(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
Things I wonder about:
Why the promo staffers involved in the new payola scandal at Sony BMG Music Entertainment wrote down so much detailed self-incriminating information about their payments to radio stations. Why did they trust e-mail, when they surely wouldn’t have written these things down on paper and mailed them and made file copies? Don’t they talk on the phone any more? Phone calls, unless they are recorded, are hearsay and not admissible evidence of lawbreaking.
Furthermore, why didn’t these self-same staffers purge their computers of the messages once the dirty deeds were done? Do these people think e-mail is harmless and just goes away like smoke dissipating in the wind?
And — I wonder why no one seems to be speculating about further investigations at other record labels. In all these years of payola, we know it’s been pretty industry-wide. In fact, it’s so industry-wide that, as the smoking e-mails show, Sony became complacent enough that they established sets of “rules” for the radio stations to follow for being eligible to take dirty money.
And — I wonder when we’ll see a list of all the dirty disc jockeys and program directors and music directors, or were radio stations forced to take money to concoct phony chart listings? Also, I wonder whether only one executive sacrifice at Sony will suffice: Epic Records executive vice president of promotion Joel Klaiman is thus far the only scapegoat and has been ushered out the door with great fanfare. I guess he operated in a vacuum at Sony, and cut all the checks and approved all the money payouts and free plasma screens and flyaways by himself.
And — I wonder why it took New York’s bulldog of a state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, to do this. The payola practice has not been limited to New York, after all. Are the paper shredders and computer erasers working overtime in Nashville and L.A.?
I wonder why we don’t see any newspaper editorials bemoaning the state of morality in the radio and record industries. I guess the newspapers — in between breathlessly covering Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise — are obsessed with churning up a “battle” over John Roberts’ Supreme Court nomination. Has everyone forgotten that, at the heart of it, this payola mess deals with the total corruption of the public airwaves?
Also, in between not thinking about Paris Hilton or Renee Zellweger or Nicole Kidman or John Roberts, I wonder why nobody writes good songs about dogs anymore. I don’t mean writing songs that are dogs, of which there are many. I mean songs like Blake Shelton’s “Ol’ Red,” the Pirates of the Mississippi’s “Feed Jake,” Elvis Presley’s “Old Shep,” the Byrds’ “Old Blue,” Grandpa Jones’ “Old Rattler” and Tom T. Hall’s “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” “Ol’ Red” is the most recent of these recordings and it was actually written by Hoyt Axton many years ago.
I also wonder why no singers whistle anymore, like Roger Miller did in “England Swings” or Marty Robbins with “The Story of My Life.” I was talking about this the other day with Raul Malo, who is a marvelous whistler and in fact delivers a whistling solo in a song he just wrote titled “Just Because.” Neither of us knew the answer. Jesse Lee Jones of the group Brazilbilly is the only other current whistler I know of.
Finally, I wonder why hardly anybody writes really clever novelty or parody songs anymore. Has the age of sarcasm so offended and warped people’s sense of humor that parody and novelty are either not understood or are unwanted? Brad Paisley’s clever songs such as “Alcohol” and “Celebrity” and some of Cowboy Troy’s songs are about the closest these days to such songs as Jerry Reed’s “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” and Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait” and “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”