The title of this blog shares its name with a song from Tom Lehrer, one of my favorite songwriters. The opening lines are:
“First we got the bomb and that was good,
‘Cause we love peace and brotherhood,
While the song is about nuclear proliferation, back in the 1960’s it started me wondering about “who’s next” in many different situations. My good friend and talk radio host extraordinaire, Rollye James, and I both have the same opinion about the successor to Elvis Presley. While we didn’t know each other at the time the world was looking for the next Elvis, we both realized it wouldn’t be another good-looking male singer. It would be someone and/or something completely different than The King of Rock and Roll.
When The Beatles burst onto the scene, Rollye and I, independently of each other, realized that they were “The New Elvis.” The Fab Four stopped the trend when they broke up. Even in the early 70’s, the music business had fractured to the point that there would not be “who’s next.” I used to laugh when people would postulate different bands were “The Next Beatles.” Some of the funnier guesses were “Oasis,” “The Knack,” “Fleetwood Mac” and even “The Bay City Rollers.”
When the Beatles were creating music and changing the game, the record company gave them virtual free reign in the studio and didn’t have the meter running for every second they spent recording their masterpieces. Today, bands are charged for every second of recording time. When I interviewed Mick Fleetwood in the mid-1990’s, I was shocked that he said the band hadn’t yet made a dime from their record Rumors. It sold over 40,000,000 copies!
While the record company’s avarice is certainly at play here, the stories about the band’s extended drug and booze-fueled parties in the recording studio bear a lot of the blame for the lack of band profitability. Bottom line: The fact that record companies no longer allow artists to linger in the studio until their muse materializes is a main reason a “New Beatles” have never appeared and probably never will. The proliferation of home recording studios might change that, but there is a major difference between recording in a professional studio with dedicated engineers and a DIY home studio where the artist is both musician and engineer.
In addition to the music industry, there are lots of other opportunities for a “Who’s Next.” The recent death of Rush Limbaugh has many people wondering who will be the next El Rushbo. Like Elvis, Rush’s successor will most likely not be a single Conservative talk radio host. Although hosts like Jeff Katz in Virginia, and Pat Walsh and John McGuiness from Sacramento come could do a superlative job as the Conservative heir to Rush’s audience, they would most likely not work in the long term. Rollye James is an amazing talk radio host, but she is not a strict Conservative, the only type of host who would resonate with Rush’s audience.
Rush Limbaugh’s act, views and passions were forged with his syndicated audience over several decades. While the Conservative hosts I mentioned, along with other, could espouse the proper viewpoints, they don’t have the rapport with Rush’s millions of listeners. While they could develop it over a few years, radio and TV have become the mediums of immediacy. If a show doesn’t deliver the goods quickly, it’s gone, replaced by an almost endless lineup of hopeful offerings.
Rush’s show is so profitable, that, like Jeopardy, the producers and syndicators will go through a litany of guest hosts. These people will be little more than placeholders. Unlike Jeopardy, Rush’s show was about Rush. Jeopardy, masterfully hosted by Alex Trebek, was about the game and the contestants. While Alex Trebek cannot be replaced, the game was the thing. The show will continue to prosper as long as it makes money.
The “Next Rush Limbaugh,” like the next Elvis will be someone or something completely different. The next radio superstar will most likely not look like anything we recognize in the world of talk radio. It might take some time to emerge, but, like The Beatles, it will set the industry on its ass. It will be fun to watch.
Ladies and Gentleman, Tom Lehrer poses a musical question:
© 2021 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.