Sunday, September 30, 2012

Obamacare’s “Gotcha” For The Health Care Sector

(By Mallory Factor, Forbes Magazine, September 6, 2012)

One of the great mysteries of modern politics was the high level of union support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. When President Obama was elected, Obamacare was already one of the unions’ top legislative priorities. Government unions spent tens of millions and used enormous political capital to pass Obamacare. Yet, universal health care should not be a core issue for unions because most union members have more than adequate health care coverage. So why the overwhelming support for Obamacare from the government employee unions?

Many commentators point to the concessions President Obama gave to the unions right before Obamacare passed in Congress in March 2010. To solidify union support, Obama agreed to a seven year moratorium on taxing the famed Cadillac health care plans that many union members receive—which increased the cost of Obamacare by $120 billion. But this concession does not explain the overwhelming union commitment to pass Obamacare which began before the President was even elected.
The real reason for stalwart union support for Obamacare is that the law throws the door wide open for unionizing most of the 21 million health care workers needed to implement Obamacare. Right now, only about one and a half million of America’s health care workers are unionized, less than 10% of all health care workers. Many health care workers are self-employed or work in small offices, and can’t be unionized under current law. But the unions have several plans to overcome this hurdle, with the ultimate goal of unionizing every health care worker in America.

The first plan is to drive more doctors, nurses and other health care workers to fold their private practices into large hospitals. Once employed by hospitals, health care workers can be unionized as private hospital workers or as government employees if they work for government hospitals. This plan is working great for the unions–by next year, for example, only 33 percent of doctors will be in private practice, down from 57 percent in 2000.
The second plan is to use a new organizing model to unionize self-employed people like the remaining health care workers in private practice. Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other government employee unions have tested this organizing model out on health care providers and in-home childcare providers over the last decade. These care providers are partially or fully paid from government programs that subsidize the cost of their clients’ care. The unions’ allies in state government use the fact that these care providers receive payments under government program to treat them as “government employees” who can be unionized. In 10 states, care providers have been unionized and forced to pay union dues of almost a hundred dollars a month, which are automatically deducted by the government from their payments.

The Obamacare legislation dramatically increases the number of health care workers receiving payment for their services under a government program—whether from the growing number of Medicaid patients or from patients insured by government-run insurance plans under the public option. The government employee unions can then enlist pro-union state governments to treat these health care workers as “government employees” and unionize them just like they unionized the care providers.  As we move closer to a single payer system, many more health care workers will be compensated through government programs. Eventually, virtually all health care workers (except perhaps Park Avenue plastic surgeons) will receive at least part of their compensation from a government payer, and using union logic, can be treated as “government employees” who can be unionized. It is such a simple plan really.

The stakes for the unions are huge. For every million additional health care workers unionized in the 27 non-right-to-work states, the unions stand to earn a billion dollars in dues.  When the history of the labor movement is written, Obamacare’s passage will mark the beginning of the second great rise of unionism in America, to the detriment of the American taxpayer.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

30 Years Ago, The CD Started The Digital Music Revolution

(By Devin Coldewey,, 28 September 2012)

The digital music revolution officially hit 30 years ago, on Oct. 1, 1982. While you may be surprised to learn that the heralds of the coming age were, in fact, the Bee Gees, it probably comes as less of a shock to learn that Sony was at the very heart of it. After years of research and an intense period of collaboration with Philips, Sony shipped the world's first CD player, the CDP-101.

Music — and how we listen to it — would never be the same.  Today the CD player might be seen as something of a relic, since our smartphones, iPods and satellite radios provide seamless access to not only our entire music libraries, but to nearly every artist or track available. We can dictate any song or album to an app and have it playing in seconds, or download a new single by visiting an artist's Facebook page.  In such a world, the idea of carrying around a disc loaded with just 10 or 12 tracks and switching it out every hour sounds positively stone-age. But the MP3 and streaming media are not just the CD's replacements, but its descendants. The future of music in fact made its unofficial debut, believe it or not, in the hands of the Bee Gees.

It was on the BBC show Tomorrow's World in 1981 that the Bee Gees publicly demonstrated CD technology (and a new album, Living Eyes) for the first time. Artists were excited about the format — the prospect of a high-quality, track-separated, non-degrading medium was enticing, though many were still skeptical of digital encoding. But music industry heavies like David Bowie and renowned conductor Herbert von Karajan were quick to embrace it, and soon the likes of Dire Straits would hit a million sales and cement the CD's position as the new standard for music.

That triumph was a long time coming: development of the format began in the '70s, when both Sony and Philips were independently doing research on an digital, optical disc format to replace cassette tapes and records. Early work at Sony was led by Norio Ohga, who bravely bore the skepticism of his comrades in order to create and demonstrate the earliest versions in 1976 and 1978.  Meanwhile, Philips was on the same track, so to speak. Their original version, an evolution of the laserdisc, was a whopping 20cm in diameter, but after reflection they brought the size of their prototype down to 11.5cm — the same size, measured diagonally, as a cassette tape.

In 1979, the two companies decided to work together. They set up a task force of less than a dozen people — engineers who didn't know if they could trust each other. After breaking the ice, however, the team worked for a year and managed to arrive at a set of standards, called the "Red Book." The manufacturing process and method of encoding were contributed by Philips, while Sony created the digital error-correction that made reading the data reliable.  The new technology was privately inaugurated in 1980, and the first modern CD pressed was Richard Strauss's "Alpine Symphony." The next year, the Bee Gees went on the BBC, and the year after that the CD as we know it today was born.

That October of 1982, the CDP-101 made its debut in Japan alongside the first run of CD albums, led by Billy Joel's 52nd Street. The device was expensive: ¥168,000,  about $730 at the time, or almost twice that when adjusted for inflation. But home audio wasn't cheap then, and there was a market eager to snap up the new, high-fidelity audio format.  The engineers behind it had really had a task: everything about the system was brand new. As Jacques Heemskerk, one of the senior Philips engineers on the project, told the BBC in 2007:

It was revolutionary in many fields — the optics were new, the disc was new. At the start of development there wasn't even a laser that would work well enough for our needs. The most advanced laser at the time had a lifespan of only 100 hours.

So the cost was justified by the complexity and novelty of the hardware. Other manufacturers, like Toshiba, Kenwood, and of course Philips, would produce variant CD players over the course of the next year. 

The first CDs to market, with the notable exception of Billy Joel, were mostly classical. In fact, the capacity of the CD was raised during development from 60 to 74 minutes in order to accommodate Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The creators of the format knew that classical music lovers were more likely to appreciate (and more likely to pay for) the increased quality of the CD system.  The pop and rock market, however, was still in love with cassettes, which were more portable and more ubiquitous than ever. 1979 had brought the first Walkman, and cassette players were now standard equipment in car radios. The CD was, for the moment, strictly for the home, where your nice speakers and amp would make the improved fidelity sing. Even there, to this day, some audiophiles swear by vinyl records and an all-analog setup.

It wasn't until later in the '80s that things really took off. Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms sold a million CDs in 1985, suggesting that the format had finally hit its stride. It wasn't long before other artists were selling millions upon millions of their albums in CD format. The Discman, introduced in 1984, and the CD-ROM format, enabling computers to read the discs, further accelerated uptake.  The rest, as they say, is history. Since that time, hundreds of billions of CDs have been shipped and sold — the numbers are near-impossible to track, since the easily duplicated digital data led to an enormous increase in piracy and counterfeiting, not to mention the billions of copies and mix-CDs made by normal users.
Music CDs peaked in 2000 with global sales estimated at around 2.5  billion. Soon (legal) digital downloads began to replace physical media for many music buyers. Though its numbers are on the decline, CDs are still produced today on the order of hundreds of millions, and it will be many years yet before the world's CD factories shut their doors.  The size and shape of the CD, as well as its capacity, portability, and versatility, have been a major factor in how music has been developed and consumed for decades. Albums were written to fill it, new formats like the DVD were made in imitation of it, and entire new trends in media resulted from it. The Compact Disc started the digital revolution for music in the '70s, and we're still feeling the effects.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beach Boy Fires All Other Beach Boys

(By Chris Martins,, 26 September 2012)

Mike Love apparently blindsided his fellow Beach Boys co-founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardin, plus David Marks, when he announced on Sunday that all three are fired from the band. After the Boys wrap two London stops on their current 50th anniversary tour, Love will carry on with his own lineup. He cited greed, essentially, as the reason.  "You've got to be careful not to get overexposed," said Love in a statement issued the day the band's Grammy Museum exhibit opened. "There are promoters who are interested [in the o.g. lineup], but they've said, 'Give it a rest for a year.' The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5."

Love can do this because he has owned the Beach Boys name since 1998 after a series of hard-fought legal battles. His version of the group formed in the same year following the death of Carl Wilson, and includes longtime member Bruce Johnston and a backing band featuring Love's son, Christian.

"I'm disappointed and can't understand why he doesn't want to tour with Al, David and me," said Wilson, Love's cousin and one of the most brilliant songwriters in the history of pop,
to CNN. "We are out here having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys."  As Rolling Stone reports, Jardine has gone as far as to petition his Facebook followers for signatures beneath a letter that reads:

"To Mike Love. In order to preserve the validity of 'The Beach Boys' as a whole, and not as a 'money saving, stripped down version' that only contains one original member, and one member that joined in 1965, we ask you to reinstate the three other members to the touring group for your final years performing. It's the right thing to do, and it's what the fans want!"  With the number of signees
at 2,700 and growing, it'd seem that Jardine is right about what the fans want. And yet, Love insists, in the most codger-y voice we can muster up in our minds, that "the 50th Reunion Tour was designed to be a set tour with a beginning and an end to mark a special 50-year milestone for the band." Well, harrumph to you too, sir.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aimee Mann Interviews About Her New Album

 Aimee Mann just came out with a new album.  It has gotten some good reviews and a decent amount of coverage in the press, a couple of the most interesting of which I have included here.  She's a smart person and I enjoy listening to her thoughts on the world of music and beyond.  I will say I have not listened to the allbum yet, even though I pre-ordered it on her website.  I have been afraid to because of her track record lately. 

I absolutely loved her first three albums (In fact, "I'm With Stupid" is one of my all-time favorite albums) but I was bored with her last three albums, mostly because she forgot to write any melodies.  Maybe she was too busy coming up with interesting concepts to have time to write some catchy hooks so the songs were at best just mid-tempo dirges or no-tempo ballads.  This new one, "Charmer", is supposed to  be a throw-back to her early stuff and to 1970's and 1980's power pop, which sounds great in concept but focusing on concepts is what tanked the last few albums, hence my nervousness.  So below is the intellectual, verbal, side of Aimee Mann, which I love to hear, and maybe later I can discuss her actual music, which I'm afraid to hear.

Aimee Mann Chats About The Perils Of Making Music When No One Wants To Buy Any
(By T. Cole Rachel, Stereogum, September 17 2012)

I’ve had a soft spot for Aimee Mann ever since I was a wee nerd. It might have something to do with the fact that “Voices Carry” was one of the first 45′s I ever owned (alongside Olivia Newton-John’s “Heart Attack”) or it might simply be because Aimee Mann has consistently written great songs. And for those of us who tend to be glass-half-empty kinds of folks, few other songwriters have been able to give voice to the quiet despair and habitual disappointment of the world’s oddball wallflowers better than Mann. Her new record, Charmer, is arguably the most upbeat thing she’s done since … well, maybe ever. The stark acoustics of previous records have been all but ditched in favor of bubbly synths and singalong-worthy choruses. Still, this is an Aimee Mann record, so listeners may rest assured that plenty of perfectly phrased bon mots abound and there’s still a healthy dose of cynical good humor to give all the peppiness a healthy edge. Not surprisingly, Aimee is a pleasure to talk to.

Stereogum:I didn’t realize there was such a gap in between the last studio record and this one. It’s been more than four years since @#%&;*! Smilers came out.

Mann:Yeah, I didn’t really realize either, and I feel kind of idiotic — what was I doing during that whole time?

Stereogum:Well, what were you doing that whole time?

Mann:I think I took a year off where I was working on a musical. We were working with a specific writer, and it really didn’t work out. It’s not that the project got scrapped — we have a whole different writer now — but we’re kind of starting from square one. Me and Paul Bryan, the producer of Charmer, we wrote a bunch of new songs for the musical. So it’s not like the time was totally wasted, but you like to feel like you’re producing something that’s also moving your life along. I think that part of it was because the music business has changed so much and the industry is so weird and people listen to music in an entirely different way, and they acquire music in an entirely different way — it’s hard to know where to get your motivation from to make a record. I felt like, you know, I’m interested in a lot of different things, and I can always work on those things instead. In some ways music has become this thing that people don’t really value, or take seriously, or listen to in any way that they derive much meaning from it. If you’re not really willing to pay for something, it’s hard to not conclude that people don’t value it.

Other musicians I know are struggling with it. When no one sells any records it’s hard to feel like anybody cares. If you feel like nobody cares, then you just feel like, “Am I doing this just for my own ego, just to have a record out?”And I’ve put out a lot of records, and I’m sort of older, so I don’t really have that thing of, I’ve gotta prove to the world that I’m great, I’ve gotta get out there and show the world what I can do! So it just put me in a funny place, like if I’m gonna spend all this money making a record, isn’t that just the biggest vanity project ever if it’s not something that other people want to actually have or buy? I think even though artists don’t make art for money, feeling that there’s an audience and that you can make a living at it is a destination that, without it, you do get lost. So that was sort of part of it. It’s a strange thing.

