FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Selling Out?

Doors drummer John Densmore recently wrote an essay in The Nation condemning corporate sponsorship of music. It centered around the Doors (over the objections of keyboardist Ray Manzarek) refusing to sell “When the Music’s Over” to Apple for a commercial.

Densmore offers every good argument against commercial sponsorship. The most important thing he says, though, is “I’m petty clear that we shouldn’t do it. We don’t need the money.”

What if you do?

I’ve campaigned against rock bands getting in bed with corporations ever since the Who signed up with Miller Beer in 1983. It wasn’t hard, because it was ludicrously easy to spot the specious argument for sponsorship as a lie: It would keep ticket prices down. More important, but never really addressed, the ad agencies and corporations bought starpower, and this called allegiances into question: What would the Who have to say when the Miller workers went on strike?

Like the brewers, most musicians _do_ need the money. For someone like Iggy Pop, “Lust for Life” in that ridiculous Royal Caribbean commercial might represent indispensable income. Is it possible to begrudge him?

In mid-July, Michael Felten of Chicago’s Record Emporium wrote a Weaselworld column. expressing shock that Wayne Kramer had taken on “corporate partners” – Apple computers, Fender guitar and X-Large clothing-for his current tour.

Michael asked me what I thought. I wrote back, “The day is past and gone when we can trash every musician who deals with a corporation, especially on a simple, professional basis like this.”

I meant that both Apple and Fender are tools of Wayne’s trade, and there has never, to the best of my knowledge, been criticism of musicians who endorse equipment. X-Large provides the clothes Wayne and his group wear onstage. None of this does more than let him get by without a day job. Nevertheless, had Wayne sold out?

When he got off the road last week, Kramer wrote Felten a scathing reply. (I hope Wayne will post this at his website, waynekramer.com.) Kramer, whose new Adult World continues his 35 years of making trenchant rock music, analyzes two of the most important issues. What are the needs of a musician and what does sponsorship (or “corporate partnership”) do to meet them? Second, what is “the role artists can play in changing what’s wrong with the world”? (In between there is much angry invective, which amuses me more than it does Felten, who got his own licks in.)

You need to know about this squabble among my friends for several reasons. To start with we need to develop much more sophisticated ways of measuring cooptation. From the way some people talk about making major label records, you’d think the United Auto Workers Union betrayed American labor by allowing its members to work for General Motors.

Part of that means remembering that not all musicians live well, and that includes many, if not most, famous musicians. Kramer defines the role of musicians as being messengers and storytellers. But that begs the question of whose message and what stories.

This discussion can’t get off the ground until we acknowledge that we lost the battle against sponsorship. Turn on your TV and you’ll hear the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “London Calling” selling beer and cars.

Does this mean we lost the war? Is music now so hopelessly compromised it can’t hold credible meaning? Kramer thinks that’s simplistic and I can’t disagree. Felten, upholding ethical purity, thinks we’ve reached the end of an ethical era and I can’t disagree with that, either. All I can see clearly is that our more important task is figuring out how to meet the needs of musicians-and everybody else-with justice and fairness. If there’s a solution, that’s it.

DeskScan (what’s playing in my office)

1. The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (Sony). Meditations on a line from what seems to be the silliest song: “Tell me, how do you live brokenhearted?”

2. Jerusalem, Steve Earle (E Squared). The real Neil Young.

3. Adult World, Wayne Kramer (MuscleTone))

4. Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files (Ace UK)

5. Africa Raps (Trikont)

6. Plenty Good Lovin’, Sam Moore (2KSounds/EMI). The boring new Solomon Burke album that’s been such a critics darling can’t compare to the high-energy testifying going on in Moore’s long-lost 1972 solo album. The highlight is an extraordinary “Part Time Love,” but the whole album seethes with power both raw and refined.

7. Easy, Kelly Willis (Rykodisc)

8. Try Again, Mike Ireland and Holler (Ashmont)

9. Down in the Alley, Alvin Youngblood-Hart (Memphis International)

10. Live in London England, Dale Watson (Audium)

11. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin (ATO)

12. Viva El Mariachi: Nati Cano’s Mariachi Los Camperos (Smithsonian Folkways)

13. American Breakdown, Troy Campbell (M. Ray). At its best, much closer to his rock band roots in groups like Loose Diamonds and the Highwaymen.

14. A Cellarful of Motown: Rarest Motown Grooves (Motown)

15. Playing with the Strings, Lonnie Johnson (JSP UK)-The blues guitar genius with Armstrong, Ellington, Don Redman, a jug band and Blind Willie Dunn’s Gin Bottle Four.

16. Starin’ Down the Sun, Red Dirt Rangers (Red Dirt Rangers). Pick hits: “Dwight Twilley’s Garage Sale” and “Elvis Loved His Mama.” Sort of the Grateful Dead with a sense of humor and Okie funk.

17. Keep on Burning, Bob Frank (Bowstring)

18. Superbad! The Soul of the City (Time-Life)-Celebrating the ’70s while ignoring the Bradys, Kiss and the Osmonds.

19. Hard Candy, Counting Crows (Geffen)

20. Irony Lives, Paul Krassner (Artemis)

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. Marsh is the author of The Heart of Rock and Soul: the 1001 Greatest Singles.

He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

New Print Edition of CounterPunch Available Exclusively to Subscribers:

War Talk As White Noise: Anything to Get Harken and Halliburton Out of the Headlines; First Hilliard, Then McKinney: Jewish Groups Target Blacks Brave Enough to Talk About Justice in the Middle East; Intimidation is the Name of the Game; Smearing “Insane” McKinney As Muslims’ Pawn; The Missing Terrorist? Calling Scotland Yard: “Where’s Atif?” They Never Booed Dylan!: Tape Transcript Shows Famed Newport Folkfest Dissing of Electric Dylan Not True. The Catcalls were for Peter Yarrow! New Shame from the Liffey Shrike

Remember, the CounterPunch website is supported exclusively by subscribers to our newsletter. If you find our site useful please: Subscribe Now! Or Call Toll Free 1-800-840-3683

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

August 21, 2018
Anthony DiMaggio
Fascist Nation: The “Alt-Right” Menace Persists, Despite Setbacks
Chris Floyd
Dial “N” for Mayhem: Wording Our Way to a New Level of Hell
Creston Davis
The Education Impasse in the USA
Jonathan Cook
In Detaining Peter Beinart, Israel Has Declared it No Longer Represents Millions of Jews Overseas
Kshama Sawant
UPS Teamsters, We Have Your Back in this Fight
Kenneth Culton
Trump Supporters: the Joyous Cult Bound by Shared Story and Ritual
Andy Thayer
Why the Chicago ‘68 Convention Matters Today
Simone Chun
Sea of Tears: The Tragedy of Families Split by the Korean War
William Blum
The Russians Did It (cont.)
Manuel E. Yepe
How Capitalism Erodes Mental Health
Doug Noble
Thomas Mountain
Djibouti Faces Dark Days to Come; Eritrean Ports, Pipeline Threaten Ethiopian Trade Lifeline
Binoy Kampmark
Finding Fault and Faulty Infrastructure: Genoa’s Morandi Bridge Disaster
Kary Love
“Suffer Not the Little Children….”
Thomas Knapp
Omarosa Manigault Newman, Public Servant
August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail