Posts Tagged ‘music’

February 1964

It was Sunday, February 9th, 1964. Just eleven weeks earlier, America had been shocked and stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK had been a beacon of hope and inspiration for Americans, especially BabyBoomers. But Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun had silenced those hopes and created a void which needed to be filled. That void was filled by The Beatles.

Music industry veteran, Steve Meyer has vivid memories of that moment and he’s graciously allowing me to share them with you:

“We were four guys…I met Paul, I said do you wanna’ join the band, ya’ know? Then George joined, then Ringo joined…we were just a band that made it very, very big, that’s all.” — John Lennon

Yes…very big indeed, once the “Lads from Liverpool” hit our shores and nothing was ever the same.
Beatles on Sullivan 1964
Their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ was watched by an estimated 74 million people that Sunday night in February 1964 making it one of the biggest events in broadcast history, and the crime rate in U.S. cities dropped dramatically during the show’s broadcast. It was indeed, as Ed Sullivan used to say, ” A really big show!”

The assault on American radio and charts was equally overwhelming. In the past few decades you’ve all read about the chart accomplishments of such mega-artists as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and others, but they all pale in comparison to this statistic:

For the week ending April 4, 1964 The Beatles had 11 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart, including the first top five slots:

* #1* – Can’t Buy Me Love
* #2* – Twist and Shout
* #3* – She Loves You
* #4* – I Want To Hold Your Hand
* #5* – Please, Please Me
* #31* – I Saw Her Standing There
* #41* – From Me To You
* #46* – Do You Want To Know A Secret
* #58* – All My Loving
* #65* – You Can’t Do That
* #79* – Thank You Girl

Of course if you’re old enough to remember listening to your favorite Top-40 station back then, you remember hearing all these songs and more as the “British Invasion” started. It’s almost impossible to imagine any artist or band being able to monopolize the charts and radio in such fashion today, and I don’t think we will ever see it happen like that again. It was a different time.

Just how much The Beatles changed everything in pop culture has been the subject of many articles, books, TV specials, and now they teach courses on them in many colleges. Prior to The Beatles, Top-40 radio didn’t play album cuts from best-selling artists … not even Elvis at his height.

But when The Beatles released ‘Rubber Soul’ and made the decision there would be no single released from the album for radio or retail (much to Capitol’s dismay originally), radio programmers simply put “Michelle” on their stations along with “I’m Looking Through You,” and about four other tracks from the album. The Beatles ruled at retail and requests, so radio had to respond.

But the fact is, NOBODY had ever achieved that kind of airplay (album tracks) at Top-40 radio previously. The Beatles were the first. Of course ‘Rubber Soul’ wasn’t the only album they released without a single for radio/retail. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (the first rock “concept” album) didn’t have a single and neither did their double-album, ‘The White Album.’ But it made no difference, they were all over Top-40 radio. Of course the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (and subsequent concept albums by the Stones, Who, etc.) gave birth to the notion that the radio audience might want to hear more than just singles and great radio men in Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere, put FM stations on the air that played albums and “progressive radio” (the forerunner of all album radio that followed) was born.

Before The Beatles, there was no such thing as “stadium rock.” Nobody had ever played arenas or stadiums before 1964. But The Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, and other stadiums around the country in mere hours after tickets went on sale, shocking those in the press and media who predicted the shows by the group (“a fad” as they were called back then) wouldn’t sell tickets in those quantities. I was lucky enough to see them at Carnegie Hall, Forest Hills, and at both Shea concerts. The word mania doesn’t begin to describe what occurred the minute The Beatles took the stage.

Long before MTV hit the air (thirteen years to be exact), The Beatles made a TV film called ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Though the critics in the UK panned it for the most part, in hindsight one can watch it and realize it was merely a long-form video with five separate concept videos to support their new songs. They were years ahead of the curve in realizing how music and video could be merged for greater audience.

Another amazing fact: ‘Sgt. Pepper’ was recorded in four-track. Yup, that’s right. Four track. Listen to it today and you realize what an engineering masterpiece it is, and how many tracks had to mixed down and on top of each other to make the final recording. Many albums made today use dozens more tracks and updated technology … but sonically, Pepper remains a masterpiece.

