Punk Aristocrats Salutes The Record Man: Ahmet Ertegun by Jason Hollis


“I think it’s better to burn out than to fade away… it’s better to live out your days being very, very active — even if it destroys you — than to quietly… disappear…. At my age, why do you think I’m still here struggling with all the problems of this company — because I don’t want to fade away.”
—Ahmet Ertegun

More than most in the $5 billion-a-year global industry he helped build from scratch, Ahmet Ertegun loved the rhythm and the blues. He loved the rock and the roll, jump and swing, and all forms of jazz. More than anything, he loved the high life and the low. When he died at the age of eighty-three on December 14th, about six weeks after injuring himself in a backstage fall at a Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, the world lost not only the greatest “record man” who ever lived but also a unique individual whose personal and professional life comprised the history of popular music in America over the past seventy years. On every level, the story of that life is just as rich, varied and exotic as the music that Ahmet brought the world through Atlantic Records, the company he founded in 1947 and was still running at the time of his death.


Born in Istanbul on july 31st, 1923, Ahmet Ertegun might never have come to America, which he later called “the land of cowboys, Indians, Chicago gangsters, beautiful brown-skinned women and jazz,” if the Ottoman Empire had not suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Allies during World War I. Occupied by foreign forces, the empire began crumbling in the face of an all-out rebellion led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army major general who would become the father of modern Turkey.

In 1920, Ahmet’s father, Mehmet Munir (he added the surname Ertegun in 1936), a graduate of Istanbul University whose father was a civil servant and whose mother was the daughter of a Sufi sheik, was sent by the sultan to persuade Ataturk to lay down his arms. Switching sides, Mehmet decided instead to become Ataturk’s legal adviser. Two years later, Mehmet was sent to the international conference at which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on July 24th, 1923, setting the borders of modern Turkey and extending diplomatic recognition to the new republic.

In 1925, Mehmet was named minister to Switzerland and moved with his wife, Hayrunisa; his two sons, Nesuhi and Ahmet; and his daughter, Selma, to Bern. In rapid succession, Mehmet served as ambassador to France (where Ahmet first learned to speak French, the traditional language of the court in Turkey) and then to the Court of St. James (where Ahmet was taught English, which he spoke with a French accent, by a governess who had worked at Buckingham Palace).


In 1932, when Ahmet was nine, his older brother took him to see Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington at the London Palladium. “I had never really seen black people,” Ahmet recalled, “and I had never heard anything as glorious as those beautiful musicians wearing white tails, playing these incredibly gleaming horns.” Two years later, Ahmet was delighted to learn his father had been posted to Washington to serve as Turkey’s first ambassador to the United States during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.


Expecting to be thrust into an America he had only experienced through music, Ahmet was sent instead to the Landon School, an all-boys institution run like a British public school. He then attended St. Albans, whose graduates include Al Gore and George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott. However, as Ahmet would later note, “I got my real education at the Howard.” Located in the heart of the black district, the Howard was the nation’s first theater built for black audiences and entertainers. At the Howard, the greatest stars of the day – Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton – performed. “As I grew up,” Ahmet would later say, “I began to discover a little bit about the situation of black people in America and experienced an immediate empathy with the victims of such senseless discrimination. Because although the Turks were never slaves, they were regarded as enemies within Europe because of their Muslim beliefs.”

Even as a boy, Ahmet wanted to make records. When he was fourteen, his mother bought him a toy record-cutting machine. Taking an instrumental version of Cootie Williams doing “West End Blues,” Ahmet put it on a Magnavox record player, sang lyrics he had written into a microphone and then amazed his friends by playing the acetate without telling them he was singing. In 1940, the year he enrolled in St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, Ahmet and his brother put on Washington’s first integrated concert at the only venue that would allow black and white musicians to play on the same stage before a mixed audience: the Jewish Community Center.


On Sunday afternoons, the brothers turned the Turkish Embassy into an open house where visiting jazz musicians would jam together in a huge parlor. According to Ahmet, his father soon began receiving letters from outraged Southern senators, saying, “It has been brought to my attention, sir, that a person of color was seen entering your house by the front door. I have to inform you that in our country, this is not a practice to be encouraged.” Mehmet responded by writing, “In my home, friends enter by the front door – however, we can arrange for you to enter from the back.”

When Mehmet died in 1944, at the age of sixty-one, the family left the embassy. Ahmet and Nesuhi were forced to sell their collection of more than 20,000 records, which they had amassed by going door-to-door in the ghetto and hanging out in black record shops. Rather than return to Turkey to enter the diplomatic corps, the brothers decided to stay in America. Moving into an apartment near the embassy, Ahmet began doing post-graduate work in medieval philosophy at Georgetown University, but he spent most of his time at “Waxie Maxie” Silverman’s Quality Music Shop, where he learned the retail end of the record business firsthand.

In 1946, Ahmet and his friends Herb and Miriam Abramson talked Waxie Maxie into putting up the money to start two labels: the gospel-based Jubilee, and Quality, which focused on jazz. After their first few records went nowhere, Waxie Maxie decided he wanted out. Somehow, Ahmet persuaded Dr. Vahdi Sabit, a Turkish dentist who had been a longtime family friend, to mortgage his home and loan Ahmet $10,000 to start his own label in New York. In 1947, Atlantic Records was born.

The rise of independent record companies like Chess, King, Vee-Jay, Modern, Kent, Savoy and Roulette in America after World War II came about because of several factors. The wartime rationing of shellac, a key ingredient in the manufacture of records, had forced the major labels to drop most of their “race music” and country & western artists to concentrate on the mainstream audience. The postwar boom in the economy put money into the hands of working people, many of them black. And then there was payola, a practice that enabled even the smallest label to get its records played on the radio – if it was willing to pay for it.


Atlantic set up shop in a tiny suite on the ground floor of the broken-down Jefferson Hotel on 56th Street in Manhattan. From the start, Ahmet had a vision of what he wanted to put out on Atlantic. “Here’s the sort of record we need to make,” he once said. “There’s a black man living in the outskirts of Opelousas, Louisiana. He works hard for his money; he has to be tight with a dollar. One morning he hears a song on the radio. It’s urgent, bluesy, authentic and irresistible. He can’t live without this record. He drops everything, jumps in his pickup and drives twenty-five miles to the first record store he finds. If we can make that kind of music, we can make it in the business.”

The reason for the demand was simple. America was still a racially divided nation. In even so sophisticated a city as New York, as Ahmet would later recall, “Harlem folks couldn’t go downtown to the Broadway theaters. They weren’t even welcome on 52nd Street, where the big performers were black. Black people had to find entertainment in their homes – the record was it.”


Ahmet’s first major signing was the singer Ruth Brown, whom he had seen perform at the Crystal Caverns club in Washington. On her way to New York to perform at the Apollo Theater in October 1948, Brown was in a car accident and broke both her legs. On January 12th, 1949, Ahmet brought her a contract to sign while she lay in bed. He then handed her a book on how to sight-read and a large tablet on which she could scribble lyrics while she recovered. Atlantic paid the portion of her hospital bill not covered by insurance.


When Ahmet had first seen Brown perform, her biggest number was “A-You’re Adorable,” a Perry Como song that was completely mainstream. As he did with so many black artists who had lost touch with their own musical roots, Ahmet pushed Brown toward a funkier and more down-home sound. In October 1950, she had a Number One R&B hit with “Teardrops From My Eyes.” In 1953, she recorded “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” with Ray Charles directing her backing band. The song, which Ahmet had her do at four different speeds until he found the one he liked, stayed at Number One on the R&B charts for five weeks and helped put the label on solid ground. By then, many people were calling Atlantic “The House That Ruth Built.”

Because music publishers were not eager, as Ahmet said, to provide material to “a hole-in-the-wall company called Atlantic,” he began writing songs himself. In a recording booth located in a Times Square arcade, he would make a vinyl demo of a song that he would then play for the artist in the studio. Using the pseudonym “Nugetre,” his last name spelled backward, so he would not embarrass his family, Ahmet wrote “Don’t You Know I Love You” and “Fool, Fool, Fool,” which were hits for the Clovers in 1951.


One Friday during the noon show at the Apollo Theater, Ahmet saw Big Joe Turner, who was already thought to be past his prime and had recently been dropped from Columbia, struggling as the vocalist with the Count Basie Orchestra. After the show, Ahmet looked everywhere for Turner only to find him drowning his sorrows in a nearby bar. Telling Turner he was the greatest blues singer ever, Ahmet said that all he needed was new material and persuaded him to sign with Atlantic. He then wrote “Chains of Love” for Turner, which went to Number Two on the R&B charts.


In 1952, Ahmet signed the artist who would come to define Atlantic: Ray Charles. Up to that point, Charles had been playing in the smooth style of Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, and had recorded a minor hit called “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand” for Swingtime. Wanting to push Charles toward a grittier sound, Ahmet wrote two songs for him, “Heartbreaker” and “Mess Around.” Although the session is portrayed in a different manner in Taylor Hackford’s 2004 film biography, Ray, Charles had never before played boogie-woogie piano. As Ahmet began explaining the sound he wanted, Charles suddenly began, in Ahmet’s words, “to play the most incredible example of that style of piano playing I’ve ever heard. It was like witnessing Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious in action – as if this great artist had somehow plugged in and become a channel for a whole culture that just came pouring through him.”

When the Army called Herb Abramson up in 1953 to serve in Germany during the Korean War, Ahmet brought in the Billboard writer who six years earlier had coined the term “rhythm & blues.” Jerry Wexler, an intense, brilliant former street kid from Manhattan’s Washington Heights section, became a partner in Atlantic Records for $2,063.25. Ahmet took Wexler’s money and bought him a green Cadillac El Dorado, the only kind of car in which a self-respecting record man could then be seen. Ahmet, who had always been cooler than cool, was now working alongside someone who generated heat like a steel-mill blast furnace. The two made an incredible pair.

 Professor Longhair

The ultimate story of their time together, which both men loved to tell, concerned the night in New Orleans when they went to find an unknown genius named Professor Longhair who was playing in a joint across the river, where no taxi driver would take them. Their cabbie dropped them off in the middle of a field. After walking a mile in darkness, they saw a brightly lit house in the middle of town so full of people that they seemed to be falling out of the windows as music blared. Talking their way past the guy at the door, who assumed they were cops, the pair made their way inside. Out came Professor Longhair, who played a piano with an attached drumhead that he would hit with his right foot. As people danced, Ahmet and Jerry could barely contain themselves. An utterly primitive, completely original artist was making a kind of music they had never heard before. Rushing up to Longhair after his set was over, they told him just how much they wanted to sign him to Atlantic. “I’m terribly sorry,” said Longhair. “I signed with Mercury last week.” In Ahmet’s version of the story, the pianist then added, “But I signed with them as Roeland Byrd. With you, I can be Professor Longhair.”


By the time Herb Abramson returned from the Army in 1955, Jerry Wexler had physically and psychically taken over his role at the company. Rather than break up their studio partnership, Ahmet put Abramson in charge of a subsidiary label, Atco, and gave him the Coasters and a young piano player named Bobby Darin to work with. By then, Atlantic had moved to a brownstone at 234 West 56th Street. Pushing back the desks at night, Ahmet and Jerry would record in a room with a creaking floor, a sloping ceiling with a skylight in the middle and a young genius named Tom Dowd, who was studying nuclear physics, behind the board. Using the third eight-track recording machine ever made, for which he invented faders to replace the knobs, Dowd recorded “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters.


During this period, those in charge of Atlantic began to realize that their target audience was no longer rural and black. Rather, it was teenage and white. The message had come through loud and clear for the first time in 1954, when Big Joe Turner’s version of Jesse Stone’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was covered initially by Bill Haley & His Comets and then Elvis Presley. In a 1954 essay in Cashbox magazine, Ahmet and Wexler wrote that the blues would have to change to meet the tastes of the bobby-soxers who were looking to find their own sound. What Jerry Wexler chose to call “cat music” would be “up-to-date blues with a beat and infectious catch phrases and danceable rhythms…. It has to have a message for the sharp youngsters who dig it.” To put it another way, the blues had a baby, and they called it rock & roll.

In 1955, Nesuhi, who had married and moved to Los Angeles after his studies for a Ph.D. in philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris were interrupted by World War II, announced he was going to work for Imperial Records, the label on which Fats Domino recorded. Ahmet could not bear the thought of his brother laboring for a competitor and persuaded him to come back to New York to head Atlantic’s jazz division. Within a year, Nesuhi had signed and recorded the Modern Jazz Quartet and jazz bassist Charles Mingus.


Nesuhi also brought Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had written and produced “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “Riot in Cell Block #9” for the Robins on Spark Records. Although the practice was then unheard of in the industry, Ahmet signed them to work as independent producers. In 1957, after two of the Robins left Spark to form the Coasters on Atlantic, Leiber and Stoller’s “Searchin’ ” and “Young Blood” became a huge two-sided hit for the label.

Having failed to produce a hit with Bobby Darin, and feeling as though his time at Atlantic had come to an end, Herb Abramson left the company in 1958. Cash-poor, Ahmet and Wexler managed to raise enough money to buy out Vahdi Sabit. In return for his $10,000 investment in Atlantic, he received between $2.5 million and $3 million, quit dentistry and moved to the South of France. Ahmet and Jerry also bought out Miriam Abramson, thereby making themselves and Nesuhi the sole owners of Atlantic Records.

When Ahmet learned that Bobby Darin was thinking about leaving the label, he took him into the studio in May 1958 and cut “Splish Splash” and “Queen of the Hop,” both of which became big hits because Ahmet wanted Darin to aim his music squarely at the kids who watched American Bandstand on TV each day. Ahmet’s great success with Darin led him to Los Angeles, where he began looking for lucrative pop acts. Concerning the early years at Atlantic, Wexler would later write, “We weren’t looking for canonization; we lusted for hits. Hits were the cash flow, the lifeblood, the heavenly ichor – the wherewithal of survival.” Nonetheless, he found it hard to adjust to the company’s new direction. “As Ahmet grew older,” Wexler wrote, “he grew less judgmental and more interested in a wide range of commercial forms, especially white rock & roll. I stayed with what I knew and loved.”


With money now flowing into the Atlantic coffers, Ahmet was once again living the kind of life he had first learned to love while growing up, with “chauffeured cars, servants, cooks and per diem” in embassies all over the world. In a striking photograph from that era, Ahmet, resplendent in a dark suit with a white silk tie and matching pocket square, can be seen doing some sort of dance step with a gorgeous fashion model named Rosalie Calvert. Both hold drinks in their hands.

During this period, Ahmet hit upon the idea of hiring a bus, which he equipped with a bar so he and all his friends could drink as they went from club to club together. On the rare occasions when Ahmet found himself alone at the end of an evening, he would say, “Let’s go home,” and the driver would take him to the very stylish El Morocco (known as “Elmer’s” to its regulars) on 54th Street for more drinks and more fun.

After cutting the classic “What’d I Say” in 1959, Ray Charles chose to leave Atlantic without giving Ahmet and Jerry a chance to match the offer that ABC-Paramount had made him. Although Ahmet was personally devastated by the loss of someone he considered a friend, he would later note that the relationship between a label and an artist was like a marriage. At the start, there was always a great deal of excitement. Eventually, the artist found someone richer or the label found someone younger. Although Wexler feared the company might not survive, Ahmet said, “Somehow, I wasn’t that concerned. I always figured that we were going to make another hit…. New artists somehow magically appear.”

In the world in which Ahmet Ertegun now lived, the change in sensibility that marked the beginning of the Sixties can best be understood by the fact that the fabled El Morocco was suddenly dead and the place to see and be seen was the Peppermint Lounge, an impossibly crowded dance club on 54th Street, where Ahmet could often be found doing the twist alongside the duke of Marlborough, Jackie Kennedy and Truman Capote.


One night, some friends brought Ahmet to dinner with a woman named Ioana Maria Banu. Called Mica by all who know her, she was, in Ahmet’s words, “a natural aristocrat.” Born in Romania to a family of wealthy landowners, Mica had been forced to flee the country after the communist takeover in 1947. With her husband, an older man who had worked for the royal household, she moved to Canada, where for eight years they ran a chicken farm. Although Mica was still married when she met Ahmet, and he had only recently separated from his first wife, the attraction between them was immediate and intense. Ahmet pursued Mica as only he could. During the time they were courting, he once hid a five-piece band that played “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in the bathroom of her suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. The two were married on April 6th, 1961.

In a nation reinvigorated by President John F. Kennedy’s promise of a “New Frontier,” civil rights became the predominant issue. “Soul lyrics, soul music,” Ahmet would later say, “came at about the same time as the civil rights movement, and it’s very possible that one influenced the other.” In partnership with Stax/Volt, Atlantic began releasing music recorded by Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In 1962, Atlantic released “These Arms of Mine,” the first hit single by Otis Redding, who, as Ahmet would later recall, “used to call me ‘Omelette,’ but not as a nickname – he thought at first that this actually was my name.” During this era, Atlantic had big hits by the Mar-Keys, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, and Joe Tex. In 1967, Wexler took Aretha Franklin into a studio in Muscle Shoals to record “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” While his partner was turning out the greatest soul music ever recorded, Ahmet continued to pursue white rock acts for the label.


Ahmet had first met Sonny Bono through Phil Spector, who had come and gone at Atlantic without producing any major hits. Bono had actually worked as Ahmet’s assistant on recording sessions for the Righteous Brothers, the progenitors of “blue-eyed soul.” When Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, then managing Sonny and Cher, called to say the pair was not happy at Warner Bros., Ahmet signed them to Atco. In 1965, “I Got You Babe” was, as Ahmet would later recall, “a nationwide hit and an international hit – I mean, like nothing we had ever experienced before.”


Greene and Stone then contacted Wexler about another band they had found in Los Angeles. Wexler, who hated dealing with the new breed of stoned-out, longhaired, hippie musicians whom he called “the rockoids,” turned the project over to Ahmet. The band was Buffalo Springfield, and Ahmet was knocked over by the demo of Neil Young’s “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong.” Sitting down on the floor in Los Angeles with Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer, Ahmet pitched them on going with a record company that would understand their music. “I think they liked the fact that I sat down on the floor,” Ahmet would later tell Young biographer Jimmy McDonough. “When I like an artist, I treat them like a star, and to me these guys were exceptional stars. I thought they were going to be a revolutionary kind of group. It was fantastic to have three great guitar players who were also three outstanding lead singers.” Or, as Young would tell the audience as he was being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, “When Ahmet walked into the room, you got good.”

Much to Ahmet’s dismay, Buffalo Springfield broke up after making only two albums. “I think it was one of the few times I cried,” Ahmet told McDonough, “because I just thought that I had the historic group.”

Ahmet, who had been blessed with supreme self-confidence, never worried about failure. The same could not be said about Wexler, who worried about everything, most especially the future of Atlantic Records. By 1967, Vee-Jay had collapsed, and Chess was failing. Wexler told Ahmet and Nesuhi that he wanted to sell Atlantic Records to the highest bidder. When Nesuhi sided with Wexler, Ahmet had no choice but to comply. Atlantic Records was sold in October 1967 to Warner-Seven Arts for $17.5 million, split among Ahmet, Nesuhi and Wexler.

“I didn’t want to sell the company,” Ahmet would later say. “The company was my idea, it was my brainchild, and we were doing well. I saw no reason to think that disaster was imminent. However, they were so insistent on selling, I really didn’t have an option.” In retrospect, with the value of Atlantic Records today estimated between $2 billion and $4 billion, the deal has come to be viewed as somewhat of a catastrophe. Yet Ahmet himself never blamed Wexler for urging him to do it, saying, “I’m thankful for what I’ve got. I’ve lived very well all my life, even when I had no money, and there’s very little I can’t afford.”

In 1969, Warner-Seven Arts was acquired by Kinney National Service, a conglomerate of parking lots, funeral parlors and rental cars, whose chairman, Steve Ross, knew virtually nothing about music. Ahmet announced that he, Nesuhi and Wexler would leave the company once their contracts expired. Faced with the loss of Atlantic’s entire management team, Ross took Ahmet to dinner at 21 in New York along with Warner CEO Ted Ashley. When Ross promised he would give Ahmet anything he wanted without interfering in the day-to-day operations at Atlantic, Ahmet negotiated a new deal for himself, Nesuhi and Wexler. Ross would later claim this was one of the luckiest days of his life.

With the era of the small independent label now officially over, rock & roll was big business. Because Ahmet Ertegun was smart enough to understand he would need corporate money to compete in this new industry, he was able to seduce and then sign the world’s greatest rock & roll band.


In 1970, the Rolling Stones’ onerous long-term deal with Decca finally expired. Intent on landing the band, Ahmet flew to Los Angeles to meet with Mick Jagger at the Whisky a Go Go, where Chuck Berry was performing. Before he got there, Ahmet dined with radio programmer Bill Drake, who challenged him to a drinking contest. Both men chugged several bourbons and then enjoyed a dinner that included some expensive wine and more bourbon. Already jet-lagged, Ahmet dragged himself into the Whisky. When Mick arrived, they drank several toasts. As Mick brought up the Stones’ new recording contract, Ahmet’s head sagged forward and he fell asleep at the table. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” he told Vanity Fair in 1998. “Mick thought it was very funny.”

While Mick may have been charmed, the deal was far from closed. In London, Ahmet phoned Jagger to say it was time to sit down and make a deal. Mick replied he would be more than happy to do just that after he spoke to Clive Davis at Columbia. Stunned, Ahmet hung up the phone. As he would later recall, “Whenever I saw Mick with someone else, my heart sank. It was a painful, ecstatic courtship.” Picking the phone back up, Ahmet called Jagger and said that while he completely understood his talking to Clive, he could only sign one major act this year and unless he got an answer in a hurry, it was going to be Paul Revere and the Raiders. Then he hung up. For the next forty-five minutes, the phone rang constantly. Ahmet never picked it up. Not long after, the Rolling Stones joined Atlantic.

Landing the Stones confirmed that Atlantic was now the pre-eminent record label in America. Ahmet was so close to Jagger that he had advised him to drop Marianne Faithfull as his girlfriend, warning that her overwhelming drug habit could ruin everything for them both. Shortly after, Mick married the lovely Bianca Perez Morena de Macias in St. Tropez, France. Nor was Ahmet shy about offering musical advice to the Stones. Andy Johns, then twenty years old, was sitting at the board at Olympic Studios in London, having some trouble mixing “Bitch” for Sticky Fingers, when Ahmet sat down in the control room. “Hey, kid!” Ertegun said to Johns, who had no idea who he was. “What you oughta do is add a little bottom to the guitars and turn the bass up.” Johns did as he was told and, as he says, “Bingo! The thing jelled.” After Ertegun left, Johns turned to Keith Richards and said, “Who the f*** was that?” Keith said, “You don’t know who that is? That’s Ahmet Er-te-gun! And he’s been making hit records since before you were born.”

Ahmet trumped everything he had already done for the Stones by throwing them a party on the roof of New York’s St. Regis Hotel to celebrate the end of their triumphant 1972 tour of America. The guest list included Tennessee Williams, Bob Dylan, Huntington Hartford, Oscar and Françoise de la Renta, and a host of titled nobles, with entertainment by Count Basie and Muddy Waters. Culturally, it was a major step in crossing over what had formerly been outlaw music into the mainstream.


On May 3rd, 1975, Jerry Wexler, feeling as though he was no longer involved in decision making at the label, wrote a letter to Ahmet in which he stated, “Under no circumstances, Ahmet, can I be your employee. That’s the bottom line.” Although Ahmet protested, “Man, you can’t quit. It’s unthinkable,” the greatest team in the history of the record business split after twenty-two incredible years. In 1978, Wexler complained to New Yorker writer George W.S. Trow that he never saw his old pal anymore, stating, “Ahmet sees only two kinds of people – social people and morons. And I ain’t either one.” Nonetheless, when Wexler wrote his autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues, in 1993, he dedicated the book to Ahmet Ertegun.


In 1983, after being approached with the idea of doing a television show called “The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” Ahmet contacted Rolling Stone founder and editor Jann Wenner, Jerry Wexler, record executives Bob Krasnow and Seymour Stein, and music-business lawyer Allen Grubman with the idea of actually establishing an institution to honor the greatest artists, producers and record executives in the field. Going from city to city, they heard a variety of presentations before deciding on Cleveland as the physical home for the building, which Ahmet insisted be designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. The first Hall of Fame class – which included Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Chuck Berry – was inducted in 1986; the museum opened nine years later. “Ahmet was the guiding moral aesthetic sensibility and consciousness of this thing,” recalls Wenner. “In the end, it was always, ‘What does Ahmet think?’ because Ahmet had the vision. Everyone deferred to Ahmet’s taste, his judgment, his knowledge. I don’t think he consciously thought this through, but he was building an institution to something that he had built. And really memorializing the history of an art form which in great part was his doing.” Ahmet Ertegun himself was inducted into the Hall in 1987. The main exhibition space at the museum bears his name.


In 1988, Atlantic Records celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a gala concert at Madison Square Garden, presenting a marathon twelve-hour show that featured, among many others, a Led Zeppelin reunion, Yes, the Coasters and the Bee Gees. Shortly before the show, Atlantic finally came to terms with Ruth Brown, who had waged a long, protracted and very public campaign on behalf of herself and other artists who had been on the label’s early roster. Atlantic agreed to waive all unrecouped costs charged to their royalty accounts and to pay twenty years of back royalties. Atlantic also agreed to begin limited audits on behalf of twenty-eight additional pioneer artists and contributed nearly $2 million to fund the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which then pressured other labels to bring about royalty reform and gave money to needy musicians. Of all the companies and record men who had been in business back then, only Ahmet and Atlantic were still around.


At an age when most of the others with whom he’d started in the record business had long since retired, Ahmet was still putting out hits by artists such as Debbie Gibson, Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Rush and Skid Row. When Phil Collins, whom Ahmet considered one of the most impressive artists he’d ever known, played “In the Air Tonight” for him for the first time, Ahmet told Collins that if he wanted it to be a single, he would have to put extra drums on it.

“Labels and artists are never going to get along, because they think we’re brats, and we think they just haven’t smoked enough,” Tori Amos, another artist Ahmet championed when he was already old enough to be her grandfather, told Vanity Fair. “But with Ahmet you know he’s smoked more than you ever did.” She noted that although Ahmet was then seventy-four years old, she could not keep up with him on the dance floor. In 1997, the Atlantic Group, consisting of Atlantic, Rhino and Curb Records, was the number-one label in America, with annual global sales rising to $750 million.


Ahmet began cutting back on his daily corporate duties in 1996. In 1997, he suffered a serious bout of pneumonia. As the result of a shattered pelvis and three separate hip operations, he walked with a cane. Always on the go, he continued to live in unsurpassed style. He and Mica shared a townhouse on 81st Street in Manhattan, an apartment in Paris, a country home in Southampton, New York – with a living room he had demanded be enlarged so that there would be room for an orchestra – and a retreat in Bodrum, Turkey, built with ancient stones from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. His homes were filled with works by Matisse, Magritte, Hockney and Picasso.

In 2001, at the age of seventy-seven, Ahmet produced a session by saxophonist James Carter in Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, a club so small that a mobile recording studio had to be set up outside. Although it was 110 degrees inside the club, Ahmet, clad in a long wool sport coat, a crisp white shirt without a tie and pressed light tan pants, looked as cool as a cucumber as he ran back and forth from the mobile unit to the stage. Calling the songs, asking players to sit out for a number, telling Aretha Franklin to sing the blues on this one, Ahmet ran the session just as he had done for more than fifty years. The next day, he hosted a lunch for the singer Anita Baker, Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. That night, Ahmet went right back to the club and did it all over again.

Unlike so many who made it big in the music business only to cash out by selling the companies they had infused with their own lifeblood, Ahmet held fast to the tiller. Until the end of his life, he was still in charge of what he had built from the ground up. That he died after falling backstage at a show by a band whom he truly loved is an ending too perfect for any self-respecting Hollywood screenwriter to have written. A year before he died, Ahmet told an interviewer how he’d like to be remembered: “I did a little bit to raise the dignity and recognition of the greatness of African-American music.”

Although the music business that Ahmet helped create has completely changed, its success still comes down to the quality of a song that people want to hear again so badly that they will happily pay for the privilege. Better than anyone, Ahmet Ertegun understood that need, having experienced it himself from the time he was a child.


And while the fabulous manner in which he chose to live caused all those with whom he came into contact to love him madly, the real reason Ahmet will be remembered is because by dedicating his life to rhythm and blues, rock and roll, jump and swing, and every form of jazz, from Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles to the Drifters and Bobby Darin to Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Collins, Tori Amos, Kid Rock, and Gnarls Barkley, Ahmet Ertegun gave people all over the world, many of whom still do not know his name, the soundtrack of their lives.

SoundClash Gives It To You On The Dance Floor by Jason Hollis


Punk Aristocrats: SoundClash

Saturday’s 9PM Pacific

Join some of our favorite artists and the globes top emerging DJ’s as they take control of the Punk Aristocrats decks and mix a multitude of genres to get your ass on the floor.

Punk Aristocrats Honor The Legend of Fats Domino by Jason Hollis

 Fats Domino in his dressing room prior to a performance in 1974.

Fats Domino in his dressing room prior to a performance in 1974.

Rock 'n' Roll Legend Fats Domino Dies at 89

The music world mourns the loss of rock 'n' roll pioneer Fats Domino, who entertained audiences and influenced generations of musicians with hits including “Ain’t That a Shame," “Blueberry Hill” and "I'm Walkin."

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Antoine “Fats” Domino died yesterday at the age of 89. Domino is counted among rock 'n' roll’s pioneers, and in his heyday during the 1950s he racked up more than 100 combined Billboard pop and rhythm and blues hits. Although possessing a more mild-mannered persona than many of his musical contemporaries, with 65 million records sold, Domino was the most successful of them all (except for Elvis Presley), and his music was a primary influence for superstars such as the BeatlesElton John and Billy Joel, to name just a few.

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. came into the world on February 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children born to French-speaking Creole parents living in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Although Domino’s father was a fiddle player, it was his older brother-in-law Harrison Verrett who taught the young Domino to play piano and sing, eventually introducing him to New Orleans’ thriving music scene. A natural talent, Domino was performing in the city’s honky-tonk clubs by the age of 10, and by age 14 he had quit school to devote himself to music. He worked various jobs during the day to support himself, while at night mastering the New Orleans R&B style that would become his signature. 

By the mid-1940s, things were looking up for Domino. In 1947 he married Rosemary Hall, with whom he would have eight children and stay together until her passing in 2008. He also caught the eye of Billy Diamond, one of the city’s top bandleaders, who bestowed Domino with the nickname “Fats” and invited him to join his group for gigs at the Hideaway Club. While performing at the Hideaway, Domino began to attract crowds in his own right, and in August 1949 local bandleader and record producer Dave Bartholomew helped him earn a contract with Imperial Records. Bartholomew would become Domino’s primary collaborator, and their partnership would prove to be one of the most successful of the era.

 Fats Domino at the piano, circa 1970. 

Fats Domino at the piano, circa 1970. 

In late 1949, Fats Domino’s first single, “The Fat Man,” was released by Imperial Records. The track established Domino’s signature sound, which consisted of his Creole-inflected baritone and New Orleans boogie-woogie piano played over simple saxophone and drum lines that emphasized the downbeat. “The Fat Man”—which has been credited by some music historians as the first rock 'n' roll song—rocketed to No. 2 on the R&B charts and eventually sold as many as 1 million copies.

While more R&B successes quickly followed, it wasn’t until 1955 that Fats Domino achieved his first major breakthrough, with the release of the single “Ain’t That a Shame.” The song reached No. 10 on the pop charts, a true crossover hit that, for the first time, exposed him to a wider—and whiter—audience. “Ain’t That a Shame” remains one of Domino’s best-known tracks, and it has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, including Pat Boone, whose watered-down cover version was released shortly after Domino’s and surpassed the original, topping the pop charts for two weeks.

But the following year it was Fats Domino who topped himself, with his rendition of “Blueberry Hill.” The song reached No. 2 on the charts and went on to sell more than 5 million copies. Domino’s growing popularity also landed him appearances in the 1956 rock 'n' roll films The Girl Can’t Help It and Shake, Rattle and Rock, and over the next eight years, he would compile nearly 40 crossover hits, including “I’m Walkin’” (No. 4), “Whole Lotta Loving” (No. 6) and “Walking to New Orleans” (No. 6). 

In the early ’60s, Fats Domino’s impressive run finally came to end. In 1963, Imperial Records was sold, essentially ending his fruitful collaboration with Bartholomew. The arrival of the Beatles in 1964 and the ensuing British Invasion further eclipsed the careers of Domino and other early rock 'n' rollers, and Domino’s popular successes during the 1960s were relatively few. Somewhat ironically, perhaps, his last song to reach the Top 100 would be a 1968 cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”

During the 1970s a renewed interest in early rock 'n' roll led to cover versions of his songs by artists such as John Lennon and Cheap Trick, and Fats Domino continued to perform in revival shows and record albums. During the 1980s, however, both weary of the road and able to live quietly and comfortably off his royalties, Domino went into semi-retirement, vowing not to leave New Orleans. True to his word, in 1986 Domino did not attend his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1987 he elected to forego traveling to Los Angeles to accept a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. Except for a brief European tour in 1995, his few performances in the decades that followed were almost exclusively in his beloved New Orleans. 

