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The Glorious Corner

The Glorious Corner

Rupert Hine

G.H. Harding

MUSSO & FRANK RE-OPENS — Historic LA eatery Musso & Frank (100 years old!) and featured so prominently in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, will reopen – but, with a new set of rules:

** Before guests arrive, they will be asked to check themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. If they display any symptoms, they will be turned away.

** In the parking lot, Musso and Frank’s will have an assisted parking system rather than its traditional valet. One of Musso’s valets will help guide customers where to park. The valet will not take possession of each customer’s car unless asked to do so.

** If a guest enters the restaurant from the front door on Hollywood Blvd., they can expect one of Musso’s hosts to help check-in while maintaining physical distance, and offering each guest a single use face covering if they do not have one. Each guest will also find a hand sanitizer station there.

** A manager will also greet each customer at the back entrance via the Cherokee Avenue parking lot, and will provide a single use face covering to a guest if he/she does not have one with them. The manager will explain to guests the general face cover requirement while in the restaurant. Each guest will also find a hand sanitizer station for use at the back entrance.

** Customers will only be seated at every other booth in the Old Room, and at every other booth and at tables placed six-feet apart in the New Room.

** No groups larger than six people will be seated or served.

** 60% of the restaurant’s capacity will be permitted to dine at one time.

** In addition to stations at the front and back entrances, hand sanitizer stations will also be located throughout the venue.

** Managers will be stationed at both entryway doors to ensure the proper flow of people and to make certain they maintain a distance of six feet from each other.

** Employees will have to fill out daily online questionnaires to ensure their health is up to par prior to their arriving at the restaurant; employees will also be temperature tested once they arrive at the restaurant.

** Only customers wearing masks will be permitted to enter the restaurant. Guests will be asked to wear cloth face coverings at all times when away from tables.

** Server assistants will lay out table settings (silverware, glasses, etc.) only after each party has been seated at their table or booth.

** Only single-use menus, which will be printed daily, will be utilized. The menus can then either be taken home by customers as souvenirs or else they will be discarded.

** Bathrooms will be deep cleaned and sanitized every 30 minutes; social distancing will also be observed in both bathrooms.

** Musso’s air conditioning filters have been retrofitted to include hospital grade filtration.

Yes, the new normal has arrived. Sad for sure

NO TIME TO DIE REDUX? — Great item from our colleague Roger Friedman in his Showbiz 411 column: 

Listen, we only live twice.

Over the weekend, I suggested that the Billie Eilish theme song to “No Time to Die,” the next James Bond movie, could be changed. There’s plenty of time for Billie and Finneas, her producer brother, to re-record it with a more lively setting. The song was not a big hit when it was released in February. Now the movie will come in late November. There’s no excitement about the single. Why not do something?

Well, it turns out it wouldn’t be a first. The James Bond theme song was changed in 1965. Shirley Bassey recorded the title track to a Bond movie that was going to be called “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” She cut it, but the studio didn’t like it. The studio also didn’t like the title of the movie. They changed it to “Thunderball.”

In the interim, they had Dionne Warwick record “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” In 1965, you couldn’t get a bigger star than Dionne Warwick. She had hit after hit with songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Didn’t matter. As the movie’s title changed to “Thunderball,” a new song was needed with the name of the movie in the lyrics. 

Enter Tom Jones, also a mega star of the day. He recorded the new song for the newly titled movie, and it was a hit.

Warwick’s and Bassey’s versions exist today, they survived very nicely. Shirley had the title songs in “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “Moonraker,” so she didn’t mind. Dionne has more gold records than she knows what to do with. So Billie Eilish would survive if there were a change before “No Time to Die” is released. And her original version could always be used somewhere else in the movie.

It’s been done before. And everyone survived.

Roger’s right –as usual- as when the song came out, it was not a hit. I loved it, and it even reminded me a bit of Shirley Bassey. I say, as Roger has already suggested … bring back Adele!

TO BE, OR NOT TO BE? — “Never in my career have I heard ‘black music’ or ‘urban’ being talked about this much.”

 Shawn Holiday knows the long-running ‘urban’ music industry debate better than most, not least as the phrase appears, twice, in his dual job title: Co-Head of Urban Music at Columbia Records and Head of Urban Music at Sony/ATV.

‘Urban music’ got talked about a whole lot more in a fascinating (and at times fiery) conversation between some of the US industry’s most successful modern black executives this week, via a Zoom discussion featuring Holiday and hosted by Warner Records and its SVP, Head of Urban Marketing, Chris Atlas.

