Several snippet posts seemingly back the idea that in order to succeed in the popular music industry and the entertainment business in general, one must “sell” his or her soul “to the devil.” That mind-set has been around many, many years but became a dominant theme during the period when rock music reigned supreme and continues even harder in these days of rap/hip-hop supremacy as rock seems to have faded into a background within the mainstream. For instance, it is getting harder and harder to find classic rock radio stations in places like El Paso, yet rap and hip-hop stations there are much easier to find. I have my suspicions as to why, but I won’t go into that here. Simply, it is the way industry moguls want it to be.
Interestingly enough, some of the more popular rock bands these days hail from Asia, especially Japan and Korea with J-Pop/Rock and K-Pop/Rock (the GazettE, a Japanese rock band, for example, is my daughter’s fave rock band, and they have toured the US twice on world tours…their record label is SONY as far as I know). Europe still has some of the more popular grunge and death metal bands, as well. So while rock is not “dead,” it isn’t what it used to be in the US.
These snippet posts don’t cover this notion, but do deal with how rock or any recording artists come to be targeted for fame and fortune in the first place. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” was a saying I remember as a kid in the 50s and applied to many career threads or business success. In the 60s and 70s rock and roll era, it was obvious, as several friends (and including a band I was in for a short time) could verify that they wouldn’t become “rock stars” because they didn’t “know” the “right people.” They might know local bar or night club owners, but not any of the “big boys.” I did have a college friend that played in a band that performed in a large NYC pub venue, but that was as far as they got in the early 80s.
While the first novel in The Prodigal Band Trilogy, Battle of the Band, starts off with a “prayer” for success as the band Sound Unltd began its contest-winning national pub and small venue tour, it doesn’t really cover the “who” they “knew” aspect of the beginnings of their success. The third novel, The Prodigal Band, however, does begin with introducing the “who” they “know” people that helped create the group, including influencer parents and adoptive parents as well as ancestors. And these ‘parents,’ having been in the business themselves twenty years earlier, “knew” others, higher-ups so-to-speak, with more clout who would assure early success, and who “knew” others even higher up who would make sure they’d make it big.
All of the following snippets come from The Prodigal Band.
The first snippet relates to ancestry “who you know.” Future prodigal band bassist Keith performs at a clan reunion at a local park as an eight-year-old child prodigy on acoustic bass, then later argues with his father Sean and granddad Angus about his future in music. It would be his relationship with a classical composer and conductor as well as his father’s former career as a 60s rocker that would influence the band’s success, among other influences. From Chapter Two of The Prodigal Band:
Victoria Park, Walltown, summer, 1976
“Let us all bow our heads in prayer to All Mighty God and His intercessors, our beloved Tooters, who saved our city from demon breath in the year 1136, who had made our first ancestor, Mollock, prosper in lute and song by giving him our song which heals, and, having passed this song to his descendants, beginning with his son Artimus, made our family among the prominent of Walltown, musically and culturally, to this day.”
So spoke Angus Mullock, patriarch of the Mullocks, as well as former Philharmonic conductor and acoustic bassist, now St. Elbert’s College music professor, Walltown Orchestra conductor, and leading patron of the Opera Company and Music School.
Standing next to him was Professor Colby, department head of Medieval Music at the college. Surrounded by hundreds of other Mullocks, including his son, Sean, formerly bass player and singer for the Pedestrians, Walltown’s break-through rock band of the mid-sixties.
But on this day at the Victoria Park Mullock Clan Reunion, an annual summer event there for as many as would partake of it, Sean showed off the developing acoustic bass skills of his eight-year-old son, Keith.
About fifty guests gathered around in a circle to watch and hear the boy play that large instrument as if he had been playing it for years, plucking the strings to accompany a soft piano concerto played by a cousin who was attending the Conservatory at the time. At the finish, bravos cascaded out of the audience. Keith placed the bass on the grass, and bowed to them, smiling broadly. Then left the crowd, walking toward a group of boys playing in the midst of the park.
Later, after the food was served and eaten, and as folks started to leave, Dad, Grand-dad, and Keith sat together at a picnic table, discussing Keith’s future ol’ Angus felt assured he could control. “Four years from now, Keith, I expect to see you competing for a position at the Conservatory.”
“No way!” Turned to his dad. “You said I could learn electric bass on your old one and later get a new one and get in one of Billy Prestin’s rock bands he’s always forming, you know, like the Marauders?”
The elder Mullock protested. “Like father, like son, eh? You are better suited for classical, as you showed today. Only lesser musicians get into that rock n’ roll crap!”
Which angered Sean with the inference that his own father called him a ‘lesser’ musician.
“Well now I know, dad, that you always thought I was a—”
“No, no, no, Sean! I never thought that! But you let joining that street gang get in your way when I wanted you to go to the Conservatory, or at least the Music School. But you wouldn’t, because then all those gang boys you wanted to be with would have teased you about putting music skills ahead of fighting skills. I know how those gang boys are! So I let you figure that one out. I was disappointed of course, but you did make a few hits and go across the country and nearly to the States, right? So I cannot criticize you for that.”