 Fats Domino at the Tipitina's Foundation premiere of 'Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans' in New Orleans in 2008. 

Fats Domino at the Tipitina's Foundation premiere of 'Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans' in New Orleans in 2008. 

In 2005, however, Fats Domino’s world was turned upside down, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. The resulting flooding wreaked havoc on the Ninth Ward, and it was initially rumored that Domino had drowned. Though in truth he had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, Domino lost everything in the storm, including his piano and all of his gold records. Yet this tragedy only served to deepen Domino’s attachment to the city of his birth, and indeed much of the work he would do for the remainder of his life would be focused on helping to rebuild it. 

In early 2006 he recorded the album Alive and Kickin’ to benefit Tipitina’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting local musicians and culture. In 2007 the Katrina benefit album Goin’ Home, which featured covers of Fats Domino songs by the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartneyNeil Young and Norah Jones, was released. In 2009 Domino took to the stage at “The Domino Effect,” a benefit concert for schools damaged by Katrina.

Fats Domino has been the subject of the documentaries Fats Domino: Walking Back to New Orleans and 2014’s The Big Beat, which was released at the New Orleans Film Festival. He received the National Medal of the Arts and was also inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame. He is survived by his eight children, as well as a profound musical legacy that, among his other accolades, once earned him the No. 25 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest artists of all time.

Les Discotheque Des Punk Aristocrats by Jason Hollis


Punk Aristocrats: SoundClash

Saturday’s 9PM Pacific

Join some of our favorite artists and the globes top emerging DJ’s as they take control of the Punk Aristocrats decks and mix a multitude of genres to get your ass on the floor.

#MusicMonday Playlist Available ft BATZ, TOWNE, DEMOB HAPPY + More! by Jason Hollis


Discovering cutting edge #newmusic from around the world just got easier. Punk Aristocrats #MusicMonday serves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Why? Because you deserve it. #MusicMonday Every Monday, duh!

1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE RADIO 1 APP for Your Trendsetting Taste In Music.


October 23, 2017

  1. AKA GEORGE - Stone Cold Classic
  2. Marmozets - Habits
  3. Turbowolf - The Free Life
  4. Estrons - Glasgow Kisses
  5. Nothing But Nets - Get Better
  6. MILKTEETH - Nearby Catfight
  7. Young Dolph - Drippy
  8. Childhood - Don't Have Me Back
  9. Lotto Boyzz - Facetime Me
  10. Shamir - Straight Boy
  11. Baegod - God's Gift
  12. Touts - Bombscare
  13. Tonight Alive -Temple
  14. PVRIS - Mercy
  15. Demob Happy - Be Your Man
  16. BATZ - Gameshow Queen
  17. Muskets - You're So Cool
  18. Dagny - Love You Like That
  19. Barns Courtney - Rather Die
  20. Bully - Kills To Be Resistant
  21. Mallory Knox - Better Off Without You
  22. The Kooks - Be Who You Are
  23. The Pale White - Let You Down
  24. Only Son - Best Laid Plans
  25. Mikky Ekko - Blood On The Surface
  26. HOAX - Sway
  27. Dan Owen - Hideaway
  28. Shamu - The Sorry Window
  29. Towne - I Don't Wanna Want (But I Do)

'Playin' With Fire' New Official Release From AZHIA by Punk Aristocrats

AZHIA - PLAYIN' WITH FIRE (Official Audio)

iTunes ► https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/playin-with-fire-single/id1294234953

Spotify ► https://open.spotify.com/album/33b9jnnaDDYr1eggVooj3r

Punk Aristocrats ► http://punkaristocrats.com/shop/azhia-playing-with-fire

MUSIC Produced, Recorded & Mixed by: Jason Hollis and Dan Dixon

Mastered by: Matt Hyde

Recorded at Sonora Recorders


AZHIA - Playin' With Fire
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#MusicMonday Playlist Available NOW + FREE AZHIA Download by Jason Hollis


Discovering cutting edge #newmusic from around the world just got easier. Punk Aristocrats #MusicMonday serves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Why? Because you deserve it. #MusicMonday Every Monday, duh!

1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE RADIO 1 APP for Your Trendsetting Taste In Music.

This week we debuted the WORLD PREMIER of 'Playin With Fire' form Punk Aristocrats very own AZHIA. TODAY we're giving you the 'Playin' With Fire' download for FREE! 

AZHIA - Playin' With Fire
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October 16, 2017

  1. AK/DK - Morphology
  2. White Room - The Blue
  3. The Shimmer Band - Ya Ya (Uh Oh)
  4. Foo Fighters - Make It Right
  5. RedFaces - Take It Or Leave It
  6. Otherkin - Come On, Hello
  7. Only Shadows - Fight Milk
  8. Grace Mitchell - Capital Letters
  9. Irontom - Hookers
  10. The Stone Foxes - Hypno
  11. Mellor - Bone Idle
  12. She Drew The Gun - Sweet Harmony
  13. Shame - Concrete
  14. Bat$hitcrazy - Bats In The Belfry
  15. Fizzy Blood - Summer Of Luv
  16. Banfi - June
  17. Suzi Wu - Teenage Witch
  18. Curtis Harding - Need Your Love
  19. Azhia - Playing With Fire
  20. Bootsy Collins - Ladies Nite
  21. L’Orange, Oddisee - Look Around
  22. Space - Dangerous Day
  23. Destroyer - Tinseltown Swimming In Blood
  24. Outsider - Miol Mor Mara
  25. HAUS - Don’t Care Enough
  26. Floral Scene -Esteem
  27. Zach Said - Holding On
  28. Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile - Over Everything
  29. Howie Payne - Some Believer Sweet Dreamer
  30. Youth Killed It - Islands
  31. OUTLYA - Howl
  32. Jimmy Sweet - You Say You Don’t Love Me

Azhia Releases Hauntingly Good 'Heart Of Glass' Blondie Cover by Jason Hollis

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Blondie - Heart of Glass (Cover)

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Check out the new 42 KING - OVER MY HEAD (Official Video) release

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Playing With Fire New Music Release #MusicMonday by Jason Hollis

Imagine discovering cutting edge #newmusic showcased from around the world, every week!? Yes Please! Punk Aristocrats #MusicMondayserves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Because you're worth it, you have impeccable taste and the instincts of a Swami. Monday 1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE Radio 1 APP

Who  ever said rock n' roll is dead must be getting pretty old. Check out  #MusicMonday on Punk Aristocrats Radio 1 today Oct .16, 2017 at 1pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm Pacific. Basically we'll be spinning new music all day long. 

This week we're featuring music from Suzi Woo, Curtis Harding, The Stone Foxes, The Shimmer Band, Fizzy Blood, Only Shadows, Grace MitchellJimmy Sweet and many more badass new bands. We also have the world premier of 'Playin With Fire'  from Punk Aristocrats very own Azhia

It's going to be an exciting day for show casing new music!

Let us know what you think. 

Scott Waldman Interviews Jason Hollis for idobi Radio by Punk Aristocrats


This week, Scott is joined by Jason Hollis!

Jason began his career in music as an artist manager and is the founder of the lifestyle brand Punk Aristocrats. Since 2014, Punk Aristocrats has been a hub for all things music and media. Their website and social media is filled with eccentric videos and A+ music playlists. Punk Aristocrats continues to grow today and develop into not just a company, but a way of life.

Jason joins Scott to talk about the Pink Spiders, Punk Aristocrats, and fashion.


The Infectious Arrangements of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys by Jason Hollis

  Written by Scott McCormick

Written by Scott McCormick

Not only is Brian Wilson a unique songwriting talent, he was one of the most influential producers of his era, renowned for his ingenious musical arrangements.

Brian Wilson remains one of the more lauded and beloved figures of 20th Century popular music. His recordings with the Beach Boys have inspired and influenced countless musicians, and continue to do so. What’s especially amazing about the Beach Boys’ records is how much they are the result of the talent and vision of one guy. Unlike the Beatles, where Lennon had McCartney, and they both had George Martin, the Beach Boys only had Brian Wilson. He wrote or co-wrote all of their early songs, and what’s more, from 1963 until the early ’70s, he arranged and produced all the bands’ music. Not only is he a unique talent in terms of songwriting, but he was one of the three most influential producers of his era (along with George Martin and Phil Spector).

We’re going to run a series of articles that focus on different aspects of Brian Wilson’s talents. This month we’re going to dig into one aspect that set Beach Boys’ records apart from their contemporaries: Wilson’s ingenious musical arrangements.

What is a music arranger?

Quite simply, an arranger decides which instruments will be used to perform a piece of music. The role of an arranger was much more important in the swing music of the ‘40s and ‘50s than in early rock and roll. After all, in jazz, artists were frequently recording songs that had already been recorded by other artists. So, if Frank Sinatra wanted to put his stamp on a standard like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he would contact Nelson Riddle to arrange the song for big band, and his arrangement would be different from, say, the arrangement Dinah Washington had used with Clifford Brown. The arranger was separate from a producer, whose job was to record the band.

In rock, there was never a separate role for an arranger. Records were either arranged by the band or the producer. Occasionally, if the song called for a string or horn section, a pro was hired to arrange that part of the song, but on the whole, rock records simply didn’t have enough instruments to require a lot of arranging. If a band had two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, you would usually find those instruments, plus perhaps an additional piano or harmonica, on the record.

Phil Spector was one of the first rock and roll producers to spend a lot of time on the arrangement of songs. What became known as the “wall of sound” was an attempt to create a powerful, spacious sound that would still sound huge on AM radio and mono records. Instead of using a small combo group, Spector would double or triple up instruments (even drums), and he recorded them all live in a small room, with instruments bleeding over one another. Finally, he would run the entire recording through an echo chamber to create a huge wash of sound. (Critics often refer to it as the “wall of mush.”)

It’s interesting to compare the arrangements of Spector’s records to Motown’s. Here are two recordings from 1963. Notice how in the Martha and the Vandellas’ song (Motown) you can hear individual instruments and the vocals are much more prominent. In the Spector-produced Ronettes’ song, the instruments that stand out the most are the percussion. Everything else is just massive waves of chords. Even the vocals are drowned a bit in the mix. In the Motown song, it sounds like you might be hearing the group in an intimate night club. In Spector’s, it sounds like you are at the Hollywood Bowl.

Brian Wilson was massively influenced by Spector. He recalls hearing “Be My Baby” for the first time and having to pull the car over because he just couldn’t believe the chorus. He attended every Spector recording he could, and he considered Spector the greatest producer in the world. He loved how Spector would use several instruments to create new and unusual sounds. Spector likes to say that Wilson spent his entire career trying to remake “Be My Baby.” (In fact, Wilson wrote two songs he hoped Spector’s girl groups would sing, including “Don’t Worry Baby,” which was his answer to “Be My Baby.” Both songs were rejected by Spector.)

You can hear one of Wilson’s most blatant attempts to remake “Be My Baby” on this 1964 Honeys’ record, “He’s a Doll.” Wilson wrote, produced, and arranged this hit. Note the similar use of percussion, and the similar vocal interplay on the chorus.

