Sidelight On The U.S.A.

The American Magazine “Time” of February 23rd, 1953, paints a revealing picture of the mercenary struggle that goes on behind the scenes when the big record companies of the United States decide that they have a vocal “hit” personality. “Time” spotlights Rosemary Clooney the latest best seller of the revolving disc and tells us that the reason for her success is because to the trade “her voice is both ‘barrel house’ and blue, i.e., robust and fresh with an undercurrent of seductiveness . . . it has a cinnamon flavour that tends to remind fans of happier days gone by—or soon to come.” “Time” continues “Moreover thanks to a maloclusion of the Clooney jaw her voice carries just the hint of a lisp. A word like ‘kiss’ comes out ‘kish’ and ‘caress’ like ‘cares’ . . . Clooney gets a sound that no other competitor quite duplicates.”

We are then told of one Mitch Miller who chooses the songs for Columbia records, who employs both himself and Rosemary Clooney. In four or five hours he may listen to as many as fifty songs any of which will possibly be sung by one or more of Columbia’s best selling warblers. Keeping in mind the age group 14-22 years that buys most of these records Mr. Miller has an infallible formula “Keep it simple, keep it sexy, keep it sad.” Whilst giving auditions to these new ballads that are soon to rend the hearts and moisten the eyes of American and British youth, Mr. Miller will pass the time “spooning yoghourt or munching hard boiled eggs.”

And what does all this add up to for Miss Clooney the girl wit the maloclusion (whatever that may mean) of the jaw? “Time” tells us “a jungly world of high pressure pluggers struggling songsmiths and all important disc jockeys. It was a world where she came to own only 75 per cent. of herself with her managers and booking agents owning the other 25 per cent. Above all it was a world where click or smash hit was the ultimate goal where clearance (by payment to publishing societies) was necessary for permission to plug a song on the air; a world where cut-ins (giving a performer a share of song profits), hot stones (open bribes), and other forms of payola were standing operating procedure; a world of concern . . . of romance (a verb meaning to shower disc jockeys and musicians with attention in return for performances),” and now apparently she is on her way to Hollywood and stardom.

While one may not wish the young woman of our story anything but good (it is not often that members of the working class get such quick and relatively easy money) we would venture to suggest that within a socialist society people will be much more able and much freer to create their own music alongside and in harmony with their other activities and to be able to appreciate a better standard from those who can excel. This of course does not mean the howlers, echo box and crying performers that seem to be necessary to give youth a shot in the arm today. It would also mean an end to the parasites who, like leeches, fasten on to any new success as long as they can take a cut or a rake off.

Incidentally Columbia with six other recording companies shared 100,000,000 dollars worth of business last year and business is still booming.


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