Index

 

NewsYou Can Use Danny Schechter ♦ News Dissector

Rock Around the World • September, 1976   II

BlastFrom The Past BEETHOVEN 11770 18221

Ludwig van Beethoven left his home in Bonn, Germany for good at age 21. He headed for Vienna, not with a guitar in his gunny sack, but seeing the future of classical music, and it was—correct, Beethoven.

Vienna was the Big Apple. Nashville. a contract with Columbia, and more. Vienna was where it all happened. Hollywood in the '30s. One of those lulls in new music was happening at the time, and Ludwig. no slouch on pride, decided he was to be the next big thing.

He first made his name as a pianist, getting raves in the trades for his chops on other's pieces, and especially on his improvisations, or one-man jams.

After establishing himself, his own compositions were released, and the reviews were more mixed.

Some of them were akin to Lester Bangs at his grittiest, emotionally upset at the raw nerve of this guy, writing symphonies that broke every standing rule, by God!

This could have been disastrous, because Beethoven decided to make it on his own, and not as a Tin Pan Alley type working for a duke or prince, which is how everybody else did it hack then.

But he had a cult wild about his music—youth. And for all these kids cared, Lester's crowd could shove it. Beethoven pulled in enough cash to remain indy, and he was an indy for life.

The music? Rhythm is the thing with Beethoven. Vienna's youth would likely "give it" 90, cuz I like the beat.

When he was 30. Beethoven started going deaf; he was not as fortunate as Brian Wilson—he lost

the use of both ears. Yet, in the 26 years he had left, he wrote his best music. Check out the Third Symphony—first big one from this time. Strong rhythms, good tunes, twice as long as any symphony yet written and better than the long version of "Light My Fire."

Also worth investigating are the 5th (great bass!), 6th (remember the centaurs in Fantasia?) 7th (suggestive rhythms here) and 9th (perhaps the greatest symphony ever; those old enough to remember Huntley/Brinkley will pick up on the 2nd movement—good drums!).

Beethoven was the first to write for the future, and that's us folks What the hell, He still makes the charts in Billboard. Could be he was right.

—Martin P. Sullivan Jr.—

IS JIMMY CARTER A CLOSET ROLLING STONE AND WILL BOB DYLAN WIN THE ELECTION?

A rolling stone may gather no moss. but the editors of Rolling Stone these days seem to be trying to gather up as much prestige and political influence as they can. Editor Jann Wenner may be bidding to become the Citizen Kane of the 70's, the powerful journalistic link between the ascendent Jimmy Carter Crusade and the numerically important youth vote.

During the Democratic Convention. Citizen Wenner and his crew made the scene by creating a scene. A Rolling Stone party thrown in honor of the Jimmy Carter staff sought to assemble a carefully pre-selected Who's Who of the Democratic Party hierarchy. the national media and the beautiful people celebrity world. It was to be one of those exclusive chi-chi Upper East Side Parties which makes great copy for the likes of Tom Wolfe. and massages the egos of those hosts more interested in selling in than selling out.

Your news dissector was there to watch the hipoisie cringe as too many early arrivals packed a borrowed townhouse before many of the most important luminaries even arrived. This created a problem in physics: two objects being unable to fill the same space at the same time. The result, as chronicled by the New York Times and Washington Post, was a sidewalk jammed with celebrities who, alas, had to stand in line and bitch about the absurdity of waiting. the fate reserved for common folks. The VIP's soon started pushing and piling into each other in a rush to be among 'the ins instead of the outs.

In the holding pattern on E. 68th Street, one found the likes of Lauren Bacall, Warren Beatty, Bella Abzug. and Publishers Dorothy Shiff and Kaye Graham, Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy, writer Theodore White, singer Paul Simon, and ironically, the writer whose endorsement of Jimmy Carter started the whole stone rolling, the honorable Doctor of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson.

