The Power of Music Comes to Downtown Santa Barbara
The “Sounds of Change” at the Lobero with
Hale Milgrim and Richard Salzberg
By Leslie Dinaberg · Photos by David Cowan
Fueled by a mutual passion — some might call it an obsession — for the connective chords of music, Hale Milgrim and Richard Salzberg have once again reunited to bring us a new installment of their beloved Go to Hale: Quips & Clips series. This one, titled “Sounds of Change,” takes place at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday, November 5, at 6:52 p.m. — though they recommend getting there at 6:22 p.m. for the preshow.
The former CEO and President of Capitol Records, Milgrim has hosted these benefit shows for the Lobero since 2008, using a vast private archive of musical film footage as a springboard to share personal stories of his many years in the music industry, including his relationships with artists before and during his tenures at Capitol, Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch, and Warner Brothers/Reprise, among others. You wouldn’t know it from his warm, generous, and unpretentious modesty, but there’s hardly a big name (Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Paul McCartney, Richard Thompson, Radiohead, Metallica, Neil Young, Tracy Chapman, Crowded House, 10,000 Maniacs, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, The Cure, Steve Winwood, Prince, Dire Straits, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Van Halen, Eric Clapton, The Who, and on and on … ) in the music industry whose life Milgrim has not touched.
Salzberg has been a key part of the Quips & Clips series, a true labor of love for both men, for the last decade or so. They became friends after constantly seeing each other at shows at Santa Barbara venues like SOhO, the Santa Barbara Bowl, smaller clubs, and of course their beloved Lobero. Eventually Salzberg approached Milgrim in the parking lot of their mutual “office,” a k a the UPS store where they do their mailing. “He handed me a live Rolling Stones concert DVD … saying, ‘Here’s some music I want you to listen to,’” says Milgrim, his eyes twinkling at the memory. “That was the beginning of this long-term relationship that’s been around — how long ago was that? Fifty, sixty years ago,” he jokes.
“Richard has added so much to my life. He could be a family member of my wife and I. We love that,” says Milgrim, who met his wife, Anne, while working at the Magic Lantern Theater in Isla Vista. They do indeed get so excited about their music “finds” that they can sometimes spend all day working together and continue texting into the wee hours of the morning about whatever it is they’re watching at home.
I was fortunate to visit Salzberg and Milgrim’s inner sanctum last week to peek behind the scenes to see how they create their special presentations. After a far too quick tour of Salzberg’s extensive musical archives (to give you an idea of how much music he has, the digitized archive is stored on a 32-terabyte drive), we delved right into their production process.
The theme, “Sounds of Change,” and the timing of the show, three days before the midterm elections, are very intentional, Milgrim notes. “I’m going to try to tell some stories of the artists that I was fortunate enough to work with, or ones that we both just appreciate so much that we want to share. We want people to get an idea of why we’re so excited.”
They want to communicate “how music has changed the world and how it changes us,” says Salzberg, providing some insight into why his Music Maniac business card has the tagline “Discover, Appreciate, Share.”
“And you know, music has that quality that’s undeniable. It pulls on your heart; it makes you feel good, or you can feel sad. The great part about it is the different qualities that are bringing, hopefully, some joy, some kind of happiness, or some kind of emotion out of us,” says Milgrim. “In these times that we’re all living, to have a little break from some of the ongoing onslaught that we’re being inundated with, then to have something that you can watch and listen to and let your heart be open to. It’s very special, I think.”
We move our conversation to Salzberg’s state-of-the-art home screening room, where they show me two clips of different artists singing Sam Cooke’s 1964 classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” an obviously great fit for the “Sounds of Change” show.
Both versions are equally powerful and moving, with incredibly different interpretations. I have no idea how they’re going to decide which one to use, especially as Salzberg explains that they viewed dozens of versions of the song before (“Possibly, we’re still undecided”) choosing one. The haunting lyrics still resonate: “It’s been a long / a long time coming / but I know a change gonna come / Oh, yes it will.”
“For the two and a half years that we were all living this other life of celibacy, in a strange sense, one of the things we lost during the pandemic was having people come over. Having people share music or stories or us going to their home — it was a loss. And it’s a loss that we’re not going to be able to totally fill that void,” says Milgrim. “But now we’re all hopefully back and doing our best to make up for it.”
“We think of the Lobero as kind of our living room that we’re inviting our friends to,” they say. Next up is a recording studio session of Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley dueting on “Everywhere I Go,” for the 2014 album Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. This fascinating piece of history (with the added bonus that both Raitt and Browne played shows at the Bowl, where Milgrim was a board member for more than 12 years) is just one of the hundreds of clips Salzberg and Milgrim are considering for the “Songs of Change” program.
What will end up in the show is anyone’s guess, including its two principals. “If it resonates, we’re going to put it in,” says Salzberg. “That’s one of the advantages that we have is that we’re the two that make that decision. It’s all down to us. And we can do it literally the day before or the day of if we want. We’re going to drive other people crazy that are trying to coordinate everything for us, but at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. It’s about spontaneity, but at the same time, realizing we’ve got a program we want to share with everyone.”
And the other key factor is that despite many requests to repeat the shows elsewhere or capture them for posterity, the pair adamantly agree that it’s for one night only.
“You’ve got to come to the Lobero; we’re not going to film it; we’re not gonna do anything that you can watch or see again. If you love music, if you love to be spontaneous, if you’re open enough to hear a couple different things that maybe you’re not as familiar with, this is the evening,” says Milgrim. “November 5, 6:52 p.m. — be at the Lobero Theatre, and you will see something that’s going to be that night and that night only.”