But Keith had heard all that before. “Look, grand-dad, I don’t want to do classical, eh? I want to do pop, you know, rock, whatever. And I do want to join the gang next year. Plus all my friends are doing it. Sookie’s already in it, eh? Dad was in it. It’s gonna be a tradition.”
Grand-dad smiled but said somewhat sternly, “Even if it meant you’d give up first chair? They make lots of money, you know, and you could wind up at the Philharmonic.” Since he did, as well as his father, and on and on.
Though he smiled and kissed his grand-dad, Keith was adamant. “Yeh, but I just really, really want to play electric bass and rock music. Be like dad, only huge, man, like no one’s gonna throw me off a Stateside tour! I don’t just want to be another acoustic bass player, but the best rock bassist in the world, and the loot to prove it!”
In the second snippet also from Chapter Two, after guitarist-band leader Jack escapes his brutal father’s abuse and moves in with shop-warehouse-owner and band manager Billy Prestin, Jack is about to be adopted by Billy, who is mentoring him on guitar for the precise purpose of creating a successful future rock band; after all, he had some success himself in a 60s group called the Pedestrians along with Keith’s dad Sean.
Two months later
“I just got the paperwork in, Jackie boy.” The rotund and partially bald Billy Prestin, former Pedestrians guitarist and now in his thirties, told the soon-to-be nine-year old sitting on a stool in a guitar-playing position within a warehouse. “In a couple o’ months, you’ll be adopted. Officially.”
“They won’t send me back to my dad? You sure?”
“They won’t. Not if your dad is with that church cult. In fact there is a resolution before the City Council to shut that cult down. You ain’t the only child that’s been abused there!”
The dirty blond wanted to smile. “They putting me dad in jail?”
“I doubt it. Not if your dad was forced to abuse you. Loony bin, maybe.”
Prestin, facing Jack, then looked down at the boy’s long, thin, tapered fingers. “Well, no wonder you playing so well.” Then back up to Lubin’s face. “Jackie boy, it took me years to play as well as you do—two months after I started teaching you? You sure you never touched an ax before you got here?” Because I think I have another band on-the-make.
By mid-June, Billy thought the kid had the guitar basics down cold. Composition and music reading would come next.
Band on-the-make? Why not? He also knew that his old Pedestrians band mate, Sean Mullock, was likewise developing his only son, Keith, at an even faster pace on the bass. Plus, Keith could also sing, being a member of the school choir. Now all Billy needed was a drummer.
Later in the chapter he would also adopt drummer Tom, escaping extreme poverty while letting Billy take him in as well. Then later, the band would take in singer Erik, also trying to escape poverty; in a later chapter, it is learned that Erik also had talented ancestry—his grandfather was a 1940s-50s crooner in the mold of Frank Sinatra.
In snippet number three is introduced Billy Hallslip, the prodigal band’s interim manager, later road manager—who just happened to have road managed the Pedestrians as a late teenager in the 60s while his own father was the Pedestrians’ manager. Thus, Hallslip had serious music business connections, including record label EpiGram owner Hedgely. In this snippet from Chapter Four, Hallslip introduced to the band their future manager Joe Phillips, who just happened to be the son of banker oligarch Baron Torquay-Lambourgeau, the hidden driving force behind the band’s huge success in the coming years. The year in the snippet is 1987; the band would embark on a journey to elite status two years later, ‘guaranteed’ by Phillips.
Later, at a south London show hall
Soon the five entered back stage and saw Joe. Billy introduced Joe to them.
“I realize you haven’t needed a manager while you have been on the road constantly since last June, and Billy here is your road manager.” And they all look so eager to hear what I have to say. Just standing there, interested. Good boys, indeed.
Joe continued. “And though I have never managed a rock band before, or any entertainment outfit, I am absolutely sure that I can be the best manager you boys can hope for. I have never managed accounts, or orders, or buildings, or anything, but I have managed people. I have helped my father manage house staff, for instance, and we are talking hundreds of people here. Because, though I go by ‘Joe Phillips,’ my real name is Joseph-Phillip Torquay-Lambourgeau. I am the son of—”
Jack nearly dropped his guitar in shock. “Baron Torquay-Lambourgeau?” And several of them just stared, motionless.
“Yes, but do not equate me with royalty, or aristocracy. I have refused the title of baron. I would have been the nineteenth baron, but I want nothing to do with any baronial title. In fact, I would have no problem if the Torquay-Lambourgeau bloodline just died out.”
“Why?” Jack asked, now composed. “Don’t you people practically run the Earth?”
Joe smiled and nodded, but then smirked. “That is precisely why! My father, and people like him—the so-called ‘elites’— are running this planet into the ground out of their own greed and lust. For money, for resources, for wars, for destruction, for control. Of everything! Now my father wants to control popular culture, rock & roll, everything. They stand for evil. Wanting control of everything is evil. They have no right to this control. They have no right to control the rock music I listen to. That you boys play, and sing, so awesomely. I do not want you boys to be forced to do their bidding just to ‘make it’ as you might say. With them, you will make it, but then when the next thing comes along, they’ll dump you for the next big thing. And screw you in the process. But with me, I will always have your back, and you can, with hard work and professionalism and dedication, continue to be the ‘next big thing’ for as long as you want. With me, no one will tell you what to do, except yourselves.”
“You can do that?” Erik screwed his eyes at Joe, somewhat doubtful.
“No.” Joe went up to the singer and glared at him. “You can do that! You boys can do that! My God— Erik, right?
“Erik, I have never, ever, heard a singer like you! There is no rock singer like you! Is that voice of yours genetic? Or just great training? You must have been classically trained.”
“Yeh, I was. I was given a position at the local opera company.”
“Opera? Are you kidding me?” Joe threw out his arms in delight.
“No. But I chose rock. I’d just be another opera singer, right? With rock, I can be the greatest ever.”
Wow, this kid is ready! “And I guarantee it—no, you guarantee it!—you will be!”
He then turned to the others. “So can all of you be. And only you can guarantee it! Or my name isn’t Joseph-Phillip Torquay-Lambourgeau, son of a baron!”
In the final snippet also from Chapter Four another ‘infuencer,’ a record mogul and ‘former’ criminal syndicate enforcer, Rodney Davis, lets the band know that they are headed for success as well-provided they played along with Davis’ and fellow satanist Hellyon members evil agenda, that is.
After the EpiGram recording contract signing
Hellyon Rodney Davis—reputed to be a criminal syndicate enforcer,’ yet he had given up that label in the early 80s when he became assistant CEO of Atlantix Records—was determined to add the five to his debauched fold of rockers that he believed he ‘owned.’ Since they signed with EpiGram, he did the next best thing and got Atlantix Records to work out a distribution agreement with EpiGram to distribute Sound Unltd’s recordings.
When meeting with them a few days after they signed with EpiGram to work out this agreement, Davis, standing amidst the five who sat in chairs in a circle—Davis just loved standing in circles—flat out told them, “I love you guys! I saw you at XanadU and I saw you at a few other night clubs and show halls. And you guys are—dammit, you guys are maybe the best I’ve ever heard! In fact, I am such a fan I can honestly say I idolize you guys.”
“Are you serious?” Doubting Tom. “Idolize? Like we haven’t even made it yet.”
“Yes, Tom. Yes, all of you. And if there is one band I want a piece of—”
“Right.” Jack stood up. “You want a piece of every bloody band out there, eh?” Not quite shouting, but deliberate. “We heard you’re a drug lord.”
“Well, I used to be. But not now. I totally believe in operating legitimately, and within the law. I finally realized that getting bands to mule drugs into the States was not really the way to go, and could even get me into trouble. I figured back in the late 70s that I could make far more money in legitimate music business operation. So after I repented of my Syndicate days, the head of Atlantix hired me since I had all these rocker connections from the mule days. To recruit bands on to the Atlantix label, or the distribution network.” Held his arms out for emphasis. “So, I am legit now. And believe me, I did screw bands over. But that’s in the past. There is no way, guys, that I will ever screw you over. There is no way I’m gonna tell you what music to record or what music or stage antics to perform. And by the way, I love your stage antics! Nobody gets the rave up like you guys! And I want you to keep it up!”
And here is the other reason I love you guys. You want to be number one, and you want the money that assures you will be. And you’re from a gang? Gangsters, eh? My kinda people!
As it is common knowledge within the music business that ‘it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know,’ why is this controversial? Because while it clearly takes talent to achieve success in the music business, talent comes in second or third compared to ‘who you know,’ and I think that is unfortunate—talent should come first! Did Beethoven become a symphonic super-star so to speak because he knew the ‘big boys’ or because of his talent? Same with other 19th century classical composers. Did Enrico Caruso become one of the greatest opera and classical singers ever because he knew someone or because of talent? Yes, perhaps these folks did know influential handlers, but they clearly had huge talent as well and deserved their success. Unfortunately, the music biz today tends to put that into the background in the age of auto-tuning and other tech enhancements. A shame, really.
Interested in purchasing the trilogy books or downloading The Prodigal Band Free PDF? See the links in the menu above.
The next controversial topic will be played in two parts, dealing with the feud between Creation, or its more scientific calling card, ‘Intelligent Design,’ and Evolution. Featured will be a ‘would-you-believe’ fact about evolution founder Charles Darwin that shocked the heck out of me, in Darwin’s own words straight out of ‘Origin of the Species.’ Spoiler alert—Darwin isn’t who you might think he is! And that was the shock! The topic will heavily feature band keyboard-synthist Bry, whose parents were staunch atheists, humanists and evolutionists.
The Prodigal Band Trilogy © 2019 by Deborah Lagarde, Battle of the Band © 1996 by Deborah Lagarde, The Prophesied Band © 1998 by Deborah Lagarde and The Prodigal Band © 2018 by Deborah Lagarde. Permission needed to copy any materials off this page.
Photo copyright © Deborah Lagarde.