Category Archives: advertising

Now I feel light years away from the West side of Chicago

In this edition: Beware, The Ides of March and Progressive Talk Radio bids L.A. Goodbye. Bashir bashes and MSNBC backlashes. Berwyn!?!? The slow, loud fall of talk radio’s biggest d-bag.

L.A. Goodbye

Sunset strip and a field trip
Over to your hide away
Sunset Princess beckons and
We love the night away
Now I feel light years away
From the west side of Chicago

And as I board my plane
Something inside my brain
Hates to wave L.A. Goodbye

Written by Jim Peterik, recorded by The Ides of March (1971)

Read full lyrics here.

I recently wrote about the meteoric rise from local heroes to national TV for Paul Revere and The Raiders (and how the entertainment industry turned them from hopeful musicians to clowning TV “characters“). I also wrote about how The Box Tops were messed with and lost control of all their music and even their name. The Ides of March seem to be a different story–a garage band that was able to stay in control of their careers after having an early hit, “Vehicle.” True, they broke up and had a 17 year hiatus as songwriter and singer Jim Peterik went his own way, but they reunited and still play their hearts out with their unique blend of harmonies, horns, and soulfulness.

It all started in Berwyn, a suburb west of Chicago’s downtown. Berwyn is working class with a heritage of thrifty Bohemians and Chicago-style bungalows. Berwyn’s main drag, Cermak Road, earned the nickname “The Bohemian Wall Street” due to the large number of savings and loans located there. In true rags-to-riches style the Ides went from their parents’ basements in the mid-60s to local club success to a national hit that gave them a chance to open for Joplin, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, and other powerhouse groups of the time.

Berwyn_car_spindle_20070707Many in Chicago fondly (and many not so fondly) remember a Berwyn public art piece called The Spindle. The Spindle was a sculpture created in 1989 by artist Dustin Shuler consisting of a 50 foot spike with eight cars impaled on it. The piece stood in a shopping center on Cermak Road and was demolished in 2008 when a drug store chain decided they would better use the space and the city could not find the $300,000 it would have taken to move it. I think that sounds a little steep for the task, but I’ll leave the accusation of corruption to the dozens of others that make it!

Peterik also had a big hit with the band Survivor in “Eye of the Tiger.” He’s 63 and still rockin’ it, as a quick search on YouTube will show you.

Now if you weren’t 63 and rockin’ it, and you were trying to take over a country with your ideas, wouldn’t it make sense to silence the voices that oppose you in order to reduce the amount of education disseminated in other views? If you are a totalitarian government, you take over the media and make it “state-run” and censor the content. If you are running the show outside of official rule you can still take over the media and censor the content. And you would call yourself Clear Channel Communications.

In 2008, Clear Channel Communications was taken private in a leveraged buyout engineered by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and Thomas H Lee Partners, another Republican-loving private equity firm. Thanks to FCC deregulation, Clear Channel owns over 1,000 radio stations. Most of the nation’s 58 strongest, 50,000-watt AM radio stations are either owned or programmed by Clear Channel and the content they provide is the far-right rantings of Limbaugh and ilk.

In something that clearly should be considered for anti-trust actions, the company owns both the stations and a talent syndication company called Premiere Radio Networks. Premiere syndicates Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Dr. Laura and others. They saturate markets with these shows and in small markets, provides shows like Limbaugh’s at no cost to the local station. The station benefits by not having to purchase or produce content in that slot, and the syndicate has committed to national ads that they play during the program.

Clear Channel does have progressive radio offerings, but they tend to be on lower wattage “sticks.” Wherever Clear Channel owns a big AM radio station and other smaller ones, it always puts Premiere’s Hannity, Rush, et al on its biggest signal. This puts liberal stations at a big disadvantage in virtually all large markets — where the real radio money is. It should be noted that in recent months Clear Channel has been relegating Limbaugh’s show to some of their lower wattage stations. The consumer outcry over the Sandra Fluke comments proved too much for the public and advertisers and his advertising base has dropped precipitously.

As of this week, it’s L.A. goodbye for Clear Channel owned progressive talk station KTLK at 1150am. In January it will be flipped to a far right-wing station format featuring hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and renamed “The Patriot.” L.A. will have multiple right-wing talk format stations, several owned by the same corporation.

Clear Channel is making similar changes in San Francisco, where Limbaugh will leave its KKSF-AM (910), and move to KNEW-AM (960) (in a downsizing move), and KNEW is being retooled for conservative audiences. The changes are set to take effect for the first broadcast of 2014. So well ahead of the 2014 elections, L.A. and San Francisco are both losing their progressive talk stations. It’s difficult to imagine that the makeup of these cities drives the format change–they are two very liberal locales. So we are only left with the idea that voices are being silenced. Other blue cities have lost their lefty talk shows, including Seattle, Portland Oregon, and Detroit though in those cases the stations had low ratings.

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Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC after going too far dissing Sarah Palin. His utter contempt for her was evident and most would admit he went too far. But it was quite a Palin-stomping and in its own way, fun for lefties.

LB_RuleMaybe Martin Bashir’s rant is enough of a high note to end on, but I feel I should amplify. We are, regrettably, unable to cheer up by making a new Spindle featuring the sweaty carcass of a certain talk radio host and his co-conspirators. However, we may take some solace in knowing that Clear Channel Communications operated at a $424 million loss in 2012 (and around $200 million loss in 2011). Certainly some of this is related to the industry–consumers no longer have to sit in their cars to hear the opinions of blowhards–they can use smart phones or their work computers. But some of it must be related to the unwanted purging of advertising dollars Rush brought upon himself with his hubris in attacking a college-age woman in truly depraved fashion. Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke was the “Ewww Ick” moment of the century to date. I’m not sure how much money Clear Channel will be willing to lose. Maybe in the living rooms of Bain or Lee Partners partners they can just take a couple hundred mil out of a humidor or something and give it to a footman or butler to bank.

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Filed under advertising, Music, Politics, Social Issues

As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning

In this edition: Give me some of what Cream was having, White Room not just drug-babbling, what advertisers must think of us, Men are from Mars (that would be cool).

White Room

In the white room with black curtains near the station.
Black-roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings.
Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes.
Dawn-light smiles on you leaving, my contentment.

I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines;
Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves.

You said no strings could secure you at the station.
Platform ticket, restless diesels, goodbye windows.
I walked into such a sad time at the station.
As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning.

I’ll wait in the queue when the trains come back;
Lie with you where the shadows run from themselves.

At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd.
Consolation for the old wound now forgotten.
Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes.
She’s just dressing, goodbye windows, tired starlings.

I’ll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd;
Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves.

— Written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, recorded 1968 by Cream

Cream was (as boomers among you will know) an early incarnation of the “Super Group,” wherein the musical natural selection process promotes top players closer and closer until they join forces in a new endeavor. Cream, a power trio, consisted of drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce, and guitarist Eric Clapton. Clapton had the most visibility at the time having played in The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and he was known as one of the top British blues players. Ginger Baker was part of an early sixties R&B/jazz group called the Graham Bond Organisation, which at one point featured Jack Bruce on bass guitar, harmonica, and piano. (Mahavishnu John McLaughlin played guitar in the Bond Organisation for a while.) Bruce also played with Clapton in one iteration of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers group.

Clapton and Baker discussed joining together to work in a band. Clapton felt constrained by his work in Mayall’s band and Baker was troubled by internal strife and the bandleader’s addictions in the Graham Bond Organisation. Apparently Clapton wanted Bruce as the bassist and this shocked Baker, who had nothing but trouble with Bruce in Graham Bond and was tasked with firing him from that band. The story is that Bruce continued to show up for gigs until Baker threatened him at knife point. The conflict between Baker and Bruce continued in the Cream and led to the band’s demise after just 4 albums and 3 years.

L-R Baker, Bruce, Clapton

L-R Baker, Bruce, Clapton

Although the band was envisioned as a collaborative with each player having equal status, the conflict between Bruce and Baker was overpowering the concept and the players weren’t listening to each other. Bruce was trying to drown out Baker’s double-bass drumming with stacks of Marshall amps and it was reported that at one point, Clapton quit playing at a concert and his bandmates never noticed. Baker stated in a 2006 interview with Music Mart magazine, “It just got to the point where Eric said to me: ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and I said so have I. I couldn’t stand it. The last year with Cream was just agony. It damaged my hearing permanently, and today I’ve still got a hearing problem because of the sheer volume throughout the last year of Cream. But it didn’t start off like that. In 1966, it was great. It was really a wonderful experience musically, and it just went into the realms of stupidity.”

Immediately after Cream, Baker and Clapton went on to the group Blind Faith. Rick Grech played the bass in that band, with keyboardist and vocalist Steve Winwood rounding out the group’s personnel. Blind Faith lasted only one album, and Grech and Winwood stayed with Baker to form Ginger Baker’s Air Force, which also included Denny Laine (ex-Moody Blues) on guitar, Chris Wood (ex-Traffic) on sax and flute, and several other musicians; when that group ended, Winwood reformed Traffic with original members Wood and Jim Capaldi, and Grech joined as their bassist. The Air Force album had dropped out of site for 30-plus years but was re-released in 2005. The quality of the remaster may be inferior from postings I have seen but the content, a very textured jazz-fusion, was very interesting.

Poet and later musician Pete Brown collaborated with Bruce on the “White Room” lyrics. The song appeared on Wheels of Fire, the band’s third album. Jack Bruce sang and played bass on the song, Eric Clapton played overdubbed guitars, Ginger Baker played drums and a timpani, and Felix Pappalardi – the group’s producer – contributed by playing violas. The song features extensive use of the wah-wah pedal on Clapton’s guitar and the opening intro of tympani and viola is fascinating to this day.

The lyrics, considered sometimes to be drug-induced ramblings, are actually some pretty serious poetry. Much has been written about the imagery, and this site has an interesting exploration of the lyrics. In essence, we can see that it is boy loses girl, boy sees girl much later at party, time has healed the original wounds. A metaphor for tears like “Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes” was a little over the head of the 15-year old Lefty but can be appreciated these days with the onset of the serious maturity he now enjoys.

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The advertising industry is a good barometer of the culture since it is usually focus-group tested and targeted to the consumers most desired by corporate America. Some of the demographics used for content and placement are Teens 12-17, Adults 18-34, Women 18-34, and Adults 18-49. I’m convinced that the focus of the Women 18-34 targeting is “Men are Stupid.”

The Merriam-Webster definition of a meme  is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”  The meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas that become easily transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, images or even gestures. So the men are stupid idea becomes a meme that appeals at some deeper level to women consumers. Here’s an example, stupid man forgets to pay the credit card and goes out for milk and buys a puppy:

And this one makes my stomach churn. Premature ejaculation, really?

Keep an eye out for the “Men are Stupid” meme in advertising. It’s kind of disturbing. In a way, it turns the Women’s Liberation concepts on their heads. Instead of empowering women by enabling equal treatment, they raise women’s self-images by lowering their perceptions of men. Just saying.

Yet, in print advertising women are subjected to a number of ads that suggest they are not too discriminating in their ability to be influenced by stupid images. Here’s a women’s magazine ad my wife was looking at that I snapped in the waiting room last week:

salad dressing

I’d suggest we keep this guy from getting too close to the salad. Does that make you run out to get the salad dressing, ladies?

I took this shot on the wall at a Banana Republic store:

ouch

What were they thinking? “Look girls, you can straddle a wall comfortably with our new brightly colored jeans?” Just looks painful to me.

Meanwhile, retailers like Sears are milking the heck out of their association with the Kardashians, smushing them against each other in various configurations to appeal to someone (just not sure who). And the very fame of the Kardashians themselves makes aged ex-teachers in Russia and Eastern Europe remember the lessons they taught schoolchildren 40 years ago about decadent America and the evils of Capitalism. “See, see,” they exclaim. “We were right!”

kardash

So without sounding like a total misogynist, advertisers are simultaneously pitching women the “men are stupid” track while offering up advertising that makes them look a little stupid (of course, as a disclaimer, they AREN’T! Especially YOU, honey, if you read this!!!)

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But if you want to see real merchandising, visit a tourist town like I did this week. I couldn’t decide between the tee that said “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome!” and “I pooped today!”

P1020687

But I get neither drunk nor awesome, and “Pooped” is much more age-appropriate.

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