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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Artistic Freedom and Commerce

Neil said...
"Just do what you want to do
Don't listen to anyone else"
(Jack Black w/ sign)

Neil Young Honored As MusiCares Person Of The Year

Over the years, we've blogged extensively on when the worlds of art and commerce collide. Strange things -- indeed -- do happen.

And lately, with Neil Young announcing a solo tour of very small theaters, performing new songs with the absolutely legendary Bert Jansch as the opening act, we hear incessant whining about $80 seats for a 3 hour plus show.

And just suppose that Neil & Bert play a song together? Would that not be priceless?

So. we. just. don't. get. it.

In so many ways, this is nothing new. We saw a lot of this when Neil Young expressed artistic freedom so eloquently on the much maligned and misunderstood -- but beloved -- Greendale.

All of this comes in a roundabout way to the Comment of the Moment by Mr Henry regarding an interview with Sonny Rollins who will be having an 80th Birthday Concert at Boston Symphony Hall this weekend.
There's a wonderful article in Saturday's Boston Globe about the great Sonny Rollins, written in anticipation of Sonny's 80th Birthday Concert at Symphony Hall. Quotes are like pearls of wisdom from a unique and wonderful artist:

'I am a link to the golden age. I used to feel very obligated to represent all of my deparated peers. I thought, I've got to sound good not just for me but for Monk and all the guys that I'm associated with. Eventually that feeling started to fade away. But I'm always in the company of my departed friends. I think about them; I dream about certain cats I was close to. I channel them, if that word is still in vogue now.'

'I don't care about landmarks and foolishness. I am a musician very much into everyday activities. I practice everyday. I compose. I am in the middle of my career in my mind.'

'...that I hope will demonstrate a culmination of my career up to this point.'

'I am a stream-of-consciousness player. That's what I do; that's what I am.'

'Interpretations in my style are so loose and so freewheeling that in essence they can become a new song, even though it's the same song. The experience is completely new the whole time. I couldn't improvise the same way if I wanted to.'

'I never thought anything was as important as understanding what I needed to do as an artist. You can't care about how the public reacts. It's not something you can contemplate and anticipate. I try to get close to my inner self, and I know that will be OK. When I know I'm playing well, I know that everyone else feels that way.'

Well said Mr. Rollins, and much thanks to Siddhartha Mitter for a superb article and interview. I can hardly wait for Sunday night's concert and another Dharma lesson from the master. Parallels with Neil are evident's all one song.


Thanks Mr. Henry!

More on the value of artistic freedom, audience entitlement, and elite fan hypocrisy.


At 4/18/2010 11:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jack black...ugh...but he's far as all the whining--IF $80 for a ticket to ANY show regardless of its' length is no big deal to you, count yer's a big deal to lots of people...


At 4/18/2010 11:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Rollins is absolutely right...AND--"I can't think of anything more boring than being a live jukebox."--Jeff Beck


At 4/18/2010 01:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think many peope were whining about $80 tickets--it was more the $150-$250 ones and the subsequent class-based seating system as well as the fact that scalpers are nabbing up the good seats before real fans can get them. I agree--I think $80 is fair, but that's what they all should cost, regardless of location. Saying that people are whining about $80 tickets completely misrepresents and simplifies the arguments that were being made here.

At 4/18/2010 02:14:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Anon 4/18/2010 01:32:00 PM

"Saying that people are whining about $80 tickets completely misrepresents and simplifies the arguments that were being made here."

How so?

See my comment here on the Billboard article. It's the upper end that's skewed. The lowest prices are still very fairly priced.

Sorry, just the facts here.

Apples2apples, oranges2oranges.

Avoid the false equivalencies & watch out for the greedy invisible hand.

We hate them worse than lepers.

At 4/18/2010 03:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trash -

Not OK to criticize exorbitant ticket prices, but it's OK to criticize the cost of bandwidth.

Thrasher's's Ass!

Cough up the Bucks!

Johnny Rocket!

At 4/18/2010 03:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny how you put up a post about 'the value of artistic freedom' yet you freely censor this forum, deleting posts you simply don't agree with.

Sad, thrash.

At 4/18/2010 03:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annon 1:32 is correct.
The complaints are for the high end tickets prices and that there's not enough in place to make sure fans get the best seats. If up front orchestra seats were $ 80 and the fans had a fair chance of getting them ,there would be no complaining.

At 4/18/2010 04:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you censor thrash


what would neil think?

he'd call 'em like he sees 'em - ie, you be a FRAUD!

At 4/18/2010 08:03:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Anon -

Reminds me of an Oscar Wilde quote:

"The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Me thinks you're cynical.

Oh, and btw, you lie. We've never practiced censorship on this blog.

Review Comments Policy and definition of censorship.

You've got nothing but hate, anger & fear.

We've got peace & love on our side.

At 4/18/2010 11:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

keep kissing Neil's rear-end, Thrash.


you are about as objective as Dick Cheney.

At 4/19/2010 12:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Thrasher practiced censorship all you bozos wouldn't be able to post on this site ... the fact that you can air your dirty laundry as bogus as it is proves the point that Thrasher is a patient host and you guys are poorly mannered guests ... get over your sense of entitlement and get a job already!


At 4/19/2010 02:19:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Sonny Rollins Forever
Part One

"They will run and not get tired
They will walk and not become weary"
Isaiah 40:30,31
(sign at Old South Church, two blocks from Boston Marathon finish line)

"In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble
They're only made of clay but
Our love is here to stay"
George and Ira Gershwin

Show me the face you had
before your parents were born.
Zen Koan

"We'll be back...soon...soon...soon...." Parting words from Sonny Rollins as he and his incredible band left the stage, promising an adoring crowd that he would indeed be returning to Boston. He'd already said how happy he was to be back and how he was "sorry for those losses" (the Sox had dropped two excruciating games to the Rays in a single Saturday evening) after playing almost two solid hours of eternal spirit music. So who am I to doubt his word...he'll be back again and again.

Somehow the rain had stopped while I was walking to Symphony Hall; the Springtime trees were in full blossom and it was a glorious evening as I quickly strolled through the South End, so full of past memories. The Boston Marathon had taken over the Back Bay and Boylston Street was a ghost town, waiting for the tide of runners and spectators who would be arriving in a few short hours.

Great to be back at Symphony's been way too long. This is the place where I've seen so many great concerts: Sara Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney (the holy trinity of female jazz singers); Chet Atkins; Keith Jarrett; Yo Yo Ma; Rudolph Serkin and Dubravka Tomsic; many great BSO concerts and many others also. There is a great vibe going and the crowd is especially hip. Lighting is amazing...I've always known the acoustics are superb but how could I have forgotten the lighting?

Someone comes in and tells everyone this is Jazz Week in Boston and there's lots more coming up. He gets the crowd to say "Thank You Sonny" in unison without a second's hesitation...and then the great man walks out with his band. My first thought is that this has to be the hippest 80 year old who ever walked the planet! He moves slowly and is very deliberate. I'm worried because it looks like he's kind of hunched a bit and his back is really bothering him some...probably all those incredible years (now more than sixty!) playing millions of beautiful notes on his Tenor Sax. And then he begins to play.

At 4/19/2010 02:26:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Sonny Rollins Forever
Part Two

It's a simple 4/4 tune, fast and steady as a river; his band is tight as shit; there's a drummer and a player on congas and percussion; subtle polyrhythm, deep bass and sweet guitar provide the perfect offset to Sonny's beautiful and moving solos. Six note recurring pattern from the sax player...three same notes (E Sharp?) and then three more same notes (C?). The song starts to build and he goes wherever the music is taking him. Keeps coming back to those same three notes and three's mesmerizing and you don't want it to end. When it does, the crowd goes politely crazy.

Next up is a Bossa nova and now he's getting really in the groove. Music is dancing in my head and there's nothing else in the world that matters right now but this incredible music. A straight ahead number in 3/4 time's equally great and I can tell that he's working into a ballad...and I'm right! Amazing slow-to-mid tempo music and the solos just keep coming. He's not hurrying these at all...when he was younger, sometimes it would be an avalanche of notes...but now he's taking the time needed to just tell his story. Then it's a superb Calypso song and that leads into another exquisitely beautiful ballad. Words are failing me but I'm sure you can imagine what this is like.

Next piece and he is totally and completely into the groove...and everyone knows it. The Carnival has come to town and we're all as happy and smiling as kids, not a care in the world. Band is in a seriously deep 4/4 harmolodic groove and everyone is playing along with the melody. I'm hoping that it won't ever end, but of course it does...and that's okay with me because I've still got the music going full blast within. Sonny and the band returns for a regal bow, then the promise to return soon....

Thanks to Mr. Rollins and his band of wonder...a night I'll try to never forget. And thanks also to my friends at Parish Cafe for a very enjoyable after concert Kat for the delicious Zuni Roll and some really good Brittany for duty above-and-beyond getting me some paper so that I could write this all down while the music was still in my head.

"You and me were free
We do as we please yeah
From morning
'til the end of the day"
Ray Davies

"And when the music started
She just slipped away"
Neil Young

At 4/19/2010 03:15:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...


Enjoy your use of the Oscar Wilde's a favorite. Another favorite of mine is also appropriate for some of the rather negative comments here:

If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then the whole world looks like a nail.

Or as Neil said when I saw him at the old and beloved Boston Garden during the Ragged Glory/Smell the Horse/Desert Storm tour with the mighty Horse:

You can always tear it down, but you can't build it back up again.

"There's a little bit of magic
in everything
and then some loss
to even things out"
Lou Reed

At 4/19/2010 09:39:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Mr Henry,
Thanks for the report. And the quotes.

Sounds like a great tribute to Sonny. Always nice to see genius celebrated & appreciated.


At 4/19/2010 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

"The real highlight of that night, though, didn't come until the end, when Artie capped the evening with, of all things, a song. It was called "I Wish You Love", and Artie sang it beautifully.

Artie told me recently that he'd first heard the song at a funeral of an old friend, some years back. When he first told his wife, Dottie, that he was going to sing it at the end of this amazing evening, this tribute to the warriors we all fought alongside and against, she told Artie that he'd better get ready to cry."

Frank Gifford from The Glory Game

"Sometimes a wind comes before the rain and sends birds past the window, spirit birds that ride the night, stranger than dreams."

Don DeLillo from Point Omega

At 4/19/2010 04:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Thrasher, exactly how high would his ticket prices have to get before you'd criticize Neil yourself? Or stop trying to justify them when others do voice their disapproval? And just how bad a song or an album would Neil have to put out before you'd admit to it not being a classic? I think I know the answers already...

At 4/19/2010 05:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thrasher would never criticize Neil - it's against his religion.

At 4/19/2010 05:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, it's the law of supply and demand. If no one was willing to pay $80 for a Neil Young ticket, he'd have to lower his prices.

Second, no one if forcing you to go. If you don't think it's worth it, vote with your wallet.

I love Neil and would pay the money if he passed thru Denver. Still, I must confess that Neil likes to charge close to top dollar for tickets, archives box set, etc. It is a little galling that he charges so much considering it's just him and his guitars on this tour, but that's his choice. If you're a Neil fan, you should be used to it by now.

At 4/19/2010 08:02:00 PM, Blogger TomCrac said...

Counting the days till Oakdale!...I thinks I'm gonna wear my Greendale to crazy is that....yeah...thats the way I roll.

At 4/19/2010 08:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neil also like to find ways to get his devoted fans to buy the same CD twice.

I've boycotted spending money on his For Sale stuff. I find a way to get it elsewhere.


At 4/19/2010 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

If you can indulge me for a bit (or if not, then please feel free to skip this comment), I'd like to acknowledge some truly fine and loving work that's being done in the world of music. In today's mail, I received an outstanding package from Joe Spadaro and the good folks at American Laundramat Records in Mystic CT. They have some really fine artists on their label, and they produce some excellent music product.

You might be familiar with ALR, since they are responsible for Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity. This is an outstanding compilation with twenty one songs, including Powderfinger from the Watson Twins, Heart of Gold from Tanya Donnelly and Like a Hurricane from Tanya's sister, the amazing Kristin Hersh. All proceeds go to Casting for Recovery, a charity for Cancer survivors. If you don't have it already, I urge you to get a'll hear some special versions of Neil's songs and be supporting a great cause. There's also a 7 inch single, with Heart of Gold on one side and Tell Me Why on the other should buy that also!

Their new album is Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies. All proceeds go to The Valerie Fund whose "mission is to provide support for the comprehensive health care of children with cancer and blood disorders". This cause is very close and dear to my heart, having lost many friends and family to this horrible disease, including my older sister who lost her battle with Rabdomyocarcoma, an extremely rare type of muscle cancer.

This album also has twenty one songs, including Tanya's beautiful version of Moon River. There's Dear Prudence, Dream a Little Dream of Me and Can't Get It Out of My Head (the ELO song). Also Chris Bell's song You and Your Sister, Boys of Summer, The Sound of Silence, Rainbow Connection and You Are My Sunshine (which my mom used to sing to me many years ago). Many more songs, all great in their own way, and the final one is Laura Gibson's heart melting version of Edelweiss.

I donated $25 awhile back and today I get this completely awesome package with the CD Limited Edition First Pressing. Along with that there's a 7 inch with another version of Moon River (Tanya again), Can't Get It Out of My Head and a new song by Sigur Ros...Kafari which is not on the CD. Then there's a beautiful poster and two very cool buttons. Finally there's a brochure for The Valerie Fund and a personalized letter to me that's signed by Joe Spadaro, thanking me for my help and support. No Joe, thank you and everyone involved with this work which is truly from the heart.

There's a benefit CD release party on June 13th at Joe's Pub in NYC (East Village), and I already have my tickets for that. Tanya is performing along with Julie Peel and Jenny Owen Youngs, and there will be face painting and balloons for the kids. I'll be sure to report back on this to all in Thrasher World!

Thanks for indulging me and please do what you can to support these good causes. You can order the music at and find more information and make donations to the great charities at and

People have the power!!!

Your friend Mr Henry

At 4/20/2010 12:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Neil Young, but damn if he doesn't have a bunch of dumb fucking fans. Logic is all over the place in these comments (including Thrasher's)

At 4/20/2010 10:03:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini

RIP Dorothy Height and Benjamin Hooks


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