July 27, 2014 – 5:23 am


Dave Marsh on Johnny Winter’s Second Winter

We saw a lot of Johnny and Steve in those years in Detroit, at the offices of Creem Magazine. I can remember them turning up one day with a copy of Second Winter, the follow-up album. Two discs, three sides, eleven songs. Fourth side blank. Why? After those, the level of material dropped off, they said. Hype? Well, anyway, a dubious rationale, albeit Columbia only turned up two outtakes when they reissued it on CD 10 years ago.

But the real story was the battle they fought with CBS Records over its insistence that all albums made for the label be made at a company-owned studio using company hired and trained engineers. One of the most instructive lessons I ever had about record production came from that conversation, Johnny raving mad about the refusal of those engineers to recognize that to make this music, you needed the needle to rock into the red. Yeah, the sound got distorted. That was what the songs needed. Johnny was righteously indignant. Steve was perfectly happy to have a good story for the papers, capped by his revelation that he had negotiated an agreement - in writing, he said - that Johnny could henceforth record wherever the fuck he wanted to, with whomever he chose.

WIKIPEDIA on Laura Nyro’s Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

Christmas and the Beads of Sweat is undoubtedly the least-known of the “classic trilogy” of Laura Nyro records, perhaps because it does not contain songs that became significant hits for other artists. In fact, it is notable that it is the first Nyro album to feature a cover version, that being the Goffin/King standard “Up on the Roof,” which gave Nyro her only singles chart entry.

The atmosphere of Christmas is more mystical and exotic than any other Laura Nyro record. It is notably more laidback than its predecessor, 1969’s cult favourite New York Tendaberry, but isn’t as immediately accessible as the well-crafted Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Instead, some songs bridge the gap between those two albums.

The presence of the Swampers band from Muscle Shoals lends the album a more easygoing, rock-inspired sound, but this is countered by Nyro’s evocative lyrics and moody piano delivery. The second vinyl side features long Nyro originals, primarily solo but sometimes accompanied on exotic harp by legendary progressive musician Alice Coltrane. Thus, Christmas often has an atmosphere of being two separate divisions.

Songs such as “Christmas In My Soul” ease Nyro into the world of politics, a topic she became engrossed with during her songs and performances in the 1980s, while she sings about drug use (”Been on a Train”), and picturesque city lifestyles (”Blackpatch”) elsewhere. The album was another commercial success on the back of Tendaberry, but is one of Nyro’s oddly less celebrated works, despite containing some of her finest work…

It is regularly thought, considering the title, that the album is a holiday record. Columbia Records tried to get Nyro to change the title but she would not allow it, and some stores still stock it only at Christmas.

Johnny Winter fought his record label for the right to record his music as he pleased. Laura Nyro fought that same label for the right to name her album the way she saw fit. Commercial considerations and the right way of doing things had no room when making art.

From there, we are now here:

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free…”

- Taylor Swift, writing an editorial for The Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2014.

How did you bring up your children?

Your no B.S. comments will earn you a pass to free music.


More B.S. Contest No. 1 (click here)
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More B.S. Contest No. 3 (click here)

Contest No. 01 / Contest No. 02 / Contest No. 03 / Contest No. 04 / Contest No. 05
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Contest No. 26 / Contest No. 27 /

  1. 19 Responses to “THE MORE B.S. CONTEST No. 4”

  2. Regardless of the record company tangles of JW or LN, Taylor Swift is 100% correct. Great music is someone’s work, or art if you prefer, and I for one think they should be financially rewarded for it…and, yes, rewarded with my money if I want to own it. After all, who of us works for free?

    By Shep on Jul 29, 2014

  3. Since Taylor (not so) Swift doesn’t actually know what music is I’m thankful that I never had children who could be subjected to the horrible drivel that she unleashes on her brain dead fan base.

    By Ernie Clark on Jul 29, 2014

  4. A carefully groomed, manufactured, multi millionaire pop star crying about not getting even more money is the perfect example of just how wrong our Society has gone. Swift is clearly a tool of the recording industry, an industry once rife with the music of many, now corporately controlled and mass marketed in exactly three major genres: “Pop”, Country and Hip-Hop. It is exactly why popular / mass-marketed music hasn’t changed much since the late 90’s, and also why it hasn’t been any good. The music monopolies create their pop/country/hip-hop stars, then churn out records to play on the radio stations they own, occasionally aided by TV popularity contests like American Idol. Basically you’re listening to the music that some corporate geek with a statistical analysis chart says you should listen to. Which is the most marketable music, or, pretty people making harmless, derivative and mostly dull music and doing it solely for the money. Taylor Swift is indeed a beneficiary of this system and she’s just returning the favor.

