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Dear Loathsome Trade Hacks

[Editor’s note: What
follows is Don Henley’s letter to Hits magazine after they superimposed
his face in post-Grammy party photos.]

Dear Loathsome Trade Hacks,

I was terribly amused by your series
of fantasy scenarios detailing my supposed crawl through all
the post-Grammy “company store” parties. In truth,
I opted for a quiet, candlelit dinner with my beautiful wife
at a seaside restaurant. You see, I didn’t want to attend any
of those sumptuous bashes and be the guy who ordered that one
extra glass of champagne that shifted the delicate balance and
sent the industry careening over the edge into the abyss of total
bankruptcy (although Sony’s music group shows a profit of $203
million for this past fiscal year).

In retrospect, though, I probably should
have made the scene and kissed some record-company ass. Perhaps
I could have gotten my own label deal. Maybe, while standing
there admiring the ice sculpture filled with shrimp, I would
have had an epiphany, seen the light and been converted: There
is no God, there is no government, there are no individuals.
There is only THE CORPORATION. The sovereign, almighty, world-governing
Corporation-and we are all here to serve It.

Having thus come to my senses, I, too,
would then be able to sign fledgling artists to unconscionable,
long-term contracts with all those juicy deduction clauses like
the one for breakage that dates back to 1928, when the records
were made of shellac and would shatter if dropped. Tried to break
a CD lately? Why, you couldn’t break one if you wedged it horizontally
between Zach Horowitz’s butt cheeks and told him that all his
master copyrights were about to revert to the true owners, the
artists. But never mind that now. Then I could stick those stupid
artists with at least 50% of the independent-promotion costs,
even though they had nothing to do with allowing that practice
to become institutionalized. For an encore, I could whack ’em
again with “free goods,” packaging deductions, video
costs, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

“Sit your temperamental, flaky,
naive ass down here, artist. Disgruntled about your deal after
your third album sold 5 million copies? Sure, we’ll renegotiate
with you. We’ll just give you what basically amounts to your
own money, which we’ve been holding in the pipeline and collecting
interest on, but we’re also gonna start the clock all over again
and tack on three more albums at the end so that you’re essentially
starting all over again. It’s a beautiful thing. You’re gonna
love it here-for the rest of your career, which actually could
be over in five minutes, but hey, that’s not our problem (we
own your master copyrights, you boob). So you can just sell the
house in the hills and go back to that crappy little town you
came from, and the world ‘will not long remember what we did
here, etc…’ We’ll just write off any losses we may have incurred
(although we really haven’t incurred any). It’s just the cost
of doing business. Then we’ll proceed to the next gullible sap
with a dream. You came from diddlysquat, and you’ll get used
to diddlysquat again.

“Meanwhile, here at media-mogul
headquarters, we’ve got to lock up the house in Santa Barbara,
as well as the one in the Hamptons (plus the vacation pad in
Acapulco) and rush off to get the corporate jet serviced. It’s
in dire need of a tune-up after all those trips to France, and
the new one won’t be delivered until we find the next Flavor-of-the-Month
and bring in some serious profits (or prophets-we could really
use either). After all, we’ve got to fund our mass-production
assembly line somehow. You know-all the crap we sign just because
some 21-year-old A&R man tells us it’s brilliant. You can’t
expect us to sacrifice our bottom line just for the sake of culture.
We don’t give a shit about culture. That kind of starry-eyed
idealism doesn’t fit in with our plan for world domination, much
less the plans of our board of directors and our major stockholders.
We’ve got quarterly reports to file,
and we’ve got a 90%-plus failure rate that screams out, ‘We don’t
know what the fuck we’re doing.”’ (“Gentlemen, gentlemen!
We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs!” -Mel Brooks,
Blazing Saddles)

“I mean, who would have thought
those freakin’ hillbillies would have sold over 3 million albums
and won five Grammys!? And no tits, no ass, no cursing, no nothing!
Just…uh…musicianship and soulfulness. We don’t get it. Is
there something we’re missing? Is there some hunger out there
for authenticity? We’re so confused!”

Meanwhile, back in the real world: In
order to finally settle these escalating disputes between artists
and the record companies with the dignity and class indicative
of these times, I have come up with a plan. Hilary Rosen and
I will engage in a bout of nude mud wrestling, which will be
broadcast on that paragon of good taste, the Fox Network (if
Fox doesn’t want it, then we’ll do it on The WB). If I win, she
has to sleep with Zach Horowitz. If she wins, I have to purchase
a lifetime subscription to HITS magazine-and actually read it.

Love and kisses,

Don Henley

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