Thursday, 27 December 2012

Fontella Bass and the royalties

Last month I sent off a couple of royalty cheques to my musical associates. A modest amount by rock star standards, but enough to make it worth their while to walk to the bank. I mention this because so many in the business lost out on royalties for their compositions. We have just lost Fontella Bass, at the age of 72, who co-wrote the million selling, multi-covered, Rescue Me. A brilliant song and one which is soaked in black American soul feeling. Fontella hardly got a cent from Rescue Me until decades later and much litigation. Florence Ballard of the Supremes was living on welfare when she died. Others cheated out of royalties include Merle Haggard, Meatloaf and Tom Petty, but they are a handful among a cartload of artists who have routinely been denied their fare share.

"Record companies use questionable accounting tactics and contractual provisions to get away with unconscionable things," said accountant Wayne Coleman, whose St. Louis firm has recovered more than $100 million in unpaid royalties for clients, including Haggard. "Of the thousands of royalty compliance audits I've conducted over the past 30 years, I can recall only one instance where the artist owed money to the company." (LA Times)

The record companies simply drag their feet and in the worst cases, just clear off with the money.

Artists will readily admit that they are as lambs to the slaughter. All the ones I have talked to about this recommend that up and coming musicians prioritise the finance side as a number one issue because they knew sod all about it in the beginning.

I have to relate a related, if not on-topic story: Some years ago a friend of mine hung out with a band called The Move. He was also, for reasons he could never quite fathom, a favourite of Don Arden, who at that time was managing The Move. Don Arden is perhaps only known today by some as the father of Sharon Osbourne, but back in the Sixties he was a very serious manager and fixer, having signed Gene Vincent,The Small Faces and the Move. Arden had brought Sam Cooke to England, along with Little Richard and Brenda Lee. He was not one to suffer fools, or indeed to suffer at all. He had a reputation for being very heavy and famously had Robert Stigwood dangled from a balcony by his ankles for attempting to lure the Faces away from Don.

My friend had written a song called Something and it had been recorded along with a Roy Wood number called Blackberry Way. Don turned to my friend and asked which song should be the "A" side, "Something" or "Blackberry Way". My friend thought for a moment and told Don that Blackberry Way was probably the better song, despite having written "Something". The rest, as they say is history. In February of 1969, "Blackberry Way" went to number one.

If you ever have the time, look up "Something". It's a great song, and sung by Carl Wayne, it could have been keeping my friend in decent red wine if he had been perhaps a little less modest in the self-belief department.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Killing

In our household there has been much talk of killing. There has been more talk of The Killing, Series 3 than the killings in Connecticut.

Before I try and explain why this is, perhaps its worth getting the trivia out of the way. I am not going to spoil it for people who haven't seen the marvellous Norwegian crime show, except to say that the end was shocking and put a conclusive end to any speculation that there might be a series 4. It was a Reichenbach Falls moment, in which the author has effectively, if not in fact, killed off the main protagonist. (Of course, Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock at the Falls and as we know, had to resurrect him due to the outraged calls of his fans.) Some of us have become utterly fascinated by these Nordic Noir thrillers. I think it is because for me personally I feel I have something deeply connective with that kind of tired resignation, that lack of surprise when people do very bad things, and an almost perverted fetish for expensive lighting and woolly jumpers. It also bears no relation to the real kind of killing - for example that of Norwegian, Anders Breivik, whose identity was not a mystery and whose apprehension was not an exercise in forensic detective work.

As for the mass murders in Connecticut, the death of 27 people, by a lone gunman, barely out of childhood himself, it seems too distant and also so overwhelmingly real. From a news perspective, this kind of thing seems to happen with depressing frequency. The perpetrator is always a freak, a loner with imagined issues to resolve by the use of indiscriminate violence. The act is banal in its execution and yet so violent and so obscene that it becomes difficult to give it more than a fleeting thought, for, to dwell upon the reality, the loss of life, the heartbreak, the sense of utter despair, is to become helpless with emotion. My knowledge of these killings will not do much more than make me feel how evil can momentarily triumph. It may make me angry. It may make me sick. Whatever it does I am certain I cannot do anything about it.

Or perhaps I can. Perhaps we all can.

Everyone has a breaking point. Some of us have been there. Sure, most of us have not become mass murderers but we may have gotten close to being destructive at some low point in our lives. How we treat each other, how we use every single encounter in our lives may impact profoundly on another person. A kindness, a forgiveness, a leg up, a bit of generosity or honesty - just finding a wallet in the street and returning it - could tip the balance.

For those of us who are wearied with the less positive elements of life, perhaps the answer to our putative helplessness over the killing of innocents, is to make sure we are not guilty of tipping someone we know over the edge. Perhaps I have over-simplified an issue that is primarily about a very disturbed young man who has destroyed many lives and perhaps there is nothing any of us can do about it, but we are after all, the sum total of our encounters and life choices. Why not make those choices good ones, for ourselves and those around us?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

It's only a hat

Can you, with a degree of confidence, pronounce the name Jatenderpal Singh Bhullar? Yes, you probably can. It's important in a way for Jatenderpal is a Scots Guardsman and by all accounts, a credit to his regiment. Not a very Scottish name though, is it?

Well, it seems we shall all have to get used to that an awful lot more because, according to the newly released census figures, and a positively salivating BBC, white Londoners for the first time find themselves in a minority.

But back to Guardsman Bhullar. Guardsman Bhuller requires, by dint of his religion, the wearing of a turban. (I don't know anymore if that is even the Politically Correct term, but it will do.) There has been opposition to this because it precludes him from wearing the traditional headgear of a Scots Guardsman, which consists of one and a half pounds of dead bear. Real, actual, dead bearskin.

