Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pheaturing Bruce Blackman

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Saturday... how are you? September is here, and you know what that means... Christmas merchandise everywhere. Oh, and also... HALLOWEEN. It might still be two full months away, but it's never too early to start preparing. For example, here is something terrifying you can look at right now... this horrifying wasp nest-baby doll hybrid. The wasps have built their nest around a baby doll to create something that looks like the child of Chucky and the Toxic Adventure and will star in your bad dreams forever. Sorry, Taylor Swift.

Holy. Moly. That is creepy a.f. Why is that eyeless nightmare even hanging in a tree? Never mind, I don't want to know. Remember how in the book version of "The Shining," Jack Torrance gives Danny a piece of what he is sure is an empty, long-abandoned wasp nest only to have it swarm with live wasps later? This is probably where it came from.
"Growing Up for Boys," a book meant to help guide young boys through puberty, is currently under fire for its absolutely absurd description of women's breasts. As pointed out by Man vs. Pink, a Facebook page that navigates gendered children's products, "Growing Up for Boys" answers the question "What are breasts for?" with some highly uninformed information. Girls have breasts for two reasons. One is to make milk for babies. Okay, sure, fine. The book continues, "The other is to make the girl look grown-up and attractive. Virtually all breasts, no matter what size or shape they end up when a girl finishes puberty, can do both things." I'm sorry, what? The belief that boobs exist to make women look "grown-up and attractive" is objectification at its worst. Not to mention, the fact that this information is being read by young boys in developmental stages is pretty troubling, because it teaches them that women's breasts exist to be looked at, and that objectifying women is acceptable. It's also extremely heteronormative. Plus, the fact that a book for boys going through puberty a.k.a. discovering their sexuality features naked drawings of topless women seems a little questionable. Let them discover porn on their own, dude! After Man vs. Pink's Facebook post gained some traction, Usborne, the publisher who printed the book, apologized. Usborne released a statement to The Bookseller, explaining that it will "pulp" all remaining copies in the warehouse, and that the next edition of the book will remove the passage. The publisher also apologized for its mistake. Part of the statement reads, "This particular chapter aimed to explain and demystify to boys what girls go through at puberty, and to promote mutual respect and understanding. We are troubled that in some reports the wording has been misreported and taken out of context. However we recognise that this particular content needs revising and we are doing that already. Usborne stands against gender stereotyping, or any kind of objectification of women and girls." "Growing Up for Boys"' page on Usborne's website also adds that the title is "being reviewed." Apparently, Usborne also has a book called "Growing Up for Girls." Anyone else think it's highly unlikely that it contains drawings of dicks?
On Tuesday, "People" published an article about the Parker family and their three dogs who escaped the eye of Hurricane Harvey, only to be turned away from the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Katy, Texas because of the hotel's no-dog policy. Because the Parkers had nowhere else to go, and couldn't risk the danger of the storm... they were forced to leave their three dogs Arrow (a shepherd and lab mix), Buttercup (an adorable elbow lab), and Wiggum (a chocolate lab-hound mix) in their car in the parking lot. Unsurprisingly, when their story broke... the family received an outpouring of support online. Unsurprisingly, the Holiday Inn was criticized for refusing to make an exception during the tropical storm. While technically, as a chain location... the employees don't have the power to override the rules. However, in cases of flooding cities, it's safe to say that rules were meant to be broken. During their stay at The Holiday Inn, members of the Parker family took turns sitting in the cold car with the dogs. According to an update on the "People" report, on Wednesday morning the Parker family was able to move to a private residence where the dogs are allowed to come in and snuggle. Also, after receiving a good deal of public backlash, The Holiday Inn told "People" that they apologized to the family, and released an official statement about the experience. "We are working to understand what occurred in this instance, and are communicating to our franchisees in the impacted areas to do all they can to accommodate pets,” the statement read. “As the region continues to feel impacts from the storm, we are highly sensitive to the needs of those affected during this extremely difficult time and are working diligently to best accommodate guests and their needs, and comfort those seeking relief at IHG hotels." A Holiday Inn representative also told "People" that they offered to waive the fees for the Parker family. But, being sweethearts, the Parkers said they'd prefer the franchise donate to the Fort Bend County Animal Services which is where they adopted two of their pups.
York Region is currently facing a good deal of backlash for the creepy victim-blaming tone of their most recent anti-drinking campaign, according to a recent report from Buzzfeed. The campaign features an image of a young, distraught-looking woman staring at her phone. Next to the woman, the ad shows an Instagram picture of the woman doing an impressive back bend while horrible young people pour beer in her mouth.

Understandably, York University students didn't take so kindly to the ad campaign. Many felt the ad targeting young women's drinking habits was explicitly victim-blaming. While the ad itself didn't mention sexual assault, the overtly gendered targeting and assertion to not "try to keep up with the boys" fits into the sadly common victim-blaming narratives around sexual assault. By telling women and girls to drink less, the campaign is creating a culture in which the onus lies on women to protect themselves from drunk predators. Sadly, as history shows, this is neither a new or effective tactic. York Region issued an official response letter after receiving unprecedented feedback. They decided to suspend the campaign. "Our intent is never to offend," said the statement on Twitter. "Instead, the intent of this campaign was to raise awareness about the dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking." Hopefully, people will learn from this lesson, and next time, rather than telling girls and women not to drink, York Region can release a PSA on victim-blaming.
Kathy Griffin is taking back her apology for that infamous photo of a (fake, obvi) decapitated Donald Trump. The comedian says that now she no longer regrets it, and thinks it's hypocritical that Trump can get away with doing horrible stuff while she's still facing the backlash. On Tuesday, Griffin told Australian morning show "Sunrise," "I am no longer sorry, the whole outrage was B.S. The whole thing got so blown out of proportion, and I lost everybody. Like, I had Chelsea Clinton tweeting against me. I had friends, Debra Messing from 'Will and Grace,' tweeting against me. I mean, I lost everybody." She lost Anderson Cooper, too. Speaking to The Cut, Griffin said that her long-time friend and co-host for the annual CNN New Year's Eve show isn't her friend any more, either. He didn't reach out until August 10th (via texts), and by then, it was too little, too late. She told The Cut, President Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio, who was essentially running a concentration camp in the Arizona desert. He said there are some good Nazis, and he’s kicking out young adults who were brought here as kids by their parents, and I’m the one who has to continue to apologize? She makes a good point.
Okay, so, there's one thing you might know about me is that I like to obey the rules. Some people though take it just a little bit too far...

Hahahaha. Do you know what the "alt-left" looks like? No? I'll show you...

So, I saw this pic of Trump the other day and it reminded me of something...

Then it hit me...

See? Haha. So, you know I like football and Star Wars, right? Well, some people like it just a little bit more than I do...

I hope those Texans fans are okay. Okay, football season starts this coming Thursday so you know what that means. Every football season for the last six years I have invited my friend Jeff onto the Phile to talk football. This year it's no different. So, for the seventh year it's time to have my friend Jeff back for...

Me: Jeff, welcome back for our seventh year doing this! How are you?! How's the writing going?

Jeff: Always good to be back on the Phile to talk a little Phootball Talk. I'm doing alright. Writing is coming along. I scrapped my kids book for the time being and working on a new one right now.

Me: I have to say I like the new graphic you did for this year. Touchdown! It's gonna be a good year, right?

Jeff: Glad you like the new graphic. I wanted to do something different this year with it. I sure hope it will be a great year.

Me: Okay, so, what big NFL news happened over the break?

Jeff: Well, let's see. Chargers moved to Los Angeles. Colin Kapernick still can't get a job and it's believed that the owners blackballed him because he refused to stand for the National Anthem. Sure people who punch their wives can get jobs back, but kneel during the Anthem? Forget about it. Tony Romo retired from football to become an analyst. So did Jay Cutler. But due to Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill's season ending injury, Cutler is back in the league. Cowboys RB Ezekial Elliot has been suspended for 6 games for off the field conduct, but he's appealing to try to get back on the field before then.

Me: Any predictions for this year yet?

Jeff: That's the problem. It's hard to predict early on in the season. Every team has a chance to win it all. Except for the Browns. They've been eliminated from the playoffs. It's very sad.

Me: Haha. Okay, so for those that don't know what we do here would you care to explain?

Jeff: Every week we pick two games and try to predict who will win. If that wasn't enough we also try to predict the margin of victory. For every prediction we get right, we get two points. Because I'm a Steeler fan and you're a Giants fan, we also gain a point a week if either of our teams win that week.

Me: You have beaten me pretty much every year, right? Well, this is my year! Haha.

Jeff: You did win one year. And there was that one year that there was no winner. But that won't happen this year!

Me: Alright, let's get into the predictions... I say, and I hate to say it, Patriots by 8. Also Falcons by 7. What do you say?

Jeff: I'm going to say Panthers by 4 points and Colts by 7 points.

Me: Speaking of the Panthers, did you see their new logo?

 Me: Whatcha think. Disney is taking over.

Jeff: At times last season Carolina played like Baghera, so hopefully this year they find their form and look like the team that made it to the Super Bowl the year before. And don't give Disney any more ideas! They already got into hockey!

Me: Alright, I'll see you back here next Sunday or Monday. Have a good week!

Jeff: Good luck this season!

Haha. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay... so you know I'm from England, right? well, it's built into my DNA to not like the French. I can't help it. Anyway, occasionally on the Phile I like to tell you a story about the French in a pheature I call...

Plenty of people show up at the Disney parks expecting to be treated like a princess... even those who don't buy the overpriced princess costumes. So when Hayley McLean-Glass' 3-year-old son Noah, who she describes as "about the biggest Elsa fan in the world," was rejected from Disneyland Paris' Princess For a Day program, she tore Disney down with a blog post so fiery that even Elsa's ice powers couldn't put it out. In McLean-Glass' post, on her blog Sparkles and Stretchmarks, she describes how her family has fallen in love with Disney, and how Noah has fallen in love with Elsa. He loves to wear his Elsa dress, play with his Elsa doll, and watch Frozen. However, after McLean-Glass contacted Disneyland Paris about signing Noah up for the program, she received a harsh rejection.

So not only is the person who monitors Disneyland Paris' email account rejecting Noah on the basis of his gender, but they're also offering him a dumb gift pack in exchange for 300 Euro? McLean-Glass continued her blog post by explaining why Disney's rejection was nonsensical and hurtful. "I can't help but wonder if the same rule would apply should you introduce an activity at your parks that is only for boys... I say introduce because of course there isn't anything that is just for 'Boys' as this would never be allowed. If a little girl wants to be a super hero, she can be. If she wants to be a Jedi, she can be. She can be whatever she wants... just like Walt Disney himself said, 'If you can dream it you can do it!'... ...Unless you're a little boy who wants a Princess experience at Disneyland apparently... that you CAN'T do!" She also explained why she chose to blog about this. "I'm aware that there are many people in the world with outdated opinions on subjects such as this who will no doubt say that I'm creating drama or that I need to just pipe down and accept the fact that he is a boy and therefore he shouldn't be allowed to wear a dress... well here's the thing, usually my anxiety means I shy away from writing blog posts on controversial topics because I don't feel that I can handle the backlash. But in this situation? BRING IT ON! Because anybody who has an issue with this, is 100% WRONG and nothing will ever change my mind on that." As her post went on, it got sassier, with gems such as this, "I didn't force my child to try on an Elsa dress.... he chose it for himself. I have 3 sons, the other two are about as stereotypical BOY as you can get... my eldest child would recoil in horror at the mere mention of him wearing a dress, in fact he doesn't even want to go to your Princess restaurant (which we were planning to book despite the high prices, because Noah would love it... maybe I should check, is he allowed in there or would he need to leave his penis at the door?!)" She also used sass to attack Disney's reasoning behind banning her son from the program. "I'm really not sure what the reasoning is for your decision on this as you never explained it, you simply stated he wasn't allowed to book it because 'He's a boy'... what are you afraid of? What exactly will happen if a boy wears a dress? Will he burst into flames? Will he grow up to be Shock horror GAY and I might sue you for it? Please do explain to me what terrible awful fate may befall him if you indulge him in his desire to have his hair done, put on an Elsa dress and wear a bit of blusher for a photo? Because frankly, I am baffled." I'm sorry, but can we take a sec for ALL OF THE MIC DROPS. As reported by ITV News, Disneyland Paris released the following statement regarding the Princess For a Day program after catching wind of McLean-Glass' blog post, "We are taking this situation very seriously and sincerely apologize to Hayley and Noah for the distress caused. An isolated incident, the Cast Member’s response is not reflective of any policy or belief held here at Disneyland Paris. We are going to ensure this does not happen again. Diversity is near and dear to our hearts and we want to make sure that all our guests enjoy their experience at our resort. Of course, both boys and girls are welcome to enjoy The Princess For a Day experience in addition to all our other special activities." Disneyland Paris has also changed Princess For a Day's description on its website to reflect the change. "Cosmopolitan" reported earlier in the day Thursday that Disneyland Paris' website described the experience as, "every little girl's [dream come true] with a real Princess's make-up and hair-styling session; a fairytale transformation they'll treasure forever." As of Thursday afternoon, the description read, "Every child's wish can come true with a total Princess makeover and hair-styling session; a fairytale transformation they'll treasure forever." McLean-Glass followed up with another blog post, where she celebrated Disney's change in policy. "To all of the people who were outraged at Disney's original response, thank you for the support and HIGH FIVE... we did it!!!" she wrote. "We've actually managed to change something for the better and hopefully no other little boy will be turned away in future." While some people may have simply decided to cancel their vacation and write Disney off, McLean-Glass decided to find a way to change it for the better. Through a sassy blog post.

Are you a lazy person? I bet you're not as lazy as this person...

Hey, so, I didn't mention this yet but Monday is Labor Day. A friend of the Phile wanted to come on to the Phile and give some Labor Day advice. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man... you know what time it is...

Good evening, phuckerz. Random thought as I prepare to face the onslaught of Citiots heading out east for Labor Day weekend..... I know you wobbly little meat puppets are getting all revved up for your big three day weekend, but please keep these few things in mind... 1. Dress appropriate for your body type while at BBQs. Men should not wear speedos or shorts that expose their yambag when sitting down. Women should not wear yoga pants that make them look like they're smuggling a yo-yo. 2. Don't discuss politics, religion or your beliefs when you're drunk. NObody cares and you're destined to piss SOMEONE off. 3. Don't jump into the kiddie pool in your clothes. You look like a dripping drunken moron to the kids. 4. Don't sing when you're drunk (even if you CAN sing). Nobody wants to hear you shout "BAH-BAH-BAH!" during the fucking chorus of "Sweet Caroline". 5. Don't drink and drive. You drive like shit when you're sober... do the math. 6. If you're planning on admiring the new boob-job of the host's wife... wear sunglasses you dozy bastard. I hope you find these tips helpful while working your way towards Tuesday's impending hangover. Happy Labor Day.

The 36th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Gilson Lavis and this is one of his pieces...

Gilson will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Ways to Celebrate Labor Day
5. File for another extension on your unemployment insurance.
4. FaceTime with the guy from Bangalore who took your tech job for half your salary.
3. Go into labor (pregnant women only).
2. Throw some dogs on the grill, crack a cold one and calculate how many more decades you'll have to work to you pay off your student loans.
And the number one way to celebrate Labor Day is...
1. Grow a pair and quit your miserable, soul-crushing, dead-end job

Weather has been really crazy lately, huh?

Today's pheatured guest is a singer songwriter who was the lead singer for the 70s band Starbyck who had a pretty big hit with "Moonlight Feels Right." His most recent album "Is That Your Yacht?" is available now on iTunes as well as this past album "Moonlight Feels Right 2014." Please welcome to the Phile... Bruce Blackman.

Me: Hello, Bruce, welcome to the Phile. How are you, sir? 

Bruce: Great to be here, Jason. I am fine.

Me: So, you were the lead singer of the 70s band Starbuck... I vaguely remember Starbuck's hit song "Moonlight Feels Right" as I was just a kid then. I did look Starbuck up on YouTube and saw you played on "The Midnight Special,' so Starbuck must've been a pretty big deal, am I right?

Bruce: Yeah, we did both Kirshner and "The Midnight Special" and "American Bandstand," Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and Peter Marshall, all the daytime talk shows and stuff. I normally have an orange shirt on in all those videos because we did most of the talk shows in CBS studios. We did four TV shows in one day in that building, so we looked the same except the camera angles were different. Some of them were live, some of them we had to lip sync. The lip sync one was "American Bandstand." No one ever played live on "American Bandstand." They did not have all the equipment and microphones plugged in and all that. You can tell the ones that are live.

Me: In all your pictures back then you are wearing a white hat so I am guessing that was your trade mark. So, I have to ask where did that hat come from?

Bruce: Ha! That's a funny story. When "Moonlight Feels Right" hit my manager told me I didn't have enough hair. I'm not bald, I just have a real high widow's peak. He said I didn't have enough hair to be a front man. So, before we went to L.A. they sent me to this hairdresser here in Atlanta and he put plugs into my scalp and now I had a hair line like Wolfman Jack. That night my head started bothering me and when I got up my wife looked at it and said, "Oh, my God, this looks infected." We had to cut all that out but when we cut it out I looked like Frankenstein. We went to L.A. and we were ready to do "American Bandstand" and Peggy, my wife, said I ought to wear a hat. I had to do something... a hat to wig or something. We went to a store on the Sunset Strip and brought a yacht type sailing hat and an English driving hat. Right before we went on the show I tried on both hats and my wife said the white one looks the best like I said we did four shows in one day, so I wore the white hat in all the TV shows. A month later my head heeled and I didn't wear the white hat anymore. We were in Kansas City, playing with Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds and when we came out on stage to play a whole 15,000 people stomped their feet going "white hat, white hat." One of my roadies went out to the bus because the white hat was in there and we got a standing ovation when the roadie brought the white hat out. I thought if this is all I gotta do for a standing ovation I'm in.

Me: Ahhh. You stopped making music in the early 80s, Bruce. What did you do in all the years you weren't making music?

Bruce: Okay, when I was in Starbuck we toured for four years up until 1980. I was very fortunate as I was the writer, producer and part of the act and owned half the publishing. So, the way royalties are split, with "Moonlight So Right" being that big it was like having six records that big. Financially we were fine but in 1980 we stopped touring but I still did one more single called "The Full Cleveland," which was breaker one week and the song under it was Michael Jackson's "Thriller." After that I had a huge sound system I had built for Starbuck. As a matter of fact, most of the time we were play they book our sound system. I started a separate company called Rock-N-Road Audio which is sound and lights and bands like Marshall Tucker would rent our sound and lights. Then Starbuck would be the opening act for them. After that I sold that company and started another company called Sports Music Inc. and I was the first company to figure out his to do aerobics music. Then I started a Halloween costume company... haha. I worked in a factory in an assembly line when I was 17, and I worked there for two weeks and I'm not over it yet. I thought how does anybody do this? That was my last job I had so I had a number of different businesses.

Me: A few years ago Starbuck reunited and played in Atlanta... what was that like, Bruce, and how did that happen?

Bruce: In 2013 we got a call to play Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta... it was considered an honor to play there as we never did play there. I talked to all the guys and they wanted to do it so they all came and rehearsed her win my studio. We had about 12 or 14 rehearsals and just doing that just opened up how much I missed playing live.

Me: So, you have a new album out called "Is That Your Yacht?" and before that you had an album out called "Moonlight Feels Right 2014"... What was it like recording your latest one?

Bruce: I have had my own studio called Starbucks Studio for over 20 years. Other people recorded there but I just shut that off and made it my own studio and started recording again. I picked up right where I left off. With my last album "Is That Your Yacht" I wanted to make something different. I have demo tapes dating back to 1972 and I went through them and cherry picked them and recorded some of those songs with new technology. When I was young my view point was entirely different than it is now. I couldn't write those words now. I used all vintage instruments like my 1972 clarinet, my 1972 mini mode...

Me: So, now that you came back into the music business after 30 odd years or so how do you think the business has changed?

Bruce: Having a number three hit record in 1976 is different than having a number 3 record today. By the way, we were number two on the "Billboard" chart. There was also "Cashbox," "Record World," "R & R"... "Billboard" wasn't the most important one. "Moonlight" domestically sold three and a half million copies then outside the U.S. sold 1.5 million copies. We started out on vinyl, then they invented something called 8-track tapes so we came out on 8-track tapes. They then invented something called cassettes so we came out on cassettes, then CDs came out, then downloads... so, "Moonlight Feels Right" today just passed 10 million copies. But to answer your question about how I think the business changed I just saw something today about an artist, I don't know who it was, but they had something like 200 million YouTube views and the song itself sold 83,000 copies. People expect the music for free.

Me: So, where did the songs from "Midnight Feels Right 2014" come from, Bruce? How was it writing music after so long?

Bruce: Well, there are 16 songs on that record, four of them are vintage songs. I've got a lot of Starbuck material that was never released. I did the same on the new record... it's almost impossible to duplicate that analogue sound so each time I do a project I'll include a few that are that way. I will record the same way with the vintage instruments, but the technology of recording is so much better. You can record on an iPhone today the same quality we had in the studio back then.

Me: What kinda response do you get from your music now?

Bruce: The last time I looked it was about 8,000. It's not great numbers but it's probably as much as a new band in terms of money, if the band had a hit record and a record deal today. They just get such a small slice of the pie. I had a record deal but record deals aren't really record deals in the sense that we knew them. All they do is push a button and it gets sent out to a company called The Orchard and they get distributed to places where you can buy downloaded music. iTunes being the only one that really matters, secondary to that would be Amazon and there a million others. They're just looking for a brand... they're looking for a "Katy Perry"... it's evolved sort of like acting has, everybody has read the stat that less than 1% of actors make 99% of the money. That's exactly the same thing with music today. There are people that are famous that are virtually making no money at all.

Me: Your video for the song "Jim's Cafe" on YouTube has been viewed over 300,000 times which is amazing. You do have some pretty girls in the video though. Hahaha. What's the story behind that song?

Bruce: By the way, that's my daughter singing back up in the video. After we did the Chastain concert I went to a high school reunion and they wanted me to do something for their swag pack, like a signed photo I said there was no way I gonna do that... that's narcissistical. "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll write a song for the reunion." Jim's Cafe in Greenville, Mississippi but unbeknownst to me there's about 400 Jim's Cafes in the world. In fact, I've got an email from a Jim's Cafe in Indonesia. There's one in Manhattan too. I bet there's one in Orlando, Florida. A lot of people named Jim own cafes. Anyway, I wrote this song and I made 70 copies of it. There were about 65 people coming to the reunion so I made 70 copies and they were gonna induct me into something they have there called the Writers Guard. There's 12 ladies in the PTA who say, "You're a swell fella, thank you very much." So, I get there and there were a couple hundred people, there was a local ABC affiliate, NBC affiliate, two newspapers, two magazines, and I was like whoa. So, those 70 CDs were gone in two minutes. Everybody said where can I get one I said just send me a message on Facebook and I'll send you one. That was Saturday afternoon about 4:00, I get home Monday morning and I had over 500 requests on Facebook for a copy of "Jim's Cafe." Then a few weeks turned to 8,000 requests because friends told friends, blah, blah, blah. So, I though, looking for a marketing tower, this is a marketing tower. So, that's why my first comeback single was "Jim's Cafe."

Me: "Is That Your Yacht?" is a great video, Bruce, with a lot of hot women. I bet you had fun making that video. I had fun watching it. Hahaha.

Bruce: I have yet to put a video up on YouTube. There's hundreds of them and people have put them up. They're all illegal, but I don't really mind. I feel I am lucky enough somebody wants to do that so I let them.

Me: Wow. Well, they did good work. So, now that you're older and releasing more music, what are your expectations? I am sure over 340,000 hits on YouTube exceeds your expectations, am I right? 

Bruce: I really didn't have any. I just write and record and put it out there for people to hear. I've had a record deal out of Memphis but I just let them go because I realized they're not gonna do anything except take most of the money. These on-line record companies get about 10,000 acts and they're mostly concerned about the Joe Blow Band from Idaho is playing in local bars... every band has some kind of following... and all these bands might be selling 100 or 200 CD downloads in a year. When you've got 10,000 of them times 100 or 200 for the record company itself that's just a number.

Me: I just started getting into Spotify, and my dads music (he was Lonesome Dave in Foghat) is on Spotify, but there's not a whole lot of money made from it. There was a class action lawsuit for companies like Pandora, Spotify and such to pay royalties as they weren't being paid anything. Now it's like over a thousand plays have to be played for s among just to earn pennies. Are you on Spotify, Bruce, what do you think of it?

Bruce: My music is on Spotify. With the steaming radio thing the consumer really likes it because it gives you control over your own radio stations however it is absolutely a doomed format. They pay 2 1000s of a penny, so you were right. In other words, if you get a million downloads that number comes out to $200. It's good for the consumer but these companies are making TONS of money. There's no way the industry survives on that. I know one time they had a big backlash of where people were talking about record companies were ripping people off and charging $13 for a CD which costs 50 cents to make. That's true in terms of duplication but it's not true if you take in the art work. If you put the whole package together you are around a $1.08. "Is That Your Yacht?" costs me $70,000 to record all that at my studio which includes musicians, engineers, all that stuff. When you throw that in and figure it out the first CD costs $70,000... if you sold two CDs it costs $35,000. It's all backwards. The music industry will not survive the steaming industry for long. I expect that Congress will change that law at some point because you have the problem that the music business doesn't have that much juice or the lobbyists to raise money for them and all that. The music industry does.... once Steven Speilberg, Opie, and Clint Eastwood and other people step in there because their stuff is getting downloaded like that too, they'll end up changing the laws.

Me: When you were releasing music in Starbuck or your solo stuff, do you get surprised when a song becomes a hit?

Bruce: Nobody knows in the industry what an excellent song is. Nobody knows what a magic song is. The only hits are magic. Now, once an artist is branded it's different. I'm sure Taylor Swift could sing the ABC's it'll make the charts. In fact, I remember a story from a long time ago that somebody told Paul McCartney he wasn't a good writer because the Beatles were so big they could record "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and it'll be a hit. He was so offended by that the Beatles recorded "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and it WAS a hit! It made the charts in the top ten.

Me: Actually, it was Paul McCartney and Wings who had a hit with "Mary Had a Little Lamb." What about live gigs? Are you playing locally or anything? I am sure it's difficult to get Starbuck all back together.

Bruce: Nope. We haven't been playing at all. It's interesting as we probably have more jobs offered to us now than back when. In fact, I had an offer yesterday and two the day before. It has to do with the new stuff I have out which is hitting in some areas. It's not for us to do concerts... it's for festivals, fairs, coming up in late summer or the fall there's all kind of festivals all over the place. That's good because it doesn't depend on me to be the draw, they'll be a lot of people there. I don't think we could fill up independent halls, we might just get a thousand people if we were lucky.

Me: Ever been offered a wine festival like Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival or even the Flower and Garden Festival there? You would fit perfect there.

Bruce: We were offered a wine festival. Bo Wagner, my marimba player wanted to do it but he passed away in June in California. We could do it, we are just going back and forth now, do we want to do it, cause life on the road is a young man's game. I can't eat at McDonald's anymore. Hahaha. 

