We love the dirt, and there isn’t any.
This reminds me of nothing so much as David Geffen’s “American Masters,” which he paid for, it’s a tribute to his accomplishments, but it didn’t reveal who he really was.
And Jimmy Iovine did not reveal who he truly was on Stern.
I’m not saying he didn’t tell any interesting stories. Illuminated situations that we thought had been pored over so many times we could gain no insight, never mind facts, just that he was so busy propping people up, taking all the blame, that you got no idea of what truly happened and who Jimmy Iovine really is. You’d think he’s warm and fuzzy.
But he’s not.
Just like his hero Geffen. No one can sidle up to an artist more than David. But go against his wishes, leave him out of the loop, and you’re gonna experience blowback for the rest of your life.
But they don’t print this. They rarely do.
The truth is these people, these winners, are different from you and me. Not only are they whip-smart, which they all are, I’ve never met a legend or CEO who was not, even if they were uneducated, but they all make choices and take opportunities that soldiers would not. They’re leaders, not followers. Admire them, but don’t for a minute believe you can be them.
Now I want to give Jimmy credit for his accomplishments, he shepherded some of the great records of all time. But they pale in comparison with his triumph with Beats. He saw a hole in the market and executed perfectly. It took years for competitors, the established players, to catch up. Sennheiser wipes the floor with Beats on sound, but it wasn’t until a couple of years back that they even got into fashion. And the German company isn’t willing to lay out the big bucks, put it all on the line, whereas Jimmy did. And yes, he traded on the fame of his artists, but he helped build those artists.
So listening to this interview you’re gonna feel inadequate. Jimmy’s accomplished a lot. Kudos.
It’s just that it’s not the real him on the radio.
Sure, luck plays a part. But if you think you can start off a zero and become a hero you know nothing about how the real world operates. How you can go from sweeping up to cleaning up, from making tea to being John Lennon’s engineer. It’s a matter of personality, not only taking advantage of opportunities, but MAKING OPPORTUNITIES!
And you can’t teach that, it’s inborn. Who knows what made Jimmy Jimmy. But he had a dream most of his competitors in the studio did not. He needed to make it more than they did. AND HE DID!
So what have we learned here?
Jimmy triumphed in the second half of the classic rock era, from the mid-seventies until MTV went pop. Those records are indelible, not only do the people who lived through that era know them by heart, but so do many of the younger generation. And to hear how Jim Keltner recommended a shaker on “Refugee” is incredible, yet although Iovine says he tortured Heartbreaker drummer Stan Lynch, he will not crap on him. Iovine will not crap on ANYBODY! And if you know Jimmy, like Geffen he keeps score. And will reach out and decimate you, turn you upside down and negatively impact your career if he wants to.
But you wouldn’t know that by listening.
And no one who knows will go on record. Because they’re fearful of the penalty, even at this late date.
Now Jimmy is fighting an uphill battle with Apple Music, I’m wondering when he’ll just declare victory and exit the Cupertino giant. He’s in the same situation he acknowledges at the start of Interscope, in 1990, he could no longer operate on heart, he lost his feel, he had to rely on youngsters, and the youngsters at Spotify and elsewhere in digital music are running circles around him. Curation? Playlists? Turns out Spotify’s machine learning Discover ones are better than the hand-curated ones, which anybody who read Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store” about Amazon would know, turns out computer recommendations sold more books than human curators. And where are the Apple streaming charts? And the data? Jimmy’s operating in the land of secrecy in an era of transparency. His cheese has been moved and he doesn’t even realize it.
But come on, you’ve got to give him props for his achievements, even if he achieves nothing more.
But is it about achievement?
That’s what age gives you, wisdom and experience, you realize no one will be remembered and the game of accumulation is flawed.
But Jimmy’s in the sunset of his career.
And if you are too, you’ll listen and feel less than. I certainly did. Jimmy’s my exact age.
But then I turned it off and started reading Don Winslow’s “The Force” and I realized I was someone different, and my only choice is to be who I am, that I can only win if I boost my identity and play to my strengths.
Which is one of Jimmy’s points. Only Elton John can get the Elton John piano sound. All the greats may not be the best technically, but they contain some elusive essence we’re all clamoring for.
Shall we clamor for yours.