From my jaded perspective, they seemed ridiculous. Rock and roll was supposed to be commercial! It was intended to reach as many ears as possible. The idea of rock as being something obscure, only for the cool kids, was antithetical to the purpose of the form. Jazz could be arcane, modern classical music could be obscure, but elitist rock and roll was as silly a notion as elitist chewing gum. Rock was for everyone who wanted to listen or it was useless.
Still, that was what had happened. Unlike Emerson, who had had twenty years to adjust to gradations of celebrity, the new recruits went from bar bands to television stars in six months, and it shook them. Once Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the other sensitives quit the court, the game was left to pure pop acts — to the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. Those bubblegum singers, signed up straight out of the Mickey Mouse Club and as polished as Vegas strippers, had no problem with being popular. The demons of self-doubt that plagued Kurt Cobain did not trouble Christina Aguilera. She knew what game she was in.
It was a treacherous environment for rock and roll, and especially for an over-fifty musician. I warned Emerson that if he did not find some way to connect with contemporary music, the temperature in his heated pool would soon be dropping.
"The hell with it, then, Flynn,' Emerson said to me while watching a video in which Mariah Carey sang on a roller coaster. "This is what we got into it to destroy. If the public wants to go back to 'How Much Is That Doggie In the Window,' it's time for me to bow out."
"So which of your homes should I sell?"
"Don't try to bullshit me, matey, those houses are paid for."
"Yes, but the staffs who maintain them still have to pick up their checks every week. The electric bills come in every month. The property taxes are due every quarter. You need a hundred grand a month just to maintain your homes, Emerson. Unless you intend to start cutting the grass and rolling the tennis court yourself."
"I could cut back."
"Where would you like to start?"
"Well, for one thing, who says we have to fly first class everywhere?"
"You're willing to fly business?"
"Not me, but Castro and Wendy, for example."
"They do fly business when they're not with you. When they're traveling with you, they fly in whatever class you fly in."
"Who made that rule?"
"It's in their contracts."
"Well, why do we even give them contracts?"
"Among other reasons, because we don't want them to be able to write books about working for you or in any other way betray the thousand confidences to which they have access."
"As if they would!"
"As if they wouldn't! Get real, Emerson. Half the time you treat them like crap and don't even know it. Do you know how many bouquets I have sent to Wendy under your name to apologize for some unintentional insult? She's a publicist, for God's sake! She deals in hype and bullshit for a living. If you ever fire her or someday humiliate her once too often, she'd write a book in a minute. That's why we have contracts and confidentiality clauses."