    By Idiots All Around on Jul 29, 2014

  5. Music is art but what Taylor Swift does is not art and neither is it valuable. All of the great old bands got scammed by their record labels and/or managers at one time or another so it is not like the record companies are looking out for the artists. After all this time, the price of a new CD is still not down to a reasonable cost. I think the way for new bands to go is tour, own your own music, distribute your own product and build up a loyal fan base. With a few exceptions, record companies have always been evil and always will be. The dinosaur doesn’t want to change but still wants all that money.

    By Mackster on Jul 29, 2014

  6. i think its up to the artists to put out what they want to say with their creative output and recordings. its up to the labels that signed them in the first place to decide that if they like the artist then they must release the product and promote it and distribute it and so on with as much vigor as they can if they wish it to sell. if they dont have that intention then they shouldnt have signed the artists in the first place. once done they should leave the rest up to the artists and the producers etc. now there is a limit as well. surely the label shouldnt be forced to accept and release any and all product that their artist hands them. what if everyone decided to hand them a ‘metal machine music’ or some other piece of shit?
    but if its reasonable and obviously not just a recording of garbage to fulfill an obligatory contract requirement then i think the responsibility falls upon the artist to do what they wish and the label should mind its own business.
    while art like beauty can be said to be in the eye of the beholder.. there is a point at which the people who are responsible for releasing the product to the masses have to step in and say hey.. we are in this to make money and as long as u want us to invest our time and money and studios etc. then u have to treat this as serious business and not a game or a joke.
    while not all of us like one artist or another that isnt the point. we dont have to. but the labels dont care about that. theyre only interested in making money. the artists are in it for several reasons. they want to make money and be heard and be famous and express themselves and so on. they want an outlet. one hand washes the other.

    By darth on Jul 29, 2014

  7. Contrary to popular belief, not all artists or musicians are rich. And even among popular musicians, if they aren’t careful, they can get ripped off far worse than any of us could ever imagine. On the other hand, you can’t expect the public to pay out every time a live performance gets recorded and changes hands - you might as well expect the public to pay every time they take the musician’s picture. You can’t protect copyright 100% on anything that’s widely distributed. Copyrights only apply in countries that agree to them, which is why Asia is flooded with bootlegs. I live in the Pacific, and a lot of island artists won’t even spend the money to record proper CDs because the bootlegging of Pacific island music is so unchecked. I think if you’re a musician in modern times, you’ve just got to look at the situation realistically and figure out how you’re going to survive. Obviously, a lot of people will still pay for a professionally recorded CD by an artist whose music they appreciate, as opposed to the record company nightmare scenario of everyone just trading bootlegs. Live performances have kept many musicians’ career afloat even while disputes with their record companies have kept their music out of the shops. The Grateful Dead are probably the most bootlegged band in history, but are they hurting? Beautiful things ***should*** be paid for, but I guess the market determines the beauty level of any given product just like water finds its own depth. For example, a brand new CD that presents the artist’s music exactly as he/she thinks it should be presented might be considered more “beautiful” than a live bootleg of the same songs. Once again, if you want a career in music you have to look at market conditions and decide whether you want to take a shot or whether you’d make a more comfortable living managing a McDonalds. If society were to devote all its law enforcement resources to protecting copyrights, pretty soon you and I would be copyrighting our names or the particular way we form sentences, even though we’re using the same language as everyone else. It’s all a matter of degree.

    By Jim Kneubuhl on Jul 29, 2014

  8. People spend a great deal of time writing and composing their music. Do they do this to make money or because they have a message or something to share that is important to them. the result - a piece of music. Who is to judge? Whether you like or dislike something is purely subjective. Each to their own - the true value is beheld by the artist who has chosen to share his/her work with us. Thanks to all who produce music.

    By daij on Jul 29, 2014

  9. Taylor Swift is a talent and I find it refreshing that she has an attitude. I don’t care for her music. What I do find unacceptable is how much money everyone besides the artist makes in the the music business. Artist only make money for their live shows. The record companies make money off of iTunes. I wonder when the artists will just give the music away and play live shows for $$.

