losers or Victims" piece in that last category.

See, the thing is, I think they both have "rightness" in their arguments. Jane's point is well taken, that the current administration blah blah, well, we know their perfidy. As the Abramoff debacle unfolds, heads and careers will likely roll and asses will be carted off to jail.

Bur Richard's premise is, I feel, really important, Certainly, as some of his commentors said, Progressives and Democrats don't need snappy sound bites and slogans, we already have most of the good ideas. But Jack & Julie Sixpack hear those soundbites, as well as those of the opposition, and they have effect, whether we like them or not.

So as a form of New Year's Resolution, I ask/challenge any and all, readers, commentors, fellow bloggers, to state our goals. What exactly do we stand for? And if you do it in a clever CNN-ready sound bite, what the heck, go for it. Let's have some big ideas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What have they done to my song

A mother in upstate New York has been targeted by the RIAA (Recording Industry Assoc. of America) for illegal downloading of copyrighted music, according to the AP:

Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn't see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.

. . .

If the downloading was done on her computer, Santangelo thinks it may have been the work of a young friend of her children. Santangelo, 43, has been described by a federal judge as "an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo, and who can barely retrieve her email." Kazaa is the peer-to-peer software program used to share files.

. . .

She did not look like someone who would have downloaded songs like Incubus'"Nowhere Fast," Godsmack's "Whatever" and Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life," all of which were allegedly found on her computer.

Her former lawyer, Ray Beckerman, says Santangelo doesn't really need him.

"I'm sure she's going to win," he said. "I don't see how they could win. They have no case. They have no evidence she ever did anything. They don't know how the files appeared on her computer or who put them there."

Now I'll be the first to admit that this may not exactly be the poster child case for the industry to pursue. This woman is not the prototype of the serious downloader, who then shares the music with lots of other folks via other peer-to-peer networks, or by simply burning CDs and passing them around.

She also says this:
Santangelo said her biggest issue is with Kazaa for allowing children to download music without parental permission. "I should have gotten at least an e-mail or something notifying me," she said.

Telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment from the Australia-based owner of Kazaa, Sharman Networks Ltd., were not returned.

I am sympathetic with her complaint about Kazaa, which is really a pernicious entity. But my problems with Kazaa are not the same as hers.

She also said, on TV report, words to the effect that: "My kids, didn't download all this music on my computer, which I own, and even if they did, they didn't know it was wrong."

We'll parse this gem in a moment.

Others in this tiff have a different take from the RIAA:
The David-and-Goliath nature of the case has attracted considerable attention in the Internet community. To those who defend the right to such "peer-to-peer" networks and criticize the RIAA's tactics, Santangelo is a hero.

Jon Newton, founder of an Internet site critical of the record companies, said by e-mail that with all the settlements, "The impression created is all these people have been successfully prosecuted for some as-yet undefined 'crime'. And yet not one of them has so far appeared in a court or before a judge. ... She's doing it alone. She's a courageous woman to be taking on the multibillion-dollar music industry."

Again, I sympathize with Ms. Santangelo. But then again I don't.

Imagine if her kids had been arrested shoplifting. No one would be too sympathetic in that case, as clearly the law would have been broken. But for reasons not easily understood, other forms of stealing are deemed more acceptable by some people today.

There seems to be an air of entitlement among many people today. Critics on the Far Right argue that this started in the '60s with pot smoking hippies, but I disagree. Certainly there were those in that time who felt, in a sometimes socialistic and sometimes just selfish way that "stuff" ought to be free. But I feel it really became a wide spread way of thinking during the More Me Reagan era. Regardless, we see it in many areas of society, from people who cut in line at ticket windows, who cut other drivers off, who demand that we listen to their phone calls in public places, to those who think the intellectual property and work of others is theirs to plunder at will.

I am no fan of the way record companies do business, as any regular reader of my blog knows. See here, here, here, and here for some of my further thoughts on the inner workings of the music business. But one point needs to be hammered home again and again:

Stealing is stealing.

The crime, as stated by Newton above, is hardly as-yet undefined. If someone makes copies of a book at Kinko's, then distributes these copies to friends, there are two crimes here: Theft, and Receiving Stolen Property. It's really simple. And it applies to copies of software, music, and other properties which seem to some like Christmas cookies, meant to be shared with friends. But that really is just plain silly.

Back to Ms. Santangelo's kids, who she declared were unaware that they were wrongdoing. Bullshit. They knew they were downloading copyrighted properties, they just didn't give a crap. After all, it's just music. And they were entitled to it. I mean, it's not like someone had to really work hard to create the music, then record it, mass produce the CDs, truck them to stores, arrange for corporate sponsorship for the tour (more about this to come), hire people to engineer the recordings and tune the instruments, or a thousand other tasks. All that mattered was that they wanted the music.

Heck, I want a new computer. Perhaps I can go to Ms. Santangelo's house and just take hers. Seems the same to me.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

And so this is Christmas

For this Holiday, I searched for something to say, something witty, something deep...some thought that might encapsulate all the turmoil and distress we have felt, and yet show a positive spirit of progressive movement, and faith in both humanity and our future.

I could do no better than this:

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Jim's nuts roasting on an open fire

There is no one in the bloggersphere more funny and witty than the proprieter of tbogg. Holy crap, this dude is funny, and, well, kinda nasty. He wields words like some mad surgeon slicing and dicing Righty giblets with his shiny scalpel, all the while cackling like Colin Clive before he threw the big switch.

This year he gives us all his greatest gift: (note: copied in its entirety simply because I couldn't stand to cut it up.)

A Very Lileks Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and through Jasperwood
We shut it down early, like good Lutherans should.
The presents were finished with none left to wrap.
In each festive package some more Target™ crap.

Gnat tucked in her bed and dreaming sweet thoughts,
After one boring story and three Nyquil™ shots
And mama was upstairs beginning to snore
While I finished watching Stargate Season Four.

When out on the lawn there arose a kerfluffle
Startled, my foreheads, they started to ruffle
I snuck to the windows and peeked through the drapes
But I could see nothing, my knees they did quake

The moon it shown down on the undisturbed snow
That I had not moved since my blower won’t blow.
There was someone out there! Someone bad I just knew it.
If only I was brave like my good friend Hugh Hewitt

There’s bad people out there they envy our stuff,
Because they've no Targets, their life is quite rough..
They want to invade us and make us their slaves.
Live in our ranchstyles, not in their dark caves.

Islamists! Jihadis! and Birkenstocked hipsters!
They'll destroy our pop culture and marry our sisters
No more "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year"
They'l make fun of my matchbook collection, I fear.

These people are evil, they must be interned
Or they'll fly into buildings, this much we have learned.
I can't live in a world without DVD sets
But my wife is relieved there will be no more sex

And then in a twinkling I heard a small crash
Like a door that was opened too quickly, too fast.
This is it! I just know it! They've invaded our block!
Up the walkway, the stairs to the door they did knock.

Because of the wife I don't have a gun
She said if I did I'd blow off my left thumb
So I went to the door and peeked through the crack
Omigawd, it's a man! Omigawd, he is black!

He stood there and waited and rapped hard once more
I knew it was hopeless, I opened the door.
And there stood a UPS man all in brown
He held a small package, his face held a frown.

"I've got a package for Lileks", he held out a pad
I grabbed it and signed it, I scribbled like mad
He gave me the box and he went on his way
No "Merry Christmas" No "Happy holidays".

I slammed close the door, my heart slowed a little.
But the front of my pants showed I'd done a small piddle.
So I went to the kitchen and I put on the kettle
And soon my fast breathing, it started to settle.

I made some green tea and I climbed up the stairs
My wife sat there giving me one of those stares.
"Well, that was a close one", as I set down my cup.
She said, "Jim come to bed... and shut the fuck up."

Listen, do you want to know a secret

Nobody asked, yet still I answer, just for fun.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Recording studio tech, computer tech, guitar teacher, direct mail print shop droid.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Monty Python anything, Chinatown, Hitchcock anything, Concert for Bangladesh.

Four places you've lived: Los Angeles, Yorba Linda, Huntington Beach, Victorville.

Four TV shows you love to watch: West Wing, Daily Show, Law & Order SVU, Medium.

Four places you've been on vacation: San Francisco, Las Vegas, Sonoma, Texas.

