“Once a douchebag, always a douchebag,” said the joker to the thief….
BY Uncle Blurt
A number of years ago, when BLURT was just a wee zine, we published a review of pop star John Mayer that began, “There’s something deeply troubling about John Mayer, something I can’t quite put my finger on.” Well, that was then; this is now; and now, there continues to be something troubling about him, but the reason is obvious – dude’s a douchebag. No qualifiers or modifiers necessary.
Which is why, over at the venerable Lefsetz Letter blog, when music biz pundit Bob Lefsetz wrote a column in praise of the young Mr. Mayer, our antennae started twitching. Surely Lefsetz’s many readers would rise up in angst and anger to denounce the guitar slinging goober.
Nuh-huh. Below you can read the scores of letters posted to B.L. in praise of Mayer – including one from ye olde BLURT editor, apparently one of the few voices of sanity and reason swimming in a sea of deaf sycophants. Enjoy!
Incidentally, you can subscribe to the aforementioned newsletter for an up close and personal view of the entertainment industry: Visit the archive: lefsetz.com/wordpress/
LETTERS POSTED TO LEFSETZ:
Dude…I love it when you put one over the fence. I just finished a week at Caesars Palace ha ! It’s all about that established fan base circumventing the current bullshit “what’s hot now” media hype. We deliver live, up close and personal. That’s not to say that we haven’t brought the spectacle, the 22 semi production extravaganza in the day, it’s just that the “what was then” mainstream modes of exposure linked to mainstream perception has converted to other mediums.
Radio is dead….Clear Channel, the largest conglomerate of terrestrial stations is 24 BILLION dollars in the hole. They aren’t coming back.
Currently, there is a void that will eventually be filled
relative to critical mass exposure that has not, to date been established.
Will it be steaming ?
The Jury’s out.
So live, being able to actually, in real time, deliver is and always has been king.
Hype mediocrity to fill the lulls and gaps all you want, this has always been a con the sheep, King with no clothes business but every now and then the real shit, damn the torpedoes phenom pierces through the flack and all hell breaks loose despite the side show warts.
Mayer is a rock solid talent. I don’t give a shit what he’s said or done. Listen to the guitar lead on Gravity. Case closed. Create that wannabe neophytes.
…..ain’t gonna happen unless you’re a freak of nature. Mayer is. He’s a prodigy. If it’s about talent….that shit don’t grow on trees.
That’s who my hard earned money goes to.
Your John Mayer piece was right on the money, an astute assessment of an interesting artist. I could only add one thing – John Mayer has one major quality a lot of the current faves lack: he is a consummate musician, one who obviously spent countless hours with his guitar when he was young. He has a beautifully balanced combination of technique and art, almost as if there was a direct connection between his heart and his fingers. There’s a Youtube video of Mayer playing Robert Johnson’s classic “Crossroad Blues” with Eric Clapton and a killer band, recorded a few years ago on Good Morning America. Mayer’s solo is a revelation, proof positive that three chords are never restrictive for someone who can combine a killer technique with a boundless imagination.
Of course there are exceptions, successful touring spectacles….. u know i just like fuckin w u right bob? hahahaha – PS – that taylor swift song “better man” is fucking awesome. right (wright)
about how she is proving u wrong?…u gotta give it up. she nailed it. better than anything john ever wrote. and me…except picture. truth.
That Wave One EP is great! Love it. Love him, he’s the real deal. Weirdly I just got into the Dead after making fun of them for years. Love the first three records and jerrys solo record. Anyway, cool that Mayer went there, then released an EP that sounds nothing like the dead. I also agree, that cut Moving On, And Getting Over is GREAT!!!
Nice work…thanks Bob
Consistency in narrative. On the one hand you talk repeatedly about the importance of striving to create lasting art, on the other you laude the disposable bubble gum pop of JM, and others getting big play on spotify while pretending the fleeting popularity of current but transient tunes mean something akin to greatness. The guy can play guitar, and clog the airwaves and internet with pure tripe. At times you seem to know what really matters, and others not so much.
A Fairfield boy writing about a Fairfield boy. CTRoots.
“You’re gonna live forever.” From wave 1 is incredible track too.
