Friday, March 13, 2015

Record Store Day 2015

A Limited edition 12" single of Todd Rundgren / Lindstrom / Emil Nikolaisen - Put Your Arms Around Me will be released for this year's RSD.

Piano pop ballads

Rolling Stone (Australia) has an interview with Tobias Jesso Jr. , a Canadian singer songwriter (who he counts Taylor Swift and Adele as fans) whose debut album, Goon, they claim is one of the most anticipated of the year. Clearly if I am mentioning this at all you know that he must mention Todd, and he does.

With its sunny melodies and heartsick subject matter, Goon earned comparisons to Harry Nilsson, Nick Drake, Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren – artists Jesso wasn't even familiar with. "I wasn't a big music-digger," he admits. "When it came to oldies stuff, I didn't know Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson and stuff like that, but when I was writing, J.R. [White] would say, 'I get this Todd Rundgren vibe.' He would send me those songs, and then I'd learn the chords." Still, Jesso says, he wants a contemporary record and plans to move away from the throwback.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blurred Law

The Yahoo Music blog has one of the best discussions on the terrible 'Blurred Lines' court decision yesterday (now being appealed), and mentioned Todd in doing so:

"Was Christina Aguilera paying tribute to or stealing from the Andrews Sisters with “Candyman”? Should the Beatles have sued the Knickerbockers for “Lies”? Or the Rutles, the Dukes of Stratosphere, and Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, all of whom recorded delectable Beatles soundalike albums, with varying degrees of straight faces?"

In case you missed it, Blurred Lines songwriters – Pharrell Wiliams, TI and Thicke – have already been ordered to pay Marvin Gaye’s family $7.3m in damages for the infringement. Now lawyers say they want to stop sales of the song altogether.

Now it seems the lawyers representing Gaye’s family, want to prevent further sales of the song until songwriting/future royalties sorted out. They told Rolling Stone: “We’ll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution of Blurred Lines unless and until we can reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared. We’ll be doing that in about a week or so.”

On the actual question of 'infringement' , I think there is certainly a similarity between Blurred Lines and Got to Give it Up, but one that owes more to the arrangement – in particular the percussion (at start of Gaye's song) than of the actual song - lyrically or underlying melody - itself. And even if it does, I'm still not sure this is a good decision.

Gaye has been dead 30 years. He's the person who created the 'original' (if such a thing exists) work. I've banged on about this before, but copyright is not supposed to be a pension fund or an inheritance fund. Gaye has not been 'harmed' by the existence of this track, indeed the very fact some people noticed some similarities would have – as it always the case now – drive people to check out, stream, buy his original track. Pharrell even admitted when the track came out that the vibe of the track had inspired Blurred Lines.

Let's no kid ourselves here. Had Blurred lines sold a few thousand copies instead of being one of the biggest selling tracks worldwide of the last few years, would the estate have done anything? I think we all know the answer to that one. This case is about greed, not protecting Gaye (whose own contribution to the writing of the original track has often been questioned).

Indeed it is ALWAYS about greed.

It's why I was also less than impressed with Tom 'yes I'm' Petty and Jeff Lynne in relation to the Sam Smith track 'Stay with Me' Yes, they sorted it out without recourse to the courts but, I'm a long time Petty fan, and until the story came out I have never once picked up the similarity between the two tracks, and I'd heard the Sam Smith song A LOT on UK radio. Compare that to 'Last Nite,' by the Strokes when you immediately go, Woah there, that's American Girl.

Then again, Tom was seemingly fine with The Strokes more blatant rip-off/homage back then: " I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.’ It doesn't bother me.” Similarly when The Red Hot Chilli Peppers song “Dani California” came out and people pointed to its similarity with Petty’s Mary Jane's Last dance, he even more pointedly stated : “The truth is, I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there.” He pretty much made the same comment with Sam Smith and yet he wanted his share of the royalties from that one.

Total hypocritical bollocks. I'll admit I've lost most of the respect I had for Petty off the back of that.

The thing that irks me most is when it is already rich musicians crawling on their bellies after more money.

The only time I have any time for these types of cases is when some jake or joan blogs writes a song and sends it to someone who rejects it and then 2 years later a song co-written by the artist and helpers – which is clearly a blatant rip off of joan blogs' original song – gets released and becomes a hit. This is when it's not homage or inspired by, it is clearly theft. Of course the big difference is that the Joan Blogs' of this world never win their cases – if they even manage to raise enough money to take it through the courts in the first place.

Let's end with Todd. As Todd once said: “Louie Louie” is “More Than a Feeling” is “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” ... Amen.

Tuesday's The Albany Herald (Georgia) had a nice interview with Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers, where he mentioned Todd.

Does it bother you that some of your songs may be better known by other artists’ versions?

"It’s a feather in our cap. It’s just like us doing Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” or Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me.” We all like that. I ran into Todd in California when he was doing an interview and stuck my head in the door. I said, “Hello, it’s me.” We both had a big laugh at that."