follow us in feedly
The Stones & Alice Cooper add zest to vintage documentary on Canadian music scene from 1973

During the opening sequence of this documentary on the Canadian music industry from 1973, The Rolling Stones rip through “Jumping Jack Flash” as the crowd at the Montreal Forum go wild. Mick Jagger struts across the stage, before dousing the audience with a bucket of water and handfuls of rose petals—why? I dunno, each to their own, I suppose…

Not to be outdone, Keith Richards plays his guitar as if each chord struck will bring pestilence, plague, death and disaster down on some faraway land. Richards plucks at his guitar with great gothic dramatic posturing—while in the background Mick Taylor plays the tune.

By 1973, the rock ‘n’ rollers of the early 1950s were middle-aged, mostly married with kids. The new generation of youth who filled their place were long-haired, turned on, tuned in, many believing that music could change the world. Where once rock had been about having a good time, now the feelings it engendered were the driving force for political change. Pop music made the kids feel good—and that feeling was how many thought the world should be.
Well, it never happened, as music—no matter how radical—is in the end… entertainment. Those who took their political education from twelve-inch vinyl platters were quickly disappointed and soon awakened by pop’s utter failure to liberate the world, bring peace and harmony and all that. Nice though this idea certainly was, it was all just a pantomime—like Keef having fun hamming up his guitar playing.

Of course, the music industry is a far more sinister business than this—as this documentary Rock-a-Bye inadvertently points out. From the start, our choice of music was manipulated by long hairs with no taste in fashion as shown by their suits and ties and ill-fitting tank tops. These men picked the records that received the necessary air time to guarantee their success—thus making billions for the music industry. As Douglas Rain quotes one cynical record plugger in his commentary, who claimed if he played the British national anthem “God Save the Queen” on the radio often enough it would be a hit. The youth were only there to be manipulated and sold product—plus ça change….

This is a good illuminating documentary and apart from The Stones, there are performances from Ronnie Hawkins (plus interview), Muddy Waters and Alice Cooper. There’s also an interview with Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin’ Spoonful who lets rip a four-letter word (mostly bleeped out) tirade on the state of music in the 1970s. What Yanovsky forgets is that music is a business and only the amateurs and the rich will play for free.
Watch the entire documentary, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
More images from the Golden Age of HMV, Oxford St

WIth the rumored abandonment of CDs by the music industry, and after the closure of 60 of its stores at the start of 2011, it looks like the writing is on the wall for the British music retail giant HMV. The chain, the largest of its kind in the UK and which launched al the way back in 1921, announced on Monday that it will be selling off its Ritz chain of live venues, and Simon Fox, CEO of the company, has admitted that the 2011 Christmas season is make or break time for the brand.

The passing of HMV would truly be the end of an era, so what better time to take a look back at its glory days? In particular these photos from the retailer’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Street, taken in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and handily collected and posted in two different entries on the excellent Voices of East Anglia blog. The first of these entries was posted over the summer, and did the rounds back then, but the second entry is even better still.

I have mixed feelings about HMV - too many hours spent searching for music they would never stock and I would find more easily at an independent shop, versus occasionally finding incredible bargains on “unwanted” releases lurking in the discount bins (and sometimes a good pop album on sale for less than any other shop.)  But looking at these photos, and the clothes, hairstyles, design and records, the viewer is reminded not just that this is an era long gong, but that it was also a golden age of physical music retailing, the like of which we will never see again.

I don’t think records or record shops are ever going to go away - downsized for sure, but not extinct. However it’s unlikely we will see this much flash (and cash) invested in the humble vinyl emporium ever again:
See more fantastic pictures of HMV at Voices of East Anglia - part one and part two.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Ticketmaster to ‘refund’ booking fees for all customers from 1999 to 2011

More tales of music industry corruption and sleazy insider wheeler-dealing, with an outcome that is a major poke in the eye to the some very greedy bastards. And it’s more than likely that you, Dangerous Minds reader, could directly benefit.

