Caressing the Corporations

As the number of artists and tours that are sponsored by such asinine things as car companies multiplies, it’s good to remember those great shows you saw back in the day, before going to see a band identified you as a potential customer. For me, it all goes back to two defining shows, my first and my foremost.

My first was Bruce Springsteen at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the “Tunnel of Love Tour.” Yes, that’s right, it wasn’t the “Chevy Silverado presents the Snap Into A Slim Jim Tunnel of Love Corona Summer Beach Party on MTV Tour in conjunction with Deloitte and Touche.” It was just a tour, not part of some stupid “festival” (marketing-speak for just another way to cram more salesman into every nook and cranny of available space at your local outdoor amphitheater). Just a single great artist with about the only sponsor being the local Bud distributor. Best of all, the total Ticketmaster service fee was a hell of a lot less than the 50% it seems to run to these days. (In fact, somewhere I still have the ticket stub so I’m going to have to check on that—it could provide some interesting historical proof of the world’s biggest scam.)

Oh yeah, you people will holler about the fact that even back in 1987 there was a commensurate amount of corporate greed that no doubt tainted the Boss’ tour compared to the Glory Days back in Jersey. But it was far less insidious—who can fault the Anheuser-Busch rep for going after a market that’s primed for its product. There are clearly beer sales to be made at the Bruce show; that’s marketing where it makes sense. But pissing away money on image advertising, where there is no potential sales connection, is outright stupid. And it’s an insult to the fans—of both artist and product. To the point of the previous post: Nasty Janet and Wolfie ought to be embarrassed.

The fave show of my youth was Metallica’s first headliner. The “Justice Tour” of 1989 was an absolutely amazing display of all that is great about rock. It was held at an outdoor venue, Val Du Lakes in Mears, Mich. Still to this day I have never seen a more antisocial crowd than the collection of bikers, stoners, mullet-heads, rebellious kids, and general reprobates that attended this concert. The fans would have sooner burned the place to the ground than been identified as consumers. I saw a guy eat a sheet of acid and then smack his face on one of the hard wood benches in the reserved area. He just licked the blood as it trickled onto his lips and continued cackling, laughing and dancing. Throughout the show, people came running down the hill, throwing themselves at the wooden fence that separated the reserved area from general admission. They fought with security guards with bottles, belts and chains. And then there were the booted thugs who smashed cars after the show, screaming the lyrics to Metallica’s cover of the Misfits’ “Last Caress.” Yeah, “I got something to say. I killed your baby today. Doesn’t matter much to me, as long as it’s dead. I got something to say. I raped your mother today. Doesn’t matter much to me, as long as she’s spread.”

Gee, I wonder where the corporate sponsors were?

Now I’m not saying I necessarily advocate the pointless violence and brutality, the sado-masochism and anarchy of the Metallica crowd. But fuck it, those people are the only hope we’ve got: Rock’s essence is senseless rebellion against corporate AmeriKKKa. More power to them; hopefully they smash a few Jaguars wherever they are now. Wherever it is, it ain’t at Metallica shows. I’ve attended a couple since then and the crowd has become completely different, as has the band. They still play the old favorites, but not to any of the old fans. Good. At least those marginalized people, unlike the rest of us mainstreamers, have the sense not to give the music-industry power structure any more of their hard-earned (or stolen) cash.

Bottom line to all this is I’m glad I went to see a few big shows. I’m glad I pissed away a few bucks to make local radio stations, beer companies, cigarette companies, and the ubiquitous T-shirt companies some jack. But Ford Motor Company can go to hell. So can Barry Diller. So can DTE Energy and everyone else who incorrectly thinks that their wack corporation has any place or should play any role in the music business. I listen to music and I like to see it performed live. I like to think about music and write about it. But I don’t drive music, I don’t wear music, I don’t eat music, and I certainly don’t shop because of music.

“I got something to say. I didn’t buy into your marketing today. Doesn’t matter much to me. . . ”

One thought on “Caressing the Corporations”

  1. Jesu! I thought that my screen was going to burst into flames as I read this screaming screed. WhoooooosssssssssssssssssssH!

    On a related, but less kerosene-ladened note, I had a chance to ask a Dodge marketing exec about the Aerosmith arrangement. He said that Dodge & Aerosmith “tested” well among “all age segments.” They were “surprised” at how well it went. Which gets me to thinking that perhaps there are a whole lot of people who are pulling the appendage of the people at the survey firms: “Ah, Ex-Lax? Sure, I think of the Stones when I’m all bound up. . . .”

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