I could go on and on … I’ve been a Beatles fan for these past 49 years. I never imagined that night I watched them on the Ed Sullivan show that within five years I’d be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to. When I worked for Capitol Records in 1970 and 1971 in New York City I was fortunate enough to meet John Lennon briefly. The first time I talked to him I got “mealy mouth,” was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said,” I … I watched you on Ed Sullivan …” And he said, “Ah…well, that was The Beatles thing and all that … I’m just John now … so tell me what kind of music do you like?” We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.

The Beatles created the soundtrack for our lives back in the ’60’s and each song they sang made us feel like the wait wasn’t going to be too long, and that sooner rather than later, we’d all be on our way to better lives. Maybe that’s been only partly true, but it’s what we all wanted to believe because their music made us feel such things. So we sang their songs loud, proud to claim them as “our own.” But we should’ve known they belonged to the whole world and that the world we lived in was moving away from innocence.

John was right…they were a “band that made it very, very big.”

They were all that … and a whole lot more. A helluva lot more.
The closest I ever came to meeting a Beatle was when I was about five feet away from Paul McCartney as he left the premier of his movie, “Give My Regards To Broad Street”. We had eye contact for a few seconds. He didn’t look happy.

I also had the chance to hang out one night with John Lennon’s son, Julian. Unfortunately, I blew it. The realization that I was actually spending time with a Beatles’ son left me tongue-tied. While I should have been having a pleasant conversation focused on him, his opinions and aspirations, I was too busy second-guessing myself so that I wouldn’t come across like a dim-witted fan. Too bad. Turned out that Julian’s a pretty nice, down-to-earth guy.

Stephen Meyer is a music industry veteran who has served in executive positions for several music labels including as National Promotion Director for Capitol Records from 1976-1983. You can subscribe to his weekly music industry newsletter at

The Return of The Rascals

Steve Van Zandt of E Street Band and Sopranos fame has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000 by October 24th for a combination concert/ theatrical event he’s producing for the reunited Young Rascals “Once Upon A Dream”. The concept is being described as “a Rock “N Soul dance party meets The Jersey Boys.”

The project has exceeded its $100,000 goal. In return for support, Van Zandt offered ways to make donors part of the show including what’s described as “killer merchandise”. Donors could pledge as little as one dollar although some pledged at the $ 2,500 level and some at the $ 5,000 level.

If you were a Rascals fan in the 60s  here’s a link to learn more

My Favorite Summer Songs

It’s Labor Day Weekend and another summer is coming to an end. As an AlphaBoomer, a member of the oldest cohort of the BabyBoomer generation, I’m finding that each summer seems to pass much too quickly and is gone before I’ve been able to settle into the season.

Someone once compared the experience of aging to watching the water drain from a bathtub. As the water level lowers, the flow through the drain appears to move faster and faster. An apt description in my experience.

For some reason, as I got in my car on Friday afternoon, a series of summer songs popped into my head and I started singing along. I hadn’t thought of them all summer and all of a sudden I yearned to hear them.

Here’s my personal list of favorite summer songs:

*Summertime, Summertime- The Jamies

*Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran version

*Summer- War

*In The Summertime- Mungo Jerry

*Hot Fun In The Summertime- Sly & The Family Stone

*Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer-Nat King Cole

*Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini-Brian Hyland

*Summertime- (either the Billy Stewart hit version or the Broadway version)

What’s on your list?

Seeing The Song

I love Billy Joel’s music and I respect him as an artist. But I have to disagree with him on his generalization that “Before MTV music said LISTEN to me, and after MTV it said LOOK at me.”

I’d argue that pre-MTV rock music artists like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and KISS were very much visual as well as music acts. Fashion and attitude have been part of Rock N’ Roll culture since its inception.

During MTV’s early years, our team of researchers surveyed MTV viewers in those markets where the channel was available in order to learn their reactions to the songs we played. We used a methodology common to radio where the respondent was asked to rate a song based on how familiar they were with it and their level of positive or negative reaction to it. Early on, we were trying to determine a way to factor the visual variable into the equation and we found that the MTV viewers we spoke to frequently responded “I’ve seen that song”. Consequently, we changed the language in our survey to ask “Have you seen this song?”.

During my four years as MTV’s Director of Video Music Programming, it was my observation that the video component might have created some initial interest in a song but, if the music didn’t strike that responsive chord with viewers which catapults a song into the level of viable hit, the video was going to provide the necessary momentum to save the song.

It’s always been about the music.

Image may attract attention but, in the end, it’s the relevance of the music and the emotional connection it makes with the listener that really matters.


Your Cheatin’ Heart

A few months ago, I posted a blog piece about cheating on taxes. That prompted a response from Allison Morris who sent me the infographic below created by Online Colleges in a blog piece about how cynical members of the Gen X and Gen Y generations feel about cheating and lying. They appear to think of these behaviors as necessary for basic survival. How much these attitudes are created by media exposure from television police procedurals, movies and music would be an interesting topic to pursue.

Check out the infographic below and let me know what you think.
Rise of the Cheater Infographic

RIP, The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb

I was saddened to learn of the untimely death of yet another member of the music community, The Bee Gee’s Robin Gibb. Robin and Barry had been the two survivors of the four Gibb brothers. The youngest brother, Andy, died tragically at the age of 30. Robin’s twin, Maurice, passed away in 2003. Now, of those four talented brothers, only Barry remains.

My only personal encounter with the Bee Gees was in an elevator at 30 Rock. I was then working at WNBC Radio. The Bee Gees were the musical guests that week on Saturday Night Live in the wake of their huge success with the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. One afternoon, I was heading back down to the radio station on the second floor from the seventh floor commissary and, when I stepped into the elevator, found myself alone with the three Gibb brothers.

Fortunately, I was feeling more glib than shy at that particular moment so, as they looked at me and I at them, I smiled and asked: “Are you boys all behaving yourselves?”. They seemed to enjoy the engagement and we all laughed and bantered a bit during the brief five floor elevator ride. I immediately liked them all. Despite the fact that they were, at that point in their careers, huge and wealthy stars (and not yet the objects of derision by the tragically hip), they were unselfconscious and very likable.

For some reason, I felt the strongest connection with Robin. It might have been his eye contact or something that he said. Whatever it was, although I was favorably impressed with both Barry and Maurice, my reaction following that five floor 30 Rock elevator ride was that I liked Robin Gibb best.

Although I still enjoy hearing “Stayin’ Alive”, my favorite Bee Gees hits tend to be the early ballads. I’d never given much thought to who sang lead on their songs so it was a little surprising to learn that Robin Gibb had sung lead on some of my favs, “Gotta Get A Message To You”, “Massachusetts”, and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”.

I was impressed with this report aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition” following the announcement of Robin’s death:

R.I.P, Robin Gibb. Thank you for your music and the memories.

Bon Jovi Says Steve Jobs Killed Music Business

In a recent article in The Sunday Times Magazine, Jon Bon Jovi is quoted as saying: “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it. God, it was a magical, magical time. I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’. Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

Former record label promotion executive and music industry blogger responded in his weekly blog to Bon Jovi’s comments with an open letter. Here are some excerpts from Steve’s letter:

“Dear Jon:
You’ve been making records a long time. In fact, when you had your first Billboard chart hit in 1984 (“Runaway,” which peaked at #39) CDs had already been in the retail music market two years.

Now, thirty-nine years after CDs were first introduced to the consumer, you seem to have forgotten that it was the CD, not Steve Jobs, that made kids miss “the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it.” ….

Funny thing about CDs, I don’t ever remember any artists I worked with at the time complaining about the hefty royalty checks they were receiving as their catalog(s) were released in the new format and sold millions all over again. Not a one. Nope. It was a good time for the labels and all their artists as billions were generated in revenues just from re-releasing older albums on CD.”

You can read Steve’s entire letter at

So, what do you think? Do you agree with Bon Jovi or with Steve Meyer’s assessment of this situation?

Supporting New Zealand, Skype Improvments & More!

Here’s some information that I thought you’d find useful or at least interesting:

BrandSavant, Tom Webster tells us that some radio friends in New Zealand are asking for our help. They’re not looking for monetary donations but are instead asking that we send voice messages of encouragement and support which they can play over the air to help boost the spirits of their countrymen as they cope with the devastation caused by last week’s earthquake.

All you need to do is record a quick MP3 file that gives your name, where you are from, and a short (5-10 seconds) message of hope, to tell the people of New Zealand that we are thinking of them during this very dark time. Please email those .MP3 files to Tom at a special email address he’s set up at : Tom will make sure he gets them, and that your voices ring out across the Land Of The Long White Cloud.

Skype simplifies cheap overseas calling from any phone.

Linkedin Tool Visualizes Profile Updates in Your Network

How music can boost your immune system

Augmented Reality To Enhance Music Experience

In late 2009, Augmented Reality was incorporated a book celebrating Michael Jackson’s career. Since then, I’m not aware that there’s been much buzz about AR in the music world. However, today I received this press release:


New “BEP360” App for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch Takes Fans Inside “The Time (Dirty Bit)” with 360-Degree Motion Control and Augmented Reality Developed by Peas Front Man

LOS ANGELES January 24, 2010 – Music industry pioneer and front man of The Black Eyed Peas,, today announced the iTunes App Store launch of BEP360, an iPad, iPhone and iPod touch app that immerses fans in a 360 degree universe of the legendary music group. Featuring the world`s first 360-degree view music video (“The Time 360”), BEP360 features the song “The Time (Dirty Bit),” the first single from new CD, “The Beginning”, now available on Interscope Records.

“will.i.apps and the BEP360 app have been established to help artists tap into the potential of our hyper-connected mobile world and bring fans deeper inside the music far beyond a four minute audio recording. It`s a unique and completely new way to experience 360 degree music immersion that will bring artists and fans closer together,” said

    Key Features of BEP360

· Point iPad, iPhone and iPod touch device at the cover artwork of the band`s latest album, The Beginning (Interscope Records) and watch augmented reality take form with BEP avatars dancing to the beat

· Direct a virtual photo session with Fergie,, & Taboo allowing users to capture their own shots and share them.

· Stay up to date on everything about the Peas via an aggregated Twitter feed

· Play an addictive Peas-inspired puzzle game

· View pictures and comments posted by other BEP360 app users on a virtual earth

The BEP360 app is available for $2.99 from the App Store on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, or at:

Image: As soon as you point your iPhone onto the CD a virtual 3D character appears and the music starts.

A demo of BEP360 app featuring The Black Eyed Peas and the making-of behind the scenes video can be seen at:

I’m going to be interested to follow this story over the next few weeks to learn how fans react and how the rest of the music industry responds.

All Worked Up

Just so you’ll know, I’m not employed by a radio station nor an individual or company which owns radio stations, I am not related to anyone who works in radio, and I’m not a shareholder in any company which owns radio stations. Although many years of my career were spent in radio, I am not a water bearer for any company which owns music-oriented broadcast radio stations.

That said, I find AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka’s remarks at a recent musicFIRST Coalition press conference on Capitol Hill pretty offensive.
Trumka said: “The reckless greed that drives Wall Street is the same as the unconscionable greed that drives the handful of conglomerate corporate radio executives that control 75 percent of our nation’s radio stations. If you care about music, if you care about the right of Americans to get paid for their work, if you care about doing what is right, be a part of the good fight for our performing brothers and sisters.”

“The unconscionable greed that drive the handful of conglomerate corporate radio executives that control 75% of our nation’s radio stations”? Nice rhetoric, Mr.Trumpka but what about the unconscionable greed that drives the handful of foreign-based record companies that abuse their relationships with their artists?

Lets review some facts. There are a little over 11,000 commercially licensed radio stations in America. Around 20%, of those facilities are owned by companies which control 100 or more stations. Clear Channel’s controls 11% and the remaining 9% is split up among 7 or 8 other companies. In other words, 80% of American broadcast stations aren’t owned by companies which Rich Trumka and musicFIRST could describe as “conglomerate corporate radio”.

Chairman of the House Labor and Education Committee, George Miller (D-CA) said: “The important thing to remember is this: Passage of the Performance Rights Act will stop corporate radio from continuing to exploit the labor of working Americans – Americans who spend decades passionately honing their craft to produce works that resonate with our inner angels.”

Chairman Miller appears unaware that these radio stations which he accuses of exploiting musicians are actually investing millions of dollars in air time to promote the careers of musicians and providing FREE commercials by exposing those artists’ music to the audiences that these stations have invested millions of their marketing dollars to aggregate.

At this point, some reader will ask: “But don’t those radio stations limit the number of artists and songs that they play and isn’t that unfair?”

The stations limit the number of artists and songs that they play based on what their listeners want to hear. Research has shown that most radio listeners prefer a limited number of songs on a station’s playlist. The particular songs may change over time but the aggregate number of songs remains relatively constant. It’s even been noted that iPod and Pandora users eventually limit their playlists after their initial enthusiasm for discovery wanes.

Although I’m no longer involved with the radio industry, I did spend many years programming stations and being “worked” by record industry representatives to increase exposure on those songs which were most important to their labels. Increased exposure meant and still means increased revenues for the foreign-owned record companies who are, to quote Chairman Miller, “continuing to exploit the labor of working Americans.”