Looking Back: 1993, The Pop Life (Thanks Jayson)

New York Times
December 22, 1993
The Pop Life
By Sheila Rule

The Country Speaks


“Break the silence.” Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Mark Chesnutt, Mary Chapin Carpenter and 40 other country music stars will echo that theme in their industry’s national campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS, especially in rural America.

The campaign, to be kicked off in Washington on Jan. 13 by Kristine Gebbie, the Federal AIDS policy coordinator, is to feature the country stars in public service announcements on radio and television. Fans will hear George Jones say: “Don’t play possum with AIDS. Educate your children.” And Clint Black: “You know AIDS isn’t just some big city problem. An estimated 1 out of every 250 Americans is infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. And that includes small towns and rural communities and counties all across the country. Break the silence.”

Cynthia Ellie Noel Chapman, the campaign’s executive producer, said the initiative was started by Mr. Chesnutt in response to published reports that AIDS is increasing in rural America twice as fast as in urban areas.

“This is the part of the country that country music can speak to directly,” she said in a telephone interview from Nashville. “We’re trying to raise awareness, change attitudes and behavior as much as we can. There are messages ranging from encouraging parents to talk to their children about AIDS to encouraging people to use condoms every time they have sex. The idea was to get as broad a representation of artists as possible, artists from the old guard and the best established new artists. We wanted artists who have their own audiences, audiences who listen to them and trust them.”

Each participating country star is to disseminate information about AIDS at one of his or her already scheduled concerts. Ms. Chapman said that the American National Red Cross would also set up information booths at the concerts. The Dead Lead the Pack

The cultural phenomenon known as the Grateful Dead was the top grossing concert act of 1993, according to Performance magazine, a concert and touring trade journal.

The Dead’s large and intensely loyal following bought 1.6 million tickets to a total of 78 shows for box-office gross receipts of nearly $44.5 million, according to Performance, whose figures are based on reports from such sources as promoters, managers, concert venues and accountants. Next in line was Paul McCartney, whose 24 shows drew 987,005 and gross receipts of $32.3 million. The Dead and Mr. McCartney were the only two acts on the list to play stadiums.

These were the concert acts that filled out the Top 10 after Mr. McCartney:

*Rod Stewart, whose 41 shows had an attendance of 627,537, with gross receipts of nearly $20 million.

*Bette Midler, 50 shows, 368,130 in attendance, receipts of $18.8 million.

*Garth Brooks, 56 shows, 1 million in attendance, $18.7 million in receipts.

*Neil Diamond, 50 shows, 720,177 in attendance, $18.7 million in receipts.

*Lollapalooza tour, 33 shows, 637,541 in attendance, $17 million in receipts.

*Jimmy Buffett, 43 shows, 670,396 in attendance, $16 million in receipts.

*Billy Joel, 32 shows, 560,700 in attendance, $15.8 million in receipts.

*Madonna, 11 shows, 317,593 in attendance, $15.3 million in receipts.

Of the Top 10, Mr. McCartney, Mr. Brooks, Mr. Buffett, Madonna and the Lollapalooza tour were all done for 1993; the Grateful Dead, Mr. Joel, Ms. Midler, Mr. Diamond and Mr. Stewart still had a few of dates to play this month after Performance went to press. Frampton: He’s Back

Remember Peter Frampton? The British rocker was the 1970’s guitar hero whose 1976 album, “Frampton Comes Alive,” became, briefly, the all-time best-selling album. But unsuccessful recordings followed and his star faded. With his new album, “Peter Frampton” (Relativity Records), due out in January, the push is on to revive his career and introduce him to a new generation.

The first step, says Larry Mazer, who is Mr. Frampton’s manager, is to “lock in those people of the old generation.”

“In 1991, Peter did a tour without a record,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of record company interest. Record labels are trying to be hip and cool by signing Seattle bands and rap groups, forgetting a segment of the public that goes to concerts and buys records in large numbers.

“The tour was to get him re-invigorated, to write songs and to test the waters to see what the public’s reaction would be. It started out as a six-week club tour but because of the demand it ended up being seven months. He did 123 shows in front of 600,000 people around the country. That’s when I got the signal that this guy still had a viable core audience, even though he hadn’t had a successful record in many years.”

Another step was to find a record label that would be, as Mr. Mazer put it, “a believer” in Mr. Frampton.

“Relativity Records, an independent label, called,” he said. “They made their mark with left-of-center music. Peter is probably their most mainstream artist. I said we could go with a major label and be thrown into the pie but Relativity had that enthusiasm.”

Mr. Frampton signed with the label early this year.

“We feel that Peter is a hell of a guitarist, he’s a craftsman, a painstaking writer and he can sing,” said Barry Kobrin, Relativity’s president. “He doesn’t look like aged cheese, either; he looks wonderful and is willing to play in front of 5 or 5,000 people.”

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