If being a fan of Pearl Jam taught me anything (it was a looong time ago I swear), it was that TIcketmaster suck. They have monopolised the sales of event tickets in the States and made it very hard for bands and promoters to regulate their own pricing and promote independent gigs. Well, now Ticketmaster has been forced to “refund” all its “handling fees” to all of its customers from 1999 up to this year.

Huffington Post reports: 

As the result of a class-action lawsuit, the ticket-pushing behemoth is going to be handing out $1.50 per ticket (up to 17) to everyone who used the site between October 21, 1999 and October 19, 2011. Those who chose the UPS shipping option will be getting a little bit more back: an additional $5.00 credit per order.

It seems Ticketmaster’s processing fees were deemed deceptive because they did not clearly state that Ticketmaster was profiting from them.

According to Business Insider, Ticketmaster will continue to have these fees, but must clearly label them as profit on their site.

Good news! However, I put the word “refund” in quotation marks here because, as some of the commentators on the HuffPo story have pointed out, Ticketmaster are not giving their customers money back, but money off their future purchases. And to a limit of just 17 transactions, maximum.

So while it looks good on paper, in effect every customer who used Ticketmaster is only due a $26 credit note. Unless you used UPS shipping to receive your tickets, in which case you could be due up to $85 in credit, which is quite tidy. But you still need to return to using Ticketmaster to get any value.

But still. Fuck them. It’s great that their very dodgy dealings have been called out in public for everyone to see. And as I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m pretty confident that a high percentage of our readership here at DM will have booked tickets through Ticketmaster at least once over the last twelve years (and very likely more than once at that). So Ticketmaster owe you - get on ‘em!

Thanks to Teamy.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Major anti-piracy campaign accused of pirating its soundtrack

The anti-piracy group BREIN has been accused by a soundtrack composer of not having permission to use his work in their well known “you wouldn’t steal a car” anti-downloading campaign. The image above is a still from the infamous advert, which has been satirised heavily (most famously by The IT Crowd). 

You couldn’t make this shit up. Well no you could - but no-one would believe you. Which is why Melchior Rietveldt, the Dutch musician whose work was used on the huge international ad campaign after it was commissioned for a only one-off screening, wore a wire to record the conversations he had with his national royalty collection agency Buma/Stemra. As if it wasn’t bad enough that his music was used without permission (in a bloody anti-piracy campaign, of all things) Mr Reitveldt was then told by a representative of Buma/Stemra, Jochem Gerrits, that the issue could be resolved if Gerrits was given a 33% share of the possible million-Euro-plus pay out that Rietveldt was due. In effect, a bribe.

Via Torrentfreak:

It all started back in 2006, when the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group BREIN reportedly asked musician Melchior Rietveldt to compose music for an anti-piracy video. The video in question was to be shown at a local film festival, and under these strict conditions the composer accepted the job.

However, according to a report from Pownews the anti-piracy ad was recycled for various other purposes without the composer’s permission. When Rietveldt bought a Harry Potter DVD early 2007, he noticed that the campaign video with his music was on it. And this was no isolated incident.

The composer now claims that his work has been used on tens of millions of Dutch DVDs, without him receiving any compensation for it. According to Rietveldt’s financial advisor, the total sum in missed revenue amounts to at least a million euros ($1,300,000).

The existence of excellent copyright laws and royalty collecting agencies in the Netherlands should mean that the composer received help and support with this problems, but this couldn’t be further from what actually happened.

Soon after he discovered the unauthorized distribution of his music Rietveldt alerted the local music royalty collecting agency Buma/Stemra. The composer demanded compensation, but to his frustration he heard very little from Buma/Stemra and he certainly didn’t receive any royalties.
Earlier this year, however, a breakthrough seemed to loom on the horizon when Buma/Stemra board member Jochem Gerrits contacted the composer with an interesting proposal. Gerrits offered to help out the composer in his efforts to get paid for his hard work, but the music boss had a few demands of his own.

In order for the deal to work out the composer had to assign the track in question to the music publishing catalogue of the Gerrits, who owns High Fashion Music. In addition to this, the music boss demanded 33% of all the money set to be recouped as a result of his efforts.

Unbelievable! I hope Mr Rietveldt rinses these bastards for everything they’ve got. Here’s the original BREIN anti-piracy advert:

Thanks to Paul Shetler.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Nile Rodgers’ ‘Le Freak’: Music biography of the year

Yes, I am aware that Marc Campbell writing on this blog last month claimed that Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson is the music book of the year—which is why I have fudged the terms here and inserted the word “biography” into the headline. Shouldn’t there be a distinction between writers on music and musicians who write anyway? Well, it doesn’t really matter if you are more interested in the story or the music, as Nile Rodgers’ autobiography Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny is packed to the last page with stories and anecdotes that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.

If you consider yourself a music fan, then Nile Rodgers needs no introduction. He is a hardcore, bona-fide music industry legend. He not only co-wrote some of the biggest hits of the Seventies with his partner Bernard Edwards in the band Chic (“Le Freak”, “Good Times”, “We Are Family”), and produced some of the biggest records of the 80s (Madonna’s Like A Virgin, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Duran Duran’s Notorious, Diana Ross’ Diana.) His skills as a guitarist are beyond any doubt and have influenced a generation of musicians not only in the disco, funk and dance genres but further afield in post-punk and even hard rock. At a recent gig in Manchester, Rodgers’ Chic Organisation was joined onstage by The Smiths’ Johnny Marr who sat in on “Le Freak”—the pairing might seem unusual, but listen to their guitar styles and the influence is clear.

Le Freak is Rodgers’ candid autobiography, and what a tale he has to tell. Not only is this one of the most fascinating stories in modern music, with a cast list of some of the biggest stars in the world, but it’s also one of the most under-documented so to hear it coming from the proverbial horse’s mouth is a delight. There’s drugs, sex, rock’n’roll, drugs, booze, disco, hippies, drugs, Black Panthers, bohemians, buppies, drugs and some more drugs for good measure. The years spent playing and writing in Chic, while not given short thrift, are not the main focus of the book. Chic have been well documented elsewhere, in particular the book Everbody Dance: Chic and the Politics of Disco by Darren Easley. But where that book leaves off—namely the coke-fuelled 80s—is where Le Freak really kicks in to gear, with Rodgers working with Ross, Bowie, Ciccone and snorting his way through the GDP of a small country. Any mere mortal would be dead from the amount of coke Rodgers scoffed, but what’s even more impressive is his hardcore work ethic and the fact that he managed to keep it all together (and tight!) while under the influence.

But it’s the early years of Rodgers’ life that are the unexpected highlight. To call his upbringing unusual would be an understatement. Born to his mother when she was just 13, and only a few years before she became a full-time heroin addict, Nile travelled with his mother or one of his grandmothers between New York and LA during the 50s and 60s. His musically gifted father wasn’t present, but Nile ran into him in a couple of times on the street, and got to witness his vagrant lifestyle first hand in a couple of heart-breaking reminiscences. In Los Angeles, at the age of 13, Rodgers drops acid at a hippie pad and ends up hanging out with Timothy Leary. In New York, at the more wizened age of 17, he finds himself tripping balls in a hospital emergency ward as Andy Warhol is wheeled in, having just been shot by Valerie Solanas. This being the kind of incredible life that Rodgers leads, he is able to meet both men later on in life, in very different circumstances, and recount these tales directly to them. He credits events and coincidences like this in his life as something called “hippie happenstance.”

Yet, despite all the major celebrities who make regular appearances throughout the book (I particularly liked the story of meeting Eddie Murphy), this remains distinctly the Nile Rodgers story. It’s clear how important family is to the man, and despite his own family’s unusual set-up and dysfunction, it’s the Rodgers’ clan who are the anchor in this wild tale (even despite their own wild times consuming and selling drugs). Nile’s parents may have been junkies, and genetically predisposed him to his alcoholism, but they taught him about fine art, music, fashion and culture, which is not how heroin-addicted parents are generally perceived by the public.

