Nose in your blow…

I have a bit of an obsession with the plight of the successful musician stuck in a lousy record deal. It just amazes me that after decades, heck nearly a century of musicians getting reamed by record contracts, management contracts, publishing deals, promotional deals, etc. ad infinitum that no one ever seems to get wise.

On the one hand I get it. You want your record to be released and you want people to be able to buy it. Making music, like making any art, is largely an external expression of the artist’s ego. He/She wants to be loved and he/she wants to have their work appreciated. I get that. But it would seem that after all this time that some musician would occassionally consider whether signing on the dotted line was a good idea based upon the obligations contained in the contract.

Alas, nope. Doesn’t work that way. Steve Albini said is best:

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke”. And he does of course.

Way back in the vast wastes of time (the late 1960s to be exact) it dawned on Van Morrison that he’d swum the above mentioned trench and needed to get out of his record deal and into a better one. He owed his label a certain number of songs and was smart enough to see that his contract allowed him to deliver pretty much any songs he wanted, so that’s what he did. Contractual obligations met he signed a lucrative deal with Warner Brothers and then handed them his masterpiece, Astral Weeks.

WFMU have dredged out the 30 songs that Morrison delivered to Bang Records to fulfill his contract and posted the mp3s for us to enjoy. It’s hilarious. I particularly like Want A Danish.


(thanks to Boing Boing for the link)

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