July 24, 2011

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part 33...

The "Obama Budget Plan" from Ray Stevens is right on the doorstep of 400,000 on-line views. At the moment the exact numbers are 397,995! It wouldn't be too much of a prediction if I say that by the end of the day the video gets even more on-line views to push it beyond the 400,000 mark. The video's been on-line since April 25, 2011 and tomorrow will mark it's third month of availability. It would be a neat accomplishment for the video to reach the 400,000 mark later today or on it's third month anniversary tomorrow.

Month 1: April 25-May 25
Month 2: May 25-June 25
Month 3: June 25-July 25

August 2 continues to be the often quoted "deadline" when it comes to the country's debt fiasco. It's been reported countless times that Congress has until August 2 to raise the debt ceiling or a financial ripple effect will be felt world-wide. As this day looms the Ray Stevens music video spoofing Obama's reputation as a big spender and tax hiker is even more appropriate. I feel that Obama is capable of solving the debt and deficit issues rather quickly but his rigid far-left ideology prevents him from embracing the Republican proposed method of spending cuts and budget balancing that the country truly needs. The bill entitled Cut, Cap, and Balance that I refer to as C.C.B. passed the House of Representatives but was shot down in the Senate. The President made it public knowledge that he'd veto any bill that doesn't pretty much mirror his own ideology. He doesn't appear to be very willing to work with the Republicans (which isn't anything new). He prefers the Republicans work with him instead of the other way around. The main reason he doesn't want a short-term solution is not because he's concerned with the debt or anything associated with the nation's economy...the reason he doesn't want a short-term debt ceiling solution is because he doesn't want to have this in the headlines in 2012 when he's running for re-election. He wants any potentially negative story out of the headlines by this time next year so he can coast to a victory(?) in 2012.

Meanwhile, you can watch the video of the "Obama Budget Plan" on You Tube or visit Ray's web-site. He's got the video on the site's main page. Obviously you can watch the video here, too...

In keeping with the theme of finances and revenue that I started with I feel it's time to visit the world of advertising/sponsors and how it impacts directly or indirectly the music one hears on the radio.

One of the things that isn't reported on very often is how much influence advertisers have on the radio and television industry. The general public pays hardly any attention to this kind of thing but once in awhile news programs point out the importance of advertising revenue for any TV program or radio station. This is often during news segments that deal in financial news...the bottom line is it's an accepted concept that businesses crave advertisers. The equation that's often left out is the influence the advertisers have on practically everything. In a perfect world a business and it's advertiser(s) (also referred to as sponsors) work hand in hand. However there are certain times when an advertising company executive objects to something...and in order for the sponsor to get their way they threaten to pull their advertising unless the objectionable content is removed or reworked.

I came across an article several days ago while scouring the Google news archives and it sums up the above opening paragraph. The article is dated July 4, 1991 and it's no more than a paragraph in length but it shines the light on an alleged event that took place centering around a Ray Stevens single at the time titled "Working For the Japanese". In the report it's stated that the single was showing signs of becoming a hit in the Dallas, TX area but apparently, according to the report, a Toyota dealer pulled thousands of dollars in advertising from the radio station in protest of the song. Now, of course, you all can guess the outcome, right? Advertising money is so crucial that the radio station stopped playing the song because of the advertiser threat.

I'm not here to defend radio stations because there are plenty of cases where a radio programmer prevents the playing of songs that they do not particularly care for...whether there's a public demand or not. So, radio programmers are just as guilty when songs aren't being heard...but in this 1991 article it's made clear that it's the advertiser that played a big part in killing the song's momentum in the Dallas area. The article, in my opinion, shines the light on what happens when sponsors cross the line and become what I like to call activist advertisers.

Instead of an advertiser latching onto something that'll potentially make money for them it seems that modern-day advertisers are involved too much on content rather than profit and they become something of an activist...threatening to pull sponsorship if a TV show or a radio station doesn't cater to the sponsor's demands.

It used to be an advertiser craved the chance of having their product seen or heard by hundreds of thousands of TV viewers or radio listeners but pretty much the rule nowadays is for TV and radio to do what the sponsors dictate or face the consequences of losing financial support from the sponsor.

The 1991 article about the Ray Stevens song, brief as it is, is a perfect example of that kind of thing and I'm happy I found it so I can introduce it to those who may be curious why the song didn't become as big of a hit as it was capable of becoming. I've read comments from people all over the internet who've often mentioned that they vaguely remember hearing the song but couldn't recall hearing it a lot. The article, I think, is a small glimpse of what happened all over the country but the Dallas, TX blurb is what I come across one day. I'm sure there were copycat threats by sponsors at other radio stations in protest of the song, too, but that's just my guess. The fact that the article made mention that the offended party was a Toyota dealer explicitly shows that the sponsor allowed his occupation (a seller of Japanese cars) to dictate his decision.

Ironically, though, 12 years earlier in 1979 Ray Stevens was involved in a comical parody of Barry Manilow. I've not found any archived articles that indicate that radio or advertisers objected to this recording...I came across several commentaries from music critics of the time period that either loved the parody or hated it. Those who hated it all come across as the sort of critics who hate any novelty song. Nothing you say will change their negative opinion of any novelty song. When music critics slant their observations in such a transparent way their criticisms lose a lot of merit. This is specifically why I consider myself an enthusiast and not a critic...my obvious love of the songs recorded by Ray Stevens doesn't qualify me as being objectionable or critical. Sure, I have my opinions on a wide array of topics but I can't help it if I can't find any negative thing to say about Ray Stevens. The single that Ray had out at the time was "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow". The song was written by Dale Gonyea and according to various articles that I came across a couple of years ago Barry Manilow himself thought the parody was funny. People Magazine did a write-up of the song...and a lot of other publications did write-ups of the song and highlighted Ray's career for those who discovered him because of the Manilow parody. As far as the charts go it landed in the Top-50 on the Billboard Hot 100 but what many historians cite as the ultimate of irony is the single almost made the Top-10 on the Adult-Contemporary charts in 1979...it fell one position short.

Why is the song's success on Adult-Contemporary radio ironic? Well, in 1979, Barry Manilow was the king of Adult-Contemporary radio...churning out hit after hit after hit...and to see a parody of him go as far as it did on Adult-Contemporary radio was rather ironic and astonishing. Manilow had been a hit maker since late 1974 with the debut of "Mandy". Throughout 1974 and into 1975 and beyond it wasn't uncommon to hear Manilow constantly...the peak in airplay came at some point in the mid '80s...so he had like an 11 year stretch of dominant airplay support (1974-1985). Afterward he became focused almost entirely on concept albums where he covered a lot of musical territory such as jazz, blues, big-band, and show tunes. Nowadays he's pretty much known for his series of decade look backs with such titles as Greatest Songs of the Fifties, Greatest Songs of the Sixties, etc. etc.

Sometimes I like to show off the detailed lengths that the 1979 parody went to. The more detailed that a parody is the more hilarious it becomes. There was a time when you could find Ray's single, with picture sleeve, on eBay a lot of times but it's rarely up for sale anymore. I admit that I never bought the picture sleeved single when it came up for sale on eBay because the sellers were always asking too much for it. I knew how rare the picture sleeve is but the price wasn't right. I bought the single, minus the picture sleeve, later on when it came up for sale.

The above images are of the Ray Stevens single from 1979 and Barry Manilow's second studio album. The other image of Ray at the piano for the album The Feeling's Not Right Again is a visual parody of Barry's 1975 album, Tryin' To Get The Feeling. As I pointed out in a couple of other blog entries: Ray's 1979 Manilow parody and the 1976 chicken-cluck version of "In The Mood" are the two recordings that CD compilers spotlight from his Warner Brothers era (1976-1979).

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