follow us in feedly
Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull and more performing the music of Kurt Weill

Whether for his avant-garde work of the Berlin Cabaret scene or his later Broadway scores, Kurt Weill is synonymous with forward-thinking musical theater. It’s hard to imagine the 20th Century pop canon without standards like the indelibly swinging “Ballad of Mack the Knife” or the sentimental “September Song,” and in 1985, producer Hal Wilner conceived a tribute album, featuring a lineup of talent that ranged from actual rock stars like Sting and Todd Rundgren to avant/underground figures like Henry Cow/Art Bears singer Dagmar Krause and Downtown NYC jazz figurehead John Zorn.

The album, Lost in the Stars, was the third in a series of composer tributes put together by Wilner, whose prior similar projects included the Nino Rota tribute Amarcord and A Thelonious Monk Tribute called That’s the Way I Feel Now that featured admirably counter-intuitive contributors like Was (Not Was) and Peter Frampton. Wilner’s well-received tribute series may well have helped kick off the fad for tribute albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; his Stay Awake and Weird Nightmare albums, tributes to Disney soundtracks and Charles Mingus, respectively, certainly benefited from appearing towards the beginning of that long-lived vogue.

Here’s Lou Reed, doing “September Song.” He’d record that song again ten years later, and it would serve as the title track to yet another Wilner tribute to Weill. That later album was more focused on historical recordings, and aside from excellent contributions from Nick Cave and William S. Burroughs, it mostly lacked the underground appeal of Lost in the Stars.

Tom Waits doing music from The Threepenny Opera isn’t exactly a stretch, but it’s as awesome as you’d think. His version of “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” and much much more after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Talking Heads: Max Headroom interviews Sting and David Byrne

Max Headroom, now there was a weird-ass experiment. In hindsight the digital character is the very definition of a “curio.” It takes only a few seconds of watching Max to remember just how irritating he was, a stuttering, condescending, smarmy non-entity (literally) who is devoid of content (making him a natural pitchman for Coca Cola, which he was for several national advertising campaigns). Watching authentic artists like Sting and David Byrne interact with Max is a little painful. 

Before the narrative sci-fi show Max Headroom descended on U.S. shores in 1987, British audiences had been “enjoying” The Max Headroom Show, which featured interviews and music videos, throughout 1985 and 1986. In the first clip, Sting is promoting The Dream of the Blue Turtles as well as The Bride, his first movie after Dune, so it must be 1985. True to Max’s essential vapidity, they discuss shoes for most of the interview. The strategy of intersplicing unmotivated stock footage resembles nothing so much as a short film by Lelaina Pierce as recut by Michael Grates, to invoke the Winona Ryder and Ben Stiller characters from Reality Bites.

Of course Sting is inherently annoying—check out his shades—but it’s really not his fault in this case; David Byrne’s naturally distanced temperament works a lot better. Unfortunately, the clip, put up by the official Talking Heads YouTube account, gets badly out of sync after a couple of minutes, but given that it’s Max Headroom, it hardly matters. Byrne is there to promote True Stories, his only directorial feature, so it must be about a year later than the Sting interview.

The Max Headroom Show, not to be confused with the narrative show Max Headroom, was the original Short Attention Span Theater. As many have noted, it was the perfect plastic entertainment for the Reagan era, so much so that Garry Trudeau in Doonesbury turned the sitting president into an unfunny imitation called Ron Headrest.

In retrospect what’s interesting is that the technology was so evidently driving the car—the technical feat of an electronic Matt Frewer cackling at Sting is actually impressive, but the form was miles ahead of the content. Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which hit in the 1990s, evened the scales a bit more successfully.
Max Headroom interviews Sting:

Max’s interview with David Byrne after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Sting, Puff Daddy, Andy Summers, and the case of the misplaced bajillion dollars

The website Celebrity Net Worth has an article about the royalty situation on The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” that is absolutely, utterly fascinating.

Because of the vagaries of music authorship rules, every penny of royalties that is generated by both “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You” goes into the bank account of one Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, a.k.a. Sting. Not Puff Daddy—or P. Diddy either. Not Andy Summers, who is the only member of the Police whose musicianship can be heard on “I’ll Be Missing You” directly. Not Stewart Copeland, who also had a hand in writing the song. All the money goes to Sting—and that money amounts to roughly two thousand dollars a day—seventeen years after the Puff Daddy song was released and thirty-one years after The Police song was released. According to Celebrity Net Worth, more than a quarter of all the money Sting has ever earned comes from “Every Breath You Take”/“I’ll Be Missing You.” The number’s a little more eye-popping when presented in annual form: It comes to $730,000 a year, each and every year for the foreseeable future.

The short version of why this came about is that Puff Daddy forgot to ask Sting for permission to use “Every Breath You Take” before the fact. If he had done so, he would have ended up paying Sting a mere 25% of the royalties. But Puff Daddy didn’t ask, which allowed Sting to take legal action, and that resulted in Sting receiving 100% of the royalties generated by “I’ll Be Missing You.” The other part of this is that Sting is listed as the sole songwriter on “Every Breath You Take”—not The Police, not Sting/Summers, just Sting alone. So he receives 100% of the songwriting royalties generated by “Every Breath You Take,” which in this case happens to include all the royalties to “I’ll Be Missing You” as well.

Famously, the members of The Police couldn’t really stand each other a high proportion of the time, and the recording of 1983’s Synchronicity, The Police’s last album and the album on which “Every Breath You Take” appears, was every bit as acrimonious as the sessions for the Beatles’ Let It Be. Everyone agrees that Andy Summers wrote the undying guitar riff featured on “Every Breath You Take.” But Sting was savvier, and Sting secured sole songwriting credit.

Understandably, Summers is more than a little annoyed about all of this; he’d like to see some of that $2,000 a day flowing into his bank account! Summers has called the song “the major rip-off of all time,” adding, “He actually sampled my guitar… that’s what he based his whole track on. Stewart’s not on it. Sting’s not on it. I’d be walking round Tower Records, and the fucking thing would be playing over and over. It was very bizarre while it lasted.”

Celebrity Net Worth quotes a chunk of a Revolver magazine interview from 2000 with all three members of The Police—the first such interview in fifteen years:

Summers: We spent about six weeks recording just the snare drums and the bass. It was a simple, classic chord sequence, but we couldn’t agree how to do it. I’d been making an album with Robert Fripp, and I was kind of experimenting with playing Bartok violin duets and had worked up a new riff. When Sting said ‘go and make it your own’, I went and stuck that lick on it, and immediately we knew we had something special.

Copeland: Yeah, Sting said make it your own – just keep your hands off my f***in’ royalties. Andy, since we’re here, I’m going to back you up on this. You should stand up right now and say, ‘I, Andy, want all the Puff Daddy money. Because that’s not Sting’s song he’s using, that’s my guitar riff.’ Okay over to you Andy, Go for it…

Summers: [meekly] Okay, I want all of the Puff Daddy Money.

Sting: Okay Andy here’s all the money [pours some change on the table]. Unfortunately, I’ve spent the rest of it.

Copeland: So Sting’s making out like a bank robber here, while Andy and I have gone unrewarded and unloved for our efforts and contributions.

Sting: Life… is… fucking… tough. Here I am in Tuscany…

Copeland: And don’t we know it! You’re in Tuscany in your palace with wine being poured down your throat and grapes being peeled for you. Sting can you buy me a castle in Italy too? With the proceeds from the longest running hit single in the history of radio? Just a little chateau somewhere?

Sting: We don’t have fucking chateaus in Italy, They’re called palazzos. I’ll lend you a room.

By the way, the full interview is completely enthralling reading for anyone who is into The Police. The weird animosity and yet chemistry that Sting, Copeland, and Summers share is one of a kind. They clearly kind of hate each other, or at least Copeland clearly kind of hates Sting, but insofar as they share a friendship and a bond, it’s largely made up of a kind of grudging respect and a taste for rough humor. When the interviewer, Vic Garbarini, decides to join in on the verbal horseplay, he’s rebuked by Copeland: “Now, now Victor, we’re all here pulling each other’s chains, having a bit of fun at each other’s expense. But you can shut the f*** up!” (Asterisks in the original version.)

It’s tempting to think that Andy Summers deserves all of the royalties from “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You.” And surely he does deserve some of them. But if you ask the question, who was responsible for the success of “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You,” surely the names Sting and Puff Daddy are pretty high on the list, right? This is not to deny that the irresistible guitar riff is a major, major part of the appeal, it’s merely to admit that the emotional content of Puff Daddy’s feelings for the (then) recently departed Notorious B.I.G. and Sting’s own spooky, overly serious persona were doing a lot of the work as well. And we’re only even talking about this because Diddy made a stupid error in terms of not requesting permission to use “Every Breath You Take.” But for all we know, that kind of cautiousness would have ruled out “I’ll Be Missing You” ever being recorded or released or becoming such a massive hit. We just don’t know! What we need is a Solomonic figure somewhere to adjudicate who gets what part of the money.

Until then, Sting gets all of it—reportedly, all of it until 2053, when he’ll be 102 years old, should he live that long. As Sting himself once said, “Life is fucking tough!”

Except for him!

All you musicians out there, try to think more like an attorney once in a while!
UPDATE: As satisfying as it is to hate on Sting, I have learned since posting this, that unfortunately, the Celebrity Net Worth article is apparently not accurate. Vic Garbarini, the journalist who conducted the 2000 interview with the Police quoted in the post, writes in comments: “The basic premise that Sting gets all the royalties/publishing for Police songs is simply not true. Early on it became apparent that Andy and Stewart’s unique contributions to Stings songs, really gave them a whole other dimension. So Sting agreed to give each of his bandmates 15% of royalties each, on all his songs.”

So give Sting credit: he recognized an injustice and adjusted the royalty arrangements on his entire Police catalog even though he didn’t have to, from a legal perspective.

Thank you John Kalman!

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Mister Sting’ pusherman? Communist group in Russia calls for ‘drug pusher’ Sting’s arrest

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cherry Vanilla: Lick Me

The very charming Cherry Vanilla discusses her new memoir, Lick Me: How I Became Cherry Vanilla, a book with far more sex, drugs and rock-n-roll per page than probably any book you will ever read! Topics include her role as “Amanda Pork” in Andy Warhol’s Pork in 1970; working for David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust/MainMan era; her punk backing band (young Sting and The Police) and, of course, being a rock super groupie.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Sean Young’s Super-8 film diary from David Lynch’s ‘Dune’ (1983)

Actress Sean Young’s Super-8 film footage offers a fascinating glimpse behind-the-scenes on the set of David Lynch’s Dune. See craft services, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan, David Lynch and Sean Young goofing around.

(via Minds Delight)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Mister Sting’ pusherman? Communist group in Russia calls for ‘drug pusher’ Sting’s arrest
06:28 pm

Pop Culture


Dangerous Minds pal, Chris Campion, author of the scathing Police biography,Walking on the Moon: The Untold Story of the Police and the Rise of New Wave Rock sent me this hilarious item about Sting today:

A Russian communist organization urged on Tuesday the arrest of British singer Sting over his “public promotion of drugs.”

Sting, 58, played St. Petersburg on September 13 and is due to perform in Moscow on Wednesday.

“In April 2010, Mister Sting publically called for “the worldwide legalization of marijuana,” the Communists of Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, a separate organization from the much larger Communist Party, said in a statement.

“Not only communists, but everyone in favor of a healthy way of life, the strengthening of our nation’s culture and tradition must understand that such a figure , however talented screaming teens may consider him, can not appear on stage in the Russian Federation,” the group said.

It also claimed the failure of the police to detain Sting as a “leading” proponent of drug use in St. Petersburg was an example of “double standards, negligence and rotten liberalism.”

The statement went on to call for the dismissal of St. Petersburg’s cultural authorities, and accused them of “pushing our children toward the hell of degeneration,” by allowing Sting to perform.

Sting has yet to comment.

Russian communists call for arrest of ‘drug pusher’ Sting (RIA Novosti)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment