Page 16


enues, because as all station owners know in their hearts, a radio station is a business, first and foremost, and only incidentally a medium for art or even entertainment. As the bloodletting began and KOKE-FM came under new management, the newly appointed general manager made the following reflections on the destruction of KOKE as I knew it: “We do understand that many of our old listeners will probably not like our new format and we are resigned to losing them.” And “unfortunately for the listeners who enjoyed it, KOKE-FM was not financially successful, and some change became a necessity. The ownership and management determined that the change should be to a contemporary country music format. \(Read Top-40 indicated that a large portion of the Austin radio audience wants to hear stereo country music.” On a note of high irony, the new boss concluded, “Like Willie says, Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” `The cold hard facts’ It took the final disintegration of KOKE-FM to make me take a second look at the music business. But, in fairness, the station’s 180-degree turn to a slick automated Top-40 country format was no less reprehensible than much of what else I was to learn were the cold hard facts of life about the rock ‘n’ roll industry. Like RCA’s suppression of the development of FM radio in the ’30s and ’40s to insure television’s commercial success. This effectively put the quietus on any real experimentation with FM until the 1960s. Like Frank Sinatra’s famous 1958 appearance before Congress when he told lawmakers that rock ‘n’ roll was ”the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear,” and that it was written and sung “for the most part by cretinous goons.” Five years later, Sinatra traded his ownership of Reprise Records for $22 million, one-third of Warner Brothers Records, and one-third of any record companies they might later acquire. In 1967, Warners bought Atlantic, and the man who thought rock ‘n’ roll despicable was making more money from it than from his own singing. Orwho owns the star-maker machinery? Record companies are owned by billion-dollar, right-leaning corporationsthe liberal nature of the music business functioning merely as protective coloring. RCA, for example, is one of the largest military contractors in the U.S. And besides its Pentagon trade, it also operates NBC, owns Hertz, Banquet Foods, Random House, and the Alfred Knopf Company. With 1973 sales in excess of $4 billion, RCA ranked as the 20th largest corporation in the U.S. If you find all this destructive of previous impressions of the ‘hip’ music business and you want to learn more, you can in a fascinating new book, Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Here To Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry by Steve Chapple and Reebee Garofalo. As the authors suggest in their preface, “It’s not the Meat, It’s the Motion: There’s more to Rock ‘n’ roll than Music.” A helluva lot more, it turns out. And their book attempts to deal with the music business as power, politics, and profits rather than the usual aesthetics, glamor, and giddiness surrounding the industry. Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Here To Pay is Upton Sinclair’s Jungle in a latter-day form, or, as its creators define it, “an analysis of the way popular culture is manhandled in a corporate society. Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Here T, Pay is a two-part polemicits first section treats of music industry history, the development of AM and FM radio, the early years of the record companies, their subsequent growth into monopoly corporations, and their present-day operations. The second half of the book examines the seamier side of record conglomeratestheir ownership, their co-optation of performances, and their consistent abuse and misuse of black and female artists, among other things. Philly Schlock, Dick Clark Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay, but the authors’ contention that it’s also here to pay is backed up by two years of fulltime research that included interviews with agents, concert producers, managers, broadcasters, rock press critics, record execs, and artists themselves. Great anecdotes and quotes abound. Like Artie Mogull, former vice president for A&R at Capitol describing his company’s total misunderstanding of the music business: “You could tell a good song plugger. He’d be on his way home with five dollars and a bill in his pocket from the electric company that says if he doesn’t pay his bill tomorrow they’re going to cut him off. He runs into some band leader like Guy Lombardo, so he says, ‘Let’s go have a sandwich.’ Now he knows he’s going to have to pay for it, since he’s the song plugger. But he knows if he does that, he’s not going to have any money to pay the electric bill. So what does he do? Mogull pauses in his anecdote. “For 35 years Capitol has been staffed by people who would go home and pay the bill.” Nobody with an interest in rock ‘n’ roll should pass this book up. Chapple and Garofalo’s chart of cover records listing the original artists and the cover artists is worth the price of the book alone, and so is their treatment of Philly Schlock and Dick Clark. Another book about the rock ‘n’ roll business, but not worth the price even if someone gave it to you, is Sharon Lawrence’s sycophantic, slavish So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N Roll Star. Your first key to this book’s quality is on the cover: in big headlines Elton John says, “A fantastic book written by a lady who knows what she’s talking about!” Open it and you’re knocked out by the tabloid size headline, “FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF WHAT THEY DO AND WHY THEY DO IT!” The same might well be asked of Sharon’s rave reviewer. The book purports to be a comprehensive look at rock musichow it works, and how you can work in it. It’s filled with all kinds of nifty advice like, “Be an innovator, not an imitator,” and “It’s fun choosing a band’s name, but remember you don’t want to end up with something silly, faddish, infantile or that you will tire quickly of.” The crowning insult: “Choosing a set is like seducing a girl it’s all a matter of timing.” So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N Roll Star reads like Pat Boone’s homespun mush for kids in the ’50s, Ten Tips on How to Be a Good Teenager. You’d do better to spend your $1.75 on a used Kingsmen album because this pulp’s not worth the pennies. And remember: “Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay, it will never die. . . .” R.I.P. Elvis, Gene Vincent, Jimi Hendrix, Janis, Eddie Cochran, Otis Redding, Gram Parsons, Big Bopper, Chuck Willis, Jimmy Reed, Frankie Lymon, Johnny Ace, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Little Walter, Alan Freed, Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, Jim Morrison, Slim Harpo, Arthur Crudup, Brian Jones, Johnny Burnette, Hank Williams, and James Dean. How come Frank Sinatra and Dick Clark are still here? 0 Former DJ Carolyn Allen, a.k.a. Kandy Kicker during the good gone days at KOKE-FM, is the entertainment editor of the Corpus Christi Sun. THE TEXAS OBSERVER