But as much as Wilson was influenced by the enormous sound of Spector’s records, he would find a way to deliver what Spector could not (or, more accurately, would not): he would get Spector’s giant sound, but he also found a way to get the clarity of Motown’s records. Note how, even on this early arrangement, you can hear a difference from Spector. The lead vocals are more intimate, the sax stands out more, as do the amazing drums.

The Brian Wilson sound

Rather than go through a history of the development of Wilson’s sound, let’s start with it at its most baroque: Pet Sounds. Wilson had dabbled in creative, expansive arrangements before this album, namely on the Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) albums – “California Girls” and “Let Him Run Wild” are arrangement highlights – but on Pet Sounds he was able to combine all of the elements he had been working towards: personal songs backed by the most intricate and unique arrangements anyone had ever attempted in rock.

Wilson is renowned for using unusual instruments in a pop setting. On Pet Sounds alone he would use bicycle bells, water bottles, buzzing organs, guiros, sleigh bells, timpani, harpsichords, Electro-Theremins, vibraphones, Coca-Cola cans, orange juice jugs, and more.

One of the stories you often hear is how the group initially didn’t care for what Brian had recorded. The band had been on tour in Japan while Brian was busy recording in LA with the Wrecking Crew. Today, it’s easy to dismiss their initial critiques as being short-sighted. But, when compared with their earlier hits, it’s not hard to see why they might have been concerned. 

Listen to just the music of one song from Pet Sounds, “Here Today.” If you didn’t already know the song, you might wonder how you were supposed to sing on top of this busy music, let alone play it live on stage.

For all the talk about how many weird instruments Wilson used on Pet Sounds, what’s striking is his restraint. “Here Today” is a veritable showcase of how to take 13 instruments – most of them “bass” instruments: two baritone saxes, a bass trombone, a double bass, and a bass guitar – and not have it sound like a mess. But Wilson uses space in a way Spector never did. For much of the song, you only have Hammond organ and bass, with occasional tom-tom hits and tambourine. And it’s only on the chorus when most of these instruments are playing at the same time. Thanks to these dramatic dynamics, Wilson was able to get an intimate verse and pounding chorus. 

The bass

The use of bass guitar on Pet Sounds was unique at the time. So unique, in fact, that it floored Paul McCartney, who regularly cites Pet Sounds as his favorite record. “The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines.”

Brian was the bassist for the group in their early years, so it makes sense he would choose the instrument to highlight in his recordings. Though he didn’t play bass on Pet Sounds (that was handled by the great Carol Kaye), he composed all the bass lines. On “Here Today” the bass notes are especially high in register, and way out in front of the mix. During the verse they play the same rhythm as the vocals, acting as a melodic counterpoint to Mike Love’s voice, which, again, was highly unusual. (Also fun, though it’s more of a harmonic thing, but from 1:47 to 2:02, the bass, which most artists use for playing root notes of chords, is playing seventh notes: an A note under a B minor and a G under an A major.) 

The drums

Unlike most rock groups at the time, the drum lines for Pet Sounds were composed by Brian, and the drums are used more for their timbre than for rhythm. Note the complete lack of a single cymbal hit. The Beach Boys seldom use cymbals in their songs, often giving that role to the tambourine player, or in some cases, bells. The Beach Boys were first and foremost a vocal group, with a special focus on falsetto singing, so it’s likely Wilson didn’t want anything up in the high register to compete with the singing.

Now listen to the original mono recording of the entire mix, and see how the music fits in with the vocals. Note how the pre-chorus doesn’t work the way you expect it to. Love sings “It makes you feel so bad…” and THEN the music drops out to just the bass and organ. It’s dramatic moment, nicely highlighting the line “It makes your heart feel sad,” and complementing the theme of the song, that love is here today, gone tomorrow.

“Wouldn’t it Be Nice”

Here’s a song you’ve probably heard so often it can be hard to hear it with fresh ears. So let’s just stick with the backing track. That glorious opening… if you’ve ever wondered what instrument is playing those notes, it’s a detuned 12-string guitar. And when the band kicks in, it’s accordions – two of them – that provide the signature rhythm sound traditionally provided by guitars. This is a great example of Brian’s penchant to use instruments in unusual ways in order to create a unique sound.


We can’t talk about the Beach Boys without discussing their vocals. Wilson arranged every single line of every harmony on Pet Sounds. And they recorded them over and over again. Mike Love took to calling Wilson “Dog Ears” because he could hear imperfections no one else could. This brief clip offers a beautiful insight into Wilson’s vocal arrangements (as well as the glories of the Beach Boys euphonic harmonies).

It’s worth comparing Beach Boys records to the records of another popular American vocal group that also featured falsetto singing and that also had its roots in doo wop: The Four Seasons. To get a sense of how much bigger and more complicated – and flat out weirder – Wilson’s recordings are compared to other pop songs of the era, check out “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” which was co-written and co-arranged by Four Seasons’ band member Bob Gaudio. This hit, from 1967, is one of the Four Seasons’ most ambitious, popular, and covered songs. It’s a great song with a complex arrangement, but it’s a lot more traditional than “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.”

“Good Vibrations”

We also can’t talk about Brian Wilson without considering his greatest single. And since this is another song that’s hard to hear fresh, we’ll play just the music again. (Note the similar use of bass and organ as on “Here Today.” Both songs were recorded around the same time.)

Wilson’s use of cellos as a rhythm instrument are counterintuitive (apparently Van Dyke Parks made the suggestion, but hats off to Brian for using it). His use of Electro-theremin, which first appeared on Pet Sounds‘ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” was as mind-blowing to audiences at the time as the Beatles’ use of sitar. But the most interesting aspect of this song is that it was a pastiche. There are six different sections, which were recorded in a dozen sessions, at four separate studios.

The change in production values is enough to give you aural whiplash, with one particularly jarring cut happening at 2:13. You go from the rather busy third section of the song (“I don’t know where but she sends me there…”) and there’s a cut that actually cuts off the lyric (“Oh my my, what an elation, oh my my what a—”) to a moment that sounds like it’s recorded at night in a church. There’s just an organ and a slowly-shaken maraca (ASMR trigger!) before the vocals come in with, “Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happening with her,” followed by a throbbing bass. It’s not just a magical moment in the song: it’s where you first truly realize you’re in the middle of an epic, and there’s no telling where the song may go next.

“Good Vibrations” was the first cut-and-paste song where Wilson recorded snippets – each with different music, instruments, and production values – and it would influence his next attempted project, Smile. Alas, for a number of reasons, the album was shelved (and revisited in 2004), and after his inability to fully realize Smile, Wilson drastically scaled back his ambitions. There are plenty of wonderful songs in the post-Smile era, from Smiley Smile through 20/20, but for the most part, the fire had gone out. 

Smiley Smile’s “Little Pad” offers a nice example of the intimate production and charming arrangements the Boys would use from ’67-’69. Like “Good Vibrations,” “Little Pad” is a pastiche song, but on a much smaller scale. In any given section there are only one to maybe three instruments. Then again, when you have guys who can sing as well as the Beach Boys, you don’t need to dress things up with much more than a ukulele. Note how effective a simple snap of the fingers can be. (Also, for as psychedelic as “Good Vibrations” may have been, no one on the song sounds like they’re on drugs. Not so for “Little Pad.” That percussion (maraca?) that comes in briefly at 1:58 strikes me as a such a stoner touch.)

Sunflower (1970) and Surf’s Up (1971) are a return to form in terms of production and arrangement. “This Whole World,” “Our Sweet Love” (which sounds almost like an outtake from Pet Sounds), “A Day in the Life of a Tree,” and Carl Wilson’s wonderful “Feel Flows,” are highlights – as great as anything they had recorded earlier in their career. But I’ll end this article with the song that is generally considered Brian’s last masterpiece: the glorious “’Til I Die” from 1971. 

Featuring a drum machine, a moog synthesizer, a Rock-Si-Chord, vibraphone, and an organ, the arrangement for this song is a 180 from the dynamics and “wall of sound” arrangements of Pet Sounds. Musically it is very static, with big, lush chords that change subtly throughout the song. (Worth noting is the different vocal arrangements on that giant E minor-ninth chord. It’s a pretty hollow chord at 0:22 during the line “I’ve lost my way.” It gets bigger and more fleshed out at 0:55 and further elaborated on at 1:28.) It’s a dense song that starts big and gets bigger, with no respite, complementing Brian’s haunting lyrics. It’s hard not to listen to this song and mourn for all the music we may have lost from Brian following his Smile implosion. On the other hand, at least we have “’Til I Die.”

For a great insight into Brian’s arrangement and production process, check out this video, which shows the recording of “I Know There’s an Answer” from Pet Sounds. The video is great for not only showing who played on the track (including Glen Campbell on banjo!), but also detailing how Brian beautifully mixed various instruments together to create new sounds.

Scott McCormick is a musician and the author of the Mr. Pants series of graphic novels for kids. He also runs Storybook Editing, offering developmental editing for authors.


#MusicMonday October 8, 2017 by Jason Hollis



  1. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - American Girl
  2. Bad Nerves - Radio Punks
  3. Black Honey - Hello Today
  4. Dead Pretties - Confidence
  5. PLS PLS - Exes
  6. Ecca Vandal - Broke Days, Party Nights
  7. Koi Child - Touch ‘Em
  8. Grimes, Aristophanes - Scream
  9. The Bombay Royale - Ballygunge
  10. Bonzai, Big Freedia - I Feel Alright (Big Freedia Remix)
  11. Blood Orange - E.V.P.
  12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Refugee
  13. Park Hotel - Going West
  14. Jamie T - Tescoland
  15. Interstelar - Hold it
  16. L.A. Witch - Drive Your Car
  17. DZ Deathrays - Blood On My Leather
  18. Formation - Pleasure
  19. The Noise Figures - Shoot the Moon
  20. The Cherry Dolls - Begging You Please
  21. Pale Seas - Someday
  22. Sturgill Simpson - In Bloom
  23. Seratones - Get Gone
  24. Jorja Smith - Blue Lights
  25. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - You Got Lucky

5 Changes to Make for Rockstar Social Media in 2017 by Punk Aristocrats


If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s change – especially when it comes to social media. It seems like every day there’s some new feature or new technology that is taking the digital landscape by storm.

And social media isn’t showing any signs of slowing down yet. Today, one-third of the world’s population uses social media networks on a regular basis.

With so much constant change, it’s the brands that can keep up and roll with the punches that are going to be the ones to succeed on social. But to keep up and stay ahead of the competition, businesses must understand the latest trends and how to use them effectively.

If your brand is still stuck using Google+, it may be time for an upgrade. Here are five of the latest social media marketing trends that I want to incorporate into my strategy this year – you may want to consider them for yours, too.


1. Live Video

In 2016, 14% of marketers experimented with live video, and that number is only going to climb this year.

We saw live video come on the scene last year with Twitter’s Periscope, and soon after, Facebook followed with Facebook Live, bringing livestreaming into the limelight. Instagram has also launched its own live video feature, and other social networks will likely follow suit in the near future.

It’s no secret that audiences love video content. YouTube has been a successful platform for years, and Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video every day. But live video takes video content to the next level.

Audiences crave authenticity, and that’s exactly what live video provides. With no editing or scripting, going live presents your brand in a more personable and genuine way.

Incorporating live video into your social media strategy is easy to do – especially if you’ve already been creating video content. “First and foremost, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media – and try to connect with them on those networks,” saysSophia Bernazzani, staff writer at HubSpot.

Once you’ve chosen where to post your video content, you need to decide what to post. If you have an event going on, have a member of your team livestream it. Consider providing a behind-the-scenes look at your office and operations. Try hosting a Q&A with a special guest or demonstrate how to use one of your products.


2. Paid Content

If you’re publishing a Facebook post and just hoping someone will see it, you aren’t doing enough. With more and more changes being made to social networks’ algorithms, the chances that your audience will see your content grow slimmer and slimmer.

While these algorithms serve to ensure the platform’s users are seeing content they actually enjoy, there’s no doubt they make it harder for brands to get noticed.

Plus, other brands and consumers are sharing and publishing more content than ever, so competition for attention is fierce. In the past two years, content consumption on Facebook has increased 57%.

So how do you cut through the clutter? The answer is: you must pay for it. Organic traffic on social can only get you so far. But paid content is well worth the investment.

Promoted posts and native advertising allow businesses to narrowly target a specific audience, so you know the right people are seeing your posts. By paying for it, you can ensure that your posts actually show up on your target audience’s feeds.

I am the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency helping companies leverage the latest and greatest marketing strategy to fuel their businesses.


3. Interactive Content

While I’m on the topic of grabbing your audience’s attention, it’s also critical for you to take an honest look at the content you’re putting out on social. With so much content online already, doing the same things as everyone else isn’t going to make your brand stand out.

Consider spicing it up by creating interactive content. Eighty-one percent of marketers say interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content. Interactive content could be a quiz, game, calculator or similar.

“Brands not only want consumers to recall [their brands], they want them to be excited and share the content with their friends,” says Russab Ali, founder of SMC Marketing. “They can then ‘compare results’ with friends.”

It’s not enough these days for your audience to just click on your posts. You need to get them to engage, too. By making engagement intrinsic to the content, you’ll increase the likelihood that your audience will do just that.


4. Customer Service Chatbots

When you need customer service, you don’t want to wait on hold for hours on the phone or for a representative to answer your question on social media. Good customer service is fast, but most brands can’t keep up with the demand.

This is where social media can step in and give customer service a boost. Chatbots are a type of AI that can interact with customers via social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Think back to the days of AOL Instant Messenger and SmarterChild – but don’t worry, we’ve come a long way since then.

Using social messaging apps is a smart choice for marketers. In fact, 20% of marketers plan to add messaging apps to their content strategy in the next year. “These apps have a wide audience and offer several attractive features to brands for e-commerce and client support, for example, which allows for economies of scale and the creation of new types of user experience,” sayssocial media strategist Isabelle Matthieu.

Chatbots can guide customers through completing a transaction, answer a question or point people in the right direction. They offer fast, one-on-one service without the need for additional employees. Plus, your customers are a lot happier when their problems are solved right away.


5. Employee Advocacy

There’s a powerful social media marketing tool hiding right under your nose – and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s your employees, the people who support and work for your brand every day. Why wouldn’t you leverage them as part of your marketing strategy?

By encouraging and empowering your employees to spread the word and share your brand’s messages on social, your brand will be exposed to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers.

Your employees are powerful advocates for your brand. They offer validity and credibility to your brand’s messages. Your audience tends to trust messages that come from personal social media accounts over a brand’s social media accounts.

But you can’t mandate or force it. The employee’s support must be authentic or it will lose that credibility, and your brand will suffer because of it.

“A company’s social media must be ‘cool’ enough for the employees to want to share it on personal platforms,” says Jake Messier, principal & COO of Mungo Creative Group.

Make it easy for your employees to get involved by providing them with easy-to-share updates. Simply ask them to share your posts, and see what kind of a response you get. Chances are you’ll soon see positive results.

Written by: Sujan Patel

Will Billboard Finally Enter Into The 21st Century? by Punk Aristocrats


Getting your album on the Billboard 200 chart may become a lot easier if a new rule goes into effect.

According to a report from Hits Daily Double, for the first time, YouTube streams may now be factored into the ranking of albums on the Top 200 albums chart, including streams for user-generated clips. Lyor Cohen, head of global music at YouTube, was reportedly in charge of the change, hoping to cater to the modern day styles of music consumption.

YouTube views already count towards the Hot 100 chart and other album charts, and are even factored in by the Recording Industry Association of America when determining gold and platinum status.

While factoring in online streams may make it easier for artists to chart and go gold and platinum, not everyone has been a fan of the new rules. In 2016, after Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was certified platinum, Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith slammed the changes the RIAA had made to allow YouTube streams to be factored into gold and platinum album certifications.

“We don’t stand behind this RIAA BS,” Tiffith wrote. “Ole [school] rules apply. One million albums sold is platinum. Until we reach that [number], save all the congrats. No cheat codes [to] platinum.”

In a statement last year, RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman stood by the 2016 change, saying, “We know that music listening – for both albums and songs — is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications. Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold and Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”

The latest change has yet to be confirmed by Billboard, but if put into effect, artists outside the mainstream major label machine may have a chance to land on the Billboard 200 chart.


So You Want to be a Rockstar? by Jason Hollis


I’m going to start off this week with one simple word and the reason why most artists should stay in school or keep their day jobs. Within this word lies life riches and the key to success. The word is “Willpower” Now, I know some of you are thinking “does that come stock in the new F-150?” So let me define this sacred of all words:

a combination of determination and self-discipline that enables somebody to do something despite the difficulties involved.


Did you get that? If not, read it again and again in fact make it your new mantra. It’s funny because most bands, actors, singers and musicians just don’t have it, willpower that is. I’ve dealt with or even continue to deal those who just don’t have the will to succeed. Willpower is a hundred percent different from ego and a billion times more effective. It simply doesn’t matter if you think you’re the greatest actor, musician or designer on the planet if you don’t have the will to succeed then you’re probably not going to. It takes drive, energy and passion to get out there and do what ever it takes, within reason and values, to get from point A to point Z, bottom line - the will to succeed.


Let me tell you one quick success story. I have many because I like to surround myself with successful people but I’ll save that for another article. I developed a band you may or may not have heard of, that’s beside the point. On one of the bands last shows of their 250+ “SELF BOOKED TOUR DATES”, (should I repeat that our did the quotes and bold lettering get your attention) the band wrapped up the year in December by playing a club in NYC. The band was not signed and living on a $3.00 a day self allotted per diem. The groups’ van broke down after arriving to the venue in the middle of a New York blizzard and since no one showed up to the gig, the band had to use the only money left from merch sales to have the van towed in for repairs. In the middle of winter in NYC the band headed out on foot to try and find somewhere to sleep. After several city blocks and a quick trip to the laundry, where the guys used their remaining few quarters to heat up their clothes, they made their way to the subway where they passed out sleeping one on top of another.


They never once complained about what happened they just laugh at the fact that now when they go to NYC they sleep on a Tour Bus instead of the subway. That band had and continue to have the willpower to succeed. They went on to sign one of the biggest record contracts in the past 10 years for a new rock band.

The moral of this story is that it takes way more than just being able to play your instrument or sing or write good songs. It takes, in today’s world practically giving up all of your comforts, securities, friends, girl/boy friends, your nice car and your apartment. Nowadays if you’re not living on the road or with your band in some shack while you refuel to go back out on the road then you’re simply just to settled into your life. To make it in this brutal business you have to have the willpower to carry yourself through all of the bumps in the road you will hit on a daily basis… and I do mean daily but you know what it’s all part of the ride, its character building… and its fun. Remember sometimes the journey is far more exciting than obtaining the actual prize.


You will NEVER really know what it feels like to earn what it is that your heart truly desires unless you have the passion, drive, respect and willpower to do what it takes to get it. You have to want it for yourself because if you think people are going to feed you with a baby spoon you’re sadly mistaken. I consider myself a successful person and still to this day continue to pay my dues. Without the drive and willpower that consumes my body I would have quit a long time ago when I had no money to pay rent and had to live out of my car.

So you want to be a Rockstar huh, just how bad do you want it?


Questions or topics may be emailed to: social@punkaristocrats.com. In the subject title line of the email write: “Rockstar”

This post is meant to encourage not discourage.

Ultimate Brussels Rockstar Beer Vacation by Punk Aristocrats


Skip Oktoberfest

Home to a seemingly endless variety of beers and a vast array of traditions surrounding their consumption and production, Belgium’s beer culture runs so deep it’s actually a protected UNESCO Intangible Culture Heritage. (The “intangible” bit is slightly questionable— tell that to the bartenders who spend half their night washing intricately-shaped beer glasses by hand!—but okay.) While Oktoberfest roars along full steam, Belgium’s neighbor to the East often gets most of the credit as Europe’s beer capital. But with its charming sidewalk cafes, a twilight beer-sipping culture that’s more about quality than quantity, and, yeah, okay, famously boozy beers, Belgium is one of the best places to go for a beer-soaked vacation—without having to worry about bringing vomit-resistant shoes with you.

I’m lucky enough to live with a Brussels-born beer lover, which means that I have been indoctrinated into the world of Belgian beer, and recently returned from an intensive beer-research trip to Belgium’s capital. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned about this beer-crazy country over the years. Call it a crash course in how to have a fruitful—and in some cases literally full of fruit—Brussels beer trip.


Trappist Beer

Trappist beers boast an official designation for breweries associated with Trappist abbeys. There are 11 Trappist breweries worldwide, and six in Belgium: Achel, Orval, Westmalle, Rochefort, Chimay, and Westvleteren (which is sometimes called the best beer in the world). The Trappist breweries make a variety of styles, often including several famed dubels and tripels. Achel brews a bunch of types of beer, while Orval only makes one. (That said, you might be lucky enough to find aged Orval on menus, which I recommend trying.)

You will also occasionally see the terms “Abdijbieren” or “Bières d'abbaye” on menus. These refer to abbey beers. This is more or less a marketing term that means the beer or brewery in question is in some way associated with an abbey, but not necessarily a Trappist one. Regardless, many of these beers, including St. Bernardus, Tripel Karmeliet, and others, are some of the best you’ll find.



Another incredibly famous Belgian beer, lambics are grouped by their brewing method. These are often quite sour and are a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get into them there’s a whole world of lambic to explore.

Variations on lambics are often sweetened slightly. There is faro, in which a lambic is sweetened a bit with caramelized sugar and is traditionally served flat, although carbonated versions are available. Geuze is made by combining a young lambic and an older lambic together in a bottle and allowing a second fermentation to occur. And finally the famous fruit beers, in which lambic is sweetened with fruit. Common flavors include kriek (cherry), framboise (raspberry), or peche (peach).


The Other Stuff

Belgium makes a hell of a lot of beers beyond Trappists and Lambics, though. There are the Flemish Reds, a sour, almost wine-like beer, and the wits, made with wheat. There are saisons and Christmas beers and golden strong ales and lightly hopped ambers. There are even, now, American-style IPAs—pronounced EE-pas, ha ha—if that’s what floats your boat. And the best way to find out what you like is to drink your way through some of Brussels’ longest beer lists.