Four websites you visit daily: BuzzFlash, Eschaton, Eric Alterman, DailyKos, Crooks & Liars, Fire Dog Lake. (yeah, I know that more than four, deal with it.)

Four of your favorite foods: soft French cheeses, pistachios, chicken tikka masala, chips and salsa.

Four places you'd rather be: South of France, San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC.

Rather than pass it on, I'll just ask readers to either take it up themselves, or leave comments.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Listen, people, to what, I say

In 1972 I made my hippie pilgrimage to Europe. With a long departed ex, an acoustic guitar, and a back pack, I traveled through most of continental Europe.

I had taken 3 years of High School German, and had done well with it. I have some natural aptitude for languages, and after just a few days in Italy, I was able to count, ask directions, and generally get by. My ex, who had studied High School French, found her command of it had vaporized. It was no fault of her own, just different wiring.

With my basic German, a little Italian, and a few words of French, and with many Europeans speaking English, we got by just fine. And my German skills progressed as I picked up vocabulary and colloquialisms not taught in class. I considered that, as a visitor, speaking in a country's mother tongue was the least I could do.

We met my Grandparents in Italy, when they came over for a week's vacation. And sadly, we now had a minor version of The Ugly American. My Grandfather, a fairly taciturn and often gruff individual during the best of times, was frustrated by not being able to find American coffee. And why didn't everyone speak English? I didn't point out the obvious, that re: coffee, well, this wasn't America, and re: English, virtually everyone he came in contact with did, in fact, speak English.

Here, finally, is my point. I spent some time this evening in a large chain department store, picking up some last minute goodies. And I noticed that every sign in the store was in 2 languages: English and Spanish. And as I wandered the aisles, I heard many conversations in Spanish, as well as other, more exotic languages. Clearly, America is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants.

I may be going against what some perceive as the true spirit of Liberalism and multiculturalism, but I do have one request of our recent arrivals:

Learn the damn language.

I truly believe that heritage is precious, and that cultural uniqueness and languages should be passed on. My son in law, born of Hispanic parents, grew up speaking only English, such was the parent's drive to assimilate. He has had to learn Spanish as an adult. While I admire this effort of his parents to blend, he was deprived of a rich tradition that he's only now getting re-acquainted with.

A friend of mine and his Chinese descent wife recently adopted an orphan from China. And wife, with the help of her Chinese born parents is making sure that baby is learning both languages. This is the right approach, in my opinion.

Contrast this to many of the customers that came into Pam's store. It was situated in a part of the San Fernando Valley with many immigrants, primarily from Iran, Russia, and Israel. And regularly people complained that she didn't speak Farsi, or Hebrew. And these were people who in some cases had lived here for many years.

Pam traveled to Europe in July, and commented that while in Paris, a world class tourist destination, multi-lingual signage was very evident. But when she traveled down to Bordeaux, it was French only. And that makes perfect sense, as less tourists venture to Bordeaux.

But please tell me that Target, in the Valley, really needs bi-lingual signage. I understand capitalism, they want to reach all consumers. So be it. But people, if you're going to live here, please:

Learn the damn language.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Try to see it my way

The Beatles acting as Apple Records have filed suit against EMI Music, parent company of Capitol Records here in Hollywood (Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that unpaid royalties is going on in here!) claiming that:

On Thursday, Apple Records — which is owned by surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and the families of George Harrison and John Lennon — launched legal action in the High Court in London against EMI Group and in the Supreme Court in New York against EMI subsidiary Capitol Records.

Apple Records said in a statement that an audit has determined EMI had not been fulfilling its contract and that the legal action is the result of a breakdown in negotiations between the two sides.

"Despite very clear provisions in our contract, EMI persist in ignoring their obligations and duty to account fairly and with transparency. Apple and The Beatles are, once again, left with no choice but to sue EMI," the company said, adding the claim that it is owed 30 million pounds (about $53 million US).

EMI owns the copyright, in perpetuity, to recordings made by the Beatles.

An EMI spokesperson has declined comment on the litigation, but said that artists requesting an audit of their record label's accounts are "not unusual, but sometimes there are differences of opinion, especially when the contracts are large and complex."
I was lucky (well, I also have a pretty good skill set) to work in Capitol Studios for 5 years, the longest job I have ever held as an adult. And while there, I wasn't really privy to much of what went on at the label, as the studio tried very hard to remain independent. But I did see and hear things, and I was directly able to see the product coming out of the label. And folks, it wasn't pretty.

The label is getting a little, well, mature, shall we say, and while The Beatles have clearly been a tremendous revenue stream, still, Capitol will always be know less as the house that Frank built and more as the home of the Beatles and Beach Boys. And while the musical contributions by those groundbreaking groups largely changed the face of music and the music business forever, they haven't exactly been burning up the charts lately.

The person who ran the label most of the time I was there had been in A&R at another label where he did his career wonders by signing Nirvana. Insider stories abound regarding the truth of that situation, but regardless his name will evermore be connected with the band from Seattle. But as President of Capitol, he had yet to make his mark. In an effort to youth-ify the label, he downplayed releases by label stalwarts like Bonnie Raitt, and dropped aging yet still viable artists like Bob Seger and Richard Marx.

In what clearly seemed like an attempt to re-capture the market share of Nirvana fans, he signed Everclear. We see how that worked. They are finally starting to move some units, but still...

The interesting point about all this is that toward the end of every year, it seemed like suddenly a new Beatles product came out. I know, because I always got them as company Christmas presents. Again and again the company continued to strip-mine the Beatles catalog, in what seemed an effort to make year-end numbers and raise dividends.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Anthology. And how I feel about the Beatles' place in history has been recently made clear in my recent post here, cross posted at HuffPo and nicely covered by John @ Crooks & Liars.

But I can't help wonder, if the numbers are down for the company year after year, maybe the label treats to books like Paramount treated Art Buchwald, by reporting that the movie made no profit, by extremely creative book cooking.

I don't know, I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

..cause I've seen the dark side too

In the furor surrounding Tookie William's execution, a specific hypocrisy, often manifested by right wingers, wasn't discussed. I have no fancy name for it, but I know it when I hear it. Perhaps we'll call it "It's someone else's problem."

The practitioners of this hypocrisy are often those who take strong and inflexible positions regarding law and order, and other social constructs. Here's one example:

My work in recording studios takes me to some unlikely places. For several years two of my major clients were evangelical Christian Mega-churches that had record labels and recording studios. One day during some major legal drama, perhaps OJ, one of the guys there was whining about "Damn liberal defense lawyers." You know, the typical crap. I asked him what he would do if his son/brother/wife etc. were arrested and charged with murder, who would he want as an attorney? After a few seconds he sheepishly said "Johnnie Cochran, I guess." It all changes when it's not someone else's problem.

I also guarantee that the same Conservative Christian Republican-voting guy would suddenly embrace the Innocence Project, the ACLU, Barry Scheck, CSI-style DNA testing, habeus corpus filing defense attorneys and the DNC if they thought it would save their loved one. It all changes when it's not someone else's problem.

When I asked the same guy about the Commandment: Thou shalt not kill, he responded that that was not the right translation. It should say 'murder'. When I pointed out that the Bible on the pulpit of his own church used the word 'kill', he quickly changed the subject.

During the Laguna Beach fires a while back, people who owned lavish homes suddenly became Federal welfare cases, hands held out greedily for help. Knowing how the OC typically votes, I'll bet many of them previously would have scolded Medicaid and food stamp recipients.

Perspective is a bitch. Suddenly things look very different when it happens to you. People who are so quick to judge and condemn would be wise to follow the counsel of the religion they claim to follow.

Most religions have some form or other of what is often referred to as the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would wish them do unto you
Christianity contains these, for example:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.
"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that were widely accepted among early Christians, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
And even 'Godless' Islam has this:
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

Judgment passed on others is judgment passed on yourself. If abortion is murder, execution is, and no rhetorical gymnastics changes that.

Murder is murder.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Johnny get angry, johnny get mad

The lovely and talented John Amato, founder of the increasingly popular blog Crooks & Liars, and a friend of ours, was featured in the LATimes today: (note: annoying but harmless registration required)

For political junkies, must-see TV once meant sitting through hours of "Crossfire," "Hannity & Colmes" and "Meet the Press," hoping for the occasional gem. Nowadays, to catch Robert Novak turning the air blue on "Inside Politics" or work yourself into an apoplectic lather over our politicians' latest truth-challenged utterances, you can point your browser to , the brainchild of 47-year-old West L.A. musician and liberal-Democrat John Amato. Since last fall, he has been serving up political dish from a decidedly blue-state perspective with daily posts of video and audio streams.

. . .

What is the blogging community like? Do you guys socialize?

There are a lot of bloggers in Los Angeles, even a few big conservative blogs. Another blogger said, "Let's have a blogger barbecue," and there were like 50 people there. [Most of the guests] were liberal; I gather some were Republicans. We're making some great friendships. There are a lot of characters.
John found a niche that is unique, putting up clips from TV and other sources so that atrocities that might have been missed are now being seen by thousands of readers. He does the heavy lifting so that others may watch and learn. He is definitely the hardest working man in blog business.

Of course John is referring in his interview to the little soiree held here at House of Audio last August, where we had several of the really bright lights of the left-leaning political bloggersphere, including the also lovely and talented Jane Hamsher who also co-hosted the party with us, Mr. & Mrs. tbogg, mr. & mrs. skippy, Mr. & Mrs. Kevin Drum, Arianna Huffington, and a cast of thousands.

Some other posts on the event:

Jane Hamsher,
The Broad View,

The point of this is that supporting and helping other activists, whether it's the volunteers who make calls or register voters, professional writers who have a large scale voice, or bloggers you really enjoy reading, will truly pay off. The liberal message is starting to resonate with more Americans, not just because of all the crap the Repubs have been pulling but also because the view we hold dear are felt by most Americans according to polls. They just don't know it yet, and books, speeches, newspapers, and blogs all help spread our message.

In the 4 months since we had the 1st Annual LA Bloggers Barbecue, with a follow-up at Brian Linse's place in October lots has happened. Scooter (what an ass-wipe of a nick name) Libby and Tom DeLay have been indicted, plans are being made to reduce troop strength in Iraq, and GWBush's poll numbers are falling like Jeff Gannon's shorts in a DC mens' room. The tide is turning.

To any other bloggers who read this, connect with like minds in your area. Admittedly here in Los Angeles we have a pretty large concentration of talent, but there are so many out there, Reach out to your fellow bloggers and activists, the payback is greater visibility and greater penetration into main stream media, and thence into the living rooms of voters.

Also, in the bloggersphere, 2 more bloggers are on their way to becoming true rock stars of the genre: John Amato, and Jane Hamsher, who has done spectacular work on PlameGate.

Mad props to them, and to all who spend their time so passionately trying to stem the tide of Intelligent Design and tax cuts for the wealthy.

God bless us, everyone.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Eastern world, it is explodin...

We attended a special screening of Syriana, the new George Clooney film not about Edward R. Murrow, hosted last night by our friend Arianna Huffington, & Lawrence Bender, at Warner Bros. tonight. Q & A after was handled by Arianna & Stephen Gaghan, the writer/director fo the film, who previous won an Oscar for Traffic.

Fascinating film, very timely in its look at US government intervention in Middle Eastern affairs. Not an easy film, no spoon feeding of plot ideas and characterizations, this film makes one really work and think, and that, among its other virtues, made it a really enjoyable experience.

Playing against type, Clooney gained weight and became an 'everyman' schlub, as the CIA operative who, by being the consummate insider, failed to grasp what was going on outside his sphere of influence.

Gaghan answered questions after, and was eloquent, witty, driven, and intelligent in his recounting of the development of the film. His description of actually meeting uberMacher Richard Perle added insight into the deviant thinking and mendacious spirit that has driven the USA's current foray into Iraq, as well as the larger picture of world socio-political dynamics in the Middle East.

While not claiming to be authoritative, Gaghan is insightful and well read re: the Middle East, and offers not so much answers as directions for further discovery and thought.

He concluded his remarks by saying that he was hopeful and positive, that the world was tilting slightly off axis, but that there seemed to be change taking place in a positive direction.

From his lips to God's ears.

Update: Cross posted at Huffington Post here:

Saturday, December 03, 2005

If there's anything that you want, if there's anything I can do

jedmunds over at Pandagon has a post I simply must respond to, in which he/she(?) opines thus:

Well, I can't say that I ever dug the Beatles too much. In context, I can appreciate them, but like I say, you can't "rock out" to context. And all in all, I'm more or less indifferent to listening to their albums, which are fine, but meaningless to me.

