Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dear Tom;

Listening to "Second Rate," having puffed a bit, and pondering a question of celebrity etymology that maybe you could help with (having composed so fine a tune): where did the term "second rate" come from? Is it based on a band having the "second listing" (or rating) on a bill after a headliner? Does it refer to the popularity of the band (a "first rate" band reflects the number of people who rate them "first," on a purely statistical level?). Is it a rating of a song's frequency of radio play, or the "advertising rate" that stations playing that song frequently can command? Or does it refer to an economic designation: a "second rate" in the price of a ticket (as opposed to, like, "the Bruce Springsteen Rate" and/or "The Neil Young Rate"); or "second rate" in terms of the scale wage the musician gets paid? What is the history of the term "second rate," as it applies to musicians? Is there any objective criterion of ratings against which an artist can demonstrably show they are first rate, and what does it correlate to?

You are of course First Rate by me, Tom! A mere scholarly question!



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