A great read on many levels, and definitely so if you are a Morrissey fan. Just reading about Cosby, Johnny Carson, and Ed McMahon bewildered by an audience they weren’t expecting has its own charms.
However, another part of the article deals with Morrissey’s highly successful tour during almost complete neglect by MTV and radio:
Two weeks prior to his scheduled Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey touched down in the United States to embark on the six-week leg of a worldwide tour to promote his third solo release, Kill Uncle, after having just wrapped up a successful 11-show run of Europe. The Kill Uncle Tour kicked off in California, where there were six dates lined up: San Diego, Costa Mesa, Inglewood, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Sacramento. The shows sold out fast. The entire tour sold out fast, but the West Coast stretch sold out faster. Much of Morrissey’s popularity in the area could be attributed to heavy rotation from the area’s influential radio station, KROQ, one of the few outlets to lend support. 20,000 tickets to the show at the San Diego Sports Arena went in a flash, gone in less than an hour, faster than any predecessor, including Madonna and Michael Jackson. Tickets for The Forum in Inglewood went even quicker—18,000 in just 15 minutes.
Aside from the Tonight Show appearance and KROQ airplay, Morrissey was almost never played on MTV, and not at all during normal hours, and barely played on mainstream radio. (Despite selling out venues faster than the biggest pop stars of the day.) There may be reasons for this that are specific to Morrissey, but I must wonder about the bigger picture. (Morrissey is a highly subversive artist that has always threatened many mainstream forces.) After the 1996 Telecommunications Act corporations, such as Clear Channel at the time, consolidated their control of radio playlists. One can remember songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine being banned after September 11th on radio stations owned by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia Inc.
So here are the questions: What large forces shaped musical culture before that act? How is music of today shaped by forces outside of consumer demand? One thing that is a no-brainer is that people, unless one is an obsessive seeking things out, can only like what they are exposed to. Why is it that so many pieces of pop music today sound so similar and are so often completely devoid of any substance or ideas? Aside from substance and ideas, which have been lacking at other times during popular music, why is pop music that is readily available for the general public delivered by performers lacking strong personalities?
Questions, as always, questions…