Stereogum:It’s interesting. I’ve had that conversation a lot lately with musicians of all different ages and genres. If there’s a good thing to come of that collapse of the previous system — of people being stuck in the traditional album/touring cycle — perhaps it’s that it forces people to ask themselves important questions. Like, “Why am I doing this?” and “What are my realistic expectations for what I’m getting out of it?”

Mann:Yeah, and I think that my worry is that it kind of leaves … who really succeeds? People who are really good at self-promotion, I guess. Self-promotion is an art form. If you’re really great at self-promotion and have a Twitter presence that’s really great and interesting, that becomes your job, that’s sort of what you’re best at. And there’s a lot of musicians I know who are very quiet, they have a tough time being on tour or playing live sometimes, and are more reclusive, introverted writers. And I just think those people are going to get eaten alive. I don’t even know how those people could survive because without labels that do that stuff for you … I guess it’s not like major labels are any better. I just feel bad because there are so many great bands. It’s great to talk about that romantic notion of, “We’ll just go and tour and sleep in the van and eat scraps out of a toaster for art!” but it’s fucking hard to tour like that.

Stereogum:I always say that people who romanticize that idea have, in all likelihood, probably never done it.

Mann:It’s like being homeless. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I’ve done some of that — not sleeping-in-a-van level — but the Motel 6 where you share a room with your band members and hookers knock on the door in the middle of the night because they think their john is in your room. It’s extremely stressful and it’s unhealthy. There’s nothing that’s arty about it, nothing conducive to writing and being an artist. And when you work that way over a period of years, it wears on you. It’s not romantic, for sure.

Stereogum:So what was the impetus to make another record?

Mann:It’s probably as simple as, “Well, this is what I do, so I should just do it.”You have to take a leap of faith. I haven’t really answered the question of why, not even for myself. If you are a singer-songwriter, you write and record a record and have to have some amount of faith that you’re not gonna completely starve. For me it’s just you put one foot in front of the other and see what happens. There’s always something that comes out of the woodwork, some interesting thing, and maybe it’s a real left turn and maybe it’s not. You do what you can do. And for now I can still afford to make records. You know maybe there’ll be a time when I can’t and then, I’ll just do what I can. And I can’t worry about the time when maybe I can’t do it.

Stereogum:Where was the bulk of this record made? Do you have your own studio to work out of?

Mann:No, the engineer, Ryan Freeland, has a studio, so most of it was recorded in that studio. And my producer has a little studio at home, so we did some stuff there, too.

Stereogum:Have you found that the process by which you make songs has changed over the years?

Mann:The way I make records is that I’ve become more interested in recording a band mostly live in the studio and getting that kind of inexplicable thing that happens when great musicians play together well. But that could change, and sometimes you’re in a different mood to just put it together bit by bit. But for the last few records I’ve gotten more interested in getting most of the tracks done at the same time.

Stereogum:Do your songs tend to change much during the recording process or do you usually go in with the pretty finished material?

Mann:The song itself is pretty much done. I don’t necessarily hear all the instruments in my head, I’m not one of those people, so sometimes getting the right vibe arrangement-wise is a little hit-or-miss. There were probably two or three songs that we re-recorded from drums up because they just weren’t working. And one of my big failings as a musician is being able to know exactly when I don’t like something, [but not] what’s wrong with it, and how to fix it. Sometimes I’ll play other songs as references and try to figure out what that song is doing that makes it sound like the kind of thing I want, but it’s trial and error sometimes.

Stereogum:How long was the process? How long did you record?

Mann:Not that long, really. I think the basic tracks were like a week. We did 14 songs, but then there were the two songs that we totally re-recorded in Paul Bryan, the producer’s, room. We brought the keyboard player back in and the three of us brainstormed some stuff. That was another week of doing that.

Stereogum:I love “Living A Lie” — the song that you do with James Mercer.

Mann:He’s really so great, just impossibly decent as a person.

Stereogum:Had you guys known each other for a long time?

Mann:No, I mean really that was the most time we’d spent together. I just kind of contacted him out of the blue and crossed my fingers and hoped he had some kind of interest in doing this, and it’s nice because I think when you commit to somebody else’s project you have no idea how it’s going to sound, and he was very game.

Stereogum:I also love the song that you did with Ben Gibbard for his forthcoming solo record.

Mann:Yeah, Ben is terrific. I love his voice and I love his sense of melody. I think he’s a really great writer.

Stereogum:You guys actually recorded that at my friend’s studio, Aaron Espinoza, whom I’ve known for many, many years. He and his wife are close friends of mine.

Mann:He’s in the band Earlimart, yeah? I don’t know much of their stuff, but what I do know I really like.

Stereogum:You will be touring in the fall, yes? What will that tour look like? Are you bringing out a bunch of people with you?

Mann:Yeah, I have a full band. There are two keyboard players, but one plays guitar. Me and bass and drums and two keyboard/guitar players, so yeah it’s a big band compared to what I’ve been touring with because I’ve been doing semi-acoustic shows.

Stereogum:Is it easier if you have a full band with you? Does it feel less exposed than being out by yourself?

Mann:I think for me it’s easier when I have a smaller band, but you definitely miss having the full-band experience and playing with a drummer and getting to hear the songs fleshed out. I think especially for the first tour of a new record, it’s really nice to present the songs more or less as they’re arranged on the record.

Stereogum:We were just talking about the pains of touring. In general do you enjoy it?

Mann:I do enjoy it, but I want to stress that I don’t have to do that sleeping-18-to-a-bed thing anymore. I try to keep it more civilized. Everybody I tour with makes an effort to keep it more civilized. It’s really the only way to get through it. When there’s a lot of chaos and people are going crazy, people devolve very quickly. I think I’ve just learned over the years what works and doesn’t work so I can structure it. We rarely go out for more than three weeks at a time, because three weeks on the road is a really long time, and people start to get exhausted after that. We’ll go out for three weeks, and come back and take a week, and then do the East Coast run. That’s when Ted Leo is touring with us.

Stereogum:He’s one of the nicest dudes in the world.

Mann:He is the greatest person, and really, really funny.

Stereogum:At this point, I feel like you’ve done so many kinds of things to help dispel the notion that people may have of you just based on your songs. Do you have the feeling that people expect you to be this hyper-serious, melancholy person?

Mann:Yeah, well it’s hard to not imagine that … when I hear people’s songs and they’re really serious, it’s hard to not feel like I know the “real” person. Just the act of songwriting or hearing thoughts put to music make it feel like it’s a view into someone’s subconscious. I totally get that. In a way it’s true. But I think I’ve done enough goofy stuff, like being on Portlandia, so maybe people have an idea that I’m not super serious all the time.

Stereogum:Aside from touring, what will the rest of this year be like? Will you be working on the musical as well?

