Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chris Matthews rocks

You might know him as the rabid host of MSNBC's Hardball but there's also a kinder, gentler side of this Washington political lifer on NBC's The Chris Matthews Show. Of the many Sunday morning politico shows on the major networks, Matthews probably provides the most intelligent, thoughtful dialog. It's not entirely as civilized as Meet the Press or Face the Nation but it's also less snoozy and much more provacative.

As of late, Matthews has been on a music kick and after doing an end of show segment about what happened to rock, he opened the question up this week to his panel. Granted, you're not going to expect much from a group of well-manicured middle-aged media elite but this segment (which he regrettably called "Rebel Yell") actually had some worthwhile comments and opinions floating around, even if they did sidestep the issue of Elliot Spitzer's recent investigations, corporate control of labels, mergers cheered on by the FCC, etc..

Sad to say, Matthew's site hasn't kept up with show transcripts so please excuse my hatsy notes of the show below, with some added comments and bolding of some particularly interesting insights.

Chris Matthews- CM
Norah O'Donnell -- NBC News - NOD
David Gregory - NBC News - DG
Julia Reed - Vogue Magazine - JR
David Brooks -- New York Times - DB

CM: (annoucning the segment) In the 50's, it was number one on the charts. In the 1960's, it was the loud soundtrack of the sexual revolution. A movement itself. David Brooks, I brought it up last week. It's the 50th anniversary of "Rock Around the Clock."

DB: That's for old people. (laughs)

CM: Talk about the big eruption of culture and everything else that's gone on in the last 50 years and is it over?

DB: There's two reasons why rock of that sort is dead. The first one is that the idea that you're supposed to be a teenage rebel is dead. Teenage people don't have the 70's to rebel (against). The second thing is that the market is just segmented- there's rap, hip hop, there's a million different things.

CM: Was that a sort of dangerous, bad boy aspect? Has that just been transferred into hip hop?

DB: It's all doing Cadillac commercials! It's been domesticated.

DG: Could I agree with that? It's just been so, so decentralized and in so many places. And you're hearing the stuff on your I-Pod now. People aren't rallying around it anymore.

CM: David, there's no big rock stations in the big cities anymore. They're all closed down. A half dozen closed recently.

DG: But they could listen to satellite radio or download it...

CM: You mean "Sixties On Six"? (ED NOTE: from XM satellite Radio)

DG: Right, right! (laughs)

CM: I love it. I listen to it all the way home.

DG: There's no rallying point anymore culturally for people to say... rally again.

CM: Let me ask you this. I looked at Pollstar, which is the chart I've been taught of the biggest concert markets, the money that people go to see concerts, who's buying the tickets? We got McCartney coming here to Washington, we got the Stones coming here. It's those groups pulling in the huge money. Norah, you're giggling 'cause you're younger than most of those people at those concerts, right?

NOD: (It's) because music is an opportunity for community. It's like just when (there was) rock and roll, you used to go to the dance and you used to do American Bandstand. Concerts now have become that. Other than that, most people listen to music individually, which is with an I-Pod or in their homes, maybe with their family but not in the sense of community or dancing.

CM: Don't you wish you were there back then so you could have squealled for the Beatles?

NOD: Totally! Absolutely!

CM: See that's what I'm talking about.

DG: Nora and I will go see McCartney because...

CM: 'Cause he's the cute one!

DG: 'Cause when he was in Wings, we thought he was the best.

CM: He was the cute one and Lennon was too intellectual. (everyone laughs) Julia, you're from that Southern base that doesn't get represented on this show enough. Country, jazz, blues... it all tied together with rock and roll. This is real America here. Is it dead?

JR: Well, that kind of rock and roll is dead. Now we have wimpy bands like Coldplay and everybody love Widespread Panic. You know, music to get stoned to... For one thing, there's no kind of hard rock 'cause there's nothing to rebel against. Now, you can have all the sex and drugs you want. Or like David (Brooks) said, most teenagers are concentrating on their 4.0 (grade point average). They wanna make some money. I mean, there's no percentage in being James Dean.

CM: Do you think like you sound? (everyone laughs) You just have the greatest way of thinking and talking!

DG: Kids aren't going to be rebelling unless there isn't a DVD embedded in their TV.

Not bad but I have a little trouble taking Wings' fans entirely seriously. Also, the fact that they can't speak about anyone who doesn't sell out an arena much less artists from other genres isn't surprising and does detract from the discussion. But given those limitations, this was better than the usual segment on these news shows that bashes pop/rock/rap for corrupting the youth of America. These are earnest boomers trying to understand what's happening in the music industry today and while a lot of these points aren't exactly news themselves, hopefully their same-aged, like-minded audience will be want to think more about this.


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