This party was to have been a hush hush affair, but somehow one of the engraved invitations fell into the hands of political prankster Dick Tuck who printed a facsimile of them in a convention newspaper called Reliable Source. This undesired publicity turned out the unwanted and in some cases the unwashed, like myself. The relative uneventfulness of the

convention elevated the Party into page one news. While the press focused in on the personality parade. the significance of the affair went largely unacknowledged. After all, it is not everyday that an institution identified with the counterculture parties with some of the most powerful people in America. It's hard to think of Walter Cronkite, one of those who was ushered in almost at once, as a devotee of that particular pastiche of rock criticism and apolitical chic served up by Rolling Stone. So what's the real story?

This party was clearly an attempt to parlay Rolling Stone's controversial defacto endorsement of Jimmy Carter into a position of influence with the man who stands a good chance of taking the constitutional vows next January. Prominent Stoneites are already deeply enmeshed in the Carter machine, which has been called "the greatest organization since the ants." The magazine's financial angel, Max Palousky, the ex-chairman of the Xerox Corporation, became a fund raiser for Carter long ago. Anne Wexler. the present associate publisher played an active role as a Carter agent on various committees which tamed down the Democratic platform. She is also married to a Carter advisor. It seems clear that editor Jann Wenner is anxious for the legitimacy and leverage which goes with an insider's role on the political scene. Other elements within the music industry, particularly Phil Walden of Georgia based Capricorn Records, have been proselytizing and fund raising for Carter for over a year. Capricorn star, Gregg Allman has apparently been born again as a Carterite. although no political deals are said to be involved. "What are we supposed to do." one Carter aid told Newsweek, "make Gregg the head of the Food and Drug Administration?" No such luck.

Jimmy made one heck of a bid for the youth vote in his Dylan quoting acceptance speech to the Democratic convention. It was Carter's invocation of Dylanology which first won Hunter Thompson over to his campaign. After all. how many American politicians speak of Dylan as "their close friend" or make reference to his songs. Not many. But how enthralled is Carter really with Bob Dylan or the ideals he is thought to represent? An article in the current issue of More, a New York based magazine of media criticism delves into this matter raising disturbing questions about Carter's sincerity as a Dylan freak. More quotes Stephen Brill. author

of a controversial critique of Carter which appeared in Har?ers magazine: "1 was flying back to Atlanta with Carter and. I asked him to name his favorite Dylan song. He smiled and smiled and said, "I hate to offend Bob by naming just one." Name a few Brill suggested. Carter smiled some more and said, "Rosalyn and I listen to him all the time, but the lyrics and the titles blur." So I asked Carter to name his favorite album. He said he didn't want to name just one album. Name several. I said. Jimmy stopped smiling and said, "Why don't we talk about something else."

This article implies that Carter was dropping Dylan quotes all over Hunter Thompson because he thought. perhaps correctly, that an endorsement from Rolling Stone could "snare a big chunk of the youth vote." Hunter Thompson thinks that such a suggestion is too conspiratorial imputing too much calculation to Carter. My point in repeating the story is not to intensify the considerable amount of skepticism that Carter has already generated. (I do think a Dylan quoting President is probably better than one whose inspiration comes from Bob

Hope.) It only suggests that American politics is a finely tuned science of manipulation. It is important to understand the key forces and interests that are at work. (Copies of More are available from 40 W. 57th St., New York. NY.)

In my view. we have to approach the presidential campaign with a realistic perspective. The electoral system is a mechanism through which the present system solidifies itself. One must remember that the primary successes that put Jimmy Carter on the road to the White House were hardly referendums on issues, or for that matter on Carter himself. In a sign of thundering indifference, only a minority of the eligible voters turned out. Moreover, the combined vote of the candidates to the left of Carter was greater in many states than Jimmy's plurality. People concerned with more fundamental changes in the political system than the ones promised so far will have to abandon the fashionable cynicism, spawned by Watergate and the war. They will have to look for new political openings through which to express their concerns.