Mann:Well the book writer has to kind of finish his draft and we’ll talk about what songs go where and write new songs, so that’s kind of out of my hands for the time being. I’m doing a movie at the end of August. That will be for three weeks. It’s gonna be this little indie movie. Joe Henry is going to be in it, his brother wrote the screenplay, and it’s going to be shot in Louisville, Kentucky. Loudon Wainwright and John Doe are going to be in it. I have no idea what I’m doing.

Stereogum:Is it super dramatic? Will you have to cry or scream?

Mann:No! Or I never would have taken it. I think there’s a small chance I can get by and have it look like I know what I’m sort of doing. It’s based on a This American Life piece where someone put together a band for a day and put them together in a studio to see what it’s like.

Stereogum:I did a cameo in a feature film earlier this year. It was sort of fun, but also much more nerve-wracking than I could have predicted.

Mann:It’s hair raising! I mean as soon as the camera is on, you realize as soon as you start acting you’re like, “Oh my God listen to me, this is the phoniest acting I’ve ever heard in my life.” And then you’re all act-y and it’s terrible.

Stereogum:It’s amazing to watch people work. I didn’t even have to speak, I just had to pretend to serve a drink, but the first time I did it, I spilled the fake drink and we had to start over.

Mann:Oh yeah, because as soon as you’re self-conscious in any way, it just ruins it all. And how can you not be self-conscious? I think actors have to be crazy in a way.

Stereogum:Well it sounds like it’ll be fun with all those people together in the same place.

Mann:Yes, and Joe is super sweet. John Doe I know a little bit, he seems like a nice guy. I’ve met Loudon and I don’t really know him, but Joe is a really decent guy, so I’m looking forward to spending time with him. We’ll see. I could ruin the whole thing!

Aimee Mann: Fame is the worst
The singer tells Salon we've become a nation of spoiled voyeurs & lost track of the value of the arts
(By David Daley,, 15 September 2012)

From the outside, Aimee Mann has one of the most charmed careers in music: A devoted fan base for her always smart and refined songs, and her own label to promote and package her music as she pleases, whether in fancy editions or with graphic novelists doing the cover art. She’s the boss of everything.

But she didn’t get to this place easily. When Mann fronted ‘Til Tuesday in the ’80s, the pressure to change her sound, to be someone she wasn’t, made her want to walk away from music entirely. And after she escaped the band and Epic Records, her first two solo albums, “Whatever” and “I’m With Stupid,” ended up trapped in Dante-esque corporate infighting.

Mann wasn’t having any fun — or making any money. Geffen saw no hits when she submitted “Bachelor No. 2,” which merely contained career-defining songs like “How Am I Different,” “Red Vines” and “Calling It Quits.” So Mann — aided, yes, when her soundtrack to “Magnolia” earned an Oscar nomination for “Save Me” — started SuperEgo Records and set out on her own. Thirteen years and several terrific albums later, it’s one of the great do-it-yourself stories in music — but not a road for everyone in the midst of creative-class meltdown. “I have a lot of help,” Mann says. “It’s asking too much that somebody know how to manage and promote and market themselves as well as make music and tour. I can, quote, ‘do it myself’ because I have three people there.”

“Charmers,” Mann’s first album in four years, arrives Tuesday, and it’s another super-tuneful and tasteful album — a song cycle about the slicksters with the confidence and magnetism to draw others into tortured relationships that can only end in therapy. Mann’s been eerily consistent for a decade; still, songwriting this solid and sturdy and hook-ridden shouldn’t ever be dismissed lightly.” There’s a half-dozen songs here that rank with her very best, including “Labrador,” with a rollicking melody that jumps up and licks you in the face; and “Living a Lie,” a grand duet with James Mercer of the Shins.  Mann called from Los Angeles to discuss her long path to freedom, the sick charm of Paul Ryan, her visit to the White House, the role of the artist during tough times — and the insanity of modern politics.

You have a new album out, but I’d like to start someplace completely different: You’re so good with those small observational details, the devastating insight into a character. Have you ever thought about writing fiction? I keep waiting for an Aimee Mann short-story collection.

Well, I’m very aware [that] to be really good at any particular art form, one has to have worked on it for many, many, many years to master its particular structures. And I just think it would be too hard. I don’t think it’s that easy. Writing prose is very difficult for me. Because I just can’t. The music does something that helps me be able to find the words. It kind of relaxes me or puts me in a state of mind, or something. As you’ll discover throughout this interview, I feel reasonably stilted in trying to write words and formulate sentences. So I think it’s really not my thing.

You’ve been mastering this one form for 25 years. Was there a moment when you feel like your songs took that turn toward characters and observational detail and became a little less first-person confessional, like they were in the first part of your career?

I think the last record, to me, had more of that kind of short-story-ish feel. But even so, I really like writing in the first-person or second-person. It’s just too distancing to write in the third person for a song. So I don’t think it’s ever going to get story-like in that way. You always have to relate it back to experience, to some degree, or it just doesn’t ring true.

This album explores the mysterious allure of the slick, charming man. What was the appeal of the charmer to you, and why did you want to take on that kind of guy?

I really admire people who are charming. It’s a skill that I wish I had. And I am kind of fascinated by it right out of the box. How do people get to where they feel at ease with other people and they can talk to anyone — where they’re funny and clever and on the spot, and don’t seem to have any self consciousness? To me that’s really remarkable.

But I think that there is a kind of person who is charming who starts from a position of really mostly being concerned with appearances. And when you are mostly concerned with appearances, appearances become your area of expertise. You become expert in knowing how things look to other people, and how things are coming across, and how you’re coming off. And you can make that very subtle. That can be very subtle. Because part of that persona that you’re creating can have elements that look like humility. Or are generous. Or are self-deprecating. And it can really present this very fleshed out picture that is fascinating and attractive, but ultimately not real.

There’s a fine line between the charmer and the sociopath, the way you describe it there.

Yeah, I feel that it’s probably on a continuum. I feel like I’m definitely, like most people, fascinated by the idea and the question of what is a sociopath. Are they born or made? Are they, you know, a combination of the two? The malignant narcissist to the con man to the sociopath. It’s weird. I don’t know if those people are curable, or if they’re motivated to change. Or if they ever even perceive in themselves the need to change.

Do you feel the need to be a charmer, working in this field, performing before audiences?

I’ve never felt that I was charming. But that would be awesome. Charming people are fun. They make people feel good. They’re entertaining. I don’t think I’m that. That would be great. I mean, some of it is basic social skills that I feel I’m sort of lacking in. I don’t think that all charming people are somehow broken or diseased or dangerous, but I think the whole subject is fascinating.

“When you’re a charmer, the world applauds,” you write in the title track. “They don’t know that secretly charmers feel like they’re frauds.” There’s anxiety attached to being charming.

