Last night Hurricane Sandy's victims got a lot of much-needed help, and everybody got a great concert. I mean, come on, people: McCartney sounds as great singing Helter-Skelter today as he did in 1968 - and he's seventy years old. (That's not an argument for raising the Medicare age, though - not until everyone has access to Sir Paul's medical team and trainers.)
Slowhand, The Boss, the Stones, the Who … there was even a Michael Stipe moment. It might have been the best rock benefit yet. Except …
Chase? That's the primary sponsor? Really? Let's see: You can flout the law, deceive investors, walk away with billions … and buy goodwill with a few million in logistical support at Madison Square Garden?
It's true: Rock and roll will never die. Predatory financiers will keep it alive as long as it serves their marketing interests.
Chase's presence at last night's concert didn't discourage Mick and Keith - but then, when has it? Mortgage predator Ameriquest sponsored a Stones tour a couple of years before the Wall Street bubble burst, and we dinged them for it at the time.
"Prosecutors made special note of (Ameriquest's) predatory practices against low-income homeowners," we wrote in 2006, as it "encouraged poor people to over-extend themselves for mortgages they couldn't afford." In a foreshadowing of many more stories to come - millions of them - that story told of family hoodwinked into taking out a mortgage they couldn't afford, only to wind up in foreclosure.
To quote the boys in the band: What can a poor boy do?
Ameriquest's story of greed and predation is also Chase's story. But Chase is different. It's too big to fail, too big to jail -- and big enough to nurture all the political connections it needs.
When you're a too-big-to-fail banker, you can always get what you want.
As someone who was around in the sixties and lived in the music world for a while, I've seen this colonization of the spirit in action. That ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd concert where I brought my wife on one of our first dates in the nineties? Great show, and we had some of the best seats in the house: in the Merrill Lynch skybooth. (I was working on Wall Street and playing in an all-Wall Street rock band at the time. I know, I know …)
What would we have thought in the CBGB's days if we had known that was rock and roll's future? Actually, I know what we would have thought.
Quick story: I was at a risk management conference right before the 2008 crisis. Three guys and a woman from one of the big brokerage houses were playing Rock Band on a 70-inch screen, role-playing as "members" of an early-seventies proto-punk group I once opened for in Max's Kansas City once.
I shouldn't have, but I stopped and said (with a smile), "It's official: Rock and roll is dead."
"No way, dude," one of the young brokers answered. "We're keeping it alive!"
Good luck with that, I said.
I still love (and play) music. I love the fact that we can still get together and help each other in times of need. But that wasn't John Lennon singing "Come together over me" last night. It was Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
We'll give the last word to a commenter from the New York Times, where Jon Pareles was liveblogging the concert, who inspired this little monologue. She or he wrote:
The concert is fantastic! But isn't it ironic that the primary sponsor, CHASE, has willingly caused far more hardship and suffering to Americans than Sandy?
Wouldn't it be great if someone put together a huge “CONCERT FOR CHASE RELIEF” “ (perhaps it could be sponsored by someone named Sandy… just to heighten the irony.) I bet Adam Sandler could come up with a great funny song for this concert, and in between all the music sets, they could tell stories of Chase's mortgage fraud, the LIBOR scandal, and of all the Americans who have lost their homes due to CHASE bank's fraudulent and heartless behavior while Jamie Dimon keeps getting richer.
Ain't that the truth …