Monday, 19 November 2007


I was reminded this morning of a bit of a disappointment and I thought I would mention it in case it interests you.

As the attentive reader will know it was my 50th birthday (sob) this year. I haven't written much about it, not out of serious disinclination but just because it was a very busy time and the birthday itself was soon in the background as we had our joint 100th party coming up very quickly afterwards. So I had forgotten something important...

Today Martha and her friend Ben S and I met for breakfast at a café, indeed the nice café in Whitecross Street, "Sliced and Squeezed", which I mentioned some time ago. Martha and Ben were on their way to LSO St Luke's to participate in a quartet coaching thing where they were to get some Quality Time with a nice LSO viola player working with them on some Beethoven and Joplin (that well-known quartet composer) before doing a little performance-ette. All very nice and yet another reflection of the wonderful Special Relationship between the LSO and Camden which has been such a benefit to the school. (Ahem and the orchestra too no doubt.)

I happened to say in passing that we were just round the corner from Herbert Grönemeyer's record label's London office (if you'll pardon the nested possessives) which, being a huge fan, I find very exciting. I was unprepared for the tirade from Martha which then ensued.

The thing I'd forgotten - old fool - is this: that on the morning of my birthday, during the traditional festivities and eating of croissants et al, Martha mentioned that one present she had tried to organize had not worked out as she hoped. She'd written regarding my birthday, and asking for some kind of greetings or response or something, to all three of my very favourite non-classical musicians:

And the results?

Total musicians approached = 3

Total responses received = 0

Now I find this a bit sad. To be precise, I am not really surprised but I am still disappointed. On the one hand I do know that these are busy people and they probably get 8000 requests a day from people with 50-year-old dads, sick kids, golden weddings or whatever. Fine, it's difficult, I should have such problems. On the other hand they are successful wealthy people and the reason for that is fans buying their music, and you'd think that a little bit of effort in this might pay dividends. But perhaps this is not so and they know that we will stay loyal even if annoyed with them ... and indeed I will probably not boycott their next albums because they cold-shouldered Martha. So the ruthless economics of it - it's not worth being nice to individuals - do perhaps just work and make commercial sense: but it's still not pleasant. Ignoring people never is, and ways to avoid it do not, I believe, have to be catastrophic for any organization. I think you could get a lot of goodwill benefit for relatively little outlay. But hey.

If asked I think I would have forecast that it would not work, but of course Martha wanted it to be a nice surprise so naturally I was not asked. I think she thought that by approaching all three of them she'd improved her chances of getting maybe one reply but this was not to be.

  • I wrote to Herbie what I hoped was quite an interesting letter some years back, after I'd been to his gig in Düsseldorf, but had no response: my hope that an English fan writing to him from England might garner a response was not correct.
  • On Herbie's message boards it seems to be well-accepted that he and his people will never respond to anything.
  • I wrote to Peter Gabriel years ago about a matter of (to me) great profundity, i.e. boring routine fanmail for him, and did at least get a polite reply from some functionary. Clearly the accepted standard has changed since then.
  • I have not tried writing to Nick Cave but, d'you know, I think I might just not bother getting round to it now. Let's be honest, he's probably not losing sleep over me.

It's not - at the risk of stating what I hope is obvious - that I am upset on my own behalf, although a Happy Birthday Vogel note from Herbie, Nick or Peter would, indeed, have been a Pretty D*mned Fine Thing To Have. I am, on the other hand, very cheesed off at the discourtesy towards Martha and the way she's been left feeling let down by my idols, whose feet of clay are now somewhat more obvious than before. I felt angry and embarrassed and somewhat guilty, and if that is not reasonable of me, well hey, I do have these defence mechanisms in respect of my children and they are not easily governed by commercial logic.

There's no great discovery here, no huge reason for astonishment. It's just a bit sad, and makes me feel a bit sad, is pretty much all. I think it is utterly fantastic that she tried, and a really brilliant and nice idea, and yet I almost wish she had not tried as she'd have been saved the disappointment.

The rest of my birthday was better than this. Well done the Infanta Marfs for the attempt, and boo sucks to famous people, no matter how much I love their tunes.

If I am ever a famous author (hahahahahaha) or whatever and I forget this lesson, please boot me up my fat *rse. Thank you.


Strawberryyog said...

I am proud that in the body of this entry I have not given in to the awful temptation to use the truly hideous groanworthy pun Feet of Clamor which is a Herbie-specific reference of such OCDish detail that only a very very sad person would consider mentioning it, even in a comment.

Anna said...

Where did Martha write to? If it was care of the record label - most letters don't get passed on unless there is a super gift involved. In the afternoon I spent in the direct marketing department at Sony BMG, George Michael was forwarded a bottle of whiskey someone had sent him, but not any of the letters. Some of them were very sweet, and it was sad to be told they all got thrown away.

Strawberryyog said...

Thanks Anna - and oh dear! Your story kind-of confirms what I thought. I am not sure who she wrote to, though with Herbert G she may have written to his London office. At one time I'd have thought this might work because of what I assume might be the rarity value of English fan contact. But no. Ah well.