“Machers and Rockers” Quotes

I recently read “Machers and Rockers: Chess Records and the Business of Rock & Roll” by Rich Cohen. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“Chickagou” is an Indian word that means “the place with the bad smell.” (26)

“Leonard saw them not as artists – artists are a dime a dozen – but something infinitely more rare and illusive: a market. A legion of transplants who felt lost in the frozen North, who wanted a taste and comfort from home and would pay for it. Anyone can spot an artist; only a genius can spot a market where others have seen only a horde.” (33)

“Herzl’s dream of Zionism, which, he said, would be a success only when “Jewish police are chasing Jewish criminals.” (34)

“The Arons had the company and the experience, but Leonard had access to the talent. In other words, a great musical empire grew out of the old immigrant sensibility: Schmucko! Why do for others what you can do for yourself? If you spend a buck, make sure you get back a buck and a half!” (47)

“And yes, it’s funny, how this Polish immigrant, this kid who did not even learn English until he was in school, winds up at a company called Aristocrat. But that’s America: no past, no pedigree, the great ones give birth to themselves.” (63)

“To be discovered is to be authentic; to search for fame is to be phony. So goes the logic of the aficionado. When it comes to the Blues, I have my own rule: if an artist believes what he is signing, he is authentic; if he does not believe what he is singing, even if he thinks it the prettiest idea in the world, he is not authentic.” (94)

“Chicago is one of the places where the Jewish character and the American character bleed into one, this rootlessness, this urge to roam: how can you tell you are moving if the scenery doesn’t change?” (96)

“Leonard was no genius. He did not dazzle into the big score. He instead had to work for it, fake it, steal it, copy it, shuffle and fight. He was smart and tough in the way of the hard worker, the long-distance runner, the gambler who wins on stamina. In business, and probably in art too, such men have the advantage over the genius, who depends on the great big nothing, a fluky, unpredictable freak. One day it’s there and one day it’s gone back to whatever nowhere it came from, and you are like the card sharp who bets on instinct when his luck runs out, with no way to fake your way back into the game. But for the hard worker, it is a fake from the beginning, and so he’s developed a million tricks and bluffs to get through.” (99)

“Joe Smith told me, ‘Assume the human brain is made of chips like a computer. And those chips govern behavior. Well, these musicians can take a sheet of paper and put notes on it and go into a studio and translate it into music and perform that music in front of millions. We can’t do that. They got chips we don’t. But to make room for those chips, other chips fall out. Sanity, reason, logic, gratitude. Anything like that is gone. So if you understand they are not like you and I, then you’re okay.’” (124)

“The executives feel superior to artists, but also envious – of the freedom, the talent, the lifestyle, the girls, girls, girls, the sprees, the benders, the crowds.” (124)

“Asked by a nephew why, when he had accomplished so much and was already quite wealthy, he continued to strive, spoke the words that best get at his soul. “It’s not the money, it’s the game.”” (138)

All right, kid, you got something to show me, come inside. This is the quality that kept Leonard in the game long after most of the old-time record men had bailed: a never-ending-willingness to hear the kid from the street. To be impressed, to be amazed.” (159)

“Past forty, most music executives lose patience, discover their fathers were right, and so turn the gut-check decisions over to an army of kids, new eyes, new ears, explaining, to anyone who might ask, It’s a young man’s game. After hearing a demo, such men turn to one of these kids and ask, Do I like it? But Leonard never lost touch with the street, never moved to an office in the Loop. Even in the roughest years of city life, his door was open to anyone who had a new slant on the old script.” (160)

“Only once in a very great while does someone actually create something new. The rest of us, even the most brilliant, spend our time just working out the implications.” (160)

“Leonard knew it was time to get out – it’s what made him a great businessman. He had seen a market where others had seen only a horde, and now he could see a mob where others continued to see a market.” (187)

Liked the quotes? Buy the book here.

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