Me: In your solo music and Starbuck's music it seems that there's a lot of instruments, Bruce. When you write do you have all the instruments in mind or is your songwriting more basic and everything falls into place in the studio?

Bruce: The sound we have came from the relationship I had with the late Bo Wagner. The whole idea was how do you incorporate pop music with the marimba. Bo was the best marimba player that ever lived. The solo he did in "Moonlight" was the greatest solo ever in a pop song. It's used today in the percussion department in very college in America. That was the thing, we wanted to combine those sounds. I had one of the original mini modes and a clarinet so what we would do is just make demos on two Teac machines. I'd take them to the publisher who would decide what we would record and didn't record. Once the songs were selected we would take the demos in and the band would learn them.

Me: Before Starbuck you were in another band called Eternity's Children. Were you the main songwriter in that band as well?

Bruce: Yes. Eternity's Children was put together originally at Delta College in Cleveland, Mississippi and then we went around and cherry picked the musicians from the best bands in the Mississippi Delta and put together Eternity's Children.

Me: How did you go from Eternity's Child to Starbuck?

Bruce: I wrote a song called "Mrs. Bluebird" which was the only successful song that group ever had. I left the group right before the record came out... we were signed to this horrendous management deal. It was clear to me that we sold a hundred million records I was never going to make a penny and I was tired of living like a dog. I left the group at that point and after I left Bo Wagner became a member of the group. He liked the sound but was mostly interested in the songs and when he found out I was the one who had written the songs he looked me up and came to Atlanta and found me and talked me into putting group together. We got a deal almost immediately with legendary producer Curt Boettcher who was known for producing The Association's "Along Comes Mary." Then we got a deal with RCA who ultimately decided to pass on the album. Bo then left and went back to L.A. I get a call a couple of years later from Bo was putting together a backup band for Jose Feliciano for a tour. So we go out to Fredricksberk, Texas to put this group together. We rehearsed for a couple of weeks getting ready when Jose cancelled his tour. When that group broke up Bo went back to L.A. and I went back to Atlanta and signed a writing contract with the Lowery Group. The Lowery Group had Joe South, Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe... he had quite a stable of artists. Tommy Roe had recorded a song that I've written called "Drop a Little Rock." That version of the song came out the same year as "Moonlight Feels Right." Anyway, Bo comes back to Atlanta touring with Liberace. He calls me up having front seat tickets to see Liberace. After the show he said we have to try one more time, we got to do this. So I agree. Bo then put a group together and started playing gigs in clubs in Atlanta. Then I joined the group and we rented a farmhouse in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Every member of the group lived there expect me. During the daytime we would record with the Teac tape machines and at night we would play the gigs. We played the jazz clubs wearing tuxedos and all the guys with long hair put on wigs. We recorded ten songs in that farmhouse and I took them out to Lowery and he liked two songs on the ten song demo and that was "Rock and Roll Rocket" and "Moonlight Feels Right." He said, "Do you want a recording contract?" And I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Sign right here. When can you record?" And I said, "Anytime you want." He said, "How about 7 a.m. tomorrow morning?" We played until 2 a.m. that morning, we packed up our equipment, went into the studio, set it up and started recording at 7 a.m. We only had three days to record that album which basically was just us playing live.

Me: When you wrote "Moonlight Feels Right" did you know it was gonna be a hit?

Bruce: No. I wrote the song in 1974. I just had an accident, I walked through a plate glass window of a sliding glass door in my apartment. I cut off the middle finger of my right hand plus other all kinds of damage, glass in my knees and my feet. They sewed my finger back on and I had a huge cast thing on my right hand and my wife Peggy said, "I just want you to stay home and write. I'm gonna get a job." She got a job as a waitress in Underground Atlanta which supported us. I could only play with my left hand and I started singing the song. It took me about fifteen minutes to write it and about fifteen years to learn how. Haha.

Me: You had some minor hits after that song. Were you bummed that Starbuck was pretty much listed as a one-hit wonder band?

Bruce: No, there was nothing we could do about it. The next single was "I Got to Know" which went up into the 50s but even now what those records did would put you in the top ten. When "Everybody Be Dancin'" came out, that song should of went further. It went straight to 38 though with a bullet. "Moonlight Feels Right" was the magic song. If a song is magic you will know it. When the song came out in September 1975 Bo and I separated and went to 400 radio stations in Atlanta, Tennessee, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina... all little radio stations that didn't matter. Then at WERC DJ Mike St. John, who was respected in the radio business, heard it and said it wasn't a winter record, it was a spring or summer record. He said he'll put it on in the next spring. We just thought that was just his way of saying get out of here. We didn't get in every place we tried to get in but he put it on in the spring of '76 and we had completely forgotten about it. One day Bill Lowery called me and said I got a hit. I thought he was talking about "Drop a Little Rock" but he said it was "Moonlight." He said, "You guys gotta quit calling the radio station." What radio station? The radio station in Birmingham. So, we go the group together and had a meeting and told them they had to quit calling the radio station and requesting "Moonlight Feels Right." Everybody agreed to do that. Later on we realized that no one had done it. I know I hadn't done it, I just assumed the other guys had. I felt bad that I assumed it was the other guys but it wasn't us doing it. Mike St. John caught on and had about 25,000 requests for the record so they did a test market in Birmingham because there was no product anywhere so the record company quickly pressed a bunch of singles for Birmingham and they sold thousands and thousands and thousands of records. They then realized they had something and then they pushed the button and spread it out to the other stations. But still a lot of stations would play it, it was only being played in the southeast. "Moonlight" hit a snag it got up into the 70s and started dying. So they asked us to play at a radio conference that was being held in Birmingham. Program directors from all over the United States came there. The reason they weren't playing it because there was a new thing called computers in music and they thought that song couldn't be real... there were computers playing it. Nobody beloved that marimba solo was played by a human. So at the conference we started off with Bo doing impossible things on the marimba, then we played the show, brought the house down and we jumped about 30 points in "Billboard."

Me: Starbuck lasted about five years with just three albums, am I right?

Bruce: Well, from a touring level we were a band from 1976 til 1980.

Me: Why did the band break up, Bruce?

Bruce: Well, we were in an awkward position. We weren't big enough to play the big places and we were too big to play in the clubs. And as a matter of pride I didn't want to play in a Holiday Inn even though it's pretty decent money but I didn't want people coming up asking what am I doing here. We were in between two but there weren't to many medium sized halls at that time. I remember we were playing in Buckhead, a part of Atlanta, playing at a club there making 54 dollars a week each. You take 54 and multiply it by seven, that's how much the band was being paid. Under four hundred bucks for a whole week playing six to midnight.

Me: So, in those years what was the highlight, Bruce?

Bruce: I got a call from a promoter in Birmingham and he said would we be interested in playing a show with ELO. He said, "I'll tell you right now, I don't have a lot of money. All I can do is play you $5,000." I thought $5,000... is there such a number as that? I don't know numbers went that high. Haha. We went to Birmingham to and I was so scared, I couldn't see straight. All those years I sat stage left now all of a sudden I'm the guy sitting at front. I've never done that before and now I had 25,000 people saying, "Okay, you so of a bitch, impress me." But we started doing "Moonlight" and I saw about 10,000 cigarette lighters go up. That was one of the highlights of my life with the band. After that we went out with KC and the Sunshine Band, Boston, Hall & Oats, Stills and Croft... so many stories.

Me: Was it fun playing with Hall & Oates?

Bruce: Yeah, we played a couple of shows with them and they were really good. Their biggest song when we were out with them was "Sara Smile." They were kind of about the time the same kind of level as we were. We played as equals, didn't have to go through the rock and roll pecking order. They were very nice, almost all of them were. I did get into fights with two very known people. By the way, I did win both of those fights. But I don't really want to talk about that.

Me: I saw this pic and was surprised...

Me: You played at Disney World, which is cool, as I have been at Disney for almost thirty years. How did you get to play there?

Bruce: We were the first group to play at Disney's New Year's Eve broadcast on December 31st, 1976. That was the biggest crowd I've ever seen in my life. They built a stage in front of the castle and you literally could not see to the end of the crowd. I don't know how many people that was. It was like they were evacuating Florida. While we were there the movie Jaws was playing at a mall movie theatre and we were set up to do an autograph signing at a record store there. So, we go to the mall and there is this line doing out of the mall. There must've been over a thousand people and we thought we aren't going to get in to see that movie, there are too many people, but they were in line for the autograph signing. The record company only sent about 100 albums and we needed over a thousand.

Me: That's crazy. So, what was it like when it came to an end and you thought the music was done? 

Bruce: I just felt so grateful. I never felt like a star. I just thought how can a human being be so lucky. I just went on with my life. It really didn't effect me. We gave it our best shot but you can only do what you can do.

Me: Well, it's very cool you are back to making records, Bruce. I hope this was a fun interview. And I hope you'll make more records.

Bruce: Thanks, Jason. It was fun. I hope people find my story inspiring. There are enough people out there to make it viable. They'll tell me when to stop. Haha.

Me: Thanks, Bruce. Take care.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz, Laird Jim and of course Bruce Blackman. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Phile Alum Natania Lalwani. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Have a safe and fun Labor Day weekend. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

No comments: