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Archives: Music, Capitalism & Revolution (1969)   (Views: 24,817)


Contributed by skip on February 1st, 2002

Stop Look, what's that sound. Everybody look what's goin' down. by Bonny Cohen (with a little help from Keith Maillard)

The sound is rock music.

What's going down is money.

Columbia records nets billions from sales. On album jackets recording artists are called "revolutionaries", but CBS, which owns Columbia, has defense contracts to help murder revolutionaries. Rock stars wail out anger and scream revolt and leave concerts in Cadillacs (Jim Hendrix has a WHITE chauffer).

Pop music has become a financial staple of US internal imperialism.

We tend to assume infinite co-optability. U.S. money culture is a giant amoeba or an octopus with stranglehold tentacles. But how much spontaneity, rebelliousness and sexuality can this society absorb? Marcuse suggests the pessimistic possibility of "repressive desublimation:" totalitarian leisure, the re-conversion of class America to enjoyment. But there are no signs of institutional relaxation; schools, factories and carpeted corporation offices remain rigid and stultifying. There's no rock in Congress. Adult hip culture is a peripheral phenomenon despite its economic importance.

To young people, however, their music is real, and crucial. Like drugs, rock music is a component of crossclass rebel youth culture. The music is subversive. There is something about that electronic energy which escapes Madison Avenue's captivity.

Heavy rock music is rebellion and disgust. It is a plea against loneliness, people reaching out over personal isolation barriers; it is raw sex -- "you know you got it if it makes you feel good."

And in groups of people rock has become the energy of destruction. When artists decimate their technological apparatus at the end of each concert, moneymakers pat their bellies: artificial obsolescence. But when a thousand young people storm musical festival gates, demanding their music FREE they run right up against the American police wall. Many of this summer's rock concerts have turned into police riots. Lovely "Monterey Pop" is part of history: "..if you're going to San Francisco, you're sure to meet some gentle people there..." PEOPLES PARK: gas masks not flowers in your hair.

In the Great Detroit Ghetto Riot loudspeakers fed the flames with the Doors' "Fire." Raiding New York's Fillmore East in the middle of a concart, police were fought off by the Who on stage and kids in the audience. Mick Jagger gave his original handwritten manuscript of "Street Fighting Man" to Black Dwarf, an English underground paper, for their "Smash the American Embassy" issue.

Violent concerts are not bread riots, but they do create an energy of revolt and a subliminal solidarity, which can't be merely co-opted, desublimated, or even forcibly repressed. The music is exclusively ours, not the Man's, even if its profits bulge his capitalist pockets. Record companies want money, so they're willing to cater to, and foster, our desires for dangerous music. But the frenzy of rock may be turning against its purveyors.

Keith Maillard has been given a half-hour over WBUR-FM, Wednesday nights, to rap. He reads from the underground press. On Wednesday, July 23, he attacked the music establishment

Reading from Mark Kramer, INS, he asked; "'How do we deal with the rock hip imperialists who are ripping us off?' " As tactics, he suggested exposure, extortion, and forcing artists to give back profits to the communities out of whose guts the music came (Harlem, Haight-Ashbury, the southern black backwater, the streets of doowah-ditty New Yahwk City).

More from Mark Kramer:

... rock may have come from the streets... but in between you and the performer is billions of dollars... some record companies also have government contracts .. they'll make their money by anti-war youth culture or by killing .. Does this mean you shouldn't buy records? Understand the facts of life: you can't escape the Death Machine... We've got to put the finger on those who are ripping us off... We've got to get the message across to the artists, get them to be non-exploitive...

Cut to excerpts from Dick Gregory's new album, put out by Poppi Records, a company attempting to be responsible to the community which listens to Gregory:

... You tell me in that history book of yours that you came to these shores and DISCOVERED a country that was already occupied. You think about that...How did you DISCOVER something that's not only owned by somebody else but that's being used at the time that you DISCOVER it? That's like me and my old lady walking out of here tonight and you and your lady sitting in your brand new automobile and my lady says, "Gee, honey, that sure is a beauty-ful automobile, I sure wish it was mine. " I'll say: "Well Lillian, let's DISCOVER it..,

Few radio stations will play that album. Radical programming has great potential. It's a part of the underground which takes advantage of the overground: Keith was using the media to attack the media. Radio speaks to a faceless mass, but it speaks almost spontaneously (it doesn't take much to flip a radio dial) and simultaneously to thousands of people. And radical radio is popular. The underground station beaming out of Ann Arbor, Michigan is Detroit's third most popular station.

For radio, as for underground newspapers, the media has got to be the message in order to get that message across. Keith hopes to do montages- the juxtaposing of music and talk, parodies of ads ("Try out for Miss Imperialism;' "How to Join Progressive Labor"), and anything else that comes into his imagination. If successful, Keith hopes to expand to a half-hour a day of radical news reporting.

P.S. "the Underground Newt" is broadcast by Boston University's listener-sponsored station. The program's continuation depends very much on supportive response from listeners. Keith is open to suggestions. for future programming. And he will read sympathetic political announcements over the air. Call him at the station (266-1000) or at the Boston Free Press (868-9788).

By airing some facts about recording companies, Keith Maillard was attempting one of Mark Kramer's suggested lines of attack - exposure. But its limits are obvious. Ideological assault on the media by its underground is in many ways wasted energy. Appalling facts themselves rarely generate revolt in a society as corrupt as ours. Madison Avenue is going to keep selling our culture as long as it is for sale.

Trying to radicalize artists also has its limits. A singer will sell his soul in order to sing it. Almost all of the "stars" are insulated. In and out of cities, in and out of their heads, few relate to the movement. They don't read underground papers. At the recent underground media conference, Keith reports explaining to an amazed Blood, Sweat and Tears man all about the Columbia-CBS imperialism/music nexus. He had no idea...

But like the mode of the music. there is something about the artists which works against their own corrupt ties. It's their image, the Rock and Roll Star' a beaded, or bearded, moving sex, drugged, wild-hairy, sensitive but motherfucking tough, inscrutable, pig-hating, stone rebel. No matter what they really are, that's what they have, to project. That's their image for American youth (how to be cool, get the girls).

Source: Old Mole 8/1/69


Music, Capitalism & Revolution (1969)
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