The Deal with Glassware

Unlike in the US, where bars serve beer in whatever pint glass is closest at hand, Belgium takes its glassware very seriously. Every brewery produces its own glass, and bars actually use them to serve their beer. These include simple, flat-bottomed glasses similar to (albeit smaller than) American-style pint glasses; bell-shaped, stemmed, etched beauties; and fantastically shaped blown glass numbers that require wooden stands to be kept upright. After heading to Belgium, you’ll never look at a beer glass the same way again, I promise.


Where to Drink in Brussels

Before you go anywhere on this list, do check to see what days the place is open, and double check their social media to see if they’re on vacation. I have learned this lesson the hard way.

  • A La Mort Subite Near the Grand Place lies this charming slice of traditional Brussels cafe culture where you can get all manner of beer, plus an omelet or a croque monsieur if you’re feeling peckish.
  • Poechenellekelder Yes, it’s near the tourist zoo surrounding Manneken Pis; go anyway. This is where you can go to find the weird and the rare.
  • Brasserie Cantillon Cantillon is a renowned brewer of spontaneously fermented beers. Take the self-guided tour, then sample the goods.
  • Moeder Lambic Original Get your butt out of the city center and into this temple to all beers lambic. (There is a central location as well, at Place Fontainas 8.)
  • A l'Imaige Nostre-Dame Hidden down a long, narrow alley lies this cozy cafe that feels like a secret, even when it’s packed. Afterwards, head across the alley to the wood-paneled and super-cozy Au Bon Vieux Temps.
  • Au Brasseur This is where to go for flights, if you’re looking to try more beers in a shorter amount of time.

How to Bring it Home with You

Now that you’re hooked, you’ll want to bring some beers back home. You can buy beer at the airport duty free, but these are some of the more common breweries that are often available in the US. Your best bet is to go to one of the many stores surrounding the Grand Place that cater to tourists, selling hundreds of different bottles (along with their accompanying glassware). Small bottles are best protected in your suitcase by shoving them in your shoes, while larger bottles can be rolled up in jeans. In either case, snuggle them in the center of your suitcase and cross your fingers. Try De BiertempelBeer Planet, or Malt Attacks.

Not Just A Rockstar... Tom Petty Was One of Us by Punk Aristocrats

 The unlikely rock icon, who died Monday at the age of 66, was always down to earth—even when on top of it.

The unlikely rock icon, who died Monday at the age of 66, was always down to earth—even when on top of it.

Tom Petty never felt above us. The hit records and sold-out tours never stopped, and he counted Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, and so many more legends among his friends—yet he still felt down to earth. It was as though he was our representative among those storied artists, like a fan had snuck in and grabbed the last seat at the table with the big boys.

And now he’s gone.

Tom Petty died on Monday at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, surrounded by family, his bandmates, and his friends, longtime Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers manager Tony Dimitriades said in a statement. Petty had suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu early Monday and could not be revived. He was 66.


"It’s shocking, crushing news,” Bob Dylan said in a statement to Esquire.com. "I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Born in Gainesville, Florida, on October 20, 1950, Petty rose to legendary status as the frontman for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. He was also a co-founder of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. Just last month, he’d wrapped a 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.


It was an unlikely story: The small town boy with the abusive father, who’d scaled unimaginable heights after being inspired by a childhood handshake from Elvis Presley while on the set of a movie in Petty’s hometown, only to become a legend in his own right. But no matter how easy he made it seem, Petty was an artistic giant, even among his legendary friends. He had innumerable hit records—Damn the Torpedoes, Full Moon Fever, Wildflowers, and his first number-one album, 2014's Hypnotic Eye. Of course, there were hit singles, too: “Breakdown,” “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”—plus a shelf full of Grammy Awards, a George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, an ASCAP Golden Note Award, a Billboard Century Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and he became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2016.

His songwriting seemed simple, almost effortless. In fact, it was unique and economical, full of memorable lines and musical hooks. His singing was often jeered at; sent up on Saturday Night Live. But it, too, was unique, as well as expressive and singular in a way that only the greatest singers are. When Tom Petty opened his mouth, you knew he meant what he was saying. And, of course, he was the consummate bandleader, taking his Heartbreakers from little more than a collective dream to the mountaintop, and sustaining that, wowing audiences for four decades, night after night on grueling tours long after he needed to, and holding it all together in the process.


But in person, it was hard to reconcile all that accomplishment with the person standing in front of you. When I first met Petty, at a Manhattan event for the launch of his 2010 album Mojo, he was exactly as you might imagine: intense, sure, but also warm, funny and relaxed. We talked about touring and songwriting, and he bemoaned having to recently retire a beloved Gibson acoustic guitar on which he’d written almost all of his hits. A rock and roll fan, too, he was also happy to share stories about Dylan and Orbison and Harrison, seeming almost as amazed as I was that he counted those legends among his closest friends.

All the while, it was hard to forget I was talking to Tom Petty, but, of course, that was a large part of his appeal.


That's because Tom Petty really did seem to be one of us. His music has been so ubiquitous for so long, we've probably taken him for granted more than we should have. But his catalog boasts some of the greatest songs of the past 40-plus years, if not the entire history of rock and roll.


In fact, there’s not a bad Tom Petty record. Pull him up on Spotify, and marvel at just how many songs you know—and love—and how every album he released had at least a fistful of true gems. 

"We've always been a great band, but we've really blossomed in an unexpected way and this album really showcases that,” Petty told me in 2010 with his characteristic humility. “I always say that, but this time there's something really special going on."

Then he squinted at me and smirked, just the way you’d imagine Tom Petty would, and we both laughed.

"Well, you must be real proud of this one," I said. In his trademark southern deadpan, Petty grinned at me again, and without hesitation replied, "Shit yeah!"


Of course he was right, though. The Heartbreakers never lost their fire. Instead, unlike so many of their contemporaries, who toured to support greatest hit collections or playing classic albums from start to finish, they seemed to grow only better with age.

Last summer, at Forest Hills Stadium, in the midst of the band’s 40th anniversary tour, Petty and company seemed almost ageless. I’d seen them countless times, and of course they were older. But for two hours, in the Queens heat, they played a set chock-full of hits and with a large helping of deep cuts; they seemed to turn back the clock.


With all the battles he fought over the years—with everyone from the record labels heavies who’d sold his contract out from under him or raised the price of his albums without his approval, to politicians using his music to promote their “outsider” status—it was easy to see that Tom Petty had a chip on his shoulder. But, as he joked to me that night in 2010, having a father that beats you up regularly will do that. So he never felt as though he fit in, and he had to do it his own way, while never, ever selling out. That he found rock and roll, and channeled that rage into being the absolute best artist—always true to his heart and his beliefs—is something that we all, and most especially his peers, should take note of.

Ultimately, though, as effortless as he made it seem, and as graceful as he was holding down center stage for more than 40 years in front of the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty earned his seat at the high table of rock and roll, and then some.


In the summer of 2016, backstage at New York City’s Webster Hall, I watched as Petty and Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, along with the reunited members of Petty’s first band Mudcrutch, jammed with The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn. Using little practice amps and singing just loud enough to hear themselves, they were preparing for McGuinn’s guest spot with the band that night. Although McGuinn was only scheduled to play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Lover of the Bayou” with the band, the group of musicians, with grins on their faces, played on, trading licks and digging deep into the catalogs of Bob Dylan and The Band. It was an amazing, unforgettable experience. 


But, most of all, I’ll remember Tom Petty, with a beaming smile on his face, ceding the vocals to McGuinn and guitarist Herb Perderson, plucking a bass, lost in the music. He seemed the happiest I’d ever seen him, onstage or off, lost in the magic of the music he loved so dearly.


Punk Aristocrats Pay Tribute To Hugh Hefner by Jason Hollis


In 1953, writer and illustrator Hugh Hefner created the men's adult entertainment magazine 'Playboy,' which played a role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hefner built his controversial yet groundbreaking magazine into an international enterprise.

“Could I be in a better place and happier than I am today? I don't think so.” 
—Hugh Hefner

Who Was Hugh Hefner?

Born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, Hugh Hefner transformed the adult entertainment industry with his groundbreaking publication Playboy. From the first issue featuring Marilyn Monroe in December 1953, Playboy expanded into a multimillion-dollar enterprise mirroring the often controversial sensibilities of its founder. By the 1970s, Hefner set himself up at the Playboy Mansion West in California, remaining editor-in-chief of the magazine he founded. In more recent years he starred in the reality TV series The Girls Next Door


Background and Early Life

Hugh Marston Hefner, born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, was the eldest of two sons born to Grace and Glenn Hefner, who were strict Methodists. Hefner went to Sayre Elementary School and then to Steinmetz High School, where, reportedly, his IQ was 152 though his academic performance was generally modest. While in high school, Hefner became president of the student council and founded a school newspaper—an early sign of his journalistic talents. He also created a comic book entitled School Daze, in which the generally reticent youngster was able to be at the center of his own imagined universe.

Hefner served two years in the U.S. Army as a noncombatant toward the end of World War II, and was discharged in 1946. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute for a summer before enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in psychology. Hefner earned his bachelor's degree in 1949, the same year he married his first wife, Mildred Williams. He later did a semester of graduate school work in the area of sociology, focusing on the sex research institute established by Alfred Kinsey.


By the early 1950s, Hefner had landed a copy-writing job at the Chicago office of Esquire magazine, which featured literary works by such writers as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as illustrations from pinup artists like George Petty and Alberto Vargas. Hefner opted not to remain with the publication, which moved to New York, when he was denied a $5 raise.

Starting 'Playboy'

Out on his own, Hefner was determined to start his own publication. He raised $8,000 from 45 investors—including $2,000 from his mother and brother Keith combined—to launch Playboy magazine. Hefner had planned to title the magazine "Stag Party" but was forced to change the name to avoid a trademark infringement with the existing Stag magazine. A colleague suggested the name "Playboy," after a defunct automobile company. Hefner liked the name, as he thought it reflected high living and sophistication.

Hefner produced the first edition of Playboy out of his South Side home. It hit newsstands in December 1953, but did not carry a date because Hefner was unsure as to whether or not a second issue would be produced. To help ensure its success, Hefner had purchased a color photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe in the nude—which had been taken some years earlier—and placed it in the centerfold of the magazine. The first issue quickly sold more than 50,000 copies, and became an instant sensation.

America in the 1950s was attempting to distance itself from nearly 30 years of war and economic depression. For many, the magazine proved to be a welcome antidote to the sexual repression of the era. For those who initially dismissed the magazine as a pornographic publication, Playboysoon broadened its circulation with thoughtful articles and an urbane presentation.

Developing a Voice

The Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, appeared in the second issue and remained the trademark icon of the brand. Hefner chose the rabbit for its "humorous sexual connotation" and because the image was "frisky and playful"—an image he fostered in the magazine's articles and cartoons. Hefner wanted to distinguish his magazine from most other men's periodicals, which catered to outdoorsmen and showcased he-man fiction. Hefner decided his magazine would instead cater to the cosmopolitan, intellectual male and feature more overt sexual imagery.