    By john on Jul 29, 2014

  10. interestingly a news item just hit my email -

    By darth on Jul 30, 2014

  11. In fairness, Laura Nyro would approve of Taylor Swift’s lyricism and approach to art, although their musical touchpoints couldn’t be further apart. Artistic and lyrical freedom will be constricted in the name of getting needed exposure on terrestrial radio, still the major way people hear any kind of new music. Music is just one more bit of information (even good information) in a sea of it, and only the best of it rises to the top. And yes, the workman (and woman)deserves their wage but the currency and system has changed.

    By Tony on Jul 30, 2014

  12. Two separate issues here, surely - artistic integrity and greed.
    I’m struggling to understand why they have been presented together, as if Swift were delivering a commentary on integrity. She was not, but by linking them in this way you have unleashed the dogs on her, and they’re having fun savaging her.
    I don’t know her music and I suspect the reason is I’ve never asked, when something by her was playing on the radio, “Who the Fuck is that!?” So she means nothing to me, and her viewpoint on the value of music does not interest me.
    But on Winter and Nyro? Both stood up for the music and how They felt it. Good for them - and long may people value the legacy they laid down for us to enjoy.

    By the original tony on Jul 31, 2014

  13. that’s the problem between art and commerce. people have to decide if the price to compromise your work based on outside forces is worth it. I believe swift is incorrect in her belief in the compromise of integrity and the day they tell her to change something lets see if she still believes what she said

    By walter on Aug 1, 2014

  14. Some bands such as Govt Mule and the Allman Bros have accepted reality and gotten out in front of ROIOs by making high quality recordings of their shows and selling them for a reasonable price. My brother would hang out after AB shows to buy a copy…and make one for me the next day!

    I’m not sure how to answer the question: How did you raise your children? That’s still a work in process for me. They see me DL all the time. But I pay to take them to shows too. One is a musician and I don’t think he’d care at all if someone recorded and shared his HS Band shows! He’s still a kid who enjoys playing and is happy that someone wants to listen.

    By steve22 on Aug 1, 2014

  15. i’m getting too old to concern myself all that much with things i can’t control. it’s been 40 years since i went to my 1st rock show(chuck berry/bo diddley). while i am still finding new music/bands that are doing interesting things, i wonder whether we’ll ever see the development of legendary groups/artist who have the staying power to continue across generations. since the late 80’s/early 90’s, there are only a few bands that have maintained popularity for 20+ years, u2, the chili peppers, pearl jam, phish, and the dave matthews band come to mind, but beyond that i don’t see the next wave that will captivate and cultivate the loyalty and excitement that some of the groups of the 60’s and 70’s were able to create. could it be that music, like the culture it reflects, is no longer built to last?

    By billy jack on Aug 2, 2014

  16. Sure artists and others have the right to be paid for their work…it’s the ‘American way’! But,people have a right to ‘try it before they buy it’ too. If artists are well known for being great at what they create, then let THEM be paid for it…not the record companies who give them royalties and suck up all the rewards. And, for those artists who are newbies to the scene, let them share their music freely so that people can taste their creativity and decide for themselves if they are worth their meld…Just sayin…

    By GOLD MINER on Aug 12, 2014

  17. “Music soothes the Soul” is a great thing to “Teach Your Children Well” . . .

    By Terri HANNAN on Aug 13, 2014

  18. music is art and should be paid for, but at a reasonable level, should a musician earn more than a nurse for example? isn’t it kinda unjust that musicians can earn so much, for putting in a few hundred hours work per year, yet a nurse that works 10x as hard, and is arguably of mure use to society, scrapes by on a pittance?

    By Liam NSW on Aug 14, 2014

  19. I like to try before I buy and I buy a LOT.

    By Phil on Aug 25, 2014

  20. I’m only going to answer the specific question: my children are well aware that music isn’t something you get for free most of the time. They see music coming in via various paid methods: CD’s, Emusic downloads, Spotify Premium streaming, Bandcamp downloads, vinyl, even a cassette or two. They understand that I download the occasional bootlegs and that’s because that music is unavailable elsewhere. The other free source of music is Freegal, which is available to anyone with a library card and allows you to DL 5 tracks a week and stream 3:00 a week.

    Bottom line: they know that if something is for sale and they want it, they will have to pay for it.

    By Jeremy Shatan on Sep 11, 2014

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