Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

More Fake News!

Another burning question of our age addressed.

While Donald Trump has become famous for railing on about “Fake News,” the media have become quick to defend their integrity. However, the depth of the media’s lies is apparent and may be deeper than most imagine.

Let’s start with what is probably one of the greatest cultural frauds in recent history, though it is mostly unknown today: Saturday Night Fever.

The movie, and the disco fad, were based on an article, “Inside the Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” that appeared in New York Magazine in June 1976.

Over the past few months, much of my time has been spent in watching this new generation. Moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, from disco to disco, an explorer out of my depth, I have tried to learn the patterns, the old/new tribal rites.

The problem was that the story was mostly made up.

Twenty years later came a bombshell. In December 1997 New York magazine published an article in which Cohn confessed that there never was a Vincent. There was no “Lisa”, “Billy”, “John James”, “Lorraine” or “Donna” either. While 2001 Odyssey existed, it wasn’t the way the writer described it in 1976. The whole scene of disco-loving Italians, as mythologised in Saturday Night Fever, was exaggerated. The most bizarre detail was that his disco protagonists were in fact based on mods Cohn had known in London.

So what? you might ask.

To those who remember, that fraud led to the glorification of a disco culture. But it was never as organic as the media portrayed it. It could be propped up for only so long. In 1979, the straw man was easily toppled.

It seems that Nik Cohn, the magazine writer who penned the purported true story of a Brooklyn dancer named “Vincent”– the basis for Travolta’s Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever – for New York magazine, admitted this week in New York that he made the whole thing up.

Up to that point, disco had existed, to be sure, but it was a sideline. Occasionally, it could break through to the top, as with “The Hustle,” but it never would have become the cultural imperative it became without media lies. It was foisted on us.

Well, thanks a friggin’ pantload for that, assholes.

Actually, it’s reminiscent of another genre heavily influenced by disco: rap. Despite its seeming ubiquity in everything from the music press to movies to even TV commercials, it never did sell all that well, only in the last couple of years even beginning to approach rock and roll or…uhh, country? Nevertheless, it was pimped heavily from the start by music journalists gushing that it would be the death-knell for tired, sad old rock and roll:

Rap is the rock ‘n’ roll of the day. Rock ‘n’ roll was about attitude, rebellion, a big beat, sex and, sometimes, social comment. If that’s what you’re looking for now, you’re going to find it here.
— Bill Adler, Time, 1990

So how’d that work out for ya, Bill?

With the decline in recorded-music sales reaching something of a turning point in a number of markets, it seemed like a good time to analyze the retail sales of several music genres to see whether the downturn and subsequent stabilization have been equally divided across genres or whether some genres have suffered more than others. The analysis shows that pop and rock have strengthened their hold on music sales, while rap/hip-hop, the darling of the 1990s, has suffered a decline.

The results are, in part, not totally surprising, with pop and rock music tightening their grip on retail sales in the 2000s. But rap/hip-hop, which surged in the 1990s, slipped as public criticism mounted. Sales of jazz, classical and other smaller genres also fell off.

With pop and rock accounting for a combined retail-sales share of 55% in 2009, other genres have clearly underperformed when compared with the global sales decline. Music & Copyright has found that the retail value of rap/hip-hop sales dropped almost 50% between 2000 and 2009.

And it wasn’t all that high even in the 90s; rap’s cultural reach has always exceeded its sales grasp. Back to Konrad for our hy-larious conclusion:

That disco fell so fast in 1979 is evidence that it was artificial to begin with.

What is scary is that this admitted lie still holds a grip on the culture, especially in Brooklyn, where the image is still lauded, parodied, and beloved. Well, good luck with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where Tony Manero lived, ever regaining that faded glory. The neighborhood is now heavily Muslim.

Guess the obnoxious and annoying “call to prayer” lauded by His Most Puissant Majesty Barrack Hussein Mohammed Pahlavi Windsor Habsberg Ferdinand Winton Oblahblah as “the most beautiful sound in the world” is gonna be the Next Big Thing crammed down our throats by force and/or fraud.

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3 thoughts on “More Fake News!

  1. I suspect part of the reason rap sales fell off was the pushing of ‘gangsta rap’. There was some good fun music but *somehow* it became very dark, profanity laced, and derivative to the extreme. Perhaps this was just another tool by to keep black people on the dem/kkk urban plantation.

  2. When I was first starting to buy albums in the 70’s, no one young would even think about buying music on scratchy old discs with old sound quality recording from 1935 – 1955. I was also more likely to buy new music from the likes of Chess artists like Muddy Waters (I had the three or so vinyl albums he made with Johnny Winter in the 80’s) than their old 50’s stuff. Same with most of the 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll. I remember I had the Great Twenty Eight by Chuck Berry and that was about it.
    Fast forward to the 1990’s and CD’s and digital music and a whole treasure trove of music, including many pre-Rock ‘n’ Roll era music, has been updated to good to fantastic sound quality.
    The equivalent today, for the music of the 1935 – 1955 music era for me in 1975, would be the heyday of album rock from 1964 – 1984. Actually it’s a little older than my equivalent.
    In the 70’s a lot of artists did “covers”. Why buy a “cover” when you can get a fantastic, pristine sounding copy of Led Zeppelin IV or Some Girls or a thousand other great albums and compilations from that time period. Just pop in the digital original and Rock Out! For my son I bought the whole Beatles catalogue on 9/9/09 and we listened to them in order over a period of 3 months. It was every bit as exciting for him to open a new Beatles album (CD) and put it in the player and listen to for the first time as it was for me. Well, I can’t recreate the feeling of FM Radio from that period I guess, when the DJ would break in “folks, we have the brand new single from The Rolling Stones and here it is, ‘Miss You'”, but it’s close.

    I can imagine that compared to that, the new music is largely disappointing to a large portion of young kids today.

  3. I used to really like reading Nik Cohn. But it’s not a surprise that he makes up stuff. His book, “Triksta,” about New Orleans rap, is riddled with lies and errors. Cohn might have been on Zappa’s mind when the latter wrote, “Definition of rock journalism: People who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read.”

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