People have actually said that to me. People in high-level jobs who have said, “I’m waiting to be unmasked as an imposter.” Which has got to be a tough place to be in.

The character in “Labrador” experiences charm from another perspective: He or she keeps being pulled in by that charm, and can’t escape being loyal to somebody who does not treat them well.

Yeah, I think there’s a fine line. It’s hard to know when loyalty is appropriate. Being a loyal person is a very admirable trait, but it becomes a character defect if you allow it to draw you back into situations that are bad for you. I definitely understand that dilemma. I understand the dilemma of [how] you want to believe that the other person has changed, and every time you make a move to get away, they come back and have a new angle. New promises. New ways they’re going to be different. Then it’s just always the same. I definitely know people who have been in those circumstances, and it’s tough. It’s tough to watch from the outside, because usually from the outside you can tell that it’s a disaster.

We’re always really good at spotting the problems in other people’s relationships, even if we’re making the same mistakes ourselves.

Exactly. Like, we can be doing the exact same thing …

… and be completely blind to it. A lot of these characters are manipulative or going through major problems of their own. So for someone who insists she has never been charming, what’s it like to imagine the situation from that point of view?

They’re usually derived from people I know one way or the other. Or people I have known. And I try to relate to them, to relate to both sides of it. That’s the most interesting thing to me. To try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. To try and see what it’s like for them. Or what it could be like for them.

That’s what I was trying to ask earlier, perhaps without articulating it very well. Do you feel like you’re trying to write more from the perspective of other people now, compared on earlier albums that might have been more confessional? Or at least seen as more confessional.

I think now I definitely write more about other people. I always try to relate myself to whatever the situation is because that does keep it realistic, emotionally realistic and honest. I do. I don’t know if any of these songs are more about me, but most of them aren’t.

Was that a difficult switch to make at all, craft-wise? Because some of the ‘Til Tuesday albums and even your first solo albums on Geffen — they felt pretty pointed!

I don’t think so. Honestly, I think it’s part of maturity to try to, just as a person, relate to other people’s experiences. And to learn from their mistakes rather than make your own, over and over and over. I think that helps as a person if you can do that. So maybe I will learn from this.

Before you made that turn, there was a time when you were so frustrated with the way your albums were treated by record labels — and the various messes and demands they’d made all the way back to the ‘Til Tuesday days — that you were ready to walk away from this entirely.

There was certainly a time when I wasn’t getting anything out of it in terms of being associated with a record label. Personally, it was very discouraging. The people were very discouraging. It wasn’t like I was making any money. And then, to add on top of that, people at the label were trying to control the music. You start to think, “Well, I’m not even making any money.” It’s not a situation where I can say to myself, “Look, you’re making a living. People are going to have to make concessions. Bite the bullet.”

So I was like, “I don’t even know why I’m doing this.” It’s one thing to sell out. It’s not like it’s even that easy. I think that when you try to tell somebody how to make their music and how to make it more commercial, how to make it some other way, then I’m trying to think with your brain. And I can’t think with your brain. So why don’t you do it, and I’ll go do something else. I wasn’t trying to be super stubborn. I just couldn’t do that. I just can’t do that.

Anytime I’ve sat down and tried to write a, quote, “song” I thought would be more commercial or a commercial song I thought they wanted, you know, I always ended up writing some jazz waltz or something. I was like, “This is really commercial.” And then you listen to it later and think, “That’s not a commercial song at all.” But that’s, you know, if you’re telling me to do that, that’s my interpretation. So, you can’t make people do things they don’t naturally do.

What you’re gonna get is a lot of people who are so desperate for attention that they’ll do anything to get in front of an audience and show off. And that should yield a lot of “great art.” [Sarcasm.] Some of it will be. Because some of those people will, you know … it doesn’t mean that they aren’t great artists. But you know how it is. If you get people whose main motivation is a desperation to have the approval of thousands of people, then emphasis on art isn’t probably going to be top of the list.

Fame is not a particularly good motivator for much of anything.

And people have a really distorted idea of what being famous really entails. I think it’s very traumatizing for people. I feel sorry for huge movie stars who are followed around by paparazzi. I think it’s extremely psychologically tortuous and traumatizing. And I don’t think people want to acknowledge it because they have this belief that money and fame are at the top of their value system. That that literally is the goal. That’s madness to me.

Was that kind of fame ever a motivator for you? In the early days when “Voices Carry” was a smash?

No. You know, when I was a kid, I might have thought for a second, “It would be great to be famous,” but I think when you’re a kid what that really means is, “I wish somebody would care about what I did. Care about me in some way.” So, no. My brief brush with fame was when I was in ‘Til Tuesday and we had a video that got played a lot. We were very recognizable for a couple of years. I just found it very unsettling. When people recognize you, they’re just going to be disappointed. Because you don’t know them. And they feel like they know you, but … So you’re perpetually in that circumstance where somebody feels like, “You jerk. You don’t remember me.”  And I don’t want to disappoint people, but there’s nothing you can give a total stranger that’s going to make them happy in that circumstance.

I remember going to school in Boston and reading an interview with you, probably 20 years ago, almost an exit interview of sorts. You talked about being so miserable on those ‘Til Tuesday tours that you were ready to cut your hands so you couldn’t play.

Touring was exhausting. And that’s another big surprise because it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be difficult; it sounds like it’s going to be fun. And then you sort of start to understand those reports of, “So-and-so was hospitalized for exhaustion.” And I go like, “Yeah, that actually could be true.” Because I know what that state is. You don’t get much sleep. You often don’t get enough to eat. You’re keeping weird hours. It’s hard work. And you’re crossing time zones, so there’s an extra jet-lag exhaustion thing.

How did you manage to take control of your career again and get to a healthier place?

Over time you figure out what works for you, and you kind of insist on it. Leaving the major label really helped with that because the major label really pushes you to do stuff that you can’t do. And then you’re afraid to cross them because you feel like your fate is in their hands.

But once I was on my own, by that point, I’d kind of realized that touring … well, if I’m going up for three weeks, then I’ll take a week off, take some time off. And if you have a bus, you sleep on the bus. Or you’re with certain people. All of those things are big factors. If you’re out with people that are really out of control or have a drug problem or something, it makes it a million times harder — because it adds a lot of stress and chaos and drama to the tour and the group dynamic. You just have to be cognizant of all that stuff. And then plan it in advance.

Tell me about being at the White House for celebration of American poetry with President Obama and Michelle. That must have been a wonderful moment.

It was really lovely. And the White House is this adorable museum almost. We got to hang out the whole day there because there were two parts. The afternoon poetry seminar, where the poets talked about their process and they took questions from high school kids — and it was really inspiring to listen to those people talk. It was just inspiring to be part of the whole day where this idea of poetry and art was really embraced as something that was actually important to humans. Not like in a “How many dollars is it going to yield if we educate our kids in the arts?” [way,] but [in the way] that it’s important as a human being to have art in your life. Because we’re not just a herd of fucking monkeys. We’re not just beasts roaming around in a pack. So that was very inspiring. It made me think about art in a way that I’d never thought about it before. It really was what defined us as a civilization.

