Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hit Men by Fredric Dannen

Hit Men
by Fredric Dannen
p. 1990

  You should know what you are in for when the back jacket of a book about the music industry has a big-up from Sinead O Connor. Although the narrative has been tarted up for sales appeal, this is basically a biography/history of the Major Label scene in the "After Hippie Rock" era.  The central theme in Hit Men is the clash between music executives trying to profit from Rock music and Black Pop (R&B, Soul & Disco in this time period) and the corporate brass- uncomfortable with Rock music and doubting it's ability to generate profits.

  If you're like me, you may be suppressing your gag reflex right now, but Hit Men is quite diligently researched and footnoted, and thus it works outside of it's alleged agenda to "expose" the shady business involving Top 40 Radio, Record Labels, The Network & The Mafia.  Seriously, who gives a shit?  You know who "shady business practices" in the Music Industry typically benefit:  Indie Labels.  That's right all you holier-in-thou-live-in-my-Parent's-basement types:  The Mob tends to help out the little guys with suitcases of cash, not the big boys with their Federal Network Licenses (subject to renewal) and publicly traded stock.

  What really struck me about this book is how much the Major Label game is based on spending "Other People's Money" in the same way that high-financiers can bankrupt a billion dollar hedge fund, walk away, and start another hedge fund because IT WASN'T THEIR MONEY.   The business strategies embraced by major labels in the 80s were hardly "text book economics" of the sort one expects from such efficient allocatiors of capital.

  To give but one example, I will quote direct from the book- this is in the context of a "bidding" war over the "talents" of 80s solo McCartney:

  "CBS offered McCartney an unheard-of enticement, a publishing company that held the copyrights of one of America's greatest songwriters, Frank Loesser...It's hard to overstate the value of Frank Music.  Loesser wrote the words and music to Guys and Dolls and other Broadway classics; his catalog included gems such as "Spring Will Be A Little Late this Year," "Standing on the Corner," and "Once in Love With Amy."  p. 127

    We're talking 80s McCartney, not mid 70s McCartney. (PAUL MCCARTNEY DISCOGRAPHY WIKI)

    Here's another observation: With the exception of David Geffen and Irving Azoff (Live Nation Chairman) these guys are basically corporate drones: particularly with Warner and CBS, the executives are just employees- they don't even have internet era stock options.  Clive Davis was actually fired over padding expense reports- and prosecuted by the IRS, over what was a TINY bit of money.  It's almost comical because Dannen actually tells you what some of these guys were making when they were "President of Warner" and it's like the salary of well-paid stockbroker on Wall Street- even adjusted for inflation.  They are hardly industrial tycoons. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Madame Bovary

Mia Wasikowska will  be playing the title character in this years film version of Madame Bovary.  Director is Sophie Barthes


A new translation by Margaret Mauldon
bu Gustave Flaubert
Oxford World's Classic
Introduction Malcolm Bowie
Notes Mark Overstall
p. 2008

  Personally, I care not a whit for the debates of disciplinary specialists, whether it be history, science or literature. In the area of literature, I'm really, really, not interested in issues surrounding the translation of French, German or Spanish books into English, all I say is "The Books that are translated, the better."  I feel that way because there is a common "Indo European" poetics, that encompasses stylistic issues ACROSS the Indo European language family.  This kinship is alluded to in the excellent introduction to this edition of Madame Bovary by Malcolm Bowie, "For many readers of the text in its original French the first inkling of [the] quality will come...from the fall of sounds and phrases within individual sentences...He also enjoys assonance, alliteration, rhyme and near-rhyme, and these features can descend as a seemingly gratuitous sound-texture upon any incidental observation."

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre: She was sooooo good.

   All of the devices identified by Bowie in his introduction ("assonance, alliteration, rhyme and near-rhyme." are COMMON poetic devices across Indo European tongues, testified in sources ranging from Homer's Odyssey, to Beowulf, to the Rg Veda.  The mastery of these devices was necessary to transmit sacred knowledge prior to the invention of writing.  One should not be surprised to learn that a novel considered a classic demonstrates here-to-fore undemonstrated mastery of those techniques, in a novel.

   The question of writing style, and poetics, is what links literature to a separate discipline like song writing, since both share their own version of a common "poetics" drawn out of orally transmitted sacred traditions.

     As I said, I don't care for these specialist debates, but I tend to find combining disciplines in a casual way interesting.

     Madame Bovary HAS to be literature's most famous Adulteress.  Probably her lack of popularity today among the 'kids' and college educated adults has to do with the prejudice against reading books in a translated language AND the general decline in interest in 19th century literature generally, because MAN Madame Bovary very much is the first "modern" or "realist" novel.  Considering that my recent reads have included just-earlier published historical romance novels, Madame Bovary comes off like a New Yorker short story.

    Madame Bovary was the "Howl" of it's day: Flaubert was tried in 1857 for heresy or whatever they charged "obscenity" as in mid 19th century France and was acquitted; after which Madame Bovary became a cause-scandale.  Sounds a little bit more 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' then Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, but modern critics will assure you that Flaubert is more about the substance then the flash of the infamous Miss Bovary.

   I suppose the question I was left with is the relationship between the enduring popular status of Madame Bovary and the trial in January 1857.  Bovary was published in serial form in 1856, so it had been "released" well before the trial.  Bovary most certainly was a "pop phenomenon" in the modern sense of the word circa January-February 1857, one year after the book was published, but what was the relationship between "pop" and "serious" interest, and how did the environment in France at the time: Social, Political and Economic impact the relationship between "popular" readers and "serious" readers.

  Oh snap it sounds like I just wrote someone's term paper for them.

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