Don’t forget Mayer appeared with BB King at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015. (Tedeschi-Trucks opened and they jammed with Mr. King as well.) John was low-key and very respectful of the blues legend. His attitude alone won the crowd. And then when Derek sliced and diced the night, Mayer joined BB in praise. The pretty boy—as you called him—was one of us, slack-jawed and cheering a new guitar king. Mayer made 18,000 friends that evening.
Thats a hell of a lot if time to be spending on John Mayer.
Bob, did you catch that BB King reference in “Still Feel Like Your Man”? “Ever since the day we met…” the same lyrical reference in Primitive Radio Gods’s “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand.”
I accidentally discovered JM on his Inside Wants Out acoustic release. The basis of this EP made up Room For Squares.
His music was poppy, yet the lyrics seemed smarter and there seemed to be something behind the curtain.
Each subsequent release was a change in musical direction and experimentation. While I am sure he began to lose some fans from the first record he began to make new ones. Me for one. My wife and I have seen him live at least 10+ times and I became fascinated with what a great guitar player he was. His band are always stellar players and the vibe at a Mayer show is fantastic. Nothing like an outdoor show on the shores of Lake Ontario enjoying a few beverages and watch this man work some magic under the lights.
I have felt like he is most likely the only modern artist who was allowed to move the needle on each release. It didn’t feel like he was sticking to a formula. The John Mayer Trio show I saw in a small club was mind blowing. An excellent musical detour. I believe if you are a fan of good music, of true playing then if turned onto John Mayer, you will become a fan.
The new tour recreates the concert film he did with Danny Clinch with three distinct sets. Should be a terrific night of quality music by one of our musical chameleon’s and a little something for other casual fan and the die hard’s
Cool Planet Entertainment
Been a fan of his since the beginning, and I’m happy to see him weave his way through the gauntlet of stardom and let his guitar talk more these days. He’s written some really really great tunes… but dammit these new songs are godawful. All for stretching out, but here’s to hoping writing good songs aren’t behind him.
Brendan Willing James
Great to hear your take on the new Mayer stuff Bob. The honesty and humanity of it are undoubtedly new and very exciting. With respect though, I don’t his career was ever heading for the dumper. He taught my entire generation how to play the guitar properly. I think you’ll find half of the pop/blues guitarist under 35 in this world are John Mayer lifers.
He’s always been a level above, and hopefully one day he’ll be recognised as being in the same league as the greats.
John Mayer is a bit of an anomaly because he is known as being an especially “true” musician, not to mention his band members are considered the finest working musicians on the planet. That in its self is a draw to see in person… in fact it’s why I bought tickets my self.
Engineer / Producer
I’ve always been a fan of John Mayer’s. yeah, his facial moves while playing live were kind of a distraction and he got bashed for being “mean” and a drunk. He even stayed out of the music grid for awhile, like many, to dig deep and did that alone.
I think that when long time musicians do that (usually mid-to- late career) most come back more humble and more honest with their true feelings and really sing from the heart. If they lost fans over the change, they usually picked up some new ones joined with the locals .
You’re so right about stepping out of the box and going for it. Open yourself up even when you are afraid to because fans relate to that human being stance different from the one of where being too much inside their head keep them with a wall up.
I loved his memorial guitar “Human Nature” for Michael Jackson. But it was easy to see he wasn’t comfortable (or confident) , even though it was a very somber event, at first until Jermaine started singing it in the background and then John let go and played beautifully .
I was an A&R and started searching for musicians on MySpace back in 2005. I remember Tab Benoit messaging me on there and asked me “Ruthie, do you think there is a place in the music world for an older guy like me? I’ve taken off years to be there for my kids and they are grown now, so I’d like to get back in”.
I answered “are you kidding? With just your name alone, people know you from before and no doubt they will again. It’s good to hear that because I’ve always been a fan.”
With maturity in the industry and time off to see where your path is leading you, a lot of musicians prosper. I know Tab did (and maybe still is. I haven’t kept up) and good for John for being himself and real.
Denver and Phoenix
Bob: Great piece on JM. He doesn’t get enough credit so that was really nice to see.
Amen! Saw 6 Dead and Co shows last summer and he killed it! I always “liked” his music but I downloaded both waves and fricken love it them! I’ll be seeing him with the Dead and I’m planning on catching his show too!!!
