In the last few days, I’ve listened to several interesting interviews. The first has to be my favorite episode of the Rock and Roll Geek Show so far. In Episode #251, he interviews Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, Mothers of Invention and many other places. I liked the Turtles but I loved a lot of what they have done since, including singing background on one of the best albums in rock history, T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” and singing foreground on another of the best, Frank Zappa’s “Live at the Fillmore”. There was a stretch were Howard was extolling the virtues of controlling your own artistic output, not giving away your work to record companies, and such. Hearing a guy who has been in the music business for 40 years say the same things I do about it makes me feel nice and validated. I thought the interview rocked and I thank Brother Butler for doing it.
On kind of another extreme was the Bat Segundo interviews with Berke Breathed, Parts one and two. I like Breathed and was a big fan of Bloom County in the day. In part one he said many things of truth that I agreed with, but in part two he diverged from me. Particularly he had a stretch where he was lamenting the disappearance of the huge media, those pop cultural moments that were shared by basically all Americans. At one point he said something like “I fear that I sound like the old man waving his cane at kids on his lawn” which was hilarious, because that was exactly what I had been thinking. He pointed out that new artists now can’t get that 20 million readers that he used to be able to field. So what?
He was lucky enough to get in at the tail end of a long decline in the monolithic nature of media. This situation he fears we are losing (it ain’t a fear – it is really gone, never to return) is not something I think we particularly have to worry about or miss. It was a quirk of the growth cycle of modern media, where we had the capacity to distribute entertainment to many people at once, but not the capacity to distribute a wide diversity of said entertainment. I found it intriguing that his example he kept citing was Milton Berle in the 50’s. That’s a great example for both our points, because whenever I see kinescopes of the material that so fascinated the country back then, I find it unwatchable. Far from being brilliant and classic, it was broad, low brow and low common denominator. Sure, everyone watched him but that’s also because there were so few other choices. I grew up in the tail days of that, when we got 2 of the 3 networks as over the air stations in western Kansas. When cable arrived and I was able to watch Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” video and full Frank Zappa concerts on Night Flight everything changed for me, and for the better. Breathed’s point that new cartoonists won’t have millions of readers just kept me saying “And so?” I really couldn’t see the problem with it. He seemed to be equating the magnitude of the audience with some sort of goodness factor, but that equation is no longer in play.
All that said, I really did like both parts of the interview and thought that Ed did a nice job with it. I don’t listen to every single episode anymore because I have only heard of or have an interest in about one in three of the people he talks to. The ones I listen to I really enjoy, though. Check it out.