Tag Archives: lawsuits

Music, Politics & Iggy on a Cruise Line

So a question is to what extent does a musician “own” her or his music, not necessarily in a legal sense–which is certainly more than a trivial consideration vis-à-vis the livelihood of people–but in that the music represents, one suspects, though can’t be certain of*, what that person’s beliefs are.

This thought occurred as a result of the law suit filed in the Southern District of New York by Neil Young against the Trump campaign for the campaign’s unauthorized use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk.”

Other musicians who have objected—not all in court—against the use of their material by the Trump campaign over the years include Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Pharrell Williams, Tom Petty (his estate) and The Rolling Stones.

Which brings me back to the original question. Why does an organization like Trump’s campaign think that those musicians in any way represent the thinking, beliefs or social mores of Donald Trump? Aren’t many of these people antithetical to that?

Would, say, the Biden campaign use—unauthorized or otherwise—music from Ted Nugent or Toby Keith?

Music is a fundamental part of our culture. As such it reflects, in many ways, our values.

While one could argue that music has long been co-opted for reasons political and, more substantially, commercial. For example, right now you can hear “Magic” by Pilot in a TV commercial for diabetes drug Ozembic and Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in a spot for Anoro, which is a COPD medication.

And who can forget the soundtrack for a Royal Caribbean cruise line ad from a few years back: Iggy’s “Lust for Life”? A waterslide? An endless buffet? Umbrella drinks? Sandals, socks, Bermuda shorts and overstuffed swimsuits?

In those cases, of course, the songwriters are undoubtedly being compensated for their work, and it is hard to imagine a political case being made against ads for medications (unless, of course, one is anti “Big Pharma,” which Trump has declared himself to be, so one wonders what pop song his people will roll out for that position—the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”: “And all the politicians making crazy sounds. . . “?).

One interesting aspect of the Neil Young situation is that it wasn’t until January of this year that he became an American citizen. “Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989. “Devil’s Sidewalk” was released in 2003.

Which means that the Trump campaign has been not only music from a man who does not reflect or support the candidate’s ostensible positions, but from a man who was, at the time he released those songs, was a foreigner. And we know how Trump feels about them.

*This is problematic in some regards as let’s face it: many songs are written about fictional situations so it is impossible to say that anyone is making authentic statements in their songs, as it may simply be a reflection of what seems to be relevant in the market at the time of composition.

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Of Masks and Money

Unless it is a beach community or a tropical island, both places where the norms tend to be different than in land-locked and less temperate locales, there is a rule that is either openly stated or known so well that it need not be announced:

“No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service.”

While you could conceivably go to a bar in Hawaii sans shirt (assuming male gender) and shoes, were you to try to do the same in, say, Iowa, you would probably be summarily asked to leave—and the asking might not be of the please-and-thank-you nature.

The Three No’s are essentially a rule of decorum that everyone knows. It is a situational rule. For example, even if one were to be flying from Kona to Honolulu you couldn’t board without wearing a shirt. This is not only predicated on the fact that odds are the person would not be a specimen that people would want to have to look at, there is also the fact that no one would knowingly want to sit in 24C after that person spent time in it.

At the present time there is extensively researched recommendations that people should wear face masks (ideally properly wear face masks, which means not having them below one’s nose as that—which seems to be a surprise to some people—is a feature that one uses to breathe, or wearing them around one’s neck, as though it is a bit of fashion flair on an elastic band). So maybe what we need is to add a fourth No to the three (although it would, admittedly, break up the assonance).
Yet there is tremendous push-back by some people on wearing of a mask as it seems to be some sort of admission that the coronavirus not only exists, but that it passes from person to person. Go figure.

During the period of lock-down in several states there were those who rose up and maintained their constitutional rights were being violated because they couldn’t get a haircut. Life, liberty and the pursuit of a razor cut.

Which brings me to a stunning state of affairs that is presently occurring. Some music promoters, who are finding that restrictions against crowds, are suing state governments. For example, one suit has been filed in Ohio against the doctor who had been running the state’s health department by festival organizers, whose ability to put on events is being impacted by such stipulations.