In a series of 25 editorial installments presented during the 1960s, Hefner promoted what became known as the "Playboy Philosophy." An evolving manifesto on politics and governance, the philosophy espoused Hefner's fundamental beliefs about free enterprise and the nature of man and woman, calling for what he viewed as reasoned discourse on the truths of human sexuality. However, Hefner never lost sight of the fact that it was pictures of nude women which ultimately sold the magazine.


Work on the publication consumed much of Hefner's life and marriage. By the late '50s, Playboy's circulation had surpassed that of rival magazine Esquire, with sales reaching a million copies a month. But personal issues loomed. Hefner and his first wife divorced in 1959 after having had two children, Christie and David. As a single man, Hefner had many girlfriends and became known for his romantic, unpretentious presence. Yet he also earned a reputation for being controlling and trying to enforce double standards.

The Golden Age

In the 1960s, Hugh Hefner became the persona of Playboy: the urbane sophisticate in the silk smoking jacket with pipe in hand. He adopted a wide range of pursuits and socialized with the famous and wealthy, always in the company of young, beautiful women. As the magazine's increased success came to the attention of the mainstream public, Hefner was happy to portray himself as the charismatic icon and spokesperson for the sexual revolution of the '60s.

This was also Playboy's golden age as ever-increasing circulation allowed Hefner to build a vast enterprise of "private key" clubs that, among other traits, were racially inclusive in a time where segregation was still legally enforced. (A documentary on Hefner that focused on his civil rights activism later received a NAACP Image Award nod.) Hostesses, known as Playboy Bunnies for their scanty outfits made up of rabbit ears and puffy tails, staffed these high-end establishments. The Bunnies often did quite well financially via tips and were directed to keep a certain professional distance from ordinary patrons. The women also had strict conditions placed on them in regards to appearance, including size. 


Over the years, Hefner's Playboy Enterprises also built hotel resorts, started modeling agencies and operated a number of media endeavors. Hefner hosted two short-run television series, Playboy's Penthouse(1959–60), which featured the likes of Ella FitzgeraldNina Simone and Tony Bennett, and Playboy After Dark (1969–70), with guests like Milton Berle and James Brown. Both programs were weekly talk shows set in a bachelor pad full of Playboy Playmates, who chatted with Hefner and his special guests about various subjects.

The publication itself began to garner a reputation for serious journalism, as author Alex Haley launched the "Playboy Interview" in 1962 with jazz great Miles Davis. But Hefner's success didn't come without controversy. In 1963, he was arrested and stood trial for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featured nude photos of Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield. The jury couldn't reach a verdict, and the charge was eventually dropped. The publicity didn't affect the reputation of Hefner or Playboy Enterprises. In 1964, Hefner founded the Playboy Foundation to support endeavors related to fighting censorship and researching human sexuality.


Challenges and Downsizing

By 1971, Hefner had built Playboy Enterprises into a major corporation. The company went public, and the magazine's circulation hit 7 million copies a month, earning a $12 million profit in 1972. Hefner also began dividing his time between two large mansions, one in Chicago and the other in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. When he wasn't home, he was globetrotting in the Big Bunny, a converted black DC-30 jet complete with a living room, a disco, movie and video equipment, a wet bar and sleeping quarters. The jet also featured a circular bed for Hefner himself.

In the mid-1970s, however, Playboy Enterprises fell on hard times. The United States hit a recession, and Playboy faced increasing competition from more explicit men's magazines such as  Penthouse, helmed by rival Bob Guccione. At first, Hefner responded by presenting more revealing photos of women in less wholesome poses and circumstances. Some advertisers rebelled, and circulation fell even further. From then on, Hefner concentrated the company's operations on magazine publishing. Playboy Enterprises eventually divested itself from its unprofitable clubs and hotels and downsized its ancillary media endeavors. The magazine kept its new photography standards and began presenting features like "Girls of the Big Ten."

Over the years a range of female celebrities have appeared in Playboy, including MadonnaKate MossJenny McCarthyNaomi CampbellCindy CrawfordDrew BarrymoreNancy Sinatra and, appearing on the most covers, Pamela Anderson. However, the magazine has also been targeted by critics who take issue with its objectification of women and barely veiled emphasis on commercialism. Feminist icon Gloria Steinemfamously went undercover as a bunny waitress in 1963 to showcase what female workers endured for a two-part Show magazine article. (Steinem's exposé was later made into a 1985 TV movie starring Kirstie Alley.)

In 1975, Hefner decided to make Los Angeles his permanent home so he could more closely supervise his interests in television and film production. He became involved in the restoration of the famed Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And in 1978 he started the Playboy Jazz Festival, an annual event featuring some of the best jazz musicians in the world.


Transitions and Other Projects

In 1985, Hefner suffered a minor stroke, with the entrepreneur blaming it on stress from director Peter Bogdanovich's book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which profiled the life and murder of a former Playmate. The stroke served as a wake-up call for Hefner. He stopped smoking, began to work out and adopted a slower pace in his pleasurable pursuits. He married his longtime girlfriend, Kimberly Conrad, in 1989, and for a time, the Playboy Mansion reflected an atmosphere of family life. The marriage produced two sons, Marston and Cooper. The Hefners separated in 1998 and officially divorced in 2009. After the separation, Kimberly and the two boys lived on an estate next door to the Playboy Mansion.


In 1988, Hefner turned over control of Playboy Enterprises to his daughter Christie, naming her chair and chief executive officer. She played a key role in directing Playboy's ventures in cable television, video production and online programming, with Hugh continuing to serve as the magazine's editor-in-chief. Christie Hefner stepped down from her position in January 2009.

While the magazine saw more modest sales in a changing publishing landscape, the Playboy brand remained a formidable entity in terms of global licensing opportunities. The famed logo also made inroads into various avenues of pop culture, as seen with its display on a chain regularly worn by fashionista Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City.   

In his later years, Hugh Hefner devoted much of his time to philanthropy and civic projects. He directed his foundation in 1993 to launch the annual Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Hefner also gave the University of Southern California $100,000 for its "Censorship in the Cinema" course, and went on to donate $2 million to its film school in 2007. Additionally, he made major contributions to the restoration of classic films, one of his great passions.


'The Girls Next Door'

Hefner received numerous awards for his contributions to society and the publishing industry. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors in 1998, which, ironically, was the same year Steinem earned induction. In the new millennium, he received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award and became an honorary member of The Harvard Lampoon.

2005 saw the premiere of The Girls Next Door, a reality series focusing on the lives of Hefner and his girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion, on the E! cable television network. The show's earlier seasons featured Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, with later seasons featuring twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon and Crystal Harris, who would later become engaged to Hefner. True to form, the series served as a promotional vehicle for many of Hefner's projects.


The 2009 season finale of Girls Next Door chronicled more changes in Hefner's life, as Marquardt left the mansion and began her own TV series. Wilkinson left soon after, pursuing a relationship with NFL player Hank Baskett. Madison also vacated the mansion. She later penned the 2015 memoir Down the Rabbit Hole, detailing Hefner's off-camera machinations and the severe unhappiness she experienced living at the mansion.

Third Marriage and Rebranding

Hefner reportedly was in discussions with Hollywood studio executives for many years to create a biopic about his life. Director Brett Ratner was linked to the film at one point, with several major stars named as prospects for the lead role, including Tom CruiseLeonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr.

Hefner and Harris became engaged in December 2010. Not long after, in June 2011, the couple made headlines when Harris called off the engagement. Hefner and Harris were then back in the public eye in 2012, after announcing their re-engagement. The couple tied the knot at a Playboy Mansion ceremony on New Year's Eve in 2012. After the ceremony, 86-year-old Hefner tweeted: "Happy New Year from Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hefner," with a photo of himself and his 26-year-old bride.


Meanwhile, Playboy was set to undergo a transformation: In October 2015, chief content officer Cory Jones revealed to the New York Times that he and Hefner had agreed to stop using photos of fully unclothed women. The change was part of a strategic decision to secure more advertisers and better placement on newsstands, as well as a response to the proliferation of internet pornography that had made the magazine's spreads seem old-fashioned. The March 2016 issue featured bikini-clad model Sarah McDaniel on the cover, the first time Playboy presented itself as a non-nude magazine.

However, the change was short lived. Not long after Hefner's son Cooper took over as chief creative officer in 2016, it was announced that Playboywould again feature unclothed models. "Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem," the creative chief tweeted in February 2017. "Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are."


Cooper Hefner had also voiced his displeasure with the Playboy Mansion going up for sale, though he was unable to have his way on that issue. In the summer of 2016, it was announced that the mansion had been sold for $100 million to a neighbor, under the agreement that Hefner and his wife would continue living there until his death.



Hefner died on September 27, 2017, at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in Holmby Hills, California. He was 91. “Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises confirmed in a statement. “He was 91 years old.” 

Hefner bought the mausoleum drawer next to Marilyn Monroe in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, where he will be buried. 


6 Rockstar Ways to Win at Social Media Promotion by Jason Hollis


Increased exposure and traffic are the top two benefits of social media promotion cited by marketers in the 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. To gain those advantages, and more, for your business, consider incorporating these elements into your social media promotion strategy:

Engagement is key.

You want your followers to comment, like, and share your posts on social media. When they do that, it increases exposure to your content by getting more people to look at it. "Make sure you generate content that is appealing to the masses and makes people want to share it with their friends," says Justin Sochovka, a principal in Psyched Media Marketing. Asking questions in a creative manner, holding contests and connecting with social causes can be effective strategies for increasing engagement with your content. Polls and how-to videos are also popular.

Balance promotion with value-add.

No more than one out of every six or seven posts should be overtly promotional. The rest should focus on sharing content that is authentic and genuinely useful to your followers. It's okay to "soft-promote" your business in those other posts, as long as it's subtle and relevant to the value-added content being shared, for example, offering advice on how to use a product most effectively or economically.

Think video, video, video.

The average user spends more than twice as much time on a website with video than one without, and two-thirds prefer videos of less than 60 seconds--perfect for social media! "It's the best way to organically generate buzz," Sochovka says. Spend some money on a good camera to maximize the video's strong points: attention, emotion, perceived value, and clarity. After creating a video, host it on your own site first, then post to social media channels.

Set up complete profiles.

Seems obvious, but Chris Stocker, CEO of CSI Marketing Solutions, says it's amazing how many small businesses neglect to do this. Important information that is often omitted includes email address, street address, business hours and relevant images, he says. "Be as thorough as possible. This may be the first impression many people have of your business-;and maybe their last."

Be prepared for negative feedback.

Murphy's Law is real. Occasionally, things go wrong. It's okay to pre-craft responses to your most common questions and complaints, so you can respond quickly when they crop up. But make sure to personalize your responses, as well. People want a quick response on social media, but they also want to feel they are being heard.

Use ads strategically.

Advertising to those who have already been on your website can be an effective and economical way to promote your business through social media. For the best results, use remarketing tags, which are free to install and use on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Tags are short snippets of code that add your website visitors to your remarketing lists, making it easy to target them.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a social media promotion plan, but according to the 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, all plans should address five key points: choosing the most-effective tactics, maximizing engagement, measuring ROI, optimizing use of paid social media and targeting the right audience. Set clear objectives for what you want to achieve with social, and use these guidelines to formulate a plan and optimize it as needed.