Saturday, December 1, 2007

When Music Mattered

There is no limit to introspection in the younger artists: mumbling heartfelt and half baked poetry to guitar bashes, electric or unplugged, is a tradition that was strong by the time I graduated high school in '71. The melodies and the mumbling haven't improved when the Torch-of-the-Tortured-Poet was passed between generations.

But even in our glory days, with our Anti-war, counter cultural, vaguely leftist politics, what we're we ever to the record companies than a demographic to be sold to, and in turn, sold to other creators of pop culture content? I think that that Hollywood and their cronies on the fabled Madison Avenue had us pegged, detailed, and enumerated as a predictable market share just as much as they had broken down the buying habits of housewives. We were ready for shipping.

It seemed a matter of the snake taking on the language and lingo of the target audience. In 1967, or 68, in the midst of campus demonstrations, student riots, and so on, Columbia Records took out large ads in underground and antiwar newspapers, periodicals they virtually supported with their advertising budgets. The photo showed a multi-cultural in a holding cell--a long haired white, blacks, Asians, men, women, a couple of old folks (I think), all with head phones on, listening to a stack of new Columbia albums, music, presumably, to smash the state by. The slogan?


Either we were too dense to think, for a second, that the ad was a cynical ploy and that, in fact, Columbia Records was "The Man", or may didn't care and bought the albums anyway, but what this ad, and ads hawking different things over the years, revealed the keenest insight: instead of being so special that we would change the world with music and higher consciousness, we were just another age group with high amounts of disposable income passing through, buy what made us feel special. Columbia knew what made us feel special: they knew us better than we knew each other.

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