Within the Democratic Party. there are a small but growing number of people who consider themselves more progressive. People like California Congressman Ron Dellums who electrified the Convention with a radical chal-

lenge to debate the issues, have been joined by former radicals like Tom Hayden who won 1.3 million votes in an unsuccessful bid to win the Democratic Party's nomination for Senate from California. Writing in the New York Times, Hayden says the radicalisjn of the 60's is fast becoming the common sense of the 70's. Out of our campaign will emerge a new progressive force in California politics. Our activists will work on a farm labor initiative and numerous campaigns this fall. By the spring we hope to convene a new political alliance with the power to elect candidates and shape issues for years . ." Hayden exudes optimism. "We found that people are more open now than ever before," he told me. It has given him the strength, he notes, "to continue trying to persuade and organize instead of abandoning the process for the extremes of despair."

Incidently, Tom Hayden and spouse Jane Fonda were both at that Rolling Stone Party. but both left preferring to be with the folks on the streets rather than those in the suites.

This populist-type movement, now insurgent in California has its counterparts elsewhere. Writing in the Village Voice, Paul Cowan calls attention to a recent conference on alternative State and local policies which met last June in Austin, Texas. Cowan reports that radicals have won local and stateside office in many parts of the country, and now form the beginnings of a new electoral left. I don't believe that this type of electoral activity is the only legitimate way to work for social change, but it is significant, even if it is barely covered by the major media.

The important questions posed by the Carter campaign do not only concern the electability of the ticket. I think that is a forgone conclusion. I am more concerned with what a Carter presidency will mean for the people in the country, and for those movements which have been struggling for years to change institutions and alter priorities. Even if you believe that the system itself is stacked against fundamental change, you have to wonder whether a Democratic President can change the climate of the country in any significant way. Writing in a Win magazine symposium. Sid Blumenthal of the Boston Phoenix thinks that Carter will not want to engender social movements but that "he will arouse expectations (as liberals always do). which if unfulfilled may lead many people into movement. So a Carter

presidency creates new openings for the left if it is willing to take advantage." (Win Magazine, 503 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217.)

Judging by the largely unreported turnout for bicentennial protests in Philadelphia on July 4th. the post Vietnam left is quite alive and kicking. More than forty thousand people marched and rallied in the ghettos of Philadelphia to press a diverse range of demands. Third World groups spurred the formation of a radical coalition which plans to continue to fight together. The Puerto Rican Socialist Party was one of the prime movers in the most important display of left unity since the big protests against the war.

Not surprisingly, the Networks barely covered these July 4th protests. preferring instead to focus on official hoopla, parades. fireworks and tall ships. Arista recording artist Gil Scott Heron who appeared at the smaller Peoples Bicentennial Commission July 4th rally in Washington had prepared us long ago for the media's unwillingness to publicize oppositional activity: "The Revolution will not be televised," was the way he put it. If you are interested in the many stories that the major media gloss over and distort, you might want to have a look at the Alternative Journalism Review published by the Underground Press Syndicate (P.O. Box 777, New York, NY 10003.) Recent issues critique both Hearst and Rolling Stone coverage of the Harris Trial, explain how you can use the Freedom of Information Act to pry information from your government, and discuss the rise of underground comics.

Speaking of media coverage, the most fascinating big media expose I've come across appears in a recent issue of the Detroit Sun, the former Ann Arbor based publication now transplanted in the big city. The Sun reprints an internal memo from an editor of the Detroit News which explicitly declares that the paper is aimed at "people who make more than $18,000 a year." The editor urged more stories that play up "Sex, Comedy and Tragedy" in order to heighten reader interest and boost circulation. One story that this pro sensationalist journalist loved was headlined: "Nun charged with killing her baby."

That's News

Danny Schechter. News Dissector
WBCN
5005 Prudential Tower
Boston, MA 02199

Picture
Picture

Index