Le Freak is an excellent book, and worth reading whether you like disco music or not. Nile Rodgers’  is one of the most important composers/musicians/producers of the 20th century, and it’s good to see him finally getting his due. But despite creating the biggest selling single for his then label, Atlantic, and producing the biggest break-out records for a generation of 80s pop superstars, it still packs a punch to read about the discrimination that Rodgers and his music faced from within the industry:

A few weeks later I did a remix of a song of [Duran Duran’s] called “The Reflex”. Unfortunately, as much as Duran Duran liked the remix, their record company wasn’t happy, and I was soon in an oddly similar situation to the conflict Nard and I had had with Diana Ross’ people.

Nick Rhodes called me moments after the band had excitedly previewed my retooling of “The Reflex” to the suits at Capitol Records. “Nile” he began, his monotone stiff-upper-lip English accent barely hiding his despair. “We have a problem”.

My stomach tightened. “What’s up Nick?”

He struggled to find the words. “Capitol hates the record” he finally said.

I was stunned. “The Reflex” was a smash. I was sure of it. This was déja vu all over again.

“How do you guys feel about it?” I asked a little defensively.

“Nile, we love it. But Capitol hates it so much they don’t want to release it. They say it’s too black sounding.”

Too black sounding? I tried not to hit the roof, but in a way it was nice to hear it put so plain. Finally someone had just come out and said it.

Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny by Nile Rodgers is available here.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Nile Rodgers dishes the dirt on Atlantic Records
Miles Davis talks about his art on Nile Rodgers’ ‘New Visions

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Coca Cola sued by record label over the trademark ‘Relentless’

Here in the UK one of the most popular energy drinks (after Red Bull, of course) is the relatively new Relentless. The drink is a trademark of, and is aggressively promoted by, Coca Cola. So much so that in November of last year Coke threatened the Relentless Steak and Lobster House in Portsea with legal action over the typography of their sign. The matter has since been settled.

The tables have turned however, as the established British record label Relentless (which in the past has released music by Joss Stone, Seth Lakeman and KT Tunstall) is now taking Coca Cola to court over the use of the name in relation to music. This could force the drink company to drop the brand altogether. They have already been declined a trademark on their slogan “No Half Measures” because of a Glasgow-based management company of the same name. From The Independent:

The label sought mediation with Coca-Cola but has now issued a writ, calling for the drinks company to stop using the Relentless name in connection with music and to pay damages for trademark infringement.

Shabs Jobanputra, Relentless Records’ co-founder, said: “It is causing real confusion because Relentless drinks has a tented stage at the Reading Festival and sponsors venues like the Garage in London. Artists and managers are asking if we’ve been bought up by Coke. Some artists don’t like that kind of corporate association.”

Relentless, now an independent label after ending a partnership with EMI, is spending valuable resources on the court case. Jobanputra said: “We’ve been trying to resolve this for four years but their attitude is, ‘Let’s see how much money you’ve got’. They are a huge company. But it’s clear that we established the Relentless brand in music, years before the drink launched.”

Coca-Cola declined to comment on the record company’s case, but said it has reached a deal with the Portsmouth restaurant. A spokesman said: “We requested that they redesign the font of their logo. We believed it bore a strong resemblance to our energy-drink design and that this had led to consumers thinking the two were connected.

I await the outcome of this with interest!

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Nile Rodgers dishes the dirt on Atlantic Records
09:06 am


music industry
nile rodgers

As reported last week, Chic guitarist/legend Nile Rodgers is battling cancer. He is updating his blog with regular posts about it, and it makes for a very moving read. If there is anyone left on the face of the planet who doesn’t think this guy is the shit, here’s a relatively recent interview clip where he dishes the dirt on Atlantic Records and Studio 54 dj Tom Savarese’s involvement with “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)”:


Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment