watching the wheels

of a musical

By Wayne Wood

It's only a matter of time before the music industry comes after me, so I may as well come clean. Because, no doubt about it, by their standards, I’m a thief. And I started my career in crime early. In fact, I’ll bet I was one of the earliest music pirates in history. I was reminded of this recently when I found a bag full of old home-recorded cassette tapes.
Actually, “home-recorded” isn’t exactly the right term, because a couple of them were recorded in the Fox Theater on Kingston Pike in Knoxville in the summer of 1972. And, at the time, I thought I was architect of one of the most brilliant schemes ever concocted.
Here’s what happened: you may know that in 1971 George Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh, a fund-raiser to help the people of that country recover from a typhoon that had struck some months earlier. Harrison, who was at the height of his post-Beatles popularity, put together an all-star lineup that included a drummer he was accustomed to working with, Ringo Starr, along with a few other notables including Ravi Shankar (now probably better known as Norah Jones’ dad), Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and, in a surprise appearance, Bob Dylan.
A few months afterward a recording of the concert was released. I wanted it. But it was a boxed three-album set and sold for, as I recall, the princely sum of $12.95. That was some long green for me in those days, and I was still scheming about how I could pull together the money when I noticed that a movie of the concert was playing.
That’s when I got my brilliant idea. For the price of a movie ticket—probably about $1.50 or maybe two bucks, I don’t remember—I would sit in the theater and tape the concert myself off the movie soundtrack. I was so excited at this idea. It was the best idea I’d ever had. It was the best idea in the history of the universe, if you don’t count the light bulb.
So I bought a couple of blank tapes and pestered my Dad into dropping me off at the theater. Luckily the movie was not crowded that night, so I was able to sit away from other people. When the show started, I turned on my recorder and held the plastic microphone toward the screen. I had to peer in the darkness at the recorder to time the turning over of the 30-minutes-a-side tapes so as not to cut off in the middle of a song, and generally did pretty well.
And when I came out of the theater, I couldn’t believe it—for the price of a movie ticket and a couple of blank tapes, I had the Concert for Bangladesh.
Now, it may be occurring to you that the sound quality of a cassette tape recorded on a portable recorder and a cheap handheld microphone might not be great.
You are right.
It didn’t matter.
I listened to it over and over. I’ve probably listened to that show more than any live recording I’ve ever owned, including classics I bought later like the Allman Brothers at Fillmore East and the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. I loved listening to Ringo do “It Don’t Come Easy,” Leon Russell banging out a soulful medley of “Youngblood” and “Jumping Jack Flash,” and Billy Preston singing “That’s the Way God Planned It.” Bob Dylan did four songs, and I soon knew the words to them all.
So I was launched on my life of crime.
The tape recorder was the great enabler to my outlaw ways. I would borrow albums from friends and record them. I would keep the tape recorder cued up by the radio in my room and would tape songs I liked off the radio. Through all this, it never occurred to me that any of this was a legal problem. I was already spending pretty much all my discretionary income—allowance and yard-mowing money—on music, and this was just a way to take in even more music.
Every bit of this was illegal, I guess, but it’s hard to see who I was hurting. It’s not like I had any more money to spend on music, so nobody was losing royalties on record sales. You could argue that I was taking money away from Bangladesh relief, which is where the money generated by the record’s sales went, but movie proceeds went there, too. I guess that why it’s hard for me to get very worked up about the music officials who want to treat teenagers downloading music on their computers like they were holding up liquor stores or something. It may just be the case that because I was a musical delinquent, I have sympathy for the delinquents who came after me.
Sometimes I have another thought. What would these music executives have said had they been around at the time public libraries were being founded? I mean, think about it: libraries buy one copy of a book (using government money, no less!) and then lend it for free to anybody who wants it. Doesn’t that deprive the writer of royalties while giving the product away for free? To be consistent, shouldn’t music executives not only be attempting to put the cuffs on any kid who downloads the Black Eyed Peas or Radiohead, but also campaigning against every public library in the country?
There’s probably some lofty legal distinction here that I’m just missing. And when I’m bewildered by the world, sometimes I like to relax by putting on some music. Hey, I’ve got just the ticket: George Harrison singing “My Sweet Lord” from the Concert for Bangladesh.

(Wood is editor of House Organ, Director of Publications for VUMC, and author of Watching the Wheels: Cheap Irony, Righetous Indignation, and Semi-Enlighted Opinion, which is a collection of past columns.)


July 2006


Nonfiction Winner
"Old Dogs" by Christina Svitek
of Pharmacology

Honorable Mention
Mike Mckaskle

Poetry Winner
"Yesterday's Angels"
by Julie Dykes of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation.

Honorable Mention
Various authors

Fiction Winner
"Carpet Bag" by
Kyla Terhune of Surgery



Medical Art Group celebrates

80th anniversary
with exhibit

Illustration by Susan H. Wilkes, founder of the Medical Art Group,
who was its director from 1926 to 1956.

Current illustrator Dominic Doyle............Robert Vantrease......................Susan Wilkes

The Medical Art Group, founded in 1926 by Canby Robinson, M.D., the first leader in the modern era of VUMC, is celebrating its 80-year anniversary with an exhibit of some of its historical works and personal favorites of the artists and photographers.
The main exhibition is on the mezzanine level of Vanderbilt University Hospital, with additional artwork on the third floor of Eskind Biomedical Library and on the foyer at T-5200 Medical Center North. Some of the work is from the 1920s through the 1940s and has not been publicly displayed in decades, said Tim Gilfilen, director of the Medical Art Group.
Among the artists represented in the show are Susan Wilkes, who founded the department and was its director from 1926 to 1956, and Robert M. (Bobby) Vantrease, who has worked in the department since 1949, was its director for 14 years, and currently continues working part-time. His 57 years of service to the Medical Center make him Vanderbilt’s most senior employee.
The exhibit continues through Aug. 31.

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