Friday, April 25, 2008

"Shut Up And Sing", Natalie Maines, Radio Censorship

I watched a DVD of "Shut Up And Sing" this afternoon. It's a documentary about the Dixie Chicks' popularity meltdown following lead singer Natalie Maines' criticism of George Bush.

Two observations I'd like to make:
1) All rock, pop, and country music documentaries now remind me of Spinal Tap.
2) Natalie Maines was right.

And now for some full disclosure....

My daughter The Future Aggie has always been a huge Dixie Chicks fan. She started a Dixie Chicks tribute band in the sixth grade. (You haven't lived until you've heard 12-year-old girls sing "Goodbye Earl" with their own instruments....) We've been to two Chicks concerts, and own the $90 Dixie Chicks baseball jersey. We own all the CD's, the songbooks, the concert DVD's, and some random Dixie Chicks jewelry.

Charlie Robison (see the About Me column, at right) is married to Dixie Chicks banjo/guitar/dobro utlity infielder Emily Robison. Charlie Robison puts on the best shows of anyone now alive. I've been to either 10 or 11 of them. If anyone wants to join me at Billy Bob's or 8.0's next time he comes to town, my email is also in the "About Me" link.

Charlie's brother Bruce Robison is the best songwriter in country music. "Angry All The Time" "Travelin' Soldier" "Wrapped Around Your Pretty Little Finger" etc etc etc.... If he were to record his laundry lists, I'd buy them.

Bruce's wife, Kelly Willis, is greatness. I own everything she's ever recorded. If you follow the link to her site, you'll learn that she's no longer touring. Something about trying to raise four kids.

Let's keep wandering around the family trees.... Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines has one of the most perfect voices on this or any other planet. Her father, Lloyd Maines, is possibly the best steel guitar maestro in existence. I've heard him 4 or 5 times with Terri Hendrix.

My next door neighbors, Amy and Cheryl, are good friends with Susan Gibson. Susan wrote the song "Wide Open Spaces", which became a mega-hit for none other than....the Dixie Chicks. Whenever Susan is playing in town, she usually comes to Amy and Cheryl's place afterwards and we sit around the backyard campfire and play guitars and sing. (Note: having Susan Gibson play along with my puny little 3-chord stuff makes me sound GOOD....)

My point is that the Dixie Chicks and their extended families are a favorite "brand" at my house. What with recordings, concerts, and other purchases, we've probably invested a thousand bucks in that extended family over the years.
I think the government has intentionally set out to harm the brand.

When Natalie went to London and said "We're ashamed that the President Of The United States is from Texas", it was a throwaway remark, and it was a cheap applause line. The video of the statement shows her looking very proud of herself. It got a huge ovation in London, but the negative response in the U.S. was overwhelming. It has cost them millions of dollars in recording and concert revenue. Perhaps that's as it should be.


She had every right to say what she said.
Country music fans have every right to avoid their concerts and avoid their CD's.

But radio stations, in my opinion, despite being privately owned entities, do not have a right to suddenly stop playing Dixie Chicks' music.

Here's why. Radio frequencies are a government controlled monopoly. There are a limited number of broadcast frequencies, and the rights to those frequencies are tightly controlled. That's why you may have read editorials concerning Clear Channel's purchase of multiple stations in the same market. Not only are the broadcast frequencies a scarce commodity, but one organization (Clear Channel) is purchasing multiples of them in some areas.

Because of that glorious privilege (a monopoly of the airwaves), radio stations are in effect acting as government censors if they suddenly drop an artist from their playlists after the artist in question criticizes the government.

If Kanye West or Amy Winehouse or NWA or Lawrence Welk has the #1 selling CD, I'm not required to purchase their music and play it in my back yard. Backyard jamboxes aren't a monopoly.

But if Kanye, Amy, NWA, or Lawrence have the #1 CD in a particular format, and the government-controlled monopolies don't EVER play the CD ? Something's wrong. That's excatly what happened in the Dallas/Fort Worth market with the Chicks' CD "Taking The Long Way". I didn't hear a single tune from that CD on the radio.
And it won a Grammy, fer heaven's sake....

If an otherwise popular artist can only access a particular audience through a group of Clear Channel radio stations, then everything changes. Unless I'm missing something, the government has given these radio stations a unique privilege and the Clear Channel stations are returning the favor by stifling dissent. I don't think we'd put up with this from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
I heartily recommend this documentary, although I think going into Iraq was a necessity. Saddam had wiped out 90,000 Kurds with poison gas. The world is better with him out of the picture. We coulda woulda shoulda done a better job of the aftermath.
Here's the trailer for the documentary. I think it's worth a rental.

Look for Charlie Robison and Emily on their ranch in San Antonio. Lloyd Maines puts in an appearance about halfway through. John McCain is shown at a congressional hearing, gleefully grilling some corporate flak-catcher.

Don't watch this if you've seen "Spinal Tap" recently. You'll get the giggles.


Suzette said...

Remember Hornys down on White Settlement? I was in that bar once with some friends listening to Terri Hendrix and Natalie Maines was in the small crowd and did a little freebie for us, it was great! Nice post.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

This comment might get having Blogspot problems.

I remember Horny's. Cool little place.

T. Hendrix and L. Maines play at the Unitarian church near us on Sandy Land on a fairly regular basis. Will post something about it next time they're scheduled. Hope to see you/meet you there.


Anonymous said...

The Bush back-lash didn't hinder their record sales at all.
Besides the Grammy - which to me was a justifiably earned, the album also garnered a CMA award. Bless those Homogonized Hillbilly CMA members hearts.
Also,the album sold millions.

KNON sometimes plays the gals during their Super Roper Redneck Review time slot of 4p - 6p M - F.
It's country/Americana music at its best. The DJs make it worth listening to. Where else would you find a (now retired) DJ named Ranger Rita.

Bruce will be at the 8.0 on June 25th.
Bonnie Bishop, another long-time singer/songwriter who (these days) is not heard nearly enough, will be at the 8.0 on May 21.

Just listening to the angelic Kelly Willis today.

Your SS classmate,

P.S. I miss the original formation of the Dixie Chicks with singer Robin Macy. Now there's an angelic voice. And no, she doesn't regret leaving the band. Really.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Dear Anonymous Elizabeth, who shares a name with Serial Commenter Zbeth, bringing about much confusion.

Let's get up an expedition to hear Bruce on the 25th.

The Chicks CD that won the Grammy was nowhere near as good as their previous ones, in my opinion. I've spouted off elsewhere in these pages about major awards like the (ahem...) Nobel being politicized.

I get Robin Macy and Laura Lynch confused. Lynch is the one whose husband won the lottery, right?

KNON's program schedule bounces around too much for me to remember to tune in. Will try to check it out.

Thanks for the multi-faceted comment.


Anonymous said...

My error. It's Laura Lynch.
Every so often I see her in Target.

I interviewed her at the ground breaking for the Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. What a doll!

I interviewd Kay Bailey Hutchison too. Not a doll.

Anonymous said...

I think the Chicks got what they deserved. Smart off and you get slapped. And the whole gov't owned freq thing doesn't fly. In fact it's goofy.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I don't know that they got what they "deserved", but they got what was inevitable, considering their fan base.

I'm not sure what you mean by "the govt owned frequency thing doesn't fly".

If our government has a monopoly on frequencies, and will only give frequencies to people who censor criticism, well, yeah, that's a goofy system, and we shouldn't tolerate it.