Steven Van Zandt: Hyde Park: A Final Thought

Steven Van Zandt
Record producer, songwriter, and musician

It is obvious by now that everyone regrets the plug being pulled prematurely last Saturday night. The list of potential culprits who turn out to be fanatical fans of Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and Rock in general, extend beyond Jim Allen (CEO of Hard Rock “I don’t tell Bruce Springsteen what to do”), Paul Latham (COO of Live Nation, loves us, has a great college program for Rock, fears a “sword of Damocles” hanging over future events), to Kevin Myers Deputy Chief of Heath And Safety (in the audience!), to the Mayor of London (“an excessively efficacious decision”), to policemen at and enjoying the show like Nick Aldworth.

Regarding Nick and his fellow officers I want to officially apologize for blaming them. I was mistakenly informed it was they who pulled the plug. We know now it wasn’t. I apologize because I was wrong, because I have a lot of cop friends, and because I don’t want the obviously hyperbolic question I asked, “when did England become a police state?” to be misinterpreted as a criticism of the police themselves.

We all know and should appreciate the tough job they do day after day putting their lives at risk for our safety. And we all know with the Olympics upon us their jobs will be twice as hard as the threat of terrorism is very real. I personally lost a policeman friend of mine in the line of duty so I truly understand what they go through on our behalf.

The point I was trying to make, clumsily as the attempt may have been, is we all need to keep a good eye on rules and regulations, enacted with the best of intentions, being carried out rigidly and mindlessly regardless of the circumstance.

Obviously one song more or less at a Rock show doesn’t mean anything, but the motivation for the action — fear — should be instructively cautionary when applied to a bigger picture.

In this case the promoters feared the Westminster Council would revoke their license for future shows. This in spite of being a mere ten minutes past the 10:30 curfew, only one noise complaint, and the six years young Hard Rock Calling festival already being world renowned — an event London, and England, can be very proud of.

12,000 bands applied worldwide to the Hard Rock’s global band search, Hard Rock Rising, for the one slot to open for us because it’s London’s Hyde Park! And there are other shows year round as well that are presented in Hyde Park bringing joy to tens of thousands of people.

Now I’m sure the Council has it’s members and neighbors’ best interests at heart. But were those regulations meant to be immutable? This is how toxic bureaucracy is born. With the best intentions, laws are put in place, entered into the “system” where they live, unquestioned and unchanging, forever.

No one person is ever responsible. No one accountable. No one to complain to. No one ever adjusts it. The “system” just is. That is the mechanism of the Orwellian police state in a nutshell and worthy of being nipped in the bud because a bit too much of our most frightening science fiction is starting to become real lately.

The solution begins with recognizing there is a problem. And then solving it with communication and, hopefully, action.

In this case, it could prove to be useful if the Council, the City, the Promoters, and someone representing the People (remember them?), could sit down and work out a sensible compromise that alleviates the “fear” factor when determining if and when a regulation can be adjusted because of circumstance without the panic of punishment.

Our forefathers spent a good deal of thought discussing democracy and how to employ it in ways that would avoid the “tyranny of the majority.”

Well it doesn’t happen often, but occasionally democracy demands we must be equally vigilant in defense of a possible “tyranny of a minority.” In this case a Council representing, what? 200? 300 homes? Against a rare moment of relaxation and pleasure in an increasingly cold and desperate world for 70,000?

And by the way, at an event that would have been finished by 11:00 on a Saturday night? I think even the Council would agree, those numbers are worthy of consideration, and at the very least, a conversation.

Stevie Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Produces and DJ’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show now in 180 countries. He was a principle award winning cast member of ‘The Sopranos,’ and stars in the new BBC dramedy, ‘Lilyhammer.’

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