Thursday, January 06, 2011

Serious lawyer shit

Having at last finished my holiday reading of Keith Richards’ memoir, I have to report being somewhat disappointed that Keef had nuffink to say about the expropriation, by his and the Rolling Stones’ business machine, of royalties from Richard Ashcroft and The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony”.

Readers will recall how The Verve in 1997 had negotiated a license to use a ‘sample’ from Andrew Oldham’s orchestral version of the Stones’ 1965 song “The Last Time” in the production of their “Bitter Sweet Symphony” opus.

The — as it turned out — runaway success of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” prompted the late Allen Klein to sue Ashcroft and The Verve, on behalf of his and the Stones’ interests. It was successfully argued that The Verve had used “too much” of the Oldham ‘sample’, and the court ruled that copyright of The Verve’s song would revert to Keef and his long-time songwriting partner, Mick Jagger. So, now anyone who buys The Verve’s Urban Hymns CD album will find Jagger and Richards as the sole songwriting credit for the track.

Yes, Ashcroft and The Verve used the licensed ‘sample’ quite exhaustively in producing “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (indeed, the sample fairly rings through the entire production).

And yes, even the song’s melody in large part borrowed rather heavily from the original Jagger-Richards composition.

But Ashcroft and The Verve had in fact produced a synthesis of those parts with a ‘value-added’ dimension that was incalculably sublime.

And yet, the court ruled that the songwriting royalties should flow exclusively to Keef and Mick.

Worse yet, Klein had rubbed salt in the wound by doing commercial deals to use The Verve’s sublime work to sell Nike tennis shoes and Vauxhall cars. (For their part, The Verve gave the royalties from their performance rights to charity.)

All this warrants not a single mention in Keef’s memoirs. The great man has simply acquiesced in his business machine’s plundering of the work of a then-vulnerable, young, indie band.

To my knowledge, all Keef has had to say on the subject was in a 1999 interview in which he opined:

“I’m out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”

Yeah Keef, how cool to just be part of a big biz machine.

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Blogger Caz said...

"If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money.”

They did.

Keef lied.

Brilliant song, and I would argue better than anything the Stones ever wrote or produced, but that's me.

I have to go into denial about the whole thing, otherwise I'd never be able to listen to the song without want to whack a few people.

7/1/11 11:14 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Of course, there is also the matter of lawyers only ever acting on the brief given by the client, they don't act of their own initiative or judgment, they're obliged to do what the client has requested. The lawyers job is to work out how to achieve the client's ends within relevant laws.

8/1/11 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Yeah, BSS is a brilliant piece of work. It takes the Jagger/Richards base to a whole new plane. Unfortunately the Rolling Stones Machine (RSM) considered that royalties, rather than imitation, is the highest form of flattery.

Lawyers are indeed hired guns, but the main nasty in all this was Klein, rest his grubby soul, who got in on the RSM franchise in the mid-60s (then later the Beatles, of course), and has been milking it ever since.

Silly me, but I couldn't believe, when the BSS shit storm flared up, that it was Klein and his ABKCO empire behind it all, still with his hooks into the gravy train.

Still! - after all those years when I used to think it all mattered and gave it serious attention. Ahh... show biz!

My nephew gave me Scorsese's Stones concert film thingy a couple of Christmases ago (being a late-boomer, I'm supposed to be vitally interested in such things), so while reading Keef's book I finally gave it a look. Ah, there were Mick & Keef et al being feted by the Clintons. Keef remarked in his book how he was flabbergasted when PM Tony Blair sent him a message of hero-worshipping praise, he seemed to think it somewhat worrisome.

I see Boris Johnson, the lord mayor of London, now wants Keef to be knighted. Not bad considering Keef's a convicted felon, but however much I'd like to see that, it's not likely to happen given Keef's frank diclosures in the book of his own exploits in drugly adventuredom and numerous other peccadillos.

9/1/11 9:41 AM  
Blogger Caz said...

Giving Keef a knighthood would, I think, be absurd, but so was giving one to Jagger. Oh how that step degraded the award.

It would be *worrisome* if it ever comes to pass ... Keef is a man of pretty good judgment, I suspect.

What I gag over, far more, is the continued adulation of the Stones, for no other reason than that they're still alive. Really, what other reason can there be? They look like hell, all of them, but heck, they're alive and in good health, so a standing ovation for that ...


9/1/11 10:03 PM  
Blogger Father Park said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/1/11 12:14 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Got the links right this time...

That knighthood for Jagger tells you all you need to know about the crumbling edifice that is the business of British Royalty.

Keef should be knighted: the British royals and the Stones are about as relevant as each other.

The Stones, creatively, ceased to be relevant after 1978. Faraway Eyes, from "Some Girls", was a song I've always loved and I was inspired to run several red lights in the Lady Rectoress' honour (or for it).

(How did anyone think that Jagger possessed some miniscule pulchritude??!!)

