Reporter Whitney Jones argues that R.E.M.’s Out of Time is the most politically significant album in the history of the United States. Because of its packaging.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible. I find that non radio, I'm roman Mars, you'll targeted at station I'm grad school in Athens, Georgia, which is a great place to be from the aid, is about eighteen to twenty five. If you like going out the bars, and listening the lions, even though events is a fairly small alistair. Its head is huge. Important music singing for decades and the most this ban to come out of the Athens thing. Undoubtably was ah, to be provocative right from the start. When you say that our aims out of time is the most politically impact an album in the history of the United States, and this provocative reporter Whitney Jones, though I have to say, I don't think at a time
is even the most important album in the history of our. I am actually argument. Here has nothing to do with the music This is not one of those. Oh, it's a sound tractor generation or anything like that. Our time made such a huge impact because of its packaging, the box. Out of time originally came and lead to a bill being passed in Congress and an actual concrete law Let's go back to nineteen eighty five, the pop charts were full of Prince and China Easton and the Youth of America or being corrupted, Paper Gore and a few other elite, women of Washington form the parents, music resource centre or the p m or sea. For short, they put pressure on the creators and distributors of quote unquote objectionable music musicians and labels called this censorship. There were Senate hearings about this and, if So those little black and white parental advisory sticker started appearing on albums. This set off
wave of censorship across the country in ninety ninety, a federal district judge and South Florida ruled that the rap group to live crews album as nasty as they want to be, was so absurd. That it couldn't be sold or performed within his jurisdiction. Three days after the ruling to live, prove point a show and Brower County Florida and, after the show to members of that group, arrested and it was alive performance. I believe that they face the scene with Vienna girls doing what would be like what might forking. I think, It would be a very early version of the talking Jeff air. Wasn't there He sought on Tv- and I just it was just so offensive to me. Jeff was an executive at virgin records and to be clear, he wasn't it and then by the ranch lyrics or the talking. He was a friend. By the arrests and the blatant censorship of the artist work. Jeff spend the next.
Of days knowing this over and then he had a revelation one of them. Is why politicians get away with it because there isn't an anti constituency there was never any thing to lose by baiting, rock and roll because There was this, sir: cannot that people didn't vote an within the next two days. The idea came to me like fully formed in some way, and I came up this name rock the boat for Jeff ERA, the idea behind rock the boat was simply get young people to vote for power missions whom wooden sensor music. That was that simple. It was the idea of you put kids. The game. The game becomes different, artists can no longer scapegoat music. They can't keep using us as an excuse, so Jeff Aaraaf got about sixty people there gather in a LOS Angeles hotel to talk about launching rock the vote, for example, was their past and present Californy the governor, Jerry Brown. Was there as well. Check out other record executives. So there we are.
Part of this virtuous, who have of record executives, who I spent a lot of their career being criticized for destroying the Youth of America and of a sort of like in a very altruistic way, I think we can do some positive in your kids to vote. We can, on its core Also in attendance was Jeff's friend, also record level executive also named Jeff Jeff gold. He was working for Warner, brothers and one of his major projects of the time was trying to figure out how to package cds compact, disc packaging was. Hot topic in the record world and early eighties and early nineties, see Is it been around for a few years at this point, but record stores stood and have a good way to destroy them? Here's Jeff Gold, when Sir These first came out on the market record Retailers were kind of angry about them because their stores were formatted too
displayed twelve and a half inch or twelve, and a quarter inch squares albums. In other words, they have any stands or destroy cases for these new cities, so somebody record industry said: look if you put a city jewel, It's inside of a cardboard box, that's as long as a vinyl album, and only why'd you can fit. Two of these long box these side by side in an l, p problem solved liquor. Retailer should find perfect. And so noisy these things out of nowhere started. Getting may record people loved Belong box. They thought it was the future I had honcho at am. I wrote this opinion, peace and billboard magazine in nineteen eighty nine entitled why we should keep the city long box. He writes quote I want to see. The music industry continue to thrive and prosper as one of the cornerstones of entertainment and I think, making full use of the six by twelve see carton
One way to help us do just that, but everyone will belong box artist, said wait, a minute we I want you cutting down millions of trees. To put cities in and then having people throw these things away. It's incredibly wasteful and bad thing to do for the because the thing about the long box is that it will. Never meant to be collected. Feel of a big mike and eye Carton, bought a CD along box, it open it up. It take out the jewel case, which the actual city in the art in it, and he tossed along there was no reason to keep it around, show Orient record coming out in nice. Ninety one and there saying to me, and two Warner brothers there's no way our record is coming along box. We're censored, the environment. This is a redemption This thing forget it, and the work of other sales department is saying it asked.