Very well said. Love what Derek did for Allmans.
You’re missing the #1 thing helping John Mayer! He’s fucking hilarious on social media. Full blown comedian that makes every Snap a MUST watch for any age range. You completely misunderstand his resurgence into pop culture. I haven’t listened to any of his music but die of laughter everyday from Meyer’s antics. Calling Beyonce fit of the year!!!
Head of Digital Marketing
TAO Group New York
Bob, you get better at this, always.
Some day you may even type about why “guilty pleasures” in music NEED NOT BE “guilty”.
Any mortal, no matter how Critically Evolved, who cannot weaken at Karen Carpenter’s voice or John Denver’s songs, is unworthy of Henry Rollins’s farts.
Haha. He’s got you in the palm of his hand. Probably delighted you are putting words to his vision, “catching on”, so to speak. This was always his plan. He knows who he is and he knows his fans (and their ardor and ability to see him too, though of course, be totally open and trusting of him to deliver beyond their expectations. After all, as an artist, your true fans are a reflection of you). He gave himself a longish leash, enough to make ‘mistakes’ on his terms, outside of music. Yes it got a bit out of hand, but musically, he never strayed or betrayed the reason he has a name in the first place. It’s a brilliant arch…
“…..And it can work for you too. If you play to your fans instead of the media.” I love this. And I love you for consistently preaching this gospel.
Well said…reminds me of jazz players…
Michael K. Clifford
Thanks for the wisdom.
Kinda surprised you didn’t mention Snapchat. I didn’t care much for Mayer, mostly because I only heard about him through gossip sites. But after following him on Snapchat, I quickly learned he’s hilarious. I’m a converted fan.
Great article as usual bob!
Wasn’t it Peter Frampton that said, “A pop star’s career lasts 18 months, but a musician’s career lasts a lifetime.”
Cheers to him.
Good one, Bob.
15 plus years ago when MAYER splashed onto the scene with NO SUCH THING, it was obvious…
Not in a long while had anyone that (young) age ‘Hit’ -writing playing and singing on that level.
Old soul, ahead of His time… call it what you will, just glad a kid with this much talent is getting through the ‘machine’ …pretty much intact.
Kevin Patrick Goulet
Bob, I’m one of those Deadheads you refer to (first show in 1979). I was at all three Fare Thee Well shows and while I love Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio, the new Dead and Company lineup with Oteil Burbridge and John Mayer feels much more like the old days. There are tons of new John Mayer fans among us who appreciate what he is doing to keep the music alive. And now many of us are now curious about Mayer’s solo work too which is exactly your point.
David Meerman Scott
Refreshing. I mostly agree. The Playboy interview was detrimental. When he referred his privates to being “David Dukes” after winning appeal oddly with the hip hop community, duetting with Alicia and Beyonce I believe, what did he expect? He was even invited to play at Michael Jackson’s memorial service. They were a part of the Sony family but had never met.
Then he changed his sound and went more country & western and folk. Fine. But just know you may once alienate a section of his audience. An artist should be allowed to grow and change. The John Mayor Trio was a good move. “Born & Raised” and “Paradise Valley” not so much.
I agree the first track on the first EP is encouraging. The rest left me middling. I’ll now listen to the second EP.
And once again, there are other artists that found renewed box office appeal. Ever heard of Diana Ross? Probably not, though she’s from the classic rock era but she isn’t a classic rock artist. But Paul McCartney did escort her around London Town once and she did host a party for The Stones at her Beverly Hills home in the 70s. But she’s a black pop/soul megastar so you probably don’t know who she is.
Great share Bob. I never paid the man much attention until several credible sources kept spouting about his recent Dead appearances, which I would only describe as displays of pure genius instrumentation. I’m not even a Dead fan, but this put both back on my radar, and made me a fan of what they are doing TODAY, after all.
Michael H. Burnett
Nailed it, Bob.
I’ve been telling you this for years
what do you think of “the record company” opening fir him?
(and i dont think he, jm, has the magic of the dead… but a alot of people do
It’s pretty simple Bob, and probably lost on most of the lost souls, he’s a nice guy.
