Tuesday, November 6, 2007



"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." - Sinclair Lewis
Tuesday, October 30, 2007


If you look for Springsteen in Google News, you get one rave review of his live sold out tour after another. Last Thursday and Friday he wowed 'em at the Oakland Coliseum. Last night he was in L.A.

At 58, Springsteen certainly can't call himself young any more-- at least not chronologically. Despite the hurricane force he and the E Street Band frequently mustered during their two-hour show, plenty of fans cheering them on no doubt recall the nights of yore when this fabled group was just starting to break a sweat at the two-hour mark.

Still, what this outfit does on stage each night remains fairly daring, and the older they get, the greater the risk of the without-a-net abandon with which they administer the sacrament of rock 'n' roll.

The invigorating thing about the New Jersey bard is the way he and his merry band embrace their coming of age. For all the kudos Springsteen's new Magic album is earning for the joyful rocking it delivers, it's rife with self-doubt, disillusionment, anger and acceptance of the disappointments and compromises life inevitably presents the thinking person.

A couple weeks ago the new album was #1 on the Billboard album chart. Kid Rock's new album knocked it down a peg and this week, Springsteen disposed on Kid Rock and is back at #1. The album is already gold and headed right towards platinum and he's got a great shot to win a Grammy for Best Album of the Year. Magic's reviews virtually everywhere are over the top and the intro to his latest interview in Rolling Stone refers to the album's subject matter as "weighty stuff like the direction of our democracy and party stuff that recalls the days when sparks first flew on E Street more than three decades ago."

Republican radio network Clear Channel, a monopoly in many cities and a dominant player in most of the rest, isn't interested. Is it because Springsteen has been an outspoken campaigner for Democrats and progressives? Clear Channel has taken a political stand with its programming in the past. Just think back to their boycott of the Dixie Chicks. Oh, no... not way back, just back to when they released their most recent album. Despite being one of the top 10 best-selling American albums of the year-- across all genres and demographics-- radio studiously ignored it. There were maybe half a dozen country stations that even played it at all. What Clear Channel did to the Dixie Chicks is a watertight case for the need to break the media companies up into a thousand pieces. (John Sununu disagrees; he's pro-censorship.) I spoke with an old friend who heads a record company and preferred to speak off the record.

"When you have artists like the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen who have overtly spoken out against this Administration, they are taken to task in spite the clear and undeniable indications from the marketplace that people want to hear their music. What seems to be happening-- if sales are any kind of a barometer of what the marketplace is-- is that these politically-connected radio networks like Clear Channel are not looking to succeed as radio stations as much as pushing forward some political agenda.

Another friend of mine distinctly recalls the Senate hearings on radio consolidation in light of the Dixie Chicks boycott where Barbara Boxer and John McCain heard testimony including an internal Clear Channel memo threatening "Just wait and see what happens if Springsteen tries this." I guess we're seeing that right now.

Of course, Clear Channel hasn't publicly said they are boycotting Springsteen's music. But they are. Fox News, hardly a hotbed of liberal alarmists, reports that "Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from Magic... no new songs by Springsteen, even though it’s likely many radio listeners already own the album and would like to hear it mixed in with the junk offered on radio."

Clear Channel seems to have sent a clear message to other radio outlets that at age 58, Springsteen simply is too old to be played on rock stations. This completely absurd notion is one of many ways Clear Channel has done more to destroy the music business than downloading over the last 10 years. It’s certainly what’s helped create satellite radio, where Springsteen is a staple and even has his own channel on Sirius.

I don't buy it. Clear Channel is a big-time and very consciously right-wing power player with a goal of changing American pop culture. They have done all they could to stifle progressive voices and to dumb down and trivialize the culture. Meaningless, offensive and inoffensive drivel by Fergie, Britney Spears, Nickelback, and Rihanna you'll hear. But not Springsteen. Clear Channel even has its very own rubber stamp Republican congressman to look out for it's interests, the boss' (not The Boss') son-in-law, the overly right-wing Michael McCaul (TX). You want to see Bruce back on the radio? Stop listening to Clear Channel stations-- and stop voting for Republicans. If there was no Clear Channel-- and no Republicans-- this is what would be on the radio instead of Britney Spears:


The Fox News report I linked to isn't exactly right. Some Clear Channel stations are indeed playing it, although mostly Clear Channel stations with independent-minded programmers like KBCO in Denver. Overall, Clear Channel isn't giving it the kind of exposure a #1 record would normally get.


In 2006 Clear Channel Communications ponied up almost $800,000 in legal campaign contributions, 65% of which went to Republicans. The two top dogs at the company are long-time Bush family retainers and cronies, Tom Hicks and Lowry Mays. Mays has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates for office over the years. A few: $69,500 for the Republican National Committee, $21,000 for the NRCC, $14,200 for Michael McCaul (TX), $2,500 for James Sensenbrenner (WI), $2,300 for Duncan Hunter (CA), $16,300 for Lamar Smith (TX), $6,500 for Kay Bailey Hutchinson (TX), $3,000 for Tom DeLay (TX), $13,000 for Henry Bonilla (TX), $10,250 for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $2,500 for Heather Wilson (NM), $6,000 for John Cornyn (TX), and $2,100 for Flip Flop Mitt and grudging grand for Giuliani (NY). And there were tens of thousands more from other family members. Hicks was a similarly huge donator to Republicans: $65,000 to the RNC, $50,000 to the NRSC plus another $300,000 or so scattered around to grateful Republicans who have made it very worthwhile for have been so generous. When people talk about the need for campaign finance reform and public financing of elections, this is exactly what they're talking about.

Labels: Clear Channel, McCaul, media, Springsteen

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