We have come a long box or record retailers are gonna penalized and that's. When Jeff Gold got this idea, he could merge the two projects he was. King on, they could use the city long box to advance the rock the boat campaign, but first he needed a concrete political cause to connected to, and Jeff Aaraaf had found just that We were sitting there looking for a raise that try to get us into a political situation. I'm right news weaker time and there's this column article about the motor voter bill. We just said work we are these people from the motor boat, or this was going to be our thing, we're gonna, do so. There's this motor boat or build that's been bouncing around Congress since the nineteen seventies, if passed, Motor voter would allow people to register devoted to the envy when you got a driver's license. It also allowed you to register by mail or when you apply for social services like welfare or unemployment, basically make. And easier for lots of people
including rock loving young people, to register to vote. Ninety one, a few states had already adopted, but Congress had never been able to get past nationally. Jeff gold went to a political event and holly. What about the motor voter bill, and one of the speakers was Colombia, sociologist and political activists, Richard Clouds. He said that writing to elected officials could help sway them on the issue. After clouds talk, Jeff Gold went up and spoke with. Him then went up, and I started talking to a living, What a man of letters would a senator congressmen take note of on a particular issue. Oh I and fifty two hundred That would really have an impact, and I should really left few isn't gather your people, don't write so good. Hundred fifty two hundred letters. About an issue would would definitely make them sit up and take notice that we can Jeff old, was writing, is by around Santa Monica and had moment where it rushed into my mind. This fully formed idea that we could
take. Your worry by turning their long box into a positive. If we put a petition on the back of a long box that would go to rock the boat I support the motor voter bill and we distributed to their respective senators and new week and Jerry unbelievable amount, male doing that Jeff Gold got on the phone with Jeff Aaraaf and they agreed that this would be the strategy They would turn the album long Box into a piece of political machinery and they would flood Congress with support for the motor voter bill that money Jeff called Orioles manager with the plan, is lily all the guys and I'll call you back. I probably heard back from within an hour, and he said, great idea there totally into it. Let's do it so out of time at the record stores on March twelve nineteen. Ninety one and then the petition started rolling in
and I remember vividly maybe for five days after the recorded come out. I mean a very short period of time and they had bags full. These things, It was really didn't credible. Nobody could seem to put their hands on what the exact number of that we got of these were, but I remember thinking plough after three weeks Ten thousand I mean that's. For senator already half of what would your cloud said would make an impact, and these sixty kept coming in droves, canvas bags full of em coming about month after our M released the album rock the votes, political director plus two members of a hip hop group candy wheeled a shopping cart. Full of these. Ten thousand petitions into a Senate hearing, and they just left them. There are four senators window poured the very young looking Mitch Mcconnell,
may have ninety ninety, two, after thousands of petitions and Senate testimony the motor voter bill past Congress, but then President H, W Bush veto This was in July right in the middle of bushes re election campaign, bushes opponent, Bill Clinton took up motor voter as a talking point bashing Bush over his veto. And the rest is basically history, Clinton, winds and ninety two. The bill comes back before the house is actually the second bill that the house takes up in January of ninety three motor voter passes. How's it has descended and then built. Signs it into law as the nor Voter Registration ACT of nineteen neither aim at the White House earlier today, President Bill Clinton signed into law the voter registration ACT commonly referred to as the motor voter bill. We get invited to the wider for the signing ceremony, and it's this totally surreal scene, Jeff and his wife. Are there I'm there with my wife and all the people from rock the boat and
Clinton the signing talked about how rock the boat really helped to make the difference to get this built asked. As I said, I have long support but the idea of motor voter more than a year ago, I promised as president- and I would sign HR too and fight for its passage. I'm pleased to be able to keep the promise today that I made on this rock the boat car still ass. My signature back in their hand shaking his hands after the bill signing we identified ourselves with what you said. You guys got this past. It was really one of the most surreal moments of my wife I want to stop a minute and point out just how bizarre this scene is. Remember rock. The vote had formed in open protest against censorship. Group that was started by new vice presidents, wife, Tipper Gore. You know there's little black and white parental advisory stickers. Those word nicknamed tipper stickers, Tipper Gore's husband, was now
praising rock the vote, and it's a tribute to one group whose voice and organization was absolutely unprecedented: America's young people they rock. I got. So in Jeff Gold says, was really one of the most surreal moments of my life yeah. I think so. It is probably the right word here what's interesting here- is that this campaign It could have only happen during a very brief period of time, because before Clinton, having signed the motor boat or Bill Jeff goal that We found a way to kill off the long box for good hatched plan. Any went to talk about it with the chief financial officer at Warner, brothers Murray, get let it Murray how many these things tat we make a year- and he said I don't know ninety million between the groups, something like that. How much do they costly said? Twenty five cents said: ok, so you're talking about
twenty two: twenty five million dollars a year, one of these expense on long boxes, and he said TAT. I said so- if we start making long boxes and we took that, me five million dollars and gave it in the form of rebates to record retailers just to pay for them to reconfigure their bins, and we did, it is a one time you know discounter payment and They got all the money we saved for the first year and then the rest of time we're saving tool five million dollars. Ear ass, Jeff gold tells it the other Warner brothers executives liked his idea. They took it to the distributor, the distributor went for it, and that was the end of the long box. Some stores got new racks to accommodate the Long Box free jewel cases, others held onto their twelve inch bins but started,
and inside of these reusable plastic cartridges and record companies have been profitable and solvent ever since so long boxes, but the motor voter bill, which, after a pass, became the national voter registration active. Ninety. Ninety three that still very much a thing between one thousand nine hundred and ninety five, when the law went into effect in twenty twelve, the percentage of the voting age population that is registered to vote when more than ten points from sixty nine point. Five percent to seventy nine point: nine. In that same time span more than a hundred and fifty million voter registration have been filled out at the de, but doesn't evening male in registrations or registrations through social services for which the law also provide. So I think that proves it no. Album is as important to politics in the: U S as orients out of time. But the really their most important, album important of other things. That actually really matter is murmur. Musically, of course,
their best album automatic for the people of their rest musical album. Were you I'm thirty you're a child. You don't know anything murmur see. That's my name. You know percent invisible raspberries this week by Whitney Jump into the same Greenspan, Katy, mingle, every Trautmann and me roman law. Whitney Jones and Alex Government or the creators of pitch Memory radio show about music on which this story originally appeared. There Second season starts in August, so miserable
described there podcast now and be the first in line with the new episode start flooding and find out more at here pitch dotcom. We are Project of ninety one point: seven, local public radio, K, L debut in San Francisco and produced of the offices of oxide and architecture firm in near wild Heaven, Oakland, California, we often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website, because her cooped up your thinking about being productive and now square space can help you do it with squares Bates into your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does it because there is to use templates, are created by
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-15.