Friday, December 30, 2005

Fame, Fortune and Fear

I'm reading the new book, "The Beatles", by Bob Spitz. It's been a long time since I've read a Beatles bio (I'm a huge fan, of course) and my mom got me a copy of the book for Christmas. She also got me a copy of Paul's new CD.

I'm up to the part of their history just prior to their first recording when they fired Pete Best and hired Ringo Starr. When I was a kid, I felt badly for Pete Best. Who wouldn't? The guy was by all accounts the best looking guy in the band and McCartney was extremely jealous of him. In this particular version, the author takes pains to point out that his drumming wasn't as good as Ringo's. If that's true, he did need to be sacked. But quality and history be damned, it was still a rough move for a band that eventually became as big as The Beatles.

I felt even worse for Pete Best when I read that no one felt particularly bad about his being sacked. Here's a guy who gigged with John, Paul and George for years in Hamburg and in Liverpool, making lousy money and living in squallor. To my knowledge not one of The Beatles has ever said, "Poor Pete. He got a bum rap. Wish we could have handled it better." Did any of them think to throw Pete a few million pounds? Doubtful. That would be like saying, "I'm sorry" and they definitely were not sorry.

Truth is, The Beatles were savagely ambitious like many "successful" artists or businesspeople. They wanted nothing more than what they got - fame, fortune and lots of adoring "birds". The music was important, sure, but the main thing that motivated these middle class boys was the allure of riches and attention. And boy, did they get their wish.

I would even argue that they got much of what they wanted in part because they were ambitious to a fault. While the rest of us got a lasting legacy of wonderful music, The Beatles, themselves, received what amounted to a life of seclusion and fawning and "it'll never be as good as yer old stuff, Paul." And you know what? It ain't! Paul's new CD is pretty, well...weak.

Certainly, I'm in no postion to judge these guys. After all, they were in their early 20's and without any of the benefit of hindsight that I'm applying to their behavior and subsequent success. It's not altogether fair for me to berate them and question the decisions that they made in concert with George Martin for the betterment of their sound. Any company that keeps on its weaker employees just because they have a soft spot in their heart is well...doomed to be less successful, huh? Yeah, I think that's the hard truth.

But I'm wondering - and here's my question/concern - do Beth and I lack the necessary ambition and ruthlessness to make it in the big leagues? Are we stuck at our current level (at the top of our musical game in our early 40's) because we lack the drive to push forward with an intensity that knows no bounds? Part of me has always believed this to be true. I worry that we're too nice and not egocentric enough to break through to the top. Are we the victims of our own philosopy which is to be peaceful, to treat others with respect and love so much so that we're unwilling to see our friends in the business as competitors to be beaten? Hmmmmm.

The Beatles and many folks I know of in the business world had what some refer to as a "healthy animosity for the competition". There exists - and we all know it - a certain type of animalistic, dog-eat-dog mentality that is shared by many in this world who acheive material wealth and fame in the arts, politics or business. To me, that is scary and yet I feel that I have to face that fear in order to transcend it. I cannot let it stop us in our quest to be better, to let more kids hear us, and - yes - to acheive more fame and fortune for me and my family.

And so, I am left with this conundrum: I believe in my heart that Beth and I have been selling ourselves short for years. I believe that we're far better than our current station and deserving of much more material success. I believe that we have much more to write and say that can be beneficial to children and families if we can only get ourselves into a position of power where our voices are heard. And, yet, I look at what we have acheived - a new home, a successful mom and pop business with a great reputation in our corner of the world that feeds our family and makes a lot of kids happy. Who are we to want more? Who are we to crave the trappings of fame and fortune? Y'see I can talk myself into a corner quite well, thank you very much.

Well, we're not Lennon and McCartney. And there's no Pete Best in our band. And we're not destined for BethandScottomania. I don't even know why I worry so much about stuff like this at all sometimes. But then there's a little voice inside of me that keeps repeating, "You're scared, Scott. Don't get side-tracked and start today in a direction that leads you in the direction that you want to go. Face your fear of failure or success and forget about what anyone else thinks about your career. This is the only shot you get at life. Believe in yourself and your dreams (you wrote a song called that, remember?). Now, go for it and let the chips fall where they may. No regrets. Do it."

Okay, I've shared that with you. I've said it aloud. Now, let's see what I'm made of.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy, but hard, Holidays

The holidays are a busy time - some might say a crazy time. Am I the first to notice this? Per usual, we're booked solid for December performing our show, "Happy Holidays Around the World", a celebration of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas in four different states.

It is the middle of the month (12/15) and our band of five performers has been rocked by everything from stomach flu, stress and sore voices. I'm happy to report, though, that we continue to rally on behalf of our goal to deliver great shows. The children, teachers and parents have been very complimentary and I am very proud of our band of brothers and sisters.

Today, Beth and Liz performed together because Larry - a man who NEVER cancels - was out with the flu. Katherine came off the bench and performed with me at a preschool where we had to go off-book more often than not. A triple "BRAVA" to these wonderful women! And tomorrow Larry will return after a one-day (phew!) rest to perform with Liz in Astoria as we all cross our fingers that the transit strike will not cripple our efforts. Sound like fun?

Lastly, I give thanks to my mother who has been schlepping up to Yorktown to help mind our children. Typically we leave the house at 7:00 a.m., so my mom has been wonderful in getting the kids to school every day. We couldn't do it without you, Mom!

Like many businesses, we depend upon the the holidays for a substantial part of our income, so we always have our fingers crossed that all of our plans work out. Truth is, we often have to punt or re-write the playbook while the game is happening. I won't tell you that this is enjoyable. Beth and I have spent many a December night worrying that some sort of straw that breaks the camel's back will befall our small company.

Somehow, it all works out fine, though. And just when we've had our fill of singing "I Have a Little Dreydel", the season is over and we miss seeing Liz, Larry and Katherine every day. We even miss the excitement of driving somewhere new every morning in the freezing cold and not knowing how a show will go, or if the PA equipment will work, or if a guitar string will break in the middle of a song or if the school's band will be on the stage when we get to the gig. I guess part of us must thrive living on the edge!