Magazine article The New Yorker

Chum

Magazine article The New Yorker

Chum

Article excerpt

CHUM

Listening party: Is this a thing now? A recording artist has a new album, and the record company invites journalists to come listen to it, prior to its release, with the artist in attendance. The presence of the artist is the lure.

Actually, this kind of thing has been a thing for as long as anyone in the music industry can remember, but now that no one sits down and listens to albums anymore--and now that the easiest way to get someone to listen to something new is to send a link--this thing may be more of a thing than it used to be.

Last Tuesday night, Republic Records threw a listening party, at Electric Lady Studios, on Eighth Street, to allow select guests (which is to say merely that they'd been selected) to hear "Crosseyed Heart," Keith Richards's first solo album since 1992--and to meet Richards. The prospect of hanging out with Keef was, even for hardened hacks, a little like a summons to share a corral with a unicorn.

Listeners (a few dozen) were greeted in the front lounge by a tall man who was guarding an array of fancy Macintosh stereo components worth (he said) a total of two hundred and five thousand dollars. But this wasn't the listening place. After turning over your cell phone, you went down a hallway to the studio itself, where couches and rows of chairs faced a pair of big speakers and a kind of diorama of uncertain authenticity: a padded chair, a microphone, and a table with an ashtray and a pack of Marlboros on it. Real recording equipment had been pushed out of the way: a Yamaha grand, a Hammond B-3, and a rack of coiled audio jacks. Waiters came around with wine and canapes. An attentive listener could hear, above the sound of old blues, listening-party talk:

Keith Richards

"I invited all these people, and now I'm, like, who's here?"

"I'm so sorry to be asking this, but my editor wants a few grafs."

"I love the Who."

"You weren't in L.A. for that small stuff."

"Tuna tartare with coconut rice?"

After half an hour, Richards came in through the control-room door. The calculus of people not noticing him, pretending not to notice him, or really noticing him was hard to decipher; the efforts of middle-aged men to appear cool in the presence of such a figure give off a particular pheromone. …

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