Friday, June 18, 2010

What would Claude do?

It is getting pretty hard to avoid oil spill chatter down here in the Land of Flowers.  There was a shining light of levity yesterday when one of the senators from Texas apologized to the BP-Prez for the "shakedown".  Oh Texas, you are always good for giggles.  Still, I thought I would take a little time & reflect on another famous how-did-we-not-see-this-coming disaster & how maybe, just maybe, that big cheese handled it a little bit better.  I am speaking, of course, of the fire at the 1971 Montreaux Jazz Festival.  

Let me take you back.  The festival itself was founded in 1967 by three men, including Claude Nobs (more on him later) who really could not have done it without the backing of several other people.  It lasted for three days & nights & took place in Montreaux, Switzerland at the Montreaux Casino on scenic Lake Geneva.  Nobs had a back ground in catering, tourism & a love of music.  For the first year the festival almost exclusively featured jazz musicians, but it was not long before the repertoire expanded.

Jump forward to 1971.  Anyone who has ever heard the song knows Frank Zappa & the Mothers were on the stage & lets just say, something got away from them.  Specifically, a flare gun.  A stupid with a flare gun.  Maybe I am getting old, but every time I listen to my friends' complain about their kids' music choices I always ask myself: how bad can it be?  I mean, did anyone bring  a flare gun to the concert?  & just in case you are thinking we, at was an isolated, never-to-be-repeated weird fan, less than a week later Frank Zappa was attacked on stage & broke his leg.  Anyway...there is actually of a bootleg of the Monteaux performance (of course there is!) & you can listen to the fire announcement & subsequent panic.

Which brings us to Claude.  Remember Claude?  This is a post about Claude.  As the festival's general manager, Claude Nobs knew the terrain, quite literally.  He knew the building, he knew where the exits were, he knew the floorplan of the old Montreaux Casino so well that he could apparently negotiate it in the dark, in the smoke, dragging another person.  & once he got that person out he went back in for more.  Several people fleeing the arena had hidden in the casino itself & become trapped/lost/disoriented.  Guess who found them & got them out alive.

I don't know about you, but I am not sure how many more pictures I can look at with solemn people in solemn suits saying either "we never saw this coming" or "we should should have seen this coming" or "you should have seen this coming" or "I did see this coming but would you listen to me?" or whatever.  I do not mean to say that if there was negligence (through incompetence, through greed) we should just chalk it up.  I do not think determining if there was, even in a long drawn out expensive process, is bad for moral or prevents people from moving on or is punitive in itself.  I say go for it, do it, lets make this thing so ugly that no big cheese ever looks at a company jet & says "I deserve this more than laborers deserve safe conditions; I need this because my work is so important even though I have no understanding of specifics".  & maybe, just maybe, we can start thinking along the lines of the guy in charge should be the guy who knows the lay of the land because he is always there, not the guy waiting on a report.

As for what would Claude do there is not much more to it.  Funky Claude will be forever lauded for pulling kids out of fire, but he is still the general manager of the Montreaux Jazz Festival.  Sometimes he sits in on harmonica.  Mostly though it is a day to day operation, getting money together, coordinating schedules &, well, managing.

One final note:  just in case yup are having trouble with the metal sound & the gravelly lyrics, I give you this most dubious cover.

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