How closely are you following the presidential campaign?

It’s grim. It’s grim. There’s a great tide of fascism that is creeping in, and people are just getting used to it because it’s the slow boiling of the frog. And the media gets caught up in its own … having to chase things that are sensational because of ratings. And the candidates get caught up in the thing of having to boil their messages down to almost a propaganda-type thing because they … It’s a crazy system.

But they do, of course, attempt to be charming. When I listen to the title song of the new record, the character I imagine is Paul Ryan.

Talk about his fucking six pack or, you know, that he’s hot or something. And I know that we’ve become this nation of voyeurs where like, we’re spoiled and we’re tired of everything and are just like, “Let us see his body!” It’s this kind of cynical posture that insulates us from the whole horror of what’s really happening. Nobody is talking about global warming anymore. It’s the main thing that we should be concentrating on, but you know, Obama’s gotta fucking campaign for a solid year because this is the fucked-up system we have, where anybody can buy an election.

It’s the last phase of the Weimar Republic. Right before someone swoops in and takes over. I mean, I don’t mean to be gloomy. I just think it’s kind of an accurate reading. I mean, when we’re talking about Ayn Rand — that’s fucking crazy.

Speaking of Ryan, exactly. Unlike the character in the song, I’m not sure he believes he’s a fraud. I think he believes he’s all that and the six pack.

Well, they’ve got God on their side. You know, all thought kind of ceases when you think that God has signed off on what you’re doing, or you know what God wants you to do. You don’t second guess it. And then you lose all of your humility. There is no humility in saying, “I’m God’s right-hand man.” Because, you’re basically saying, “I’m my own higher power now. I’m the decider. I make the decisions.” I don’t have to have a sense of humility to sit and think “What is the right thing to do?” It’s when you take on these kind of hard and fast and rigid rules that you apply to everything, you don’t really allow for … That’s not allowing for any kind of presence of a higher power. Suddenly this discussion has gotten very deep.

What do you think the role of the artist, or the poet, ought to be at a time like this?

I don’t think artists have a role. But I think, if everyone is lucky, you have the result where people are connected to each other. Once you’re connected and you realize that we’re all in this together, you do start to think about things like health care and global warming and poverty. Birth control. You know, you do start to think about that stuff. Because it’s not just all me.

I think that the vision of the right is the idea that I can go into the wilds of Alaska with a .22 and a bag of rice, and [say], “Fuck all y’all. I can make it on my own, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.” But, first of all, it’s incredibly unrealistic and incredibly arrogant … and it’s a very idolatrous position where you are worshipping yourself and your own will. And it’s all about you, and you don’t see that you’re affecting other people, and you don’t give a shit.

It’s fun to believe that you are all-powerful. It’s fun to believe that you are a God in yourself. Everybody would like to believe that. It’s fun because it’s only about your ego and your ego would love to believe it. But it just isn’t true. And you can’t build a policy on top of a fucking delusion. Which is the place where we have come.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The On-Demand Indie Film Revolution

(By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 17 August 2012)

The movie “360,” a dramatic roundelay of interlocking stories set in Vienna, London, Denver, Phoenix and beyond, boasts an impressive pedigree. Written by Peter Morgan (“The Queen”), directed by Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”), starring Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins and Jude Law, it’s just the kind of film I love to watch at the local art house, popcorn in hand.  But when “360” opened in Washington two weeks ago, I had an unusually crammed schedule: writing deadlines, the return of a summer camper, preparations for a busy weekend. So, I did what filmgoers are doing in increasing numbers: I fired up my computer, went to my satellite TV service’s Web site and ordered “360” on demand for $6.99. On opening day, I was on my couch watching “360” — with no popcorn or coming attractions, but grateful that I hadn’t gone to much trouble to see what turned out to be a modestly engaging but non-world-rocking movie.

I like to consider myself a movie purist — a fan of film as both experience and material object, with a romantic attachment to its grainy texture, mythic scale and enveloping sense of grandeur and collective worship. I have fulminated — in these very pages — against the encroaching tyranny of technology, from the diminished visual values of digital cinematography to the bland close-up-dominated grammar of a medium now as likely to be encountered on a three-inch phone screen as in a spacious movie palace.  Put simply — and to paraphrase Norma Desmond in “Sunset Blvd.” — my aesthetic expectations have always been big; it’s the pictures that got small.

But in recent years, forces have converged to make me reassess my stance. Obviously, TV screens and sound systems have gotten bigger, flatter and more sophisticated, allowing them to more closely approximate theatrical projection. With audiences texting, talking, beeping and buzzing through a movie they just shelled out nearly $20 to ignore, a compelling case can be made that watching a movie at home — even with kids, electronic devices and easy bathroom breaks — is more immersive and less prone to distractions than going to the multiplex.  Some industry analysts have suggested that it’s precisely those considerations that led viewers to wait to see “John Carter,” “Battleship” and “Dark Shadows” on VOD, rather than in theaters, a calculation that made them all box-office flops.  But in another corner of the movie business, where low-budget independent films huddle for warmth against encroaching extinction, the simultaneous release of films in theaters and on VOD — rather than the traditional months-long window between the two — has proved to be a sustaining, even crucial survival strategy.

In 2006, I interviewed Steven Soderbergh the day his experimental thriller “Bubble” made its premiere in Parkersburg, W.Va., where it was filmed. Soderbergh and the film’s distributor, Magnolia Pictures, were embarking on what was considered an audacious release strategy for the film, making it available on DVD and the HDNet Movies cable channel at the same time it opened in theaters (called day-and-date in industry parlance). Soderbergh — who’s never been particularly worried about the sanctity of his images — wasn’t concerned about whether his work was seen on a 70-foot theater screen or on someone’s tiny television. “I really don’t care how people see my movies, as long as they see them,” he told me. “I’m just not interested in controlling how somebody experiences one of my films.”  “Bubble” didn’t turn out to be a hit. But Soderbergh’s willingness to meet his audiences where they were, and not try to control where or how they saw his films, proved prescient.

By 2008, the crime drama “Flawless,” starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore, would earn more than $1 million in its on-demand window during a contemporaneous theatrical run. In 2010, “The Killer Inside Me,” an ultra-violent adaptation of a pulp novel by Jim Thompson, earned around $4 million from people who watched it on demand. That same year, “All Good Things,” a true-crime drama starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, earned a whopping $6 million. (By contrast, the film earned around $600,000 in theaters.) Last year, “Margin Call,” J.C. Chandor’s taut Wall Street thriller, made its VOD debut day-and-date with theaters. The film wound up earning about half its $10 million total returns in video on demand.  The message was clear: What was once considered a marginal or even stigmatized part of the distribution world had clearly earned a second look.