The basis for the suit? Violation of the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In case you’re wondering, the Fourteenth is the one about equal protection under the law.

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The Chain, Broken

Two of the things that have long fascinated me are (1) what makes a band a band and (2) why performers continue to perform long after ordinary people move on to something else in their lives besides that which created their livelihoods.

As for the first point, the issue is that of membership and then lack thereof: if there is a “critical mass” that makes a band what it becomes known to be, does the absence of one or more individuals change the chemistry, as it were, of the band? Does the band contain an individual or individuals such that with out them the band would be something other than it had been? For example, consider The Beatles. If Lennon or McCartney had left the band while it still existed, would it have still been The Beatles? What about Harrison or Starr?

The existing members of a band (or perhaps their manager and/or promoters) typically, when losing a key member, find someone who seamlessly integrates so that there is little difference: Consider Journey post-Steve Perry and Yes sans Jon Anderson: their replacements are cover band material extraordinaire.

Lindsey Buckingham was, in effect, recently fired by his band mates in Fleetwood Mac. And he was, in effect, orally and audibly replaced by two people, Mike Campbell, formerly of the Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn, he of Crowded House.

Presumably, Campbell and Finn got their positions (jobs?) because they would be resonate with what can be considered the “sound” of “Fleetwood Mac,” a band that Buckingham was part of for 33 years: 1975 to 1987; 1997 to 2018. After all, Buckingham was instrumental, literally and figuratively, when it put out Fleetwood Mac, which solidly established the band in a way that resonates today (“Say You Love Me,” “Landslide,” “Rhiannon”) and Rumours (“Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain”).

With the departure of Buckingham, the five-person group has become six.

Continue reading The Chain, Broken

What’s In a Name?

Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, from esophageal cancer. Now Donald Fagen is suing his estate. [Update: Becker’s estate responds.]

The issue, it seems, is the name “Steely Dan.” Or whatever that is.

The two had signed what is known as a “Buy/Sell Agreement” after the band formed in 1972, which essentially lets one member to buy the shares of the other, on behalf of “Steely Dan,” should there be a departure or death. The Becker estate wants Becker’s widow to have the shares.

It is worth taking a look back at the band, such as it was, as one could say that it has always been a duo with an array of supporting musicians.

The first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972. It was followed with a series of annual releases: Countdown to Ecstasy, ’73; Pretzel Logic, ’74; Katy Lied, ’75; The Royal Scam, ’76; and Aja, ’77. There was a short break, as Gaucho didn’t appear until 1980.

In 1995 Alive in America was released. The next studio album was Two Against Nature, 2000, the same year another live album was released, Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party.

The final Steely Dan album was released in 2003, Everything Must Go.

Fagen had four solo albums: The Nightfly, ’82; Kamakiriad, ’93; Morph the Cat, ’06; Sunken Condos, ’12.

Becker had two: 11 Tracks of Whack, ’94; Circus Money, ’08.

According to steelydan.com, in 1973, “The band in various configurations tours the U.S. and Britain.”

Then there was something of a touring hiatus, it seems.

The site notes that in 1980 “Becker and Fagen go their separate ways.”

So the first tour had an assortment of musicians and seven years later, after that flurry of annual albums and then Gaucho, that was it.

Continue reading What’s In a Name?

The Sue Me, Sue You Blues and “Blurred Lines”

There are a lot of music—what? Not purists, exactly. And not scholars. I guess music…grouches—out there crowing about the recent ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell re: “Blurred Lines.” I love Marvin Gaye as much as the next guy and also believe artists should be compensated for their work, but this verdict is nonsense. And the scale of it borders on dangerous.

The core of the case seems to be centered on whether Thicke and Pharrell “stole” Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up” as the foundation for the massively popular “Blurred Lines.” A jury sided with the Gaye estate and awarded them a $7.3 million settlement. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the music industry the last decade-plus but I can tell you making $7 million on any one song is quite a feat. The award basically negates any original contribution Thicke and Pharrell brought to “Blurred Lines.” You can find lots of debate about song structure, melody and scales elsewhere. The important thing to consider is that songwriters now need to document and compensate any and all sources of inspiration or face legal jeopardy.

Now back to those gloating about another upstart “entertainer” (vs. artist) getting what’s coming to him. Consider the number of songs from your favorite (read: legitimate) artists that might not be here if held to the same standard applied to “Blurred Lines.” You can Google how many times Keith Richards has acknowledged nicking riffs from Chuck Berry, and I won’t even get into Led Zeppelin’s long history of “borrowing” from their idols. Just consider two songs from our most beloved band, The Beatles.

If that riff doesn’t sound familiar then you need to go back and listen to “I Feel Fine” again.

Continue reading The Sue Me, Sue You Blues and “Blurred Lines”

Video of Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero

In case anyone’s confused about why Dave Grohl, Krist Noveselic, and now reportedly Courtney Love (who approved the deal) would care about the use of Kurt Cobain‘s likeness in Guitar Hero need look no further than this video:

Video: Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero 5

Love has threatened to sue Activision for allowing Cobain to be used in Guitar Hero 5 to sing songs by other artists, which baffles Guitar Hero CEO Dan Rosensweig who told the NME that Cobain’s estate (controlled by Courtney Love) was fully aware of the terms of the contract to license Cobain’s likeness and that she “cashed the check.”

Continue reading Video of Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero

Danger Mouse-Sparklehorse-David Lynch Album Scrapped

Video: Dark Night Of The Soul

Despite the fact that you can stream the album in its entirety right now at NPR, it looks like Dark Night of the Soul, the collaboration between Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, and David Lynch with vocals by James Mercer, Wayne Coyne, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, Julian Casablancas, Frank Black, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson, Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt, is being scrapped due to a legal dispute with EMI.

Perhaps out of spite or maybe just acknowledging the fact that people who want to hear this music already know how to download it, Danger Mouse is releasing a blank CDR along with the 100-page book of David Lynch’s photos for $50.

This whole thing just seems preposterous. EMI couldn’t work out an arrangement to get this officially released? Or did Danger Mouse just forget to read the fine print on a contract? Either way, it’s a shame. The stream sounds really good: more Sparklehorse than Gnarls Barklay, if you know what I mean.

Dark Night of the Soul: web, wiki, rapidshare.

Continue reading Danger Mouse-Sparklehorse-David Lynch Album Scrapped

Jay Bennett Sues Jeff Tweedy for Wilco Royalties

Well, this certainly isn’t going to help our case to get Wilco to re-hire Jay Bennett: Wilco Ex-Member Sues Jeff Tweedy For Royalties.

In the Washington Post‘s coverage of the lawsuit, they link to our 2002 interview with Bennett wherein he listed all of his contributions to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Update: Jim DeRogatis points out why Bennett needs the money: dude’s having hip replacement surgery. Ouch.

Update II: Tweedy responds in a statement to Paste:

“I know exactly as much as everyone else does. I’ve read the news and I honestly have no idea what these claims are based on. It was such a long time ago. Aside from everything else, I’m being sued for not paying someone for appearing in a movie I didn’t produce. Go figure. I am truly sad it has come to this. I am equally convinced, however, that I have done nothing wrong and that this will be handled fairly and swiftly.”

Update III: Chicagoist has the full text of the public filing.

MP3: Wilco – “Cars Can’t Escape” from the YHF sessions. (M4A too.)

Wilco: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki.

MP3Tunes Sues EMI for Sharing MP3s

MP3.com founder and current MP3Tunes CEO Michael Robertson has counter-sued EMI for distributing free MP3s via MP3 blogs and its own sites, and allowing anyone to download them, “except, apparently, MP3tunes”:

MP3Tunes has made detailed factual allegations that EMI and its affiliates have been engaging in massive free distribution, over the internet, using its own websites, using music blogs and other third party sites, and employing paid content delivery networks, of its song files, including the song files which it alleges MP3 is infringing.

Read the full 10-page declaration (PDF) which provides details of specific song files, including the URLs from which they are distributed. We helpfully link to them after the jump.

Via Slashdot.

Continue reading MP3Tunes Sues EMI for Sharing MP3s