I didn’t know him earlier in his career, and really don’t know him now. But during the weekend of The FARE THEE WELL’ Weekend in Chicago back in 2015 I ran across him a couple of times backstage, and I just watched his interactions with REGULAR PEOPLE and myself. He wasn’t playing the typical ‘STAR’, he was ‘just being a guy’.
Amazing how far being Human will get you.
Lwood (Hank Arnold)
It’s funny. Saw commercials for Mayer on Ellen. Didn’t realize he actually had dropped 2 EPs. Who would have thought he could sell out an arena. Just goes to show!
I know he’s your idol! Lefsetz just gave him further validity.
I saw Mayer live in Dallas a couple years ago. He said he had come to a point where he thought his career was over. He had already accomplished all his dreams he had set out to do. So what do you do after you’ve already seen the top of the business?
He wandered for a while, but said he came back just for music. Only the music.
Bam! What you wrote reflects that journey.
And yes, he’s got some chops.
Hi Bob, I believe I sent you an email a couple of years ago about how talented I thought John Mayer is. And even during the “hits” phase he still surrounded himself with best musicians like Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino. Maybe now that the “hits” are gone all that we can see is the musician. I also saw a clip on Youtube where Eric Clapton talks about how John blew him away during the making of Clapton’s tribute to JJ Cale album and nailed everything on the first take. John Mayer is a rare talent indeed.
I’m so glad you got it.
John has always been a real musician and is VERY clever.
He made money selling “Your Body is a Wonderland”, but he played well enough to play on Clapton records and tour with Buddy Guy.
He made the “bread n butter” top 40 music so he could get a seat at the Grammy’s. Where he could feature onstage with the musicians everyone REALLY respects, because he has the talent.
And make no mistake, this was ALWAYS his plan. I worked for him in 2000. He was always working hard doing the stuff that he wanted to achieve, because the music came so naturally he could turn up on the day and smash it. He is the musical version of the model who eats McDonald’s and doesn’t gain a pound or the Harvard-bound valedictorian in high school who never had to study and could breeze through exams in their sleep. Truth be told the model has a dream to be a veterinarian and has to study for it like crazy and the valedictorian wants to be an ice dancer. Ask him about his tattoo, or his signature line of gig and gadget bags for incase, ask him about John Mayer Has a TV Show or his stint hosting the Late Late Show or the stunts he used to pull in the parking lots at his shows. He’s funny and very committed to every project he undertakes, because he doesn’t have to stress about the money or the fame. Someone is always gonna pay him to play music and fame is neither here nor there for him.
I hope he finds what he is looking for in a woman.
I think you two grew up 1.4 miles away from each other in Fairfield. Surprised you didn’t mention that.
Thanks for reminding us that music is great.
And that John Mayer is incredible.
You really need to get some hobbies dude.
Good guitar player Not a really great creator of original music
Kevin F. Sutter
John Mayer is single-handedly the worst thing that has ever happened to the legacy of the Grateful Dead.
Something will surprise you about John Mayer. Check out how he signed up for his own brand of laundry soap??????
I enjoy your newsletter, Bob, but you’re way off on John Mayer. Except the period when his voice was shot, he’s always been a HUGE star more than capable of packing stadiums throughout the world. We get it; you’re trying to stay relevant, but you’re wrong on this one.
John Mayer is sustaining because he is an actual musician who can play and write. Love or hate his music, he’s never won on gimmicks–the hallmark of the one-hit-wonder (hello Berklee bro Psy). There are still people out here who want to hear a person’s mastery of an instrument wrapped in emotion and intensity. Love it.
John Mayer: once a douchebag, always a douchebag. He has no regard for his audience, and is just another opportunist. It blew my mind when the Dead community suddenly deemed him “cool,” because it was just by association – which of course has always been his m.o. rather than to put in the sweat equity. Mayer is the only artist in the 9-year history of our magazine, Blurt, to receive a “0” star rating (out of a possible “5”) in a review.
I have read a few articles from you in the past, most notably the one about Steve Perry performing with the Eels, and I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy your writing immensely.
I don’t have a good way with words, but you tell it like it is, with no discernible personal feelings included, such as a certain publication out there which I try to avoid. I appreciate the way you talk about the music business as it should be talked about – the artistic performance, and not all the bells and whistles that have been added over the years – just the pure, raw talent.
I loved reading this regarding John Mayer – makes me look at him in a different light and appreciate him more for not caving in to the current music business “rules and regulations.”
I recently subscribed to your email, and I am looking forward to future articles, especially any regarding Steve Perry!!!
Thanks for sharing your own artistic talent with the world!!
I don’t know anything about him and was unaware he went out with weir. Will check him out. My wife and I are about to sail for 4 days on the OUTLAW Country Cruise. All hail live music for 13 hours a day and a bed 100 feet from your show. Peace!
Michael A. Becker
Bob Lefsetz, you shred Lady Gaga for moving away from hits, for experimenting, and then turn around and praise John Mayer for doing the same thing? Name me the difference. Never mind, I know what it is. Gettin real tired of this.
Bruce Hornsby to me is one of the greatest musicians
the world has ever known. Not only did he write some
of the most beautiful songs we have ever been given,
( Mandolin Rain, Lost Soul, sung with Sean Colvin by the way,
The River Runs Low, The Way It is, and Bob…..literally dozens
and dozens more…..so many varied styles and incredible creativity, and mind boggling
virtuosity on his instrument. If you truly understand Bruce it can be summed up
in one quote he made in his career…” I don’t see a song as a museum piece.”
Might not be the exact words Bob, but what he meant was clear if you have ever seen him.
Everything he plays is a living breathing piece of art, that changes and grows constantly, and is never
played the same way twice. I agree that his playing with the Dead gave him new fans, but if you have
truly followed him like I have, you’d realize that Bruce only does what his musical muse tells him to do….
If for a few years it was the Dead, then he played with the Dead. If Ricky Skaggs was next, then
incredible bluegrass was next. If he wanted to spend a year or 2 just working on his left hand piano chops
then Bruce would just practice for hours on end. He made a conscious decision many years ago not
to be locked in a box, by short sighted fans, who only wanted to hear a song the way it existed on the record.
Not Bruce, as he literally plays every style under the sun, with every great musician on the planet, and he
had the faith that his fans would come along for the ride, and Bob, we did, and more and more are finding
him all the time. And what a ride he has given us….He has written iconic songs that we will all know until we die,
The Way It is, Mandolin Rain, Across The River, Jacob’s Ladder, and Every Little Kiss….And he is clearly
one of the greatest piano players who ever lived, as he can hold his own with anyone, in any style, Jazz, rock, bluegrass…you name it…
He is a unique one of a kind, driven not by money or hits, but pushed by his inner creative voice that pushes him
wherever he goes. So while he did get fans by playing with the Dead, I would be willing to bet that had absolutely no bearing on why he did it.
Bruce is an amazing one of a kind genius who is truly a gift to all of us if you are lucky enough to be touched by
his amazing talent.
He also showed up as a guest judge on Jeff Ross’ Roast Battle this season, between all the music and touring, and was great.
Well done Bob! Great points about real musicians.
I remember when John Mayer released Continuum, the bluesy record after his first two poppy/singer-songwriter albums, and I wondered if he did it all on purpose. I saw him tour on Room for Squares and could tell then that he was a better guitarist and all-around musician than the album led you to believe. With Continuum I was convinced that he successfully played the system… release two “for you” albums and get a massive audience hooked and then throw a blues album at them and say “now hear this.”
His personal-life shenanigans…whatever. If you’re picking what music you like based on whether or not you like the persona then you’re missing out on some great tunes. (I sure as hell wouldn’t be listening to the Eagles.)
I’m not even in love with his new songs (or the album before for that matter) but I love that he’s releasing music that seems genuine to where he’s at. The experimentation in itself is refreshing and I’ll support that all day long.
I don’t know what the fuss was about this guy in the first place. I never thought much of him let alone played any of his songs even during the late dinner crowd before my party night started. To me he was only known for those he dated, not his music. Not in my world in any case.
Overrated and couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of an Ed Sheeran.
Spot on. I enjoyed some of Mayer’s early pop stuff, but grew an appreciation when he showed us his true inner musician with the Blues trio material. As a big Deadhead, his work with Dead & Co. reinvigorated the old boys and further cemented his status in my eyes. I have enjoyed the new material, and will hopefully get the chance to catch his tour, as well as his dates with Dead & Co. this summer at Shoreline in the Bay Area. CT guys on the West Coast. Cheers!