Flanagan’s empire

By MICHAEL ATCHISON  |  February 5, 2010

AT VH1, YOU'VE PLAYED A HAND IN THE BEHIND THE MUSIC SERIES. IN EVENING'S EMPIRE, THERE'S A SCENE WHERE A MUSICIAN FEELS BETRAYED BY THAT SHOW. DID YOU EVER HAVE TO FIELD PHONE CALLS FROM ANYONE ANGERED BY THEIR PORTRAYAL ON VH1? For the record, I was somewhat involved, but it wasn't my show. Legends was my show, and it sort of begat Behind the Music because Jeff Gaspin, who was across the hall from me, came in and said, "You really gotta do a Legends about Milli Vanilli. You really gotta do a Legends about MC Hammer." I said, "I'm not going to do a show called Legends about Milli Vanilli." And he kept after me, and he said, "Well, I'm just going to start another show for all those guys." And I said, "Why don't you do that, Jeff? Why don't you start a show for all the people who flopped, and we'll see which one is more successful." And Jeff's show was much more successful than mine. That's why Jeff is now running NBC. I think the way I portrayed the Behind the Music experience for the artist in the book was pretty accurate, but the truth is they should have known what they were getting into. I have a friend who's a manager of a really famous act, who read the book and said, "I love this book. It was so true. Everything was right, except no manager as smart as Flynn would let his artist do Behind the Music." And I said, "You gotta be kidding. Madonna, Sting, Billy Joel — [they all] did Behind the Music. Everybody did Behind the Music except for your artist." The way Behind the Music is used in the book, it's the new thing, and [Jack and Emerson have] been successful [embracing new things]. They embraced FM radio when it came along, they embraced MTV when it came along, they embraced CDs when they came along, and their publicist tells them, "This is the thing that's selling records. People are forgetting about you. It's a way to get back in the public eye. It's a way to get your videos in rotation." And so they went for it. It sort of bit them in the ass in the story, but it helped them sell a lot of records. And the truth is, a lot of artists went into it saying, "Well, this is going to be sort of embarrassing, but I guess it's going to help me sell a lot of records." And I have to say that the phone calls I remember most distinctly were from artists who were getting tremendous pressure from their labels to do it, and said, "It's not worth it to me." I remember having conversations with Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor. One of them was told by their label, "If you don't do Behind the Music we're not promoting the new record," so it was a real heavy thing. And each of those three artists said, "I would rather sell less records than put myself through that. My dignity is more important to me." And that's why those three have long careers and the admiration of the general public, but sold less records at that moment.

LASTLY, IF 35 YEARS AGO, SOMEONE HAD TOLD YOU THAT BOB DYLAN WOULD PROVIDE A BLURB FOR THE DUST JACKET OF YOUR 650-PAGE NOVEL, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE SAID? I would have said, "Well, I guess things are going to work out all right."

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  | 
  Topics: Books , Entertainment, Entertainment, Jeff Tweedy,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MICHAEL ATCHISON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   STAYING POSITIVE  |  April 09, 2014
    "When we started this band, we wanted to build something that was very inclusive."
  •   XL  |  August 15, 2012
    American Gothic was a subterranean shithole bar known for its existentially tortured clientele and extreme indifference to the minimum drinking age.
  •   'PEOPLE WANTED SOMETHING HONEST'  |  July 28, 2010
    In a world that's changing at the speed of light, the Gaslight Anthem reaches into the past to forge classic elements into a timeless rock and roll sound.
  •   FLANAGAN’S EMPIRE  |  February 05, 2010
    Once a staple of the pages of The NewPaper (original incarnation of The Providence Phoenix ), Warwick-born Bill Flanagan went on to become a prominent rock journalist whose credits include U2: At the End of the World , the definitive portrait of one of the world's biggest bands.
  •   SARAH AND THE SHIPMATES  |  October 22, 2009
    Humorist, historian, superhero. Sarah Vowell is a woman of letters and voices.

 See all articles by: MICHAEL ATCHISON