Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lack of Individuality Increases Corporate Profits in Our Bankrupt Cultural Milieu

The USA Network had a show in the amazing early days of cable called Night Flight that was a potpourri of rock and roll, B-movies and other assorted oddities. As part of its programming, it ran a Los Angeles local cable show called New Wave Theater that was dedicated to the growing independent music scene in L.A. in the early 1980s.

The host, Peter Ivers, was best friends with the creator of Animal House and stars like John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. He was murdered in 1983 and the case was never solved, although the director of New Wave Theater is apparently a top suspect:

Although the mystery of Ivers’ death isn't solved as such his NWT partner David Jove is fingered as far and away the most likely suspect for his murder. The most startling aspect of this is the revelation that the ”megalomaniac bully” David Jove was also apparently David Schneiderman aka "The Acid King", a character who features prominently in British 60s counter-culture chronicles as the shadowy figure who infamously supplied the drugs at the Redlands bust and then conveniently disappeared when Jagger and Richards were arrested, amid dark suggestions later on that the whole thing was a set-up engineered by Schneiderman/Jove.

This episode of New Wave Theater was made in the wake of his murder. Interesting to think that his murderer may have made the show.

While there is a ghoulish fascination with this particular episode, what is more intriguing is getting to watch a show with such individual character from back in the day after scrolling through all the scripted "reality" crap on TV today that is totally devoid of real personality, real people and real opinions.

It's simply amazing how corporations have literally banned individual identity from our television sets because they see it as a barrier to increased profits.

And yes, if you watch the Honda Scooters ad featuring an absurdly young Adam Ant being devoured by Grace Jones at the 12:06 mark of the youtube video you can see the corporate behemoth taking aim at the New Wavers.

But of course this is in perfect keeping with the cycle of artistry in modern capitalist America:

First, something is good and makes no money. Then it is good and makes a bit of money. Then it is making money but still sort of good. Then it is making big money and who cares if it's any good. Then it's about making as much money as possible and it totally sucks.

Which makes the following video from 1977 even more interesting:

A couple of points:

a. In attacking the burgeoning punk rock fad, I love how aging promoter Bill Graham immediately throws the Nazi card at something he personally isn't profiting from (6:04 mark). He comes across as a guy who made a ton of loot in the '60s and can't figure out how to keep the money train rolling in the post-Watergate '70s. He really has nothing to offer to the conversation at all but he's there because he wants to co-opt something he doesn't remotely understand.

b. You can see that Kim Fowley is every bit as business oriented as Graham yet truly understands what is happening. His dismissal of punk rock at the 8:48 mark as self-limiting and trendy was dead-on. You can tell Fowley, back in 1977, can clearly foresee the rise of bands like New Order and the whole "college rock" or "alternative rock" movement of the 1980s: smart, melodic and power-catchy music. Sharp eye, Mr. Fowley.

This is in theory how capitalism is meant to operate. The street-smart guy with his pulse on what is really happening getting ahead of the curve and profiting from his knowledge. One can see how this would benefit and boost cultural innovation. Alas, in terms of culture today, it is clear that this playing field no longer exists in even the slightest way.

Giant corporations dominate our television networks, our movie makers and our music companies. Giant corporations do not look to nurture and develop the next big thing. They are not seriously trying to get ahead of the curve. Rather, they look to co-opt and profit off of whatever they can for as long as they can.

Our cycle of artistry is stuck in endgame overdrive. The main goal is to find something that will make as much money as possible without any concern for quality whatsoever.

Our cultural decision-makers today are all aging Bill Grahams trying to hold onto their moneymakers. The savvy Kim Fowleys are prevented from nurturing something new and the result is the American public is fed a tasteless gruel of safe, dull and predictable fare. That it is increasingly sexually explicit and scatological only reinforces the artistic bankruptcy of it all.

"Show me an artist and forget the trend," Kim Fowley says, quoting legendary music executive Clive Davis.

We have no artists today for our corporate cultural oligarchs are only interested in maximizing the trend.

It is a grave, grave loss for us all.

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