JJ 01/69: Lightly & Politely, by Stanley Dance

First published Jazz Journal, January 1969



We have lived with this magazine’s custom of not recessing the beginning of paragraphs a long while. We still don’t like it. In fact, we think it is inexcusable. What is the point of making the splendid prose harder to read? When a paragraph ends with a filled line, the reader must make an uncomfortable transition without the aid that paragraphing is intended to provide, and he may well decide that the writer has failed in his duty.

Even harder on our eye is the capitalizing of every word in a song title. There is considerable variation in practice, but so far as we can determine, civilized usage dictates that the definite article, the indefinite article, prepositions and conjunctions should not be capitalized unless they begin the title.

Maybe these are trivial objections that won’t concern most readers, but right is right, and we believe the rnost widely read monthly jazz magazine in the world should maintain high standards. We also believe that readers might more profitably be engaged in discussing such matters than, say, the Beatles.

We are, of course, in agreement with Voce Valiant in regard to the artistic value of the Beatles in this sick world, but we have reservations about his denunciation of their anti-taping device. Something will have to be done eventually about illegal taping and record bootlegging.

Since the Beatles have made their packet – and good luck to them – we are not personally concerned whether their moronic public now cheats them of a million or two, but there is a principle involved that affects the musicians we admire.

The worldwide exchange of taped broadcasts and TV soundtracks must have a deleterious effect on legitimate record sales. There are very few jazz fans to our knowledge with the resources to buy all the available recordings that they would like to have, and the money spent on tapes inevitably reduces the number of records they can afford. Bootleg records have an even more direct effect on the sale of legitimate records, and therefore on the livelihood of the musicians.

We know that many bootleg records are admirable and desirable, and they often contain material which would not be commercially feasible to issue through the legitimate channels. But fundamentally they cheat the musicians and composers whom we ought to support and ultimately they can only lead to a reduction of new recordings.

Sales of new records must already have been reduced to some extent by the activities of the bootleggers, particularly in Europe. We have been amazed to see the HMV store on Oxford Street boldly advertising records whose release has never been sanctioned by the artists. Every musician is entitled to today’s recording scale if a record of a 1938 broadcast on which he plaved is issued, and it cannot legally be issued without the consent of the employer-leader. Then, we wonder what payment was made to Chick Webb’s musicians for the transcriptions issued on Polydor? And what about the composers? Do you imagine they are getting royalties from the bootleggers?

Even if the welfare of the musicians is ignored, our snatching at the immediate bootlegged pleasure may in the long run prove short-sighted. Already the record companies like to dismiss jazz projects with the phrase, ‘Too much product!’ ln the past, with all their faults, the same companies have been responsible for many jazz developments, for the investment of much money in jazz, money that has paid for new arrangements and new groupings of talent. Any curtailment of their programmes must have a harmful effect on the music and on the musicians, many of whom have survived as musicians primarily through recording.

We don’t know what the ultimate solution will be. Sooner or later, the law will catch up with the bootleggers and those who retail their products. But taping is something else. We have been told that in Germany there is a tax on tape-recorders that is supposed to benefit musicians in some way. This is hardly enough. Irritating though it might be, a yearly licence for tape-recorders could be the answer. In any case, the musicians should be paid more for broadcasts and TV shows than at present.