Albums which followed were, like Australian cricket currently, distinctly lacking in any class. Indeed, the much trumpeted "Tattoo You" was a release of older material which never made it to earlier releases. No wonder: any close listening to the "Start Me Up" riff betrays its reworked "Brown Sugar" origins. The stand out single, "Waiting on a Friend", was cut from "Exile on Main Street". New material indeed.

Always liked "Bitter Sweet Symphony" - despite the origins. Then again, I've always had a very soft spot for "You Can't Always Get what You Want" and "Sympathy for the Devil".

Even a Rector has his foibles... In fact I might even have to donate twenty black beers to the Fridge of the Sacred Drinking Liver of Father Park located somewhere in south-western Sydney...

Ah yes, back in days when Whelan's Strathfield Hotel possessed a prepossessing juke box offering such diverse material as Abeline; Lawyers, Guns and Money; ELP; Halfway Hotel; Taxi; Girls' Talk and Can We Still be Friends?. These are just a few I recall. Many more I think have followed the brain cells carrying the memory down the dunny...

Any wonder my Teachers' College assignments were mostly done at Whelans. As I recall the senior barmaid used to ask how many "words" and ask for my car keys at 1,500 and over.

10/1/11 12:28 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Happy New Year, Father Park, to you and the family. Have you folk been at the 'Juk these holidays? I heard somewhere the level is at an historic high.

Anyway let's not overlook 'Gimme Shelter' as another Stones classic in which they achieved a certain magic or grace. From the plaintive opening riff, pure gold.

Re 'Start Me Up', Keef reveals in his book that the riff is an application of the technique he'd been latterly perfecting of 5-string open chord tuning. He gleefully observes that many guitarists have tried but never succeeded in playing that riff for want of that tuning gimmick.

Oh yeah, 'Sympathy' is another Stones gem and was one of the stand out segments in the Scorsese film. They also did an excellent 'Paint It Black' which for some reason wasn't in the film but was relegated on the dvd to 'Bonus Material'.

The pure gold parody of 'Faraway Eyes' is in the film too, for which poor old Charlie Watts was probably very grateful for the spell. He ably manages to keep churning the rhythm, but it seems to take a lot out of the poor old dear.

Caz, re the longevity of the Stones, Keef observes in his book that no-one hangs it on old black bluesmen when they shuffle back onto the stage in their autumn years, so why the discrimination against old white boys, eh? C'mon kids, let's not be racist/ageist.

Anyway, yes, I'd welcome a knighthood for Keef as a splendid illustration of how blood royalty and rock royalty have merged in effete irrelevance. Let it bleedingly well be, have some sympathy and some taste.

10/1/11 10:15 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

And a bloody happy New Year to yourself and yours Jacob!

I've indeed been to the 'Juck - just prior to Christmas. I shall put up a thread....

10/1/11 11:46 AM  
Blogger Caz said...

"re the longevity of the Stones, Keef observes in his book that no-one hangs it on old black bluesmen when they shuffle back onto the stage in their autumn years, so why the discrimination against old white boys, eh? C'mon kids, let's not be racist/ageist"

A few small problems with Keef's observation (as much as he seems an altogether decent and intelligent man, quite cogent despite everything) ... not the least of which is that old black bluesmen don't shuffle back onto the stage in Oz, nor Britain, nor, well, pretty much anywhere, and when they do, it's at the local, not on a world tour, and they don't prance about in tight trousers.

His analogy is extremely limited.

Old bluesmen are not distasteful and they don't try to act as if they're still 25, which is good, because, just by looking, we know they're not!

19/1/11 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

As I understand it, Jagger has always looked after himself physically, and the old boy does appear very nimble and fit in the Scorsese concert film, aside from the deleterious long-term effects of gravity on his jowls. He could be a very effective poster boy for 'healthy ageing'. Unfortunately your typical govt health agency probably couldn't afford him.

Keef on the other hand... yeah well, he in particular looks like hell, as you say; but then considering his 'lifestyle choices' the old boy might have ended up a lot worse than hell. I dunno, perhaps Keef could be a poster boy for the mitigating effects of wealth and privilege.

19/1/11 9:35 PM  
Blogger Caz said...


Can't agree Jacob. Yes, Jagger has always "looked after himself", but he's also always been ugly, and now his face is quite hideous (compare him to other men of the same age; Jagger has aged very, very badly), and his scrawny little body is scrawnier and gristled.

No. Not my idea of a pin up boy for good health. He could easily be mistaken for a man already well into his 70s. I know men his age ... everyone one of them looks youthful compared to Jagger!

As for Keef, well, it's damned miracle that he's still alive, and we're all pretty chuffed about it (for not reason other than that it proves the experts wrong), so it would matter how he looks ... he looks no worse than Jagger, and at least he's a bit wider than a twig. Same age, totally different health decisions - outcome pretty much identical? Yep!

I'd call that an advertisement for doing whatever the hell you want (and crossing your fingers).

Might be a guy versus girl thing: guys are much more admiring of Jagger, I think ... to women, eeck.

19/1/11 10:13 PM  

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