However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Peter Townshend, Meher Baba, and Me ► Throwback Thursday

Kathy Hahn took this pic around the time I met Pete Townshend
When I first started my writing career, some 40+ years ago, it was to write about the music industry.

A college friend and I started up a small music publication called Zoundz (with a backwards zedd on the end). It was the first music rag of its kind in Toronto, a FREE publication that coud be scored at the cash register of every record store in Toronto, including the big 2: Sam The Record Man and A&A Records, located next door to Sam's.

Later I started writing for Cheap Thrills, the house organ of Concert Productions International (CPI). It was the biggest concert promoter in the city because it had a lock on Maple Leaf Gardens, the biggest venue in the city.

For both publications I wrote album reviews, critiqued Rock and Roll concerts, and was able to hobnob backstage with some of the greats of the industry. It's all about reputation, of course. Once I had developed some respectability, promoters and record company reps would call me up to offer interviews with some of their celebrities, which is how I came to interview Peter Townshend, of The Who.

Townshend was a follower of Meher Baba, a spiritual leader who claimed to be the Avatar, defined by the Wiki as: 
In Hinduism, an avatar (/ˈævəˌtɑːr, ˌævəˈtɑːr/;[1] Hindustani: [əʋˈt̪aːr] from Sanskrit अवतार avatāra "descent") is a deliberate descent of a deity to Earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being (e.g., Vishnu for Vaishnavites), and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".[2][3] 

The phenomenon of an avatar is observed in Hinduism,[4] Ayyavazhi, and Sikhism[citation needed]. Avatar is regarded as one of the core principles of Hinduism.[5]
I remember so very little about the interview with Townshend because I was nervous and -- after all -- it was 40 years ago. I don't even remember which publication bought this interview (and can't seem to find it in my archives. Maybe it was a radio interview instead). However, I will never forget the secret code I had to use to get past the front desk at the hotel and the doorkeeper at Townshend's hotel room:

"Temple, eel, and ocean: Baba rules them all."

I was already somewhat familiar with the teachings of Meher Baba because my dear friend Kathy Hahn, who I worked with at Island Records Canada, was also a devoté of Baba's. We were both delighted that Townshend was using a Baba quote as his secret password. 

While you may have not heard of Meher Baba before, you are certainly familiar with his most famous quote:
"Don't worry. Be happy."

Today is Meher Baba's 122nd birthday. He died in 1969, but still has tens of thousands of followers around the world. You can find out more about Meher Baba at these websites:

 ...and his many words of wisdom can
be found at Maher Baba Wikiquotes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Best Laid Plans ► Unpacking The Writer

Toronto's own Johnnie Lombardi and Me

My Go Fund Me campaign:
In our last exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer -- my monthly look behind the curtain at the Not Now Silly Newsroom -- I got all nostalgic. To quote myself from Where We're At & Where We're Going
I've taken care of Pops for the last decade and I'm simply burned out. It's time for me to return to Toronto, the city I call home, to recharge my batteries.

Ironically, I'm returning to Kensington Market, which has a similar Hippie feel as Coconut Grove. I lived in Kensington Market many years ago, but was able to experience it again anew when I visited Toronto in September. I spent most of my time in the Market and felt comfortable and at home. Soon I will be able to call it home.
When I wrote that (at the beginning of January) my departure date was tentatively scheduled for the end of February; so tentative that I didn't mention it. Now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I won't be leaving the Yew Ess Eh 'til the end of August. That means I have more time to tie up all the loose ends down here and promote my Go Fund Me campaign, to help defray my moving expenses.

My best ever month and my All Time Top Five
SOUR GRAPES MAKES FOR A BITTER WHINE: I've been looking at the stats again for the Not Now Silly Newsroom. As of this writing, I have served up 410,958 pages for my readers to ... err ... read since launching this place almost 4 years ago.

My monthly count averages 9,000-10,000 views. My daily hits range anywhere from 150-300, depending on the subject matter and how much promotion I do. On the odd occasion my monthly readership has reached heights that even I have trouble believing. Pictured at right is when I hit almost 18,000 views just one year ago, twice my general average.

I bring these stats up because, to be perfectly honest (and a bit of a whiner), I am disappointed in the lack of response to my Go Fund Me campaign to help me get back to Canada. If people knew how much work went into these posts, and how few pennies I get from the few advertisements that Google feeds me, they'd wonder why I do it at all.

There are times I wonder myself. Times like this when I look at the stats and see that I made a dime yesterday, or $1.78 in the last 28 days, which comes to slightly over 6 cents a day.

I know that over the course of the next month this particular post will be read by an average of 300 people. If every person chucked a quarter into a Tip Jar for every page they read, I'd be bringing in about $2,500 a month. I've not even earned 1/10th of that since starting this blog almost 4 years ago.

Having said that, I didn't start this blog for the money. I would write regardless because it's what I've done my entire adult life. However, I did have it in the back of my mind that this blog could 'top off' the other income I produced. It's been a disaster in that respect.

While still on the subject of stats, you'll find in the column to the right the Not Now Silly All Time Top Ten Posts. However, just for the fun of it, I broke out the Top 10 stories that caught your attention just this month, from highest to lowest:

Paul McCartney Deported From Japan 280 Jan 25, 2016 280
A Civil Rights Champion Born 187 Feb 4, 2016 187
Del Shannon & Me 179 Feb 8, 2016 179
The 45 Is Introduced 179 Feb 1, 2016 179
Take the "A" Train 171 Feb 15, 2016 171
The Detroit Riots 132 July 22, 2012 6401
Remembering the Challenger Crew 30 Years Later 125 Jan 28, 2016 125
The Palin Family's Greatest [Literal] Hits 81 Jan 21, 2016 264
It's Only A Northern Song 75 Feb 22, 2016 75
Unpacking The Writer 68 Dec 1, 2012 1285

That's 1,477 views on just the Top Ten posts in the last 30 days (which doesn't even include those evergreens that didn't make the Top Ten). A dime per visitor would earn me more than in the past 30 days than I have received in the 4 years since launching the blog.

Recently I was having this discussion with a friend on the facebookery: Our mutual profession of writing has been seriously devalued since Bill Gates made the World Wide Web a Point & Click environment. Anybody with a keyboard and mouse now believes they can write. And, we can see the sad results all over the innertubes: People can barely create a 10 word meme without serious grammar and spelling errors.

Speaking of sour grapes: I've groused several times previously about the Coconut Grove Grapevine. I have even truthfully and non-ashamedly admitted to being jealous; jealous that such a poorly written blog has so many more readers than I. That a blog so devoid of actual journalism is able to sell a passel of advertisements. Yet the actual news stories I write about Coconut Grove -- as opposed to Falco's commercial fluff -- earns almost nothing at all. [I know I am repeating myself from previous posts, but it's only a rerun if you've seen it before.]

Consequently, a profession I spent my entire adult life perfecting is no longer considered worthy of adequate remuneration. [A big shout out here to all my musician friends who find themselves in the same sinking boat.] I remember how excited I was, way back when, that an editor agreed to pay me 5 cents a word for a very long article she commissioned. I thought I won the lottery because that seemed like a fortune in those days. Now I am constantly approached to write for free because it will be "good exposure." No, seriously. I also stopped writing "on spec" 4 decades ago. Either I will pre-sell an article or keep it for the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

I need to be more like Al Crespo, of The Crespogram Report, who publishes the best muckraking blog in Miami. He doesn't take any advertising at all, so he obviously doesn't peg his words' worth to the almighty advertising dollar.

Hopefully next month I won't feel so sorry for myself and my profession.

HOP ON POPS: The last week has been very busy around here. Pops celebrated his 90th birthday on Valentine's Day. Relatives started arriving last week for the party on the 20th. We took over one of the condo clubhouses and invited over 60 of his friends to help us celebrate this great day.

Here's a pic of him getting about to blow out his candles and you can follow THIS LINK to a slideshow.

What a great time it was. Pops loves being the center of attention (Who doesn't?) and he sure was this weekend. People hung on his every word and laughed at all his jokes, even the ones we've heard for decades. He couldn't have asked for a better time and neither could we.

Now that things are returning back to what qualifies as normal around here, I have several irons in the fire. Hopefully, I'll be able to reveal more about these projects in our next exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer, coming soon to a web browser near you.

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's Only A Northern Song ► Monday Musical Appreciation

On this day in 1963 The Beatles formed the music publishing company Northern Songs --  with Dick James owning 51% -- which is how Michael Jackson eventually came to own their back catalog of songs. Follow the bouncing ball:

Brian Epstein made a number of bad deals for The Beatles. For example, there's Seltaeb -- "Beatles" spelled backwards -- a company created to merchandise Beatles' products. Epstein didn't have the time, or inclination, to decide on all the merchandise requests that were rolling in, from Beatles wigs to drum sticks to plastic guitars. He decided to outsource this job and signed a contract which gave The Beatles a mere 10% of the royalties. Normally up to 75% would go to the artists on such a deal. It's estimated that The Beatles lost at least $100,000,000 on that deal, which could have been more lucrative than the worldwide royalties on their music.

However, of all the deals that Brian Epstein got the Beatles involved in, Northern Songs is the one that had the most-lasting effect, biting them in the ass to this very day.

George Harrison was so irritated, he wrote a song about it:

Dick James had been kicking around the music industry since his teens in the '40s, as a musician and singer. In fact, it's James' voice heard on the theme song to the tee vee show The Adventures of Robin Hood. As the WikiWackyWoo explains:
James entered the music publishing business as his singing career tapered off. In 1958 he joined Sidney Bron Music as a song-plugger but decided to leave and open Dick James Music in 1961. In early 1963, he was contacted by Brian Epstein who was looking for a publisher for the second Beatles single, "Please Please Me". James called Philip Jones, producer of the TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars, played the record down the phone to him and secured the band's first nationwide television appearance.[3] The pair subsequently established Northern Songs Ltd., with Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney, to publish Lennon and McCartney's original songs.[4] (Fellow Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr were also signed to Northern Songs as songwriters, but did not renew their contracts in 1968). James's company, Dick James Music, administered Northern Songs.[5] 

What initially began as an amicable working relationship between the Beatles and James disintegrated by the late 1960s: the Beatles considered that James had betrayed and taken advantage of them when he sold Northern Songs in 1969 without offering the band an opportunity to buy control of the publishing company. James profited handsomely from the sale of Northern Songs, but the Beatles never again had the rights to their own songs.[6]

In later years, The Beatles groused about this deal, but was it really that bad? According to Did the Beatles Get Screwed, at Slate:
Decades later, McCartney would refer to the agreement that created their publishing company, Northern Songs, as a “slave contract.” Harrison would mock its terms in an outtake from Sgt. Pepper’s, singing “it doesn’t really matter what chords I play… as it’s only a Northern Song.” Lennon would say with some bitterness that the bald and bespectacled man who proposed the deal, Dick James, had “carved Brian [Epstein] up.”

In fact, by the standards of the day, Dick James made the Beatles—a band with one hit record and zero leverage in the industry—a pretty good deal.

Keep in mind that when Chuck Berry recorded his first 45 for Chess Records in the mid-’50s, the Chess brothers made him share songwriting credit—right on the label—with a prominent disk jockey, as well as with the company’s landlord. The publishing rights to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” were purchased by his label bosses for all of 50 dollars. This kind of wholesale theft was commonplace; in the early rock era, the ethics of the average music publisher could make a mob capo blanch.
After Epstein died The Beatles unsuccessfully tried to renegotiate the deal with Dick James, but in 1969 he sold the publishing catalog (which by then included many other songwriters) to Lew Grade's ATV without even telling The Beatles. Then they tried to buy back Northern Songs. Unfortunately, it came as The Beatles were in the process of (secretly) breaking up and John Lennon and Paul McCartney couldn't come to terms. Each had their own advisers by then -- Allan Klein for Lennon and Lee Epstein (no relation) for McCartney -- and no one could agree on terms. Eventually, the negotiations fell apart and the songs stayed with ATV, with Lennon and McCartney receiving a healthy buy-out for their shares in the company.

After Lennon's death McCartney again tried to buy the tunes back. According to the Wiki:
In 1981, with Yoko Ono, McCartney attempted to make a joint purchase of the ATV music catalogue.[33] At a 1990 press conference, McCartney stated, "I was offered the songs to buy for 20 million pounds",[34] but did not want to be perceived as being "grabby" for "owning John Lennon's bit of the songs".[35][36] So he asked Ono if she would make a joint purchase with him, sharing the cost equally.[35][36] According to McCartney, Ono thought they could buy it for half the price being offered and he agreed to see what could be done about that.[35] McCartney then let the deal fall through when they were not able to make a joint acquisition.[33][35][36]
A few years later, McCartney recorded with Michael Jackson. As always, the Wiki knows all: 
During their collaboration on the song, "Say, Say, Say", McCartney informed Jackson about the financial value of music publishing.[37] According to McCartney, this was his response to Jackson asking him for business advice.[1] McCartney showed Jackson a thick booklet displaying all the song and publishing rights he owned,[37] from which he was then reportedly earning £24.4 million from songs by other artists.[36] Jackson became quite interested and enquired about the process of acquiring songs and how the songs were used.[37] According to McCartney, Jackson said, "I'm going to get yours [Beatles' songs]", which McCartney thought was a joke, replying, "Ho ho, you, you're good".[1]
And, that's how the songs ended up at Sony Music. 

McCartney and Yoko Ono were given first right of refusal, but both passed when they couldn't strike a deal. Michael Jackson stepped in and bought the catalog, including Northern Songs. Once he owned the songs, he started licensing them out for tee vee commercials, something The Beatles had always resisted. This outraged Beatles' fans around the world.

When Jackson started to experience some cash flow problems, he eventually sold the rights to half of his publishing company to Sony, where they have stayed ever since.