DEATH AND SHOWBUSINESS
In this article, The Guardian published an extract from the book written by the former owner of the London Brixton Academy, Simon Parkes, who explains that he managed to make a profit after Kurt Covain’s death by inciting fans and collectors to pay up to £350 for a ticket of the cancelled show.
I don’t know this man, I have never met him. I know he’s published a book about his life, his input in rock ’n’ roll history and friendship with the stars (a movie is apparently being considered). All of this is true I am sure and he must have done some good work. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me he was a nice man, a clever man certainly. But that’s not really the question here.
What interest me in the excerpt published by The Guardian is the way Parkes explains how he managed to turn the situation around after Cobain’s suicide (thousands of tickets to refund, a quarter of a million pounds in the hole…) from financial loss to economic profit. I was surprised no-one commented on the general tone of the text and cold approach to the situation.
Showbiz is showbiz. Death is death. Right. But when the two are suddenly holding hands, the story starts to become a little depressing, at least to my eyes.
This story is actually a great reminder of the state of mind one needs to adopt in order to ‘make it’ in showbusiness. I can hear and read a lot of people impressed by Simon Parkes’ successful business instinct and genius to save his business. I understand. It is impressive indeed, even to me, how detached one must become in order to survive. After all, we are all animals. Parkes’ reaction doesn’t really differ from jungle survival stories you can read about at the Natural History Museum. He had to do what he had to do, to guarantee the survival of his tribe. Understandable in a country where the State doesn’t invest in its live music venues.
I understand the need to get his money back. But did he really need to make a profit? And then boast about it in a book? Someone died; a brilliant musician who killed himself partly because he was evolving in a soulless business, surrounded by business pricks ready to capitalise and unable to understand his music. If you just listen to this wonderful interview of Steve Albini (here: http://vishkhanna.com/2013/08/16/ep-24-steve-albini/) where he explains “the mostly good but surprisingly sad and surreal” making of ‘In Utero’, you can start imagining what it was really like. They didn’t care if he died as long as they could make money off it. In 2014, we all know that was true.
So I don’t know what kind of man Parkes truly is, but that’s not the point, I am not here to judge him. All I know is that show-business is capable of turning the most human of us into a soulless prick. That’s all I know for sure.