Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TMFW 38 - Kenny G Drives Away the Customers

In TMFW 12, I wrote a note about the passing of Billy Sverkerson, whose catchphrase "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" inspired the Semisonic hit "Closing Time."  Since that song came out, it has no doubt been played, night after night, at last call in bars around the world to signal the end of the evening.
Well, probably not in China though.  They already have a song for that.
A few weeks ago, the New York Times had a terrific story about the ubiquity in China of Kenny G's 1989 song "Going Home."  Headlined "China Says Goodbye in the Key of G: Kenny G," the Times story notes that "Going Home" "is piped into shopping malls, schools, train stations and fitness centers as a signal to the public that it is time, indeed, to go home."  How the song became the de facto closing time anthem is apparently a mystery - when one shopowner who has used it for over 10 years was asked why, she responded "isn't it just played everywhere?" 
The story notes a number of anecdotes about the Pavlovian response that the song has created in Chinese society: the gym manager who could not identify the song or the artist but remarked "all I know is when they play this song, it's quitting time," the student who noted "this is what they put on when they're kicking us out of the school library," and the financier who said "whenever I hear [the song], I finish things faster." 
The story features some quotes from Kenny G, who is flattered and who says that while in China he has heard "Going Home" everywhere from Tiananmen Square to "a restroom in the middle of nowhere."  G (can you just call him "G"? What's the protocol there?) wryly noted that when he tours China he saves "Going Home" for the end of his set list so as to avoid a mass exodus.  (A less-kind true music fact writer would suggest that any one of Kenny G's songs might induce that response from him.)
BONUS FACT:  Kenny G - perhaps best known to younger generations as a frequent "South Park" punchline - has sold over 50 million records.  That puts him comfortably in the group of the 100 top-selling artists of all time.  And to think that he basically did it playing the same exact song over and over and over.
BONUS FACT 2:  In 2007, Kenny G's family faced some local controversy when two kids threw a PowerBar energy bar (or maybe a Hershey's kiss) from the property of G's home in Malibu.  The energy bar got some velocity - the home is 50 feet up from the beach - and hit a nine-year-old girl in the head.  She started bleeding and required multiple stitches.  The girl's family was none too happy, and contemporaneous news reports suggest that "detectives are trying to sort out what happened - and who is to blame."  But the story seems to have disappeared after initial reports, so apparently the aftermath was smooth (jazz).

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