People do seem to get het up about the most trivial things. Whereas I do not expect a free for all, I mean, the wearing of a John Deere baseball cap or a ferret, possibly in this instance, Guardsman Bhullar's headwear does have cultural and religious relevance to him and as a member of a proud warrior race with some history of its own, I would let it go and celebrate the fact that England was built upon the loyalty of those who it first colonised and then became a partner with.

As for the alarming growth in non white immigration, I take a less liberal view.

White Britain is at the social, cultural and technical peak of global affairs, along with other white European countries, Jamaica isn't, South Africa Isn't, and neither is Pakistan to name but three of dozens. And yet, members of these countries appear to be able to invade our shores at will, bringing with them all the attitudes and values which are antithetical to our way of life.

Democracy hangs by a thread. It is already the case that some parts of this country are controlled by people who do not subscribe to British values and they make their voice heard by manipulation of our voting system as well as simply being a loud, noisy and tyrannical minority.

Lest anybody accuse me of being unfair, I wonder what would happen if white settlers in Pakistan or Egypt demanded the kind of benefits and privileges we accord to them in this country? The answer is already out there and it is unequivocal.

I had a number of conversations with someone who had lived in Zimbabwe for 25 years and owned and ran a farm. Seeing the writing on the wall they sold up at a loss and left. The new, white buyers thought they were going to make a huge profit on the land and yet, now, instead of fertile plains of profitable crops, that very land lies empty and barren, grabbed by blacks under the state-sponsored scheme. Tales of rape and violence against whites in Zimbabwe are rife, but my farmer friend told me that they are more frightened to be in South Africa, which is going the same way.

It's just one anecdote. But there are many such anecdotes out there. They all point to the same thing. You can impose so called "equality" but you cannot change behaviour and culture.

The best you can hope for is that people who come to this country from less civilised parts of the world may just aspire to live like us, be at peace like us, and benefit from the kind of fairness and common sense accorded to Jatenderpal Singh Bhullar.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


In the days of The Sagas, Icelanders practiced the law of banishment. Someone found guilty of a crime was literally banished from society and its protection. Furthermore the outlaw, for that is what they were, could be lawfully killed. Banishment was meted out to murderers and those who went "beserk" among other things.

It worked in a society that was strongly bound by the family and extended kin and where interdependence was a matter of survival. Often, banishment meant death by starvation or violence from other outlaws.

It is interesting that Holland, perhaps renowned for its liberal attitudes to things like sex and drugs, has instituted the idea of "scum villages" where perpetual criminals and anti-social elements can be housed.

I can see the point of this. Having lived in Rotterdam for some time, many years ago, I was amazed at the fantastic quality of social housing. People were proud of their council flats and the gardens were kept like Buckingham Palace. Of course, Amsterdam is slightly different and has over the years experienced an influx of immigrants from former Dutch colonies.

The only question you have to ask is this: If you are of modest means and your first home is rented from the government, do you want your life ruined by those who take no pride in their homes or, indeed destroy everything that makes your house a home? Do you wish to be awoken in the night by smashing windows, or do you want to be fearful everytime you step out of the front door? Do you want to be verbally abused and intimidated?

Is it not the case that social housing is right? Social housing is the sign of a caring and mature society. But allowing scumbags - drug dealers, violence and filth to enjoy the privileges of the good is the sign of a mad society. It's time to reel in the largesse, the woolly liberal thinking and chuck out those who make the lives of decent people a misery.

It's time to banish troublemakers from the protection of a society that has fought for its values.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A spanking day for the press

There has been a flurry of comment about the Leveson report. It's really a complete waste of paper because, as Guido Fawkes pointed out, Leveson's weighty, four-volume dictum spent one page on electronic media. I tried to catch one of my chickens today with no luck - she ran away. It's the same with mass media. If you think in terms of regulating it on a national basis you are living in the past. The internet is geographically and nationally beyond control. Long may it be. As for the luvvies who live by the media, they also die by the media. It goes with the job. If you get caught with your trousers down and somebody is remotely interested in this, you have to accept it as part of being "famous".

Personally I am not interested that Max Moseley likes being spanked. I was rather sad that he had to leave F1 because of the revelations about his private life. Ultimately, it is none of my business, as long as he does not go on TV and pretend he's a saint.

Having mentioned F1 I feel I must sum up the season. (Non fans look away now)

Lewis appeared much more comfortable in his skin once the news of his move to Mercedes came out. We forget sometimes that these are boys. Most of them are younger than my son. They have to handle a heck of a lot and some do it better than others. Jenson is a case in point. He is laid back and relatively well-adjusted. My heart goes out to Narain Karthikeyan who is probably the worst F1 driver in the business. It's a bit of a contradiction really because you have to be pretty good to get into the sport at all. My tip for next year was Sauber, but they lost their ace card, Sergio Perez to McLaren. It's all in the air, but I still carry the torch for Monisha Kaltenborn, F1's only woman team boss.

In the end, Vettel won the championship because his car was better than the Ferrari of Alonso. My vote for driver of the year though has to go to Alonso for making a mediocre car look good. He does not get sportsman of the year because of the bad grace he and his team showed over the result and throughout the season. Where does that leave McLaren? They have made a massive gamble with Perez. I don't think it will pay off. They need a reliable car and some slicker pit lane activity. Finally a word on Jake Humphrey. I was one of the doubters when he appeared as the BBC anchor for F1. "Oh no, an embryo" I whinged. Well, he did good and it's going to be difficult to replace him. Jake has a distinguished career ahead of him. Perhaps not in the same league as Sir Peter O'Sullevan (incredibly still alive) or Murray Walker (incredibly still alive) or indeed Brain Johnston (dead), but nevertheless, Jake stands on their shoulders.

That's it for now. I don't know if there will be more before Christmas, but enjoy yourselves.