To put it mildly, not everybody was in agreement over Republic Records’ controversial decision to suddenly axe ‘urban’ from its professional verbiage (indeed, most execs on the call talked of their fondness for ‘urban’ and what it’s meant to their career).

Republic’s move, announced earlier this month, saw the Universal label slam the use of ‘urban’ as “outdated”, while encouraging other companies in the music industry to follow its example.

(Side-note: Republic parent company Universal Music Group – who didn’t have a rep on the Zoom call – doesn’t seem entirely on board with Republic’s move. The Financial Times reports that an internal email from UMG Task Force For Meaningful Change, headed by Jeff Harleston and Ethiopia Habtemariam, issued a company-wide memo this week which said that Republic made its announcement without the “notification or endorsement” of the Task Force. It added: “Moving forward we ask that labels, business units and companies consult and work with the [Task Force] on all initiatives relating to diversity, inclusion and equity prior to implementing or announcing a change in policy.”)

Republic’s banning of ‘urban’ was the central point of debate during the Warner Records-hosted Zoom discussion, which saw leading execs from the likes of Atlantic Records, Columbia Records, 300 Entertainment, Human Re Sources, the Recording Academy and CMNTY Culture contribute their thoughts.

One exec who is no great fan of the ‘urban’ descriptor is Rayna Bass, Head of Marketing at 300 Entertainment. Bass, who works for one of the few black CEOs in the blockbuster record business – 300 boss Kevin Liles – requested to have ‘Urban’ removed from her job title two years ago.

Bass said: “I feel like ‘urban’ is the politically correct way to say black. And, doing research, it seems it was formed as a way to make black music and black culture more palatable to white people… I do understand the need for it 40 years ago, but today I find it to be restrictive and outdated; I don’t need that [word] in my title to know that I’m black.”

She added: “When hip-hop became the No.1 genre, I was like; it’s not [about] a seat at the hip-hop table – [because] there’s one table now. We are leading this [industry] so I’m not going to be marginalized.”

Bass proudly explained that, in line with Liles’ genre-agnostic viewpoint, 300 has black woman currently working on rock, pop and hip-hop artists and “because of that I believe they’re going to have more opportunity”.

“In my experience,” said Bass, “‘urban’ has been used to keep black executives at a certain level [so] we’re not able to participate at the highest levels.”

Of Republic’s announcement, she commented: “My first reaction was, y’know, who’s black that works at Republic? I’ve [since] educated myself on that, but that was my first reaction to [try and] understand who weighed in on this decision.”

A different perspective on ‘urban’ was offered by Columbia and Sony/ATV’s Shawn Holiday.

Speaking on the Zoom discussion – entitled A View From The Frontline, which you can watch online – Holiday explained why he’s proud to have ‘urban’ in his job title.

“Now that urban’s more mainstream, I embrace the word,” he said. “I don’t want to shy away from it, or feel like I [shouldn’t] use the word anymore just because it’s the topic of conversation. I don’t think there’s anything personally negative about keeping ‘Urban Music’ in our title.”

He added: “Changing the word urban is really just a band-Aid to the real conversation. [The bigger issue] is about the way black artists and executives are treated – that we’re not just a personal of color in the room, that we have a real voice.

“I see the way [major music companies] spend money on white projects compared to the money invested in black music, the money they’ll spend at radio for an urban artist compared to a white artist, and those are real changes that need to happen. We need to keep putting the pressure on.”

Holiday’s co-Head of Urban at Columbia, Phylicia Fant, agreed. She made the point that, to her ‘urban’ is a label that represents “the expertise of the music we oversee and have the conversations with our community, [and] that we live and breathe”.

Of Republic’s decision to axe ‘urban’, and whether others should follow suit, Fant said: “I don’t think we [as an industry] should rush into any decision. Another label should not make me rush into my blackness.”

Another defender of the ‘urban’ term was a fellow Columbia exec, Azim Rashid (SVP, Head of Urban Promotion), who opened with the view that “urban is synonymous with blackness, and blackness is synonymous with greatness”.

Speaking to the Zoom call’s presenter, broadcaster Dyana Williams, Rashid added: “I do not think the term should be limiting. I understand how people can see it that way, and I also think we can have the best of both worlds. I live [urban], I breathe, it, I’m an expert in it, and it’s gotten me this far.”

Rashid later raised the important point that artists identifying as ‘urban’ – just like artists in other genres – can be elevated to ‘pop’ status when they break into the mainstream. But when their popularity inevitably descends again, knowing where they came from, genre-wise, can be a blessing.

He said that the moment a previously ‘urban’ artist who went ‘pop’ doesn’t have a hit “they go back to being black”. Rashid reasoned that “without shoring up that black base [beforehand], those artists could be a one hit wonder”.

He added: “One thing I always talk to our artists about is that popularity, the ‘pop’ space, that’s a vacation. You live in rock, you live in jazz, you live in hip-hop, alternative, you live there. But when you get that record, two records, in some [cases], ten albums, and you become a huge superstar [in pop], that’s a vacation.

“You don’t want that vacation to end, but sooner or later it does – for everybody – and you fly back to the ground and to your roots. That’s why it’s important for us to own the urban space.”

Marsha St. Hubert, Co-Head of Marketing at Atlantic Records, works with artists ranging from Lil Uzi Vert to Lizzo, Cardi B and Burna Boy. St. Hubert says she “couldn’t relate” to Republic’s decision to banish the word from its company.

“I didn’t understand it…. it isn’t for me,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with the word urban. Part of this conversation is the subtle whitewashing of the culture that’s continuing to happen now because [black music] is so successful. This wasn’t a conversation [in the past].”

She added: “I don’t subscribe to the whitewashing of our culture and removing ‘black’ and ‘urban’ because now [that music] is so financially successful in this country; it sits at the top of the charts. I don’t ever want to lose that so I can’t understand why that would be taken out of the conversation.”

Continued St. Hubert: “I don’t want to have to take urban out of my name to be able to grow out of my [current job level]. If I want it in there, I should be able to keep urban or black music or whatever it is… It’s like, in order to be bigger than the culture, you have to remove this thing. No, I don’t want to be bigger than the culture. The culture is actually bigger than you guys. And I want to take this culture with me as I go onwards and upwards.”

Towards the end of the Zoom discussion, St. Hubert summed up her thoughts: “I’m never going to trade my blackness in order to move forward. Whether it’s urban or it’s black, I’m taking that word with me no matter where I go.”

On St. Hubert’s point about hip-hop becoming a financially successful genre, Columbia’s Rashid commented: “[For] black people, specifically in hip-hop, because we’re the dominating economic force today, [this] becomes a complex conversation.

“Marsha hit it dead on: if hip-hop wasn’t running the world, what we call ourselves wouldn’t matter. Because of the economic power it brings and [the fact] it’s opened itself up to all people… this becomes a systemic conversation. And being the originators of the craft, and the proponents, for the most part, of the culture of hip-hop, we need a bigger stake.”

Chris Atlas, SVP, Head of Urban Marketing, Warner Records, said he took offence to Republic’s axing of ‘urban’ when he first heard about it because “it didn’t address the systemic issues”.

He reasoned that ‘urban’ is “not necessarily about an ethnicity” and that “a lot of people all make up the word urban – its black people, Latin people, Asian people, white people”.

Atlas suggested that, to him, the bigger issue at play is “making sure that we address the issues of opportunity for diversity and inclusion in all areas of the business, whether it’s relating to the urban department, or is black and brown people [who] want to work in the country department, the jazz department, the gospel department or whatever it needs to be.

“Removing a word doesn’t change the systemic problems in terms of: are we really creating opportunities? And if removing a word could actually limit opportunities because that specialization, you’re taking [that opportunity] away or diminishing it. That’s part of what we need to talk about as well.”

Atlas noted that he’d “never felt limited as an executive in the industry because I’m black”. He added: “At no point have I ever felt like I got passed over for an opportunity because my work ethic has always spoken and represented for me.”

St. Hubert commented in response: “I know a lot of people who didn’t work as hard as us who are sitting in corner offices that we’re not in.”

J. Erving, founder of distribution and services company Human Re Sources, encouraged those who wanted to further the black community in music to work with black-owned artist services companies. (Alongside his own, these include Troy Carter’s Q&A and Steve Stoute’s United Masters.)

Of Republic’s decision, Erving said: “To me it’s not about the word. It’s about the treatment [of] black executives. To me, it’s n***er, negro, black, African-American… if you’re still going to treat us like n***ers then that’s just what it is. I think the treatment’s got to change. Systemically, there’s issues that need to be fixed. There’s a lot of education that needs to happen.”

The Recording Academy, which runs the Grammys, has been a constant in the ‘urban’ conversation. At the Grammys last year, Tyler The Creator suggested the ‘urban’ descriptor was “just a politically correct way to say the N-word”..

And just the other week, the Grammys renamed its Best Urban Contemporary Album category as Best Progressive R&B Album – in order to “appropriately categorize and describe this subgenre”.

The word urban, whether we like it, hate it, embrace it or not, it’s just a word,” he said. “And it’s a pebble in the sea of the issues we have to face.”

