The Original Acoustic Hot Tuna
Ferdman Sells-Out: Clear Channel Acquires My Soul
During his opening remarks at the recent Jammys awards show, co-producer Peter Shapiro made the odd choice of thanking Clear Channel Entertainment. The audience responded to Shapiro's invoking of the devil incarnate with a loud round of boos. Shapiro then tried to backpedal and thank only "the people who work for Clear Channel," as if those who do the devil's bidding should be considered among the innocent. In turn, the crowd responded with an even more furious cascade of boos, and Shapiro quickly left the stage, having been soundly booed for what was probably the first time in his life. As a veteran of several mediocre semi-professional theatrical productions, all I can say is "Welcome to the club, Pete. Be thankful that no one threw rotten vegetables because it really hurts when you get beaned in the balls by an acorn squash."
Anyway, I think that the Jammys audience really overreacted. Clear Channel isn't so bad. In fact, I think they're great. Now surely you are asking, "Brian, why this sudden philosophical change between paragraphs one and two? Your writing is always consistent, not to mention brilliant and worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, but how can you just change course mid-column?"
First of all, thanks for your kind words. I agree with you about the Nobel, and let's hope it goes from your mouth to God's ears. It's about time the committee paid a little respect to a trailblazing jamband humor columnist instead of repeatedly kowtowing to people like that Iranian chick who defied strict religious custom and fought for gender equality in a totalitarian Islamic extremist regime. Blah, blah, blah. Been there, done that.
But let's get to the issue at hand. After paragraph one, I was contacted by a representative of the ubiquitous Clear Channel Entertainment. "Contacted" is indeed the appropriate word, as a shadowy wraith materialized before my very eyes, grabbed me by the lapels of my periwinkle polyester suit, held a rusty scythe to my throat, and told me to shut up. I found the argument to be rather convincing, so I listened.
The wraith used his scythe to slash a large hole in the floor, and suddenly a large vortex emerged. He suggested I step into the vortex, and suddenly forgetting my vast knowledge of teenage horror films, I decided that this was a great idea. I jumped into the vortex and plummeted straight down to Hell, where the Clear Channel corporate headquarters are located. Along the way, I saw the souls of the dammed. It was almost like moving through an evil wax museum. I passed right by a bizarre poker game consisting of Josef Stalin, Richard Nixon, and Rod Roddy. Betty Crocker was baking lard-filled brownies while Billy The Kid was acting as her soux chef. L. Ron Hubbard was teaching Pol Pot how to do his taxes. It was an impressive array of dead people, including Vanilla Ice!
Finally, I arrived at the office of Clear Channel Entertainment Vice Chairman Tom Hicks. His secretary, an organ grinder's monkey, escorted me inside. I had to wait for a few minutes because Hicks was finishing his usual afternoon swim through his pool of money. I have to admit that for a guy who is the chief henchman of the dark underworld, Hicks seemed like a cheerful guy.
"Brian, my boy. Come on in!"
"Thank you, sir…Um, why am I here?"
"Just a second. Do you like the background music?"
"Frankly, no. It's absolutely terrible. I thought I recognized a George Harrison song, but it's so god-awful I wasn't sure."
"You’re right. It was a George Harrison song, and it was God-awful. This is a new album of duets between Britney Spears and Yoko Ono covering the best of George Harrison."
"That's so evil it's practically sacrilegious."
"You’re right again, and when it gets released tomorrow, it’ll be number one on all the charts thanks to an overwhelming amount of airplay. Wait until you see the video for Within You, Without You.’ Yoko covers her nearly naked body in chocolate sauce, while a dog-collared Britney slowly licks Yoko clean."
I took two minutes to vomit in his trashcan before the conversation continued.
"Mr. Hicks, why would you want to promote something so inherently wrong?"
"Because we can."
"Makes sense to me."
"Let’s take a walk. Shall we?"
"Anything to escape this godforsaken music."
We strolled down a dark corridor as he explained the overarching goals of Clear Channel. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal this secret to you, but when you wake up one day without the ability to make your own decisions, you will understand.
Eventually, we arrived at a small room. The sign on the door originally read "Torture Chamber," but the writing was crossed-out and replaced with a small piece of paper that read "Negosheeayshun Room" in a child's handwriting. The "S's" were backwards, of course. I wondered why one of the world's largest companies would have such a shoddy sign on a door to what was obviously a former torture chamber. I also wondered why the vice chairman of one of the world's largest companies had an organ grinder's monkey serving as his secretary. Then I wondered why one of the world's largest companies was headquartered in Hell, and what was I doing here? Finally, I realized that I should have been asking these questions when the shadowy wraith first materialized. Ultimately, I decided it was best to just chill and go with the flow, so I gleefully entered the former torture chamber.
Tom motioned me to sit down in what looked suspiciously like an electric chair. Many would find the leg and arm restraints to be…well…restraining, but I found they helped me concentrate on the subject at hand. By the same token, most people would be offended by the prospect of have electrodes hooked up to their scalp and testicles, but not me. I was going with the flow.
A white-hot light shined down upon my face.
"Hey, Tommy Boy, thanks for the free tanning session, but I burn easily."
"Please, call me Beelzebub."
"Okay, B. You know, this whole experience has been quite educational, but do you think you could tell me why I'm here?"
"Sure. You know, we’ve been reading Inaudible Hiss’ for sometime now."
"Really? Which pieces were your favorites? Keller Williams Caught Playing With Himself’? Americans Move to England in Search of Greener Pastures’? The Truth About Jambands and Sex’?"
"Ummm…sure, those all sound great."
"Hey bro, you don't sound very convincing. If you're trying to kiss my ass, this is a weird way to go about doing it."
"First of all, calm down. Before you go speaking out of turn, need I remind you that I have 40,000 volts of electricity about to flow to your nether regions?"
"Damnit, I knew I should have thought twice about that."
"Okay, so the problem I have with your writing is that I’ve never heard of any of these bands that you cover. Who is this Keller Williams? What is Galactic? Who on Earth is The Grateful Dead?"
"These are all really talented musicians and bands that have a penchant for live improvisation."
"What is this improvisation’ you speak of?"
"Never heard of it."
"I’m drawing a blank here."
"Making it up as you go along?"
"Is that like changing outfits seven or eight times in the middle of a concert?"
"In a word: No."
"Okay, well these bands can’t be that good if they’re not on Top 40 radio."
"Dude, you control Top 40 radio."
"Really? I hadn’t heard! Brouhahahahahahahaha!"
"Could you not do that again? That kinda freaks me out."
"So, to make a long story short, we’d like to acquire Inaudible Hiss.’"
"You want to buy my column?"
"We prefer the word acquire.’ It sounds slightly less evil."
"So why do you want to acquire Inaudible Hiss? Is it because of my wide-reaching influence with the younger generation?"
"I hate to burst your bubble, but your readership consists of 200 aging hippies who surf the net instead of doing their jobs."
"That's it? Are you sure you counted my friends, too?"
"Yes, that’s it."
"What about my parents?"
"My bad. The correct number is 202."
"That's more like it. So why do you want to acquire my column?"
"There’s no particular reason. We just like to acquire stuff, and after a while, acquisitions become quite addictive. At this point, acquisitions are hard to come by because we own almost everything. Thus, we’ve decided to go after small-fries, such as obscure and untalented online columnists."
"Hey, who are you calling Small-Fry'? I have 202 readers, thank you very much! Okay, so if Clear Channel acquires my column, do I get one of those organ grinder monkeys to be my secretary?"
"No, the monkey is mine. If you’re lucky, we might give you a box turtle."
"I really had my heart set on a monkey."
"Tell ya what. When you get rich enough to become vice chairman of a massive multimedia empire of darkness, you can have a monkey. Until that time comes, you get stuck with whatever reptile we have laying around the office. If you keep protesting, you’ll be lucky to get a cockroach!"
"Whoa there, pardner! Let's not be rash. Okay, turtles are great. Incredibly slow, thoroughly unproductive, but…nonetheless greatin their own slow, lethargic, non-primate kind of way…sorta. Can you feel my enthusiasm already?"
_(blank stare) (crickets chirping)_
"Hmmm…I see I've really struck a chord with you. Anyway, I guess we now get to barter on a dollar figure, huh? Well, I think $10,000 is a fair price."
"Let’s say $1,000."
"Let’s settle this right now. I’ll give you forty acorns and a CD by Gov’t Mule."
"You mean I get a CD? Where do I sign?"
