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Memos From Turner


By Scott A. Rosenberg

A UNIVERSAL SOLVENT is seeping through the music industry, loosening restraints and breaking rules that have governed it for two decades. The artists who get contracts today would have been laughed out of executive suites from Fifth Avenue to Burbank five years ago, but people are buying their records, and listening to them too.

Nothing here to raise the hackles of even the most paranoid Ahmet Ertegun or Robert Stigwood, except for one curious feature of this "new wave" of bands--there are hundreds of them. People have realized you don't need a 64-track mixing machine and multiple synthesizers to create a listenable song. There have always been garage bands, and 90 per cent of them never made it to the driveway, but today the garages are sending skilled graduates into cities all the way from New York and Boston on down to Akron.

Meanwhile things are hotting up in the West End all right

Contracts in the offices an groups in the night

My bummin slummin friends have all got new boots

An someone just asked me if the group would wear suits

There's 22 singers but one microphone Back in the garage

There's five guitar players but one guitar Back in the garage

In America, the passions aren't as overtly political, not yet anyway. But the musical conditions are the same--an explosion of bands that can play good, loud, fast rock and roll in towns that have probably never heard it before. Bands that you can hear just by walking into a local club on any night; bands that you don't have to buy tickets for months in advance; bands that have only a guitar, a bass, and a drummer, and couldn't care less that they don't have a French horn. And more bands than any record label could possibly sign, produce or promote.

Which poses a nightmare for the people whose job that's always been. Audiences are going to want to hear local artists whether they get recording contracts or not. Record companies don't have the time or the discernment to choose among the groups; their efforts to date have been haphazard at best.

We may soon see a very different set-up for the moribund popular music field: thriving local musical cultures with their own regional audiences, their own small showcases, and their own independent record labels entirely supplanting the super-group, platinum record, Meadowlands Stadium pattern of the last decade. That would mean the multi-million-dollar structure of big record labels--usually the corporate subsidiaries of even larger entertainment conglomerates--could atrophy or entirely crumble.

For now, of course, the "new wave" has given sagging record sales a shot in the arm (that's an appropriate phrase for the spiritual descendants of the Velvet Underground, anyway), and the odd-named bands are crowding into executive suites trying to get that national contract. But in a few years, sooner perhaps than you think, it may become necessary for recording industry brass to take some decisive action. Something like this:

THE SCENE: A red-velvet conference room in Rockefeller Center. The chairs are nice. Recording executives have gathered from all over the country. They drink sambuca. Three coffee beans. They like the chairs. One speaks.

"Three years of this and still no light at the end of the tunnel. The bands multiply like poor people and we just can't deal with it. We sure as hell can't sign them all, and who can tell them apart anyway--they're peas in a pod. Total industry sales are down for the first time in ages.

"We thought we had given so-called 'punk rock' a bad enough name--what with the chains, the leather and Sid Vicious' 'suicide'--but then the critics turned around and called it 'new wave.' We thought disco would bring home the bacon, but what has John Travolta done for us lately? We thought the days of the early 1970s would go on forever, the time when we could deal with a few big names like Elton John, Wings, Lead Dirigible, whoever. But we didn't have it wired.

"Not mellow, gentleman, not mellow at all. We've got to do something to salvage our competitive position before we miss the boat.

"What's gone down in popular music in the last three years hits us where we live. But we have a plan. Our special operations team has a series of memos about these 'new wave' bands that will have every parent in the country quaking, every John Bircher in arms, and every god-fearing American writing a letter to his congressman demanding action.

"In two weeks these memos will be on the desks of every lobbyist, every newspaper editor, every publisher, and every media manager in the country. I can see the slogans now--'Smash the New Wave,' and 'No New Wave' on every auto bumper, slapped over all the 'No Nukes' stickers. Here are the memos:

Memo #1. New Wave Music Promotes Neurosis Among Today's Youth

I know the animals are laughing at us

They don't even know what a joke is

I won't follow animals' advice

I don't care if they're laughing at us

They say they don't need money

They're living on nuts and berries

They say animals don't worry

You know animals are hairy?

They think they know what's best

They're making a fool of us

They ought to be more careful

Studies by our psychiatric staff in laboratories miles apart indicate that these lyrics, taken from the album Fear of Music by Talking Heads, foster feelings of paranoia, confusion and even suicidal tendencies among the teens who listen to it. Furthermore, the snarling, guttural singing style of the group's lead singer--Mr. David Byrne--along with the hypnotic, repetitious, electronically treated music the group provides, could provoke listeners with extant mental imbalances to acts of violent destruction. The same group, in fact, performed a song called "Psycho Killer" on an earlier album.

The mental health experts who conducted this study unanimously report that today's public needs soothing, simple music designed to ease the strains of modern life. Music like Talking Heads', with its complex layers of oddly syncopated rhythms, serves no useful social function. Furthermore, their album is produced and heavily influenced by Mr. Brain Eno, a notorious balding man who named his second album after a piece of Red Chinese propaganda.

Another song on Talking Heads' album contains these lyrics:

Lauli lonni cadori gadjam

A bim beri glassala glandride

A glassala tuffm i zimbra

Meaningless as written, this song when played backwards contains detailed plans for the construction of a working hydrogen bomb, as well as the line "Paul is dead" repeated several times. We feel it is imperative that this record be removed from the market before it permanently scars the psyches of our youths.

Memo #2. New Wave Music Advocates the Violent Overthrow of the Lawful Elected Government of the United States

Black people gotta lot of problems

But they don't mind throwing a brick

White people go to school

Where they teach you how to be thick

An everybody's doing

just what they're told to

An nobody wants

To go to jail!

White riot wanna riot white riot--riot of me own

These lyrics from the album recently released by the Clash unequivocably advocate acts of sedition and treason. The group attempt to evade responsibility for its actions by stating "warning--do not read these words while listening to this record," but we know what they want. Such malefactors can and should be prevented from spreading their devil's gospel of riot and mayhem among our children.

The very name of the Clash signifies violence. Each of their songs contains a subtly disguised message hopelessly inappropriate for impressionable teens. These British hooligans tell listeners things like "Hate an War--the only things there are today," "Career opportunities are the ones that never knock," "If Adolf Hitler flew in today, they'd send a limousine anyway," and other statements of nihilism and frustration that can only fan the flames of discontent. Their music is loud, crude, fast, and shunned by listeners with taste.

We believe the continued free performance of the group the Clash in the United States of America poses a serious danger to the nation's security, and recommend that appropriate counter-measures be taken.

Memo #3. New Wave Music Encourages Sexual Misconduct Among the Very Young

Baby, ooh baby, I love to call you baby

Baby, my baby, I love to call you baby

When you squeeze me tight, you make the wrong things right

A recent album by Rachel Sweet contains a seductive imperative to its youthful purchasers in its title--Fool Around--that we must guard against. Miss Sweet is reportedly only 16 years of age, below the age of consent, and her singing of such licentious lyrics as the above constitutes a sick and depraved attack on decency.

It is not the only one on Sweet's album. The song "Wildwood Saloon" describes the travails of a woman of questionable reputation, and two other songs--"Pin a Medal on Mary" and "Stranger in the House," written by the infamous womanizer Mr. Elvis Costello--glorify adultery, which threatens to rend our societal fabric. The mock country-and-western music of these songs only makes them more deceptive, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.

What happened to nice boys like the Dave Clark Five? Sex means responsibility. Unless Miss Sweet and others like her cease advocating loose behavior, we will continue to witness an exponential increase in petting.

Memo #4. New Wave Music Is Physically Dangerous to Listeners' Health

Now I wanna sniff some glue

Now I wanna have something to do

All the kids wanna snifff some glue

All the kids want something to do

The Ramones are the group most responsible for the spread of "new wave" in its most virulent form, that known as "punk rock." Listeners at Ramones concerts are regularly reported as having gone deaf. Their songs not only advocate "sniffing" glue, which causes brain damage and generally leads to addiction to heroin, but demand sedation, describe chainsaw massacres, and even outline the "blitzkrieg" technique of warfare popularized by the Nazis in World War II.

Needless to say, the Ramones are the most pernicious band playing before American audiences today, advocating mindlessness and even lobotomy. And more than any other group, the Ramones--with their phenomenal energy and very frequent schedule--threaten to deafen a significant portion of the American population, leaving the nation helpless in the event of hostile thermonuclear assault.

Memo #5. New Wave Music is Actually the First Wave of an Invasion of Extraterrestrial Enemies

I'm praying to the aliens

I'm praying to the aliens

The above lyrics, from a song on an album by a group named "Gary Numan and Tubeway Army," were the most extraordinary find of our ongoing investigation into "new wave" music. This album--the cover pictures a creature not apparently human-- confirms a suspicion our experts have long held: that the entire so-called "new wave" movement is really a fifth column action for a takeover effort by an alien race from some as-yet-undetermined nearby solar system.

This bit is only the most obvious and incontrovertible in the thick docket of evidence we have gathered to document the nation's danger. Such so-called artists as Mr. Numan and his cohorts should be brought in for questioning at once, and probably jailed.

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