Not to get technical, but two things I immediately wondered about were, one: why wasn’t Republic included on the call whenRepublic kicked off the whole fracas from the start, and, two, how come none of the indie-labels were represented?I would have loved to hear from Cory Robbins (Profile Records) ;Tom Silverman (Tommy Boy Records) or, Ray Caviano (RFC Records), each of whom made a mint off urban music.

The term urban has been around for decades (coined I believe by the late-and-much-missed Frankie Crocker) and to be honest, I never thought of it as a racist term – one way or the other. But, like NARAS still hunting for someone to run itself … this will talked about for years to come.

SHORT TAKES — I hear the new owners of The Palm restaurants, are going to systematically close most of their current outposts. Sad. We had some great times at Palm West here in NYC: especially their annual Celebrity Server events, which benefited cancer research, and, included the likes of Micky Dolenz; Mark Bego; Tony Danza; Gilbert Gottfried and Robert Funaro. All things must pass …

Len Berman and Michael Riedel 

Big brouhaha last week at NY’s WOR where director Spike Lee -on air with Len Berman and Michael Riedel- discussed his new movie Da 5 Bloods, and praised Woody Allen, and, then a few hours later walked it back. Allen has never been proven guilty of the charges that will follow him forever, but still, in this day of #MeToo consciousness, you’ve got to be cautious …

Celebrity-scribe Mark Bego has his Eat Like A Rock Star re-released this November via Skyhorse Publishing. This was the excellent read that had recipes from the likes of Mary Wilson; Debbie Gibson; Micky Dolenz; Richie Sambora; Bill Wyman; Michael McDonald;  and Joey Fatone (via The Fatone Zone) … RIP Ian Holm … Rupert Hine, the producer behind hit albums by Rush, Tina Turner, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks, The Fixx and others, was also an accomplished artist in his own right. United Kingdom (June 8, 2020) — Rupert Hine, best-known for his work producing a vast array of rock and pop acts during the 1980’s and 90’s, died at home June 4, 2020 of undisclosed causes. The announcement was made on Twitter by The Ivors Academy, where he was a board member. Hine was 72. Born in Wimbleton in 1947, Hine started in the music business while still in his teens as part of the folk duo Rupert & David. Recording for Decca Records, the pair’s sole output was a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” in 1965, featuring a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page on guitar, Herbie Flowers on bass and a 26-piece orchestra. As the decade wore on, Hine recorded acts like Camel, Murray Head and Kevin Ayers, as well as bands he was a part of, like Quantum Jump. It was the 1980’s emergence of synth-drenched new wave and pop, however, that cemented his reputation as a go-to producer, as Hine helmed a seemingly endless string of hit albums and singles for acts like Howard Jones, The Fixx, Thompson Twins, Bob Geldof, Saga, The Members, The Waterboys, Stevie Nicks, Chris de Burgh and Underworld. Prolifically writing as well throughout the period, he scored the cult John Cusack comedy Better Off Dead (1985) and additionally saw some of his co-writes recorded by Nicks (“Alice”) and most noticeably, Tina Turner. Working on Turner’s massive 1984 comeback album, Private Dancer, Hine co-wrote the track “I Might Have Been Queen” and produced one of the biggest hits of her career, “Better Be Good to Me.” It was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration, with the artist and producer working together on subsequent albums like 1986’s Break Every Rule (the title track of which he also co-wrote) and 1989’s Foreign Affair. The Nineties didn’t see Hine slow down either, as he produced Rush (1989’s Presto and 1991’s Roll The Bones), Duncan Shiek, actresses Katey Sagal and Milla Jovovich and Stroke 9, while the 2000’s saw him produce the likes of Amanda Ghost, Boy George, Suzanne Vega and others. During this time, Hine additionally began working on sprawling passion projects, first with the 1990 multimedia effort, One WorldOne Voice, which brought together 300 musicians around the world for a “musical chain-letter” that was both released on record and aired on television to a worldwide audience of 200 million. Other projects included the compilation Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace (2008) and Songs for Tibet II (2015) … Sad to see the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island suddenly shutter last week. Saw some great shows there; perhaps none more notable that the Eric Clapton/Santana show in 1974 when John McLaughlin came on as the encore special guest and seemingly blew circles around Eric and Carlos. What a night! … HAPPY 78th BDay to Paul McCartney

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Vic Kastel; Steve Walter; Ian Mohr; Richard Johnson; James Brady; Neal Travis; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Cindy Adams; Curtis Urbina; Craig Newman; Jason Elzy; Alison Martino; Andrew Sandoval; James Edstrom; Chris Gilman; Eppy; and, BELLA!

Book Reviews

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

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