‘Manufacturing hit’ songs: the USA Payola scandal…
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Karl Lyimo
Typography

PARDON for the exaggeration that there’re a bazillion events which happened on a date like today’s down History, and which make January 25 curiously intriguing.

The events range from the tragic to the beneficent – and more in-between! Take, for instance, the two coups d’état took place in one country next-door – but in different years, by different ‘forces,’ and for somewhat different reasons.

I’ve in mind here the January 25, 1971 coup by General Idi Amin ‘Dada,’ Head of the Military in Uganda, which ousted the (elected) Government of Prime Minister Milton Obote. Obote had travelled out of the country to attend a Commonwealth Meeting in Singapore – from where he reportedly blundered by threatening to ‘punish’ Idi Amin for some misfeasance on returning home! Naturally enough, Amin ‘seized’ power to save his job, his freedom – and, possibly, his skin!

Amin may’ve been a ‘Village tyrant’ or ‘Black Nero’ – as described by author Denis Hills in his 1975 book ‘The White Pumpkin.’ But, he knew which side of the Bread of State was buttered – and beat Obote to it! He then declared himself ‘President for Life’ in 1976, as Obote languished in exile in Tanzania. What with one thing leading to another… Sorry, I digress here!

As I was saying: two coups did indeed take place in the same country, Uganda, on a January 25!

The first was, of course, the Idi Amin farce... The second took place on January 25, 1986 when – for all practical purposes – the Uganda National Resistance Movement (NRM) toppled the Government of President Tito Okello. ‘Life President’ Idi Amin had earlier fled Uganda following a successful military invasion of that country by Tanzanian troops and pro- Obote exiles – thus ending the Amin Dictatorship on April 11, 1979.

Then followed a flurry of governmental changes that not only saw to Obote returning to Uganda as President – and then ousted again in 1985 – but that also culminated in the ‘seemingly endless, never-say-die’ NRM Government of President Yoweri Museveni, still in power more than 30 long years later!

Oh, the Uganda story can be so captivating – and yet so distracting… Other equally-intriguing Historical ‘January 25’ events down the years are/were: • England King Henry- VIII secretly (!) married Wife-Number-Two, Anne Boleyn, on January 25, 1533.

• The Winter Olympic Games were inaugurated in Chamonix, the French Alps, on January 25, 1924.

• The legendary Mozambican- Portuguese (?) footballer Eusébio was born on January 25, 1942. • US President JF Kennedy delivered the first-ever live presidential TV news conference in Washington-DC on January 25, 1961.

• Mother Teresa – who’s never heard of (Saint) Mother Teresa, pray? – was honoured with India’s highest civilian Award, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ (Jewel of India, India’s highest Civilian Award), on January 25, 1980… [Incidentally, the award was instituted in 1954, and is conferred “in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order” – without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex].

• Also, ‘January 25’ is observed as ‘National Nutrition Day’ in Indonesia; ‘National Voters Day’ in India; ‘Tatiana Day’ or ‘Russian Students Day’ in Russia and Eastern Orthodox; ‘National Police Day’ and ‘Revolution Day’ in Egypt…

Today, I’ll touch on ‘payola’ – also on account of the historical and historic fact that it was on today’s date (January 25) in 1960 that the US National Association of Broadcasters “reacted to the ‘Payola Scandal’ by threatening fines for any disc jockey (DJ) who’d accept money for playing a particular record!” For the uninitiated, ‘payola’ is Americanism for an ‘undercover or indirect payment (as paid to a DJ) for a commercial favour (as plugging a record)… Simply put, payola is a bribe offered in return for unofficial promotion of a product’ or some such!

The term ‘payola’ was used as a blanket reference in America to a range of corrupt practices in the radio and recording industries.

In the music business, ‘payola’ referred specifically to a practice that amounted to ‘artificially manufacturing a popular hit’ song by paying for it to be played on and on and on over the radio to make it ‘popular!’ This became so scandalous in the late 1950s that the US Congress Sub-Committee on Legislative Oversight conducted hearings into the matter in February 1960.

During the hearings, one DJ – Wesley Hopkins of KYW in Cleveland – admitted to receiving a total of US$12,000 in 1958 and 1959 from record companies as “listening fees for evaluating the commercial possibilities” of records. Boy!

That’s payola for you… As the inimitable Yankees say through the side of their (collective) mouth: there’s no such thing as a free lunch… Or is there, a la payola? Cheers! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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