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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