Whereas people may once have been suspicious of a movie that showed up on their cable system’s on-demand menu the same day it opened in theaters, when the synopsis includes names such as Caine, Moore and Gosling, that stigma significantly evaporated.  “Stars definitely matter,” says Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures, which released “Flawless” and “All Good Things.” “Because frankly, it’s a menu . . . and you only have a certain amount of information you can get across.” (The all-important menu can be finessed in other ways: At a gathering of ­micro-budget indie filmmakers at the Maryland Film Festival in May, one director advised his colleagues to choose a title that begins with “A,” so it has a chance of being seen first.)

Another essential element, Bowles adds, is genre: Even the scrappiest no-name action and horror films can do very well as on-demand offerings, regardless of who’s in them. “People aren’t going to rent something unless they have some notion of what it’s about or what it’s going to deliver,” he says. “If it has a [type of] story or stars no one’s heard of, that’s a tougher sell.”

With adult dramas increasingly on the ropes in Hollywood, the simultaneous VOD-theatrical release strategy would seem to be a no-brainer; how better to reach grown-ups who want to avoid the sensory overload of modern-day multiplexes than delivering films to the safety of their living rooms? But don’t look for “Hope Springs” on your iPad just yet; big theater chains refuse to play films that are showing on other platforms. (Magnolia, which is owned by Dallas Mavericks magnate Mark Cuban, shows its films at Landmark Theatres, which Cuban also owns; IFC Films, another VOD pioneer, owns a theater in New York and its films are shown in independent theaters, including Landmark. But Landmark often declines to play other companies’ day-and-date VOD releases.)

Last year, when Universal Pictures announced plans to make the comedy “Tower Heist” available on VOD in Portland, Ore., and Atlanta the same day it arrived in theaters (for about $60), exhibitors squawked so loudly the studio quickly retreated.  “Theatrical revenue for studios for a release like that is still very critical,” says IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring regarding big-budget movies. “I can appreciate why the major chains would take a hard look at the erosion of that [business]. It’s different for independents.”

Indeed, says Bowles, the day-and-date VOD strategy has made it feasible for his company to acquire and distribute small-niche films that, given the costs of marketing, would be financially prohibitive to distribute otherwise. That reality became clear in the 1990s, he says, when a handful of independent studios went belly-up. “You had to spend so much more money to get your film out there,” he explains. “The upside had become larger than ever, but the downside was abject failure. I can’t emphasize enough how little revenue came in if a film didn’t perform well theatrically off the bat.” Tying a VOD release to the advertising and awareness generated by a theatrical release, he says, has ensured survival for respected filmmakers who could not have found purchase in big-chain multiplexes — a slate as diverse as Lars von Trier, Takashi Miike and documentarian Alex Gibney.
At IFC, such auteurs as Werner Herzog and Michael Winterbottom have found success with the strategy as well. Winterbottom’s newest film, “Trishna,” received middling reviews and didn’t perform as well as expected in theaters, says Sehring. “But thank God for VOD; it’s helped make that title successful.”

And it’s not just filmmakers who are grateful: Now, thanks to on-demand technology, film fans in towns without art-house cinemas can see indie titles they otherwise would have had to wait months for, as the movies wended their way from theaters to DVD to television. Rick Allen, CEO of the digital film distributor SnagFilms, says the company uses a variety of distribution strategies for the movies it acquires, including opening them theatrically before showing them on additional platforms. But its core business so far is making films available on mobile, Internet and TV platforms, as well as on the SnagFilms Web site. Films on the site stream for free (interrupted every few minutes by ads).
One of SnagFilms’s most successful titles is “Return to Tarawa,” a drama starring Ed Harris about the legacy of a World War II battle that the company acquired in 2009 after it aired on the Military Channel. The movie has played steadily on the site’s ad-supported channel. “It’s well on its way to a million views, if it hasn’t reached it already,” Allen says, adding that SnagFilms’s aim is “to put films where people are. Make it easy for them to watch really good films when and where they want to watch them.”
It’s impossible to argue with that mission statement. Still, one can celebrate the democratization and downright survival of an embattled cinematic niche while bemoaning the sacrifices: Von Trier’s “Melancholia” was an epic exercise in bravura filmmaking, a heightened sensory experience that married image and sound with often stirring results. Could that sense of awe ever be approximated on a six-inch screen? Or on a 42-inch television with kids interrupting, phones ringing or breaks for making popcorn? (Then again, would that epic viewing experience be possible for someone living in a town lacking the theater to play it?)

But even if we accept some loss of scale, we can still grieve the collective ritual we once knew as going to the movies. The closest we can come to in our homes is watching a movie while on Twitter or Facebook. “No one goes to movies on dates anymore,” says “Tiny Furniture” director and “Girls” creator Lena Dunham.“Now it’s, ‘Let’s watch something on Netflix on my bed.’ ”  Dunham makes that observation in a terrific new documentary about filmmaking called “Side by Side.” In the same movie, director Barry Levinson recalls going to the film palaces of his youth in Baltimore. “The red curtain would open, and there’s the movie!” he rhapsodizes. “It’s not as special anymore. It’s another thing.”

Produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves, “Side by Side” adroitly threads viewers through the digital revolution in film, from how images are captured and projected to the changing ways we’re watching them, for better or for worse. It makes some crucial points about the pros and cons of technological progress. If you’d like to see it, you’re in luck: It opened theatrically in Los Angeles on Friday, but will be available on demand on Wednesday.

Hal David's Chart Legacy: From 'Raindrops' to 'Close to You;' Dionne Warwick to Notorious B.I.G.

(By Fred Bronson, London, Billboard magazine, 02 September 2012)

 Hal David's sensitive and romantic lyrics provided the perfect counterpoint to Burt Bacharach's hip and cool melodies and together, the celebrated pair of composers charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for decades.  The New York-born David had racked up a list of hit songs before he met Bacharach, including "Four Winds and Seven Seas" by Sammy Kaye in 1949 and "Bell Bottom Blues" by Teresa Brewer in 1954. Three years later, he was at the offices of Paramount Pictures' music publishing arm, Famous Music, when he was introduced to Bacharach.

Within a year, the new team made chart history in the United Kingdom when they were the first songwriters to have two consecutive No. 1s. "The Story of My Life" by Michael Holliday was succeeded by "Magic Moments" by Perry Como for a combined 10 weeks in pole position. In America, the original version of "The Story of My Life" by Marty Robbins put the names David and Bacharach on the chart, and Como's "Magic Moments" was a hit B-side, the flip of "Catch a Falling Star."

David and Bacharach didn't write with each other exclusively. David teamed with others to compose hits like Sarah Vaughan's "Broken-Hearted Melody," Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak" and Joanie Sommers' "Johnny Get Angry," while Bacharach worked with Bob Hilliard on Gene McDaniels' "Tower of Strength," Chuck Jackson's "Any Day Now" and the Drifters' "Please Stay." Bacharach and Hilliard also wrote "Mexican Divorce" for the Drifters, and it was during the recording session that Bacharach met backing singer Dionne Warwick. By the end of 1962, Warwick was signed to Scepter and had her first hit single - "Don't Make Me Over," written by Bacharach and David.

It was the beginning of a long and successful collaboration. The team of Bacharach, David and Warwick crafted a unique sound that provided a soundtrack to the 1960s with songs like "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Walk on By," "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose."

Warwick wasn't the only vocalist hitting the charts with David and Bacharach songs. If they had a favorite male singer, it was Gene Pitney, who recorded their "Only Love Can Break a Heart," "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," "True Love Never Runs Smooth," "Donna Means Heartbreak" and "Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa."

David and Bacharach also provided hits for Bobby Vee ("Be True to Yourself"), Jerry Butler ("Make It Easy on Yourself") and Jack Jones ("Wives and Lovers").   In 1964, Bacharach scored his first motion picture, the wild comedy "What's New Pussycat?" and the soundtrack yielded a No. 3 hit for Tom Jones with the title song. Warwick sang "Here I Am" in the film and Manfred Mann was chosen to cut "My Little Red Book," which was covered by the rock group Love.

More cinematic work followed, including "Alfie," with a title song recorded by Warwick as well as Cher and Cilla Black and "Casino Royale," a James Bond send-up that included two hit singles, "The Look of Love" by Dusty Springfield (who had covered "Wishin' and Hopin' in 1964) and the title instrumental by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. 

It was Alpert who would give Bacharach and David their first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100. When CBS asked Alpert to star in a television special in 1968, the musician came up with the idea of singing to his wife. But first, he needed the right song. Over 50 were submitted, and Alpert selected Bacharach and David's "This Guy's in Love With You." The day after the special aired, the network was flooded with calls from viewers asking where they could buy the song. The single was released the next day. In June, "This Guy's in Love With You" captured the top spot on the Hot 100 and remained there for four weeks.

Bacharach and David were back in first place for another four weeks when they scored the first No. 1 of the 1970s with another soundtrack song, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." B.J. Thomas did the vocal honors for the Academy Award-winning tune.

Six months later, David and Baharach were back on top for the third time with a song that had been around since 1963. It had been recorded by Warwick as well as actor Richard Chamberlain, but it wasn't a smash until a brother-sister duo recorded it for Alpert's A&M Records. "(They Long to Be) Close to You" by the Carpenters was No. 1 for four weeks.

Warwick moved on to other songwriters in the 1970s and eventually Bacharach and David worked with others, too. In 1984, David was back in the top five of the Hot 100 with the Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson duet, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," written with Albert Hammond. In the 1990s, David continued to chart, thanks to Diana King's version of "I Say a Little Prayer" from the film "My Best Friend's Wedding" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Warning," which included a sample of Isaac Hayes' update of "Walk on By."

Sampling also brought David back to the Hot 100 in the 21st century. In 2003, Ashanti's "Rain on Me" included a sample of Hayes' take on "The Look of Love." A year later, "Slow Jamz" by Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx included a sample of Luther Vandross' version of Dionne Warwick's "A House Is Not a Home."

Hal David leaves behind a chart legacy that will last way beyond his lifetime, as his timeless lyrics continue to be covered and sampled. It's our good fortune that he happened to be at Famous Music the same day as Burt Bacharach and that a "Mexican Divorce" led to a platinum catalog of Dionne Warwick hits. And it's our great loss that now, there is one less bell to answer.



Below is a list of Hal David's top 50 Hot 100 hits as a songwriter, based on chart performance. The ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from each era, certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those years.

01 Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head, B.J. Thomas (1970)

02 (They Long to Be) Close to You, Carpenters    (1970)    

03 This Guy's in Love With You, Herb Alpert (1968)

04 One Less Bell to Answer, The 5th Dimension    (1970)

05 My Heart Is an Open Book, Carl Dobkins, Jr.     (1959)    

06 Slow Jamz, Twista featuring Kanye West & Jamie Foxx (2004)

07 To All the Girls I've Loved Before, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson (1984)

08 I Say a Little Prayer, Dionne Warwick     (1967)

09 Blue on Blue, Bobby Vinton (1963)

10 The Look of Love, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (1968)

11 What's New Pussycat?, Tom Jones (1965)

12 Only Love Can Break a Heart, Gene Pitney (1962)

13 Wishin and Hopin', Dusty Springfield (1964)

14 Walk on By, Dionne Warwick (1964)

15 (The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance, Gene Pitney (1962)

16 Warning, The Notorious B.I.G. (1995)

17 Broken-Hearted Melody, Sarah Vaughn (1959)

18 What the World Needs Now Is Love, Jackie DeShannon (1965)

19 This Girl's in Love With You, Dionne Warwick (1969)

20 I'll Never Fall in Love Again, Dionne Warwick (1970)

21 Always Something There to Remind Me, Naked Eyes (1983)

22 Anyone Who Had a Heart, Dionne Warwick (1964)

23 Johnny Get Angry, Joanie Sommers (1962)

24 Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Dionne Warwick (1968)

25 Message to Michael, Dionne Warwick     (1966)

26 Rain on Me, Ashanti (2003)

27 What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John, Tom Clay (1971)

28 I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin (1968)

29 Don't Make Me Over, Sybil (1989)

30 Wives and Lovers, Jack Jones (1964)

31 Alfie, Dionne Warwick (1967)

32 Don't Make Me Over, Dionne Warwick (1963)

33 Sea of Heartbreak, Don Gibson (1961)

34 Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa, Gene Pitney    (1963)

35 Promises, Promises, Dionne Warwick    (1968)

36 True Love Never Runs Smooth, Gene Pitney (1963)

37 You'll Never Get to Heaven, The Stylistics (1973)

38 Make It Easy on Yourself, The Walker Bros.    (1965)

39 The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield (1967)

40 Make It Easy on Yourself, Jerry Butler (1962)

41 Reach Out for Me, Dionne Warwick (1964)

42 Everybody's Out of Town, B.J. Thomas (1970)

43 Walk on By, Isaac Hayes (1969)

44 Casino Royale, Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass    (1967)

45 I Say a Little Prayer, Diana King (1997)

46 I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself, Dionne Warwick (1966)    

47 Trains and Boats and Planes, Dionne Warwick (1966)             

48 Outside My Window, The Fleetwoods    (1960)

49 Who Is Gonna Love Me?, Dionne Warwick (1968)                

50 Always Something There to Remind Me, R.B. Greaves (1970)