He immediately pulled out a huge contract. After turning to the last page, he pricked my thumb with a pin and instructed me to sign my name in blood.
"Well, this is a big document here. I need to read it before I sign anything."
"Trust me, it’s all legal mumbo-jumbo. There’s nothing important in there. It’s just a bunch of platitudes about how you agree to do Clear Channel’s bidding, you formally endorse Clear Channel, you sign your soul over to Clear Channel, etc. Nothing major."
"Well, I guess it's okay as long as I get the Mule CD."
I quickly signed my name in my finest B-positive, and I immediately heard the sound of a heavy door slamming shut. I wasn't exactly sure, but I think I heard a mysterious voice whisper, "Foreshadowing." Shortly thereafter, a loud crack of thunder was audible, which was strange considering that fact that I was in Hell, miles away from the atmosphere. Rather than questioning all of these bizarre sounds, I just chalked them up to obvious symbolism and went about my business.
Tom undid the leg and arm restraints and his monkey carefully removed the electrodes from my scalp and testicles. With a newfound sense of freedom, I decided to ask Tom the question that had been bugging me all day long:
"So, if you have tons money and are the vice chairman of a massive multimedia empire of darkness that controls most of the free world, why does the professional baseball team you own (the Texas Rangers) still suck?"
The next thing I knew, I was awakening in a cold sweat in my bedroom. After taking a few seconds to catch my breath, I was relieved to think the whole thing was a nightmare. Then, as I went to take a shower, I noticed the letters "CCE" were branded on my left ass cheek. There was no way of escaping it. I was Clear Channel Entertainment's bitch.
So here I am attempting to write another column. I don't know what to do except to speak from my heart and tell you how I really feel. Therefore, I think it is high time that the jamband scene embraces Clear Channel for the positive force they have become in the music industry. Who in their right mind can tell me that Clear Channel's ownership of approximately 1,200 radio stations (roughly 970 more than its closest competitor) is a bad thing? In addition, Clear Channel's ownership of over nearly three-dozen television stations, 770,000 billboards, more than 100 concert venues, and a massive production and promotion company creates something the business world calls "synergy." I'm not exactly sure what synergy is, but I'm told that it's very good, especially if you're rich. I'm not rich, but now that I don't need to worry about morals, acquiring wealth should be a piece of cake.
Don't forget that Clear Channel can force our favorite artist into playing Clear Channel venues. Honestly, that's a beautiful thing. No longer will people be shut out of Phish tickets at the homey 15,000-seat Merriweather Post Pavilion when Clear Channel can force Phish into the 25,000-person-capacity Nissan Pavilion. If Phish refuses to acquiesce, Clear Channel can threaten to remove them from the radio airwaves. Now I can hear you saying, "But Phish is almost never on the radio." Ah, but what if Phish were ALWAYS on the radio? We'd have so many more people at concerts, and more people always equals more fun. There'd be so many more people to buy goo balls, beer, and drugs in the lots. We'd even have more people there for the lots than the music. That would be great!
Okay, I'm getting distracted. Let me get back to the subject at hand. People are decrying Clear Channel as a monopoly, but what is really so bad about monopolies? Monopolies are so much more effective than these small Mom and Pop shops that are eroding America. Why trust your business to one individual when you can have a giant corporation take care of your affairs? And you know it makes total sense for all of our media to be consolidated under one gigantic corporate umbrella. This way Clear Channel can weed out all of those pesky dissenting voices, such as those who expressed anti-American sentiment in opposing the war in Iraq. Clear Channel can also help drum up our patriotic spirit by hosting great "Rallies for America." I don't know about you, but I want my news and entertainment to come from the same source, a source that blindly loves this nation and never stoops so low as to question American policies. The last thing we need are guys like Bob Weir and Mickey Hart running around acting like the Dixie Chicks. You can trust Clear Channel to keep The Dead in line.
So there you have it. I am a new man, and when the money starts rolling in, life will be good. You, too, can enjoy the fruits of Clear Channel's labor. All you have to do is cast your November vote for our honest and heroic president, George W. Bush. After he is re-elected, the money is going to flow like water, and we will all be incredibly happy because the airwaves will be filled with nothing but positive vibes.
Well, I guess that's not entirely true. Fans of the Texas Rangers will still be miserable.