Road Warriors: Edward Webb

Edward Webb, a partner at Walker Nell Consultants, Inc. The company is a turnaround management and corporate restructuring consultancy.


Kai Ryssdal: No matter how you get it, streaming or downloading or buying an actual CD, music can make things better. That's the idea behind our series Road Warriors from producer Michael Raphael. The soundtracks that business travelers use to get through those long hours they spend stuck in boring airports and generic hotels and in today's installment... Deals gone wrong.

"Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones

Edward Webb: My name's Edward Webb. I'm a partner at Walker Nell Partners. We're a turnaround management and corporate restructuring consultants. And when I'm sitting on an airplane seat waiting to fly out to the next city, I listen to "Sympathy For the Devil" by the Rolling Stones. It's a very human kind of song. Mick is speaking to how the devil -- which is a very scary idea -- is a part of all of us. And that has always made sense to me.

You know, the work I do in corporate reorganization and turnarounds involves me with a lot of bankruptcy, and a lot of people who are going through some pretty significant pain and discomfort in their business, and these are often pretty decent business people who may have made a mistake or maybe not. Maybe they just got caught and found themselves in a bad place. And so when I think about that song and you think about the horrors that it talks about, it's easy to say, well that's not me. I'd never do that. I'm not evil. I'm not a bad guy. But it's human. It's part of the human condition.

The thing that I find when I'm traveling is, I've got an agenda, I have things I need to accomplish. I'm going from point A to point B, I'm catching taxis. I'm having discussions. It is from one thing to another to another to another, and then all of a sudden, I find myself sitting in an airplane seat and I'm just with myself. I'm tired and I'm irritable and I'm beat and I need something to bring me back to people and relationships. Or otherwise, I'm going to snap the head off the guy next to me, 'cause he's sitting too close. And so that's what the music does. It helps me get there. And I'm grateful for it. And meanwhile, it's the greatest rock n' roll. I mean, that band is rippin'.

Kai Ryssdal: We've got a new music section on our website. You can check out Edward's other favorites, offer up your own playlist, or just see what the music was on the show today. It's all on our homepage, Marketplace.org.

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"However, I think we need to stop focusing on changing the system, and instead focus on how the system can be used to accomplish the goals to which you seem to aspire." And finally Mr.Vieceli, I could not agree with you more. I think above you just said that the system needs to be changed. You just said it in your frustrated way of trying to be combative but actually saying that you know the system needs to be changed. Very good man. You may make a lawyer with a conscience after all!

To James Vieceli
Mr Vieceli, your allegations of what I wrote are SO over-ripe with your own threatened feelings. I specifically un-specified Mr. Webb as the object of what I eventually said. And with much understanding I said it. And with no tirade as you have done in exhibiting your own threatened feelings possibly about what you do in your job as a lawyer. It was Mr. Webb's own words that said he is involved with a lot of bankruptcy, and a lot of people who are going through some pretty significant pain. It was his saying that "Sympathy For the Devil" is a very human kind of song. He assumes "Mick" is saying that the devil is a part of all of us. He is saying that has always made sense to him. You can be da**&%^ sure that when one of those Enron executives had the option of realizing that he was going to be stealing the future petty incomes of thousands of employees as opposed to his own self riding off to Cannes on the most beautiful yacht he could buy - that his choice was made SO much easier by saying "the devil is in all of us". This is just "human". It is only "human" for me to be thinking about only my survival. Or maybe he said he was doing it for his wife and kids. The legions of excuses that men have been using for decades in their choosing their own gluttony over at least allowing some elevation to the lower bastions of workers - have been backed up by excuses of only being "human" for as long as we have existed. BP chose to cut expenses and risk lives and devastation, you can be darn sure. And easily while the executives were having fun at strip bars, I am sure "Sympathy For The Devil" fit right in with their follies.
To quote Wikipedia: "Backed by an intensifying rock arrangement, the narrator, with chilling narcissistic relish, recounts his exploits over the course of human history and warns the listener: "If you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste; use all your well-learned politesse, or I'll lay your soul to waste." Jagger states ". . . it's a very long historical figure — the figures of evil and figures of good — so it is a tremendously long trail he's made as personified in this piece."

Jagger is speaking of the Devil. Of Evil. He is not saying that this is a human condition that rationalizes man's inhumanity to his fellow man. He is speaking of the Devil.

I said that the song is great. I said that it would have been more appropriate had Mr. Webb said that this song gave him energy. But Mr. Webb said that this song made him feel "human".

Read some more of the song, why don't you?
The lyrics' focus, however, is on atrocities in the history of mankind, including European wars of religion ("I watched with glee while your kings and queens fought for ten decades for the Gods they made"), the violence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the 1918 massacre of the Romanov family ("I stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change, killed the Tsar and his ministers — Anastasia screamed in vain") and World War II ("I rode a tank, held a general's rank when the Blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank").[6]

The lyrics also refer to the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. The recording sessions for the track were in progress when the latter was killed, and the words were changed from "Who killed Kennedy?" to "who killed the Kennedys?"

Combine that with the title of this section of being "Road Warrior" and the truly human explanation that the term no longer holds anything of meaning other than the killing of men and it does not matter if they are supposedly the bad guys or the good. Killing we have had enough of. Men cheating and excusing themselves by saying it is a human condition to be evil - we have had such a HUGE amount of this, it is distasteful to me to even see how much you personalize your diatribe about how much you are offended.

Ugh. I clarified my opinion was not of Mr. Webb and I rationally stated why the term "road warriors" could easily be changed to something with more compassion in its description. The fact that you are repelled and/or threatened by that Mr. Vieceli makes me realize you will probably be a very successful lawyer. The kind that do not bother to understand who and what they might be representing and winning for.

I have to say that I think this piece is excellent and a great way to showcase everyday people's connection to music. Too many pieces like this overlook the everyday man and their views.

People seem to be attacking this piece solely based on their unfounded distaste for the financial sector. Granted, a lot of bad stuff has come out of finance of late, but deep down we are all humans...and all humans that interact in different ways to music.

Music drives our emotions, our passions, and our dreams. Leave your socialist hats at the door and recognize the intensity of the experience Mr. Webbs is describing.

I look forward to more pieces like these from various Americans speaking about the role music plays in their lives.


I'm a huge NPR fan and frequent Marketplace listener. After catching Edward Webb's Road Warrior/Sympathy for the Devil piece, I had to write to say how impressed I was by Mr. Webb's rationale as to why that fantastic Stones song is his stuck-on-a-runway favorite. His analysis of the lyrics is spot on, and your editing of the lyrics to match his thoughts was perfect. Responding to Mr. Whitmore's negative reactions to the story, of course there is misery and injustice in the world -- way too much of it. But we also have to live our daily lives here in the world's richest country -- and there are thousands of working guys (and women) sitting on runways every day. So to me, this is a totally valid business/human interest story for Marketplace to run. What was such a pleasure to hear was not only Mr. Webb's unusual song choice, but his extreme articulateness about how Sympathy for the Devil speaks so much to him -- about his lifestyle, his career and, most of all, about how he feels about himself. It was such an intelligent, psychological story -- again, kudos to both Mr. Webb and to Marketplace. Perry Mitchell, Atlanta

To Briane Whitmore - with all due respect, your tirade is laden with hypocrisy and negativity. Your self-righteous indignation is just more divisive rhetoric. Who are you to place a corporate restructuring consultant into a category with people that bring misery to others in the accomplishment of their jobs? You have assessed that Mr. Webb is "ego driven" and "ruthless" based on this segment? Your posting is dripping with your ego and with ruthless and biased criticism. Do you have a clue what a corporate restructuring consultant does? What do you do for a living? I don't know Mr. Webb, but I have worked with others that share his profession. They help people make tough choices about a business with the goal of doing what is best for that business - being its stakeholders, employees and creditors. In the end, it's just a business and yes, it involves people's jobs. But those jobs and one's profession are not the same as one's identity, and a profession does not make someone a good or bad person. I'm a corporate lawyer, and like Mr Webb, I have occasion to deal with clients that are experiencing difficult situations. I too help them make difficult decisions, and I have been involved in transactions in which a company or assets of a company have been sold and employees are left without jobs. That's the cycle of business; I don't derive satisfaction in people losing their jobs but that's not my choice. Does that make me a bad person? I know it does not because I am conscious of how I treat others in my professional and personal life.

No question that there are all sorts of terrible things happening in the world, but that doesn't mean that we should take ourselves so seriously every minute of every day that we can't stop to hear about how another person experiences and deals with our society. I relate very much to Mr. Webb in that I often feel irritable and short-tempered on business travel, but I have my own tools for doing my best not to express that in a hurtful or disrespectful manner. Why not take this segment for what it is - a story of how music affects people. Music is a powerful medium, and while I have never interpreted Sympathy for the Devil in the way Mr. Webb described, I was interested in his perspective. And how can you say that the devil or evil is not part of the human condition? Humanity has struggled with good and evil throughout history, but more importantly, each of us struggles each day with good and virtuous thoughts and bad or evil thoughts. The ability to rationalize and choose is what makes us human, and has been and will continue to be our greatest strength and weakness.

Finally, I couldn't disagree with you more about the power reflected in our economic system. Yes, it is flawed, and yes, it has benefited some bad people. However, I think we need to stop focusing on changing the system, and instead focus on how the system can be used to accomplish the goals to which you seem to aspire. Action is what is needed, and a divisive ad hominem is not action.

I apologize to Mr. Webb if he thinks that I was directing critcal assessment of him. I think had he just said that the song gives him ENERGY when he is tired, that THAT would have been more accurate. Everyone KNOWS what that song is about. That is EXACTLY why it is playing behind the trailer for Wall Street 2. It is a song of ruthless debacle. I think a man was stabbed with a poker cue at a concert where they performed that. It is a song speaking about the most decadent parts of all of us. But THAT IS NOT GOING TO ALLOW US TO MAKE IT ANYMORE! This finance program is excellent when it features Greg Mortenson (spelling is wrong) - the builder of schools in Afghanistan. Even the name "Road Warrior" is decadently archaic and only emits what was so macho and violent about that movie. It does not matter that he was killing the bad guys. Killing in itself is nothing to glamorize with a title like "Road Warrior".

And so I think this program today did an injustice to itself. We will have people suffering around the globe for decades because of the excesses of the men of Enron and more. That era ... that mentality ... that ego excited ambition of getting money and fame came and comes at the expense of others. At the expense of our planet. Money Market should have gotten more input before they featured this. The person featured is not the problem. The emphasis and the content is what is the problem.

What does the Dalai Lama listen to when he is tired in an airport. How about Greg Mortenson. Mr. Webbs job is nothing shameful but it is just about shuffling more of the economic powers that be and that will be. And THAT is a problem. Because the economic powers that have been have not been anything to help us sustain our planet or the people on it.

Forgive my critical assessment here. Perhaps it is because today one of the perpetrators of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, was indicted and emphasis was again on the details of that story. Perhaps it is because I just saw the preview of the next "Wall Street" with Michael Douglas and all of the "Greed is Good" and shine and glitz of money and its possessions was all shown with the back drop of the Stones playing "Sympathy for the Devil". Perhaps it is because I grew up with Mick Jagger and love all of the Rolling Stones music and have seen them many times, including when that particular song came out. I know what was going on then, I know that Jagger was at the height of his player rocker charisma. I know that the song does speak about the devil but what I do not know is that it encompasses what this man said. That the devil is in all of us and it is part of the human condition.

You chose to give this man a fair amount of minutes so that we could hear what he does, how he gets tired in his work, what he thinks about the possible people he might very likely be bringing misery to in the accomplishment of his job, and we know that he turns this song on and listens to it to once again feel more "human".

I am sorry. But you gave too much time to this person. Who only spoke like a male player who is so self-important that he trivializes what he thinks is something of the devil that is just part of the human condition.

NO! It is not part of the human condition. The song is a great song but it was written and performed first years and years ago before thousands of more lives were brutally lost and before thousands and thousands of jobs were selfishly fired by thousands and thousands of men who have committed "human condition" acts that have only taken our planet down and our society down and we do not need these type of men anymore.

We don't care about this man and how tired he is after he has gone and destroyed lives in the functioning of his company's job for him. We don't need to know what he finds enlightening to listen to that is supposedly a song that makes us feel more human. It does not. It is a song of great raucous ego and blustering syncopated pain and it pulses with the type of Mel Gibson Road Warrior who most definitely has lost his way. Road Warrior my butt.

We need Road Heroes. We need men of compassion who don't think that what they listen to in the airport is necessary for us to hear when the stories could be speaking about the latest female who is still being stoned to death in Afghanistan, or the latest family that does not have enough money to afford its antibiotics for its children's strep throats.

This type of "Road Warrior" that you highlighted to give us such enlightened information is not the subject of my personal attack. It is what your radio station thought was something valid and catchy and rhythmic and male-driven finance ruthless greedy "I am stressed so get out of my way and let me be the devil".

Our planet is suffering. Human beings are suffering. Who gives a &&%%T what this antiquated ego driven ruthless road warrior wants to listen to that is 20 years old.

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