That's When I Really, Really, Really Knew It Was Over.


Let me set this up for you.

It's sort of going to hurt so make sure you've got some happy music to put on.

I'm going to have to tell you about the worst moment. The sorriest moment. The moment when I really, really, knew it was over.

Now, you have to understand (and I'm sure by now you do- we all livin' this miracle called life) that for a thing to be truly, truly, really over it has to be because, well, simply because you can't muster a fuck anymore.

It's like a relationship, where one person can burn enough for the both a while. A little while.

When that burn is good 'n' gone isn't nothing on god's green earth gonna zippo it back to life. Ain't enough lawn mower gas in trenton nj to get that shit up and cooking again.

And so it often is with our live's sincerest endevours.

They reveal themselves as...as...threadbare.

The curtain rises on the earnest young man and the Radio Promoter. It is Los Angeles. The year is 1999. The season is late winter. The weather is sunny. The temperature is 74 degrees.

A rubicon has been crossed. A single has charted well on the Gavin US radio charts. It has reached number 27. The Radio Promoter has worked assiduously, greasing palms and buying trips and garden implements for program directors across the country. Clear Channel is not quite yet the force it will be shortly, and the possibility for an independent to reach the national radio charts is remote but possible.

The earnest young man has traveled the country earnestly in advance of a theoretical tour to coincide with the release of the second single in the spring. He shakes hands and plays guitar in radio stations day after day after day. He and the band's unstable guitarist crisscross the country, often driving 500 miles a day, trying to make themselves indelible. They do interviews and play live on the air. It's all very Loretta Lynn.

The song is pretty good. It's very organic and archetypal, 60's in slant and homespun. People like it a lot. There are big harmonies and a knockout hook. It modulates up a whole step on the last chorus. It's pretty much all there.

It sounds huge. It was recorded on an analog cassette 8-track. It's a little miracle of a song. It's one of those minor miracles.

The second single comes out and after a couple of months stalls at #32. They were hoping to get in to the top twenty. It's not going to happen with this song; it is quite esoteric. It comes off very organic and Police-like but the chorus shifts into this R&B field holler and there is a brilliant, spiky guitar solo and slightly stretched instrumental section.

It's more of a college radio track, the Radio Promoter says. It's not going over a #30 on the AC charts.

I test marketed it and it got a 4,
the Radio Promoter says.

Ever done a test market thing? They call you and play you bits of songs and you rate them 1-4, 4 being the best, 1 the worst. maybe they only do it in California. Takes about 5 minutes. So, 1 is a really crappy song, and 4 is a standout Honest To Goodness Smash. 2 and 3 are varying degrees of indifference.

I test marketed it and it got a 4.

So, good, right? That's good if you test market something and it gets a 4, huh? Honest To Goodness Bigass Darned Song, right?

I test marketed the first one and it got a 4 too. It was over the moon. Wish we could get you into some of the major markets and really let this thing blow up.

Well, sweet, right? That's gotta be doable, huh? I mean, the earnest young man thinks, a 4 has a better chance of that than a 2 or 3, I would imagine. Yeah, I like the sound of the blowing up thing, the earnest young man thinks. Stuff blowing up is cool.

But hang on a minute, Slim Jim. Don't get your knickers in a uproar.

A warm breeze wafts in from San Pedro. They are sitting in the earnest young man's manager's stuccoed villa high atop Rolling Hills. Soon they will lunch in Palos Verdes. The earnest young man is still quite taken with restaurants in Palos Verdes and meeting at the A&M lot on La Brea. He has been to parties in Bel Air and studios in Century City and Malibu and has found it quite much to his liking.

His reverie is broken by a staccato burst of automatic weapons fire. Oh, wait. That's some other story.

His reverie is broken by the Radio Promoter's intrigues. We're gonna have to go past this record, he muses. We're going to have to tailor something different that I can really push up their asses. The radio promoter is Kenny Loggin's cousin. I can't tell you or your manager what to do, man. It's your career.

The earnest young man quite likes the idea of tailoring a hit. He's a songwriter. This is what he's been working for his whole life.

Here's what we need to do, Kenny Loggin's cousin begins. You've been giving me these 4's which is great. But it's stalling in the big markets. What I need is a 2 or a 3 that won't scare these guys away.


Yeah, if you guys can come up with a 2 or 3 I'll be able to get it added in more markets. These guys don't like the 4's and they don't like the 1's. Write a 2 or a 3 that'll sit between the ads without distracting the listeners too much and these guys will add you right and left. If it tests too high they'll shy away from it because it'll detract from the ads.

The windchimes dance gently in the LA breeze.

That's when the earnest young man really, really, really knows it's over.


Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Shit Bobby.

"Wash all that magic from your hands / make it so we might understand..."

Kevin Gilbert

Not a good segue here, but it does remind me of a guy I know who got signed back around '88. They finished the first one, and the label rejected it so they started over from scratch. Got the second one done. The label liked it but held on to it for another 18 mos. Finally released it and the second week into the tour the manager came in and told them "you guys have been dropped." 4 Years after they were signed.

Anyway, he told me in the middle of all this, one of the suits showed up at a session with a couple pizzas and two six packs. Said the label like the band and everyone was excited. Some time later when they were looking at their expenses, they saw that the suit actually charged the band for the beer and pizza.

11:16 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Jesus, what a sad story. And, as you say, this was before the Clear Channel juggernaut really took shape. Things have got to be even worse today. But, as the Viscount (and Kevin, RIP) have pointed out, 'twas always thus.

Too bad you didn't have the ability to respond with a staccato burst of automatic weapons fire.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Don't worry. I drove to his house and put a brick through his living room window.

5:41 PM  

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