All I can say, respectfully, is 'kids today!' Debating this will, to some, permanently place me in the camp of "old dude who doesn't get it." Well, kids, as someone who spends every day either in recording studios, or working with engineers and producers who also spend every day in studios, let me 'esplain' that, in the warm reality of modern music, you don't get it. Here's why.

The Beatles, in terms of rock (pop, whatever) music, changed everything.

Let me establish some bona fides first. I have worked in recording studio and the music business for over 30 years. In the last 3 or 4 years alone, I worked in studios responsible for music from:

Bad Religion
Backyard Babies
Michelle Shocked
Lucinda Williams
Badly Drawn Boy
Dr. Dre
Gwen Stefani
John Frusciante
Killing Heidi
Evan & Jaron (yeah, I know)
and others I can't remember. So please don't think that, even though I'm an "old dude", I'm just into "Classic Rock." Heck, I don't even own a Boston album. And if I ever hear anything by Rush again, I'm gonna scream. I love new music, all music, as long as it's good. Good is, of course, difficult to define, but you know it when you hear it. Sometimes.

Anyway, back to my thesis:

The Beatles, in terms of rock (pop, whatever) music, changed everything.
Here's what I mean.

1. Prior to the Beatles, and during a large part of their music output, artists recorded where record labels dictated. Labels all owned their own studios, including one of the most famous, Capitol Studios, where I worked for 5 years. And EMI, Capitol's parent company since the '50s, also had several studios in England, in the London Area, specifically, including one called Abbey Road. I'm sure the conversation went something like this: "All right then, lads, lets go 'round to Abbey Road, and make an album this afternoon."

By the end of their recording career, the lads had broken that hold, and were recording anywhere they wanted, even at some of the independent studios not affiliated with record labels.

Today, every band enjoys that freedom.

2. Prior to the Beatles, artists recorded when record labels dictated. Sessions were 3 hour blocks, called 'singles'. And for pop music, being recorded on only 3 or 4 tracks at that time, the single was enough time to lay down, at the very least, one 'single' side, or song (one side of a 45 rpm single.) In many cases, with good pre-production and session players, 2 or 3 songs would be finished in a single session.

Sessions ran roughly 10AM-1PM, 2PM-5PM, and 6PM-9PM. The Beatles broke down both of those walls in several ways. First, after their initial success, they started their sessions whenever the hell they wanted, including midnight, if that was their mood. And as the music got more experimental, and complex, and as more drugs were ingested, the sessions became longer, and longer, and longer. And that meant hours of recording, re-recording, and mixing for a single song. Was EMI freaked by this extravagance? Yes, but, as long as the records continued to sell, they agreed. Hell, these were The Beatles, who was gonna tell them no?

Today, most artists enjoy these freedoms.

3. Prior to the Beatles artists recorded with whom record labels dictated. EMI matched The Beatles with George Martin, which would have seemed completely insane, considering that the classically trained Martin's prior work was largely with comedy recorded acts, in other words, someone working a non-emotionally connected day gig. He largely hated pop music, and only agreed to work with the lads because...wait for it...IT WAS HIS JOB! He had no choice! "Right, George, we think these boys might have something unique, see if you can polish it up a bit." "Uh, righto, then, boss."

Engineers at that time were on staff at studio. You worked with whatever engineer the studio assigned, sometimes even different engineers on the same song from day to day.The Beatles were lucky enough to have some continuity, working initially with Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, and later with Geoff Emerick (worked with him, very nice man, still really loves to work, recently produced/mixed Nellie McKay-check her out). And by this time, they had enough clout to take the engineers with them when they worked at outside studios, which previously was not allowed.

Today, only smaller owner-operator studio have staff engineers. Major studios have Assistant Engineers, who work with the independent free-lance engineers that are hired by directly by the artists. And today, while the label still initially has most of the say in who the producer is, successful artists choose whatever producer they want.

Also, keep in mind that many classic pop/rock records had very few of the actual band playing. Virtually all the Beach Boys records used the famous "Wrecking Crew" of famous studio musicians, many of whom played on records considered epiphonal by such other artists like The Byrds, etc. The Beatles used a session drummer or two in the very beginning, and brought in musicians for instruments that were out of their experience, like trumpet, etc, but otherwise, they played damn near all the isntrument, snd sang all the parts.

All artists today enjoy these freedoms.

4. Prior to the Beatles, and during a large part of their music output, artists recorded whatever the hell record labels dictated. They often had no or little choice in material, because not every act wrote all of its own music. Especially in the growing rock world, where most musicians didn't read music, songwriting was yet to really develop other than the really notables, like little Richad, Chuck Berry, etc. Many up-coming rockers were cutting, pasting, and adapting classic riffs from blues and hillbilly artists, who actually had much richer creative traditions. Even the classic Motown stuff, contemporaneous with The Beatles, was as rigid and formulaic, in its own way, as Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra. In other words, it was written by a composer, arranged by an arranger, conducted by a conductor, and mixed by a staff mixer. The whole process was a machine, with largely as much freedom as working within any machine.

But John, Paul, and to a lesser extent George, being sponges for all pop music from their '50s youth, as well as sensing the freedom that was slowly and grudgingly being given them by EMI, started writing and recording more of their own music. Keep in mind that Meet the... and Introducing the... were composed mostly of cover songs, with only a few originals each. Luckily the original songs were pretty good, and resonated with a young audience that was really tired of Bobby Vee and The Shirelles. And this early success, combined with John and Paul's rich listening habits and their own innate talent, resulted in an output of songs not often matched by any artists since. The notable exception, of course, being Springsteen, who seems to be able to write several good songs before breakfast every day.

Today, most artists enjoy that freedom.

These were revolutionary changes in the way music was made, and recorded. One can argue that they were changes ready to happen, and while that may be true, no one can argue that The Beatles weren't at the epicenter of these changes. They pushed envelopes, broke out of boxes, both musically as well as functionally, and changed the way record labels and recording studios operate forever.

On top of all that they wrote some damn fine songs. I have yet to hear, from many artists today whom I really love and respect, anything that doesn't owe some debt to The Beatles. I'm still waiting for someone to write a better pop tune than Please Please Me that doesn't also sound like a Beatles outtake.

And regarding musical innovation, which I haven't even touched on here, a few things they started or popularized that are still heard today are:

Strings with rock instruments
Telephone sounding vocals
Synths (Mini-Moog, specifically on Abbey Road)
Each person playing multiple instruments
Vocals through Leslie speakers
Automatic Double Tracking of vocals
Tape machine varispeed (esp. Strawberry Fields Forever)
Indian instruments ( yeah, I know Brian Jones was dabbling with sitar when he died, but, well, he died)
Bouncing tracks across multiple machine for more cumulative tracks
8 track recording

and perhaps the most important:

The Roadie.

Update: Cross posted at Huffington Post here:

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cuts like a knife

Just a thought:

TSA Would Allow Sharp Objects On Airliners

Now GWBush won't be all alone on flights.

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

My friend Arianna Huffington was on the Ron Reagan/Annoying Right-wing Blond show this morning on MSNBC, cast opposite wing nut Affirmative Action beneficiary David Limbaugh, also known as the less talented, less suave and debonair of the Limbaugh fils.

His big closer was something like:

"Well, you know Democrats (note use of plural noun, which loses them the opportunity to belittle Dems by using Democrat as an adjective. Anyway...) who are saying we need to Cut and Runtm voted to give the President total dictatorial power to attack any damn thing he wants with no warning or paperwork, so why are they bitching now? So he declared war on Iraq. What of it?"

If the quote isn't exactly accurate enough, please bite me.

This is known as Right Wing Smear Tactic #39: Criticize your opponent for something they didn't do, otherwise known as "That thing you did, you should be ashamed of."

Problem is, that's not what the resolution was. It was for more dialog, more diplomacy, and a return to Congress for an actual war resolution. Also, not to pick nits, but there was no declaration of war.

Oh no u di'int!

Of course Reagan, not exactly blessed with copious testosterone, didn't argue, Crowley drooled on Limbaugh's every word, and Arianna, who knows the truth, wasn't given a chance to rebut.

Liberal Media at work.