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Originally Published: September 1974
Author: Patrick Carr
Here’s Alice with his boa constrictor. That one got no end of publicity. It’s a shame he isn’t pictured here with Salvador Dali and the hologram they did together, because that one got even more publicity. In case you didn’t know it, publicity is what it’s all about. It’s a shame he doesn’t have his manager, Shep Gordon, with him either. Shep had a lot to do with it all. He’s the one who took a moderately offensive Midwestern lad and his mates in the band and made a monster of them. Turning Alice into Alice was no easy task. Oh, no. Seven years it took - seven years of hype.
The thing about Alice, see, is that he’s really a very sweet, easygoing, beer-swilling layabout who writes pretty good, horrible rock-and-roll songs. The other thing about Alice is that everybody in the music biz knows it. So, you see, what you have here is a good, nice easygoing Midwestern layabout, with the nicest most intelligent, most cultured, most businesslike manager in rock, who runs around making up ridiculously classy publicity stunts that blow the minds of those who don’t know what's going on and also endears him to all the poor, bored old pros in the music business.
I mean, you could get into all that stuff about the guillotine as art, the skewered babies metaphor, the sewer look as the theme of the Seventies - but nobody really gives a shit. The clincher is that Shep spends money with class. Here’s to you, Shep! We all need a good hype and you’re one of the best around.
For an understanding of the root of hype in the technological age, we must turn to Marshall MassMedia, who once wrote that "any comprehension of the workings of the media must take into account the complex system of checks and balances, deposits and withdrawals imposed upon the media by those whose livelihoods are derived from the media. Thus we may conclude that everything one hears, sees, or reads by means of the media is to some extent a barefaced lie."
That quote is tacked on every publicist’s wall from San Diego to Hackensack.
But can you imagine a rock world without hype? We live in and age of staggering informational inputs. We are confused, tired, embarrassed, unable to find true "us". Anything that Shep or anybody else can do to clean up the mess is welcome. This is the one true, useful social function of hype. Hype, like death, clarifies the mind. Hype makes it possible for an individual to know what is popular with his peers, and this sharing of experience if vital to cultural cohesion. It matters not that if something is hyped, it was not popular before it was hyped; what matters is that the rise to popularity of an artist or group, through hype, can be shared by everybody.
A modern world without hype would be intolerable. The alternative? I'll tell you what it is. It’s just a bunch of skinny, dirty old musicicans playing pipes in a sandstorm, and another bunch down the coast, totally out of touch, singing at the nets and stinking of fish.
And no Rolling Stone. And no bell bottoms.