googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners: A Clearer Understanding Of The Rodriguez Phenomena

A Clearer Understanding Of The Rodriguez Phenomena

I’m still trying to understand how Sixto Rodriguez, an American musician from Detroit, could have become a huge record seller in South Africa without having learned about it for thirty years. Of course, if I went to see the documentary, Looking For Sugarman, that might explain everything, but that’s too easy.

Back in the Seventies I had a neighbor who brought over some albums that his uncle’s “record company” made. These were records from Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and other popular recording artists that this guy’s uncle bootlegged and sold to foreign countries including South Africa. This makes sense since there was a ban on importing records and entertainers to South Africa to protest Apartheid so the distributors in South Africa wouldn’t be calling the American record companies to request more product and thus rat out their only source, the bootleggers.

If a bootlegger gave Rodriguez’s albums to the South African distributors along with the records from the established stars the South Africans, cut off from the rest of Western Pop Culture, wouldn’t know the difference and might assume that Sixto Rodriguez was as big a star in America as Neil Young. Sixto would never know because his record company would never know and the bootleggers aren’t going to be telling nobody.

Now it makes sense. It is a matter of what my late father used to say: “timing is everything”. If there was an English speaking country we were boycotting now I could send a “bootleg” of my own CD and become a star. Of course my friend’s uncle who did the bootlegging was in prison when his nephew showed me his products. The strange thing to me at the time was that although the records sounded the same as the official versions they had completely different album covers.

The story of Sixto Rodriguez along with the current Olympic games TV coverage reminds me of another example of timing being “everything”; there was a young animation producer who got a contract to produce a TV movie called Animal Olympics. It was actually two made for TV movies; a two hour Winter Olympics and a one hour Summer Olympics TV special that was about animals competing in the Olympics representing their species rather than nations.

The producer pre-sold the merchandising rights to the movies such as toys and comic books and when he decided the finished footage wasn’t exactly they way he envisioned it he started sinking the optioned merchandising money into the productions. After all, he reasoned, after the shows aired he’d recoup all the expenses and what could possible go wrong?

It was 1980 and in protest of the USSR invading Afghanistan the US boycotted the Olympics held that year in Moscow. It was the first time there was no Olympics for America since World War Two. Without the American athletes Russia had the best Olympics ever! But Animal Olympics never aired and he had to pay back the optioned merchandise money, which he spent on production.

Timing is everything and that means it can be both a great opportunity or your complete ruin.


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