Custom Search

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ahmet Ertegun and the Music We Love

Ahmet Ertegun died last year. You may have heard it in the news, and seen a picture of someone who looked like a '70s retread. Well, that man had as much to do with inventing rock n' roll as any performer. Ahmet co-founded and ran Atlantic Records, the most successful independent record label of all time. He recorded Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. Later his label released records by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.

The New Yorker's George W. S. Trow wrote a marvelous profile of Ahmet in 1978. If you love rock music like Shambollocks does, you need to read this piece. It carries a bit of the publication's snootiness, but gives a crystalline vision of what it meant to be in rock in the '70s, when the coolness faded and money became paramount.

The record business is not, in its essence, picturesque. The processes of the work are straightforward, and while it is true that behind the scenes there are several coherent styles in operation, these styles (the style of engineers of twenty-seven or thirty-four with long hair and a nose for drugs; the style of press agents of twenty-seven or thirty-four with one small item of Vuitton and a nose for drugs; the style implied by stencilled T-shirts and access to rented limousines) lack the air of ingenious contrivance that was formerly found in the movie industry, for instance. There was about the old movie industry a feeling that adolescents—adolescent actors and adolescent moguls—were dressing up to play-act as adults. The superior candor of the record business has resulted in a formal recognition of adolescent styles. Styles that must be a little jittery, however, since they are juxtaposed with the real work of a cutthroat business.

If you wanted to know why the Ramones saved rock n' roll, read this article.

No comments: