Even without his new CD dropping, Bruce Springsteen has had a few of the most high profile weeks any pop performer could hope for--playing for Barack Obama at the pre-Presidential Inaugural We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and then taking center stage as the halftime entertainment at last Sunday's Super Bowl.
Well, today Bruce Springsteen, or at least his name, was invoked in no less a prime American locale than the floor of the United States Congress--all due to a ticket fiasco in the Boss's home Garden State.
Seems that when tickets for Springsteen's upcoming shows at the New Jersey Meadowlands went on sale at the Ticketmaster website Monday, some fans received an error message on their computer screens that kept them from ordering. They then got an ad for a Ticketmaster subsidiary TicketsNow offering the desired ducats--but at hundreds of dollars more than their face value. After finding out, the Boss blasted Ticketmaster and TicketsNow in a web message, but the outrage has prompted one of Bruce's home state's legislators to move things to a grander scale.
(It should be noted that Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff has offered an apology, stating that "If any fans inadvertently purchased tickets in the resale marketplace believing in error they were purchasing from the initial on-sale, we [Ticketmaster] will refund the difference between the actual purchase price and the face price of the ticket.")
Still, Paterson NJ U.S. Rep Bill Pascrell today called on the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving Ticketmaster and TicketsNow. The New Jersey attorney general's office is also investigating whether Ticketmaster has violated any consumer fraud or ticket resale laws.
We don't know where any of this will lead, but this does seem a pretty historic occasion. It's the first time we can remember the U.S. government doing anything in the name of rock and roll.
Over the years, our nation's lawmakers have launched all kind of investigations into the world of rock--usually to try and bury it. Back in the 1950s, amidst all the Communist conspiracy witch hunts of the McCarthy era, Congress started looking into how radio stations put together their playlists--specifically the playlists of rock and roll radio stations. This result was the "Payola" scandal, which brought to light the age-old practice of record company promo men "gifting" program directors and disc jockeys so their records would get placed into heavy rotation. Working under the theory that kids of their own volition wouldn't listen to records by the likes of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard if they weren't being pushed down their throats by unscrupulous disc jockeys, Congress didn't quite stop the music, though they did bring down the career of Alan Freed, the DJ credited for coining and popularizing the term rock and roll.
And who can forget the mid-1980s governmental "look" into the effect of rock and rap lyrics on the minds of impressionable American youth brought on by the PMRC--the Parents Music Resource Center, founded by future Vice President Al Gore's wife Tipper after she discovered her five-year-old daughter listening to Prince's sexually-charged "Darling Nikki." Among those who wound up testifying before Congress were such "youth endangering" musicians as Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Frank Zappa, as well as "non-endangering" musician John Denver (guess no one on the committee ever heard "Rocky Mountain High.") The PMRC hearings, of course, led to the establishment of the PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS warnings. That didn't stop rock or rap, either, of course. If anything, it just made CDs by just about anybody look more attractive to the average listener. Even a John Denver CD.
So, Ticketmaster, to the tune of "Born In The USA," we salute you. Thanks to your greed, being a rock fan is now okay with Uncle Sam.