Wait a Second!

No. 4 -- July 20, 1995

My favorite part of nearly every O.J. story I read? The part that goes: Mr. Simpson has pleaded "not guilty" to the murders. I get such a kick out of that.

Pop quiz:

You're VH1, and you've got the rights to re-broadcast Live Aid, the mega-concert to end all mega-concerts. Given that the event was about far more than just music, and realizing that many of the performances were sub-par, yet realizing that a huge majority haven't been seen for a decade, do you:

A) Run the concert footage as it was originally broadcast?
B) Run the concert footage, and offer comments and perspective between performances.
C) Run the concert footage with split-screen commentary on top of the songs.

VH1 chose C, and I wish I had a giant "wrong answer" EHNNNNNNNHH!!!!! buzzer to blast in their offices, because the end result was lame lame lame.

And the mentality that led behind that decision is reason number 35,672 that I never entered professional broadcasting. Even worse, it shows how a channel that claims to be exclusively about music doesn't know shit about how music works. Let's just take a random example: U2's performance of "Bad.".

OK, maybe this is less than random, since, in a concert that wasn't all that great musically (as opposed to culturally or logistically) U2's performance of "Bad" was for the ages. As good as it was when I'd seen them on that tour, at Live Aid, they took it to a whole different level.

Do you remember? If you liked them at all, weren't you just totally transfixed by it? -- how the music built and built and Bono's attempt at clambering over the barrier not to just dance but to slowly hug an audience member? On one level, it was just another one of Bono's stunts, like trying to drag the white flag to the top of the US Festival stage (only to drop it half way up)? or the leaps he used to take into crowd from the balcony (hmm, talk about "The Fly."), back in the day? But this was somehow different, and their performance was amazing, simply amazing, and one of my favorite rock n' roll moments ever. Period.

Of course I taped it back then. On Beta. (Boy, talk about needing one of those "wrong answer" EHNNNNNHH!!!!! buzzers!)

So I figured that even though VH1 was running split-screen interviews on top of Brit-fluff like Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones and Paul Young, I figured that the U2 performance needed no such mutilation. After all, it had affected a lot of other people, too: U2 at Live Aid is arguably what made them international superstars. So I figured that VH1 would be smart enough to let it run as it was -- let it cast its spell all over again, and then, when it was over, have someone comment on it.

EHNNNNNHH!!!!!

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" went straight through without a hitch, and "Bad" started. Cool, I thought, maybe everything will be ok. It built and built like I remembered (different from the inferior-but-still-great "Wide Awake in America" version), and just to the point where Bono starts trying to climb over the barrier, they split screen to interviews with some guy (didn't catch who he was since I was too busy throwing things at the TV all the while yelling clever cultural catchphrases like "shit!!!" and "stupid fucks!!!!), and the girls he danced with, rather than just let this beautiful, wonderful, powerful and utterly rock n' roll moment SPEAK FOR ITSELF!!!

It could have, more eloquently than any interview. And with the music circling and circling around them, it was a moment beyond words, and the producers at VH1 were stupid and shortsighted enough to reduce it to words. The spell was broken, and it really did become just another one of Bono's stunts.

Of course, I'm sure that another reason they did this was that many of the performances (The Who reunion, Bob Dylan) just plain sucked, and VH1 figured it made better television to do it the way they did it. As if to say, "this music, even as a historic document, isn't good enough to keep your attention." Well, maybe -- maybe -- in the case of Spandau Ballet or Adam Ant. And maybe -- maybe if the if it was CNN or E! or another channel that doesn't claim to be about music first. Hmm. I always thought that "music first" meant music first, not "people talking about music over the music first." Besides, the only thing that is worse television than showing the first of several lousy Who reunions (the first Who reunion will be when the last member dies) is showing Pete Townshend or whomever making excuses for how lousy they were.

But the producers at VH1 are obviously not music-oriented, so they weren't thinking that way. Or as my friend, Scott Hudson, put it: "Meet the new VH1, same as the old VH1."

So when it gets hot here in the Bay Area, I often put a mega-fan in one of my windows and point it outwards in order to suck in the cool night air in from the other windows. Which is fine and everything, except that, for logistical reasons you care even less about than my personal house-cooling tricks) the only window I can put the fan in is right here by my computer.

So far, so good, except for last week, the light I use to illuminate my 'puter area seemed to be attracting a particularly huge and dumb species of flying beetle. These beetles swoop in past the fan, circle the light, and proceed to scare the living shit out of me before being sucked inexorably into the vortex in back of the fan. Crunch! Pop!

Last week, this happened, like, three times, before I decided to shut the fan off, close the window and suffer for awhile. And even then, I could see the stupid beetles banging at the window, just trying to get at the light. Which of course, drives my cat, Nathan Jr. -- for whom the concept of glass is just as confusing as it is for the beetles -- totally nuts. Of course, I've gotta wonder why she's so hot for these beetles and moths when they're the other side of the window, but the second they fly in, she is nowhere to be seen??

Speaking of inexplicable things, why does CNN paleo-conservative Robert Novak style himself as an anti-Washington outsider by constantly talking about "those people inside the Beltway" during one of his psuedo-populist rants on "The Capital Gang" when his newspaper column is called "The Insider?" Could it be that he's trying to have it both ways??

Pop Trivia Quiz:

My cat, Nathan, Jr. is blissfully unaware of the source of her name. It's a movie reference. Can you name the movie, and the character? Here's a hint: the answer is actually somewhere else on my home page.

You know, its just now -- a year and change after he committed suicide, that I'm really beginning to miss Kurt Cobain. I'm not sure if I can explain this, but since I'm not a family member or a close friend, and now old enough to not form any huge emotional attachments to pop stars -- even ones that affect my life as profoundly as Nevermind did (not to mention the weird fear I have that, for reasons that I have no time explain, its the last life-changing record I'm ever going to encounter) -- I wasn't totally devastated by his suicide.

But it's been over two years since In Utero, and I'm beginning to miss, in a real practical way, what he brought to my life -- those great songs, that voice, the sound of his band. Who knows where he would have gone? The artistic success of Unplugged might have pulled him further in that direction, as well as the planned collaboration with Michael Stipe. But we'll never know, and for me, speaking purely as a selfish rock and roll fan, (and besides the obvious human tragedy for Courtney, Frances Bean his family and friends) that's what sucks most for me as a fan. That I'll -- that we'll never find out how he would have tried to resolve, musically, the chaos going on in his head.

Ohwellwhatevernevermind.

This space is available for advertising. I am so ready to sell out to corporate America for some decent money. Even VH1! (Or they can just put me on "4-on-the-Floor")

Love,

     Jim

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This rant written on 19 July, 1995.
I was listening to Goo Goo Dolls -- Hold Me Up and
Goo Goo Dolls -- Superstar Car Wash as I wrote it.
(What can I say? I'm seeing them tomorrow night.)