Usually we wait a few days until a show has settled. While we stall, our producer and director Tina Chase Gillmor scours the recording for short clips that give a sense of the flavor and tenor of the conversation. This show, recorded a little more than 2 weeks ago, went deep on politics, government, anything but Trump, and eventually a pivot to the tech world and how it was grappling with the possible return to the office. I asked Brent Leary what he thought about the likelihood of working from anywhere, and discovered he was multitasking to the director’s cut of a famous Prince video.
Brian Solis had sent him this re-edit of George Harrison’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, featuring a wonderful version of his classic White Album track While My Guitar Gently Weeps. An all-star cast of friends of the late Beatle included Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, and a surprise guitar solo by Prince that ended with him tossing his guitar to the heavens in triumph. While the new video doesn’t reveal what happened to the instrument, it does extend our views of Prince and particularly his interactions with the other players. Re-released 17 years later, it does the impossible, preserving the magic of the event while somehow extending the mechanics of how Prince captivated not just his audience but his peers.
It also reminds me of what magic we’ve come to expect from the technology industry and its band of stars. The success of the vaccines came not just from the miracle of new science and desperate nature of humanity’s need for rescue from the pandemic, but also from the growing hope that government and even politics can work. The jury has been and will continue to be out on how quickly we can recover, but there’s a question of recovering what. Is it a binary choice of office or mobile or something in between? Already some tech companies have moved toward the hybrid approach, where the office would reopen and workers would return for some but not all of the week.
As a parent of two girls, I’ve watched with fascination as they grew up with technology as a given not the revolution that it is. Our youngest has for many years structured her communication with us and her peers as a text-based, emotional video channel, and occasional authorization for face-to-face interaction. The pandemic made this mandatory, but as we get closer to a safer environment, the skills we’ve been mandated to learn are only going to solidify. Texting can be replied to in a while or treated as just information to be absorbed. Voice calls are optional, Facetime usually accepted as an opportunity to catch up but certainly not a daily proposition. Sneaking a peek at her Instagram feed is good for calming nerves but abstract in terms of any real details. That’s as it should be; I actually need more emotional buttressing than she does.
Prince was like that when he appeared early in his career, conversant in the history of his craft and matter-of-fact in his approach to the technology innovations unleashed by George Martin and the Beatles with Revolver and transformationally Sgt.Pepper. Prince took that studio process, the multitracking inventions of Stevie Wonder, the extra-worldly funk explorations of Hendrix, the cool mastery of Miles — and did it all. The record business pushed him, he pushed back, changed his name to a symbol, and eventually won control of his recordings. Nothing compares 2 U, he wrote.
The music business, like the movie and TV business, has changed everything about how we consume their products. Musicians have been homebound for more than a year with no way of touring to replace what used to be the major part of their income. Some are turning to the crazy world of packaging their work as crypto objects, the so-called non fungible tokens. Joke projects like Dogecoin have become intertwined with Saturday Night Live as Elon Musk plays a character in Weekend Update avoiding persistent questions about just what is going on here. As one Tweeter noted, they made a good choice watching Dogecoin dropping like a stone as funnier than the comedy broadcast.
Sooner or later the dust will settle and we can choose some Sneak Peeks to nudge the way forward. As much as we buy the idea that we need to return to some kind of normal, the sneaking suspicion is that we deserve some relief from the rigged deck that is our politics, our culture, devoid of empathy and based on power as the ultimate rationale for who can run the show. Like the filters in Zoom that let us change our backgrounds to where we choose to be coming from, it’s a reasonable choice to define our new office as a blend of the best of our new worlds.
from the Gillmor Gang Newsletter
The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, April 30, 2021.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang