Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dr. Pimple Popper | Lefsetz Letter

How do we sleep while our beds are burning

I woke up at 6:30. Maybe reasonable for you, out of the question for me, the last time I saw the sun rise was to catch a flight, I like the darkness, when everybody’s sleeping, when the world is mine.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I ended up going to breakfast. I’ve got to ask you, why do they undercook the sausage? And the bacon should be CRISP! I could barely look at the bacon, I took a few bites of the sausage and got grossed out and immediately ate some yogurt to kill the taste. There’s protein in yogurt, that was breakfast, at an ungodly hour, would I have enough sustenance to carry me through?

To Studios 301 to do a podcast with Peter Garrett.

This was hard to make happen. It was confirmed, then canceled. I was told that Peter had a hard out at 11:50, he needed to get to the studio to record with his band.

We were there early, so I got to look at the gear. They had every tape recorder, that high end Technics that isolated the tape, two track Mitsubishi digital, I actually saw two of them, a couple of Studers. From a bygone era, before digital. And there were racks and racks of outboard equipment, this is how they used to make records. The studio was a sacred place, not just for anybody, it was expensive, it was the belly of the beast, it was where you made records, my heart still goes pitter-patter when I’m in the inner sanctum.

And then, while I’m checking out the iMac Pro we’re going to record on, avoiding the 72 track desk mere feet away, Peter Garrett arrives.

I’m intimidated. I feel like I’m imposing upon him. He’s almost 6’5″, he’s got a bald head, you know the type, irritable, asshole… BUT HE WAS NOTHING LIKE THAT!

Peter was warm and congenial. Like maybe someone I went to high school with, well no, nobody I went to high school became famous, no one took the road less taken.

And most musicians are reticent, their music speaks for them. But Peter… I was thinking of his choices, ones I was too afraid to make. Then again, he’s confident, his parents supported him, the opposite of my upbringing.

And Midnight Oil was an indie band before they signed to Columbia and were all over MTV. It was about the message, they refused to be compromised, actually, “Beds Are Burning” was not written to be a hit, but to be part of the soundtrack of a minor movie. Excellence comes when you’re not trying to execute it.

And we talked not only about the Oils, but Peter’s tenure in the government. As minister of education (should I capitalize that?) He was passionate and nice, I didn’t know they made rock stars like this.

But the best part was when we turned the mics off, after ninety minutes of conversation, long after noon, long after Peter was supposed to be gone. Actually, we’d still be there talking if I didn’t have a video commitment at 1:30. We were sitting there, analyzing the world, Peter’s smiling…do you know how good it feels to feel connected, to be listened to, to wrestle with the issues with someone who wants to? It’s what I live for! I always find I resonate most with the artists, even though I’m afraid of them. Joe Walsh reached out and volunteered himself for a podcast…I told him I’d been afraid to ask him, I hate imposing upon people, but it made me look like an amateur, I never believe I’m a member of the club, but it’s astounding how few of these people are intimidating, I felt like Peter was a friend for life!

And then we went to Fox Studios, to record this interview. When the lights go on, or down, depending on whether it’s a recording or live, I turn it on, this is when I deliver, because you never know what will put you over the top, usually the thing you were reluctant to do. And I’ll be honest, I wince when I find myself telling the same stories over again, especially when there are people in attendance who’ve heard them, but I try to tell myself they’re new to the audience.

And then we went to ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Company. The public outlet. I had my picture taken in front of legendary cartoon characters who I had not grown up with, the building was empty, maybe because of the Melbourne Cup, the famous horse race, but…

Then I did a radio interview and by time I got back to Cronulla it was time for my next gig, a dinner. I’m just running on adrenaline, like I said, I’m working hard for the money.

And I ran into this guy who started Australia’s third biggest ticketing company, from scratch, sixteen years ago. After listening to him for five minutes, I knew he’d be successful at anything he did, because he was passionate, he believed, he was his product. That’s what they don’t teach you in music school, not even entrepreneur programs, you’re born with it, it can be taught, but only those born with it are great at it. Find what you’re great at, you can’t compete with the naturals unless you’re one too, even if you put in the 10,000 hours, you can learn the notes, but you can’t write the song.

And I meet the guy who runs the arenas. And Don stands and thanks all the sponsors, usually sponsors are there to be ripped-off, but Don truly made them feel included.

And then we ate dinner.

Geoff had told me his partner made great Lebanese food. I had no idea. It was phenomenal! I overate, but I can’t stop when it’s that good, and I hadn’t eaten lunch until three p.m., I was running on empty.

And I got into a conversation with Adam Lewis, who lives in L.A. but I only see in foreign countries, he’s here to sign up bands, to do their radio promotion, publicity.

And these conversations are free-flowing, like the alcohol, everybody gets loosened up and tells stories and you feel part of a fraternity, of lucky freaks, we couldn’t do anything else, but we’re privileged to have fun doing our jobs, to never stop talking about them. As I said earlier today, go anywhere and say you’re involved in a hit record, a hit band, and all the billionaires will go ignored, that’s the power of music, the money is secondary, it’s the personal impact. As Peter Garrett said, it energizes people, gets them motivated.

And hours into this dinner conversation, the topic switched to television, it always does, politics and TV, that’s what people want to talk about today.

And Adam said he wished he could watch more TV. Huh? Isn’t everybody trying to watch less? So I ask him what he watches, and he says reality shows. He starts testifying about “Below Deck,” Felice is hooked on that too, it’s upstairs/downstairs in the private yacht world. But the show Adam liked best was…


I thought I didn’t hear right. Couldn’t be. That wasn’t the name.

Adam said it was.

Okay, that was the name of the doctor, but not the show, right?

No, it’s the name of the show!

So I Googled it and it had its own Wikipedia page, so it was real.

And everybody at the table starts testifying about the show, about the growths these people have, how Dr. Pimple Popper saves their lives, how they’ve been afraid of leaving the house… HOW DID I MISS THIS?

I like to feel I’m clued in, I’m reading all day every day to take the pulse, but I’d never heard of “Dr. Pimple Popper.”

That’s the power of people, that’s the power of conversation, that’s when you feel most alive, talking to others, listening and learning.

The time has come, a fact’s a fact

Like global warming, like the power of a liberal arts education, like music. It’s what you do about it. Peter believes you can’t do it alone, it’s about getting together with other people, compromising, making the sausage, executing. It’s all right to complain, but you’ve got to do something.

There are people all over the world doing something. Not that the power of the individual should be dismissed, Greta Thunberg single-handedly motivated students to stand up, to protest, to tell the old men in charge that action needs to be taken. And then she declined the Nordic Council’s environmental award, and its prize money. It’s not about her, it’s about the cause. That’s rock and roll. An unfiltered opinion rendered by someone who is not sold out and is unwilling to cripple their vision.

These are the people we need more of, these are the people who change the world, people who believe it can be a better place.

Where we can feel free to watch “Dr. Pimple Popper” without worrying about our planet burning up.

Peter Garrett wants you to wake up, Greta Thunberg too, because when the beds are burning you don’t want to go up in flames with them.

People are inspiring.

I was inspired today.

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