Monday, December 04, 2006


From R. Stevie Moore:

Fandango Farrago Duncan Campbell, The Guardian • 25 November 2006

The court battle over A Whiter Shade of Pale royalties delivers painful lessons for musicians:

Why did the 16 vestal virgins leave for the coast? Exactly what did the waiter bring on a tray when we called out for another drink? And, crucially, just how plain is the truth to see?

None of these questions will mean anything to anybody who is not familiar with the words of the 1967 No1 hit A Whiter Shade of Pale, by the band Procol Harum. Yesterday saw the final speeches made in a high court action that has been intriguing everyone who has ever consciously or subconsciously or semi-consciously listened to that legendary/haunting/evocative/iconic/ magical – take your pick – song.

Matthew Fisher, the organist who played the familiar opening notes on one of the most played and most covered recordings of all time, believes that he should have been credited with its joint authorship, alongside Gary Brooker, the band's singer, and Keith Reid, the lyricist. Messrs Brooker and Reid disagreed. Hence the action, which, with a hearing lasting almost two weeks, must have run up legal costs far in excess of the total royalties most bands ever collect. (And here it might be worth sparing a thought, as a reader has suggested, for the late Bill Eyden, who played drums on the record and was paid a Musicians' Union rate of £15 15s.)

Mr Justice Blackburne, who has presided over the proceedings like an avuncular producer – George Martin in a wig and gown, perhaps – must now retire to his chambers, put on his headphones, light his sandalwood joss stick and come up with a judgment that will have ramifications for every group of musicians jamming away tonight and planning to record the results.

The action, which finally reached court nearly four decades after those haunting/evocative bars on the Hammond organ first floated out of a window on Tin Pan Alley, has been educational for all musicians and fans. It also painted a touching picture of those far-off, innocent days: Mr Brooker disclosed that he first played the song on his mum's piano in Southend, and Mr Fisher told how he was auditioned for the band at his mum's house in Croydon. But what, as people used to ask of the song's lyrics, does it all mean? Well, there do seem to be some painful lessons for musicians.

First, if you think that your delicate guitar solo that comes between the second and third verses is what lifts the song above the mundane, and you are thus entitled to a joint credit – speak now, even if this may create a certain froideur in the studio. Second, assume that the four bars you suggested as an intro may well become a ring tone in a couple of decades and, as such, could rack up substantial royalties. Third, keep a diary and a cuttings book so that if the matter ever comes before a court, you can quote from a contemporaneous note because the music papers of record can, alas, fade and die; Melody Maker, which catalogued much of the debate over the Procol Harum song, is no longer with us or – as Ronnie Scott would say – no longer with anyone. Fourth, find out who the Lovin' Spoonful are, so that you can answer that very question when, as happened in court last week, it is asked by a barrister.

It is very sad that a song that was deconstructed – although that would definitely not have been the word used – in the bedrooms and pubs and parks of the nation that summer should end up being dissected in court. But whatever the eventual judgment, we should be grateful to all the protagonists for that haunting/magical/evocative music and the enigmatic words, and we should extend our sympathy and understanding to the judge who now has the very difficult task of taking a sad song and making it better.

(aside: the law in America is clear – a song is defined as lyrics and melody…everything else is arrangement. It may be unfair…but there ya go.

And at this very moment, I am aware of another copyright fuck-up. Pre-1965 copyrights had a 25 year initial period, with a 25 year renewal. If you didn’t file…the song fell into the public domain. That’s if you registered with the Library of Congress as you’re supposed to do to get ‘official’ recognition that you wrote a song should the copyright ever be challenged. BUT…as it turns out, if said person had NEVER registered with the L. of C…the copyright protection does not expire. WTF????)


- script massage. new VO's to be recorded this coming week. yahoo!

if you haven't heard it yet:


- or -


the Visa Check Card commercial with Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” as the music bed. Nice work, Irwin…major ka-ching!

PEEVE DE JOUR: …and a certain film producer wants to renew an option to turn “Christmas Wrapping” into a film…uh…gratis, of course. Thanks for putting me in the position of either being an asshole or a fool. And a Merry Christmas to you , too.

JOIE DE JOUR: great Purple k’niF rehearsal today. Major fun. Come see us this coming Saturday, Dec. 9 at The Lakeside, 162 Avenue B (btwn 10th & 11th streets), New York, 212-529-8463


"A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob."

Scrooge says these words at the end of a Christmas Carol, and I've been obsessed with drinking a Bowl of Smoking Bishop for a while.....but I just haven't found the time to make it or a place that serves it. The recipe calls for 5 unpeeled oranges, 1 unpeeled grapefruit, 36 cloves, 1/4 pound of sugar, 2 bottles of red wine, and 1 bottle of port.

What could be more Christmassy than a hot alcoholic drink that Scrooge likes?!

I am returning to New York to hunt for the Smoking Bishop or maybe a Dog's Nose, which is hot stout, gin, sugar, and nutmeg.

I am also coming in to play a FREE show with Life In A Blender on Saturday, Dec. 16, at The Living Room (Ludlow near Stanton), at 9 pm. The full band--Dave Moody, Al Houghton, Mark Lerner, Rebecca Weiner, Ken Meyer, and me--will be there to leave a ring around the holidays. At 10 pm, Chris Rael will be playing a special anniversary show with all different members of Church of Betty. You should see Chris and Church of Betty at this show because......well it's top secret.

Also--Kenny Young and the Eggplants are playing at 7 pm earlier that night and Ed Pastorini and 101 Crustaceans will follow Chris.

So it's a big whoop-de-doo.

Also make room for the The Blowhole Theater Holiday Winterlude on Thursday, Dec. 28th at Barbes in Brooklyn. There will be skits and songs and indescribable acts. Puckerballs, the Garbage Can Elf, will be in Italy, unfortunately. Can Olivier make a Smoking Bishop or a Dog's Nose?

And I'm due to sing with Ed Pastorini at Barbes on Sat., Dec. 23, at 7 pm. So come on over...I think the show is early-ish and Ed will deliver his dark
holiday magic.

See you soon.

--Don Rauf

cb...where are you?

PENNSYLVANIA (travel day)


Anonymous MJC said...

Be the asshole, DON'T be the fool! In reality if you do that you'll be neither an asshole nor a fool, whereas otherwise you'll be a fool...and an asshole to yourself. Really, take care of yourself.

PS. No, you don't know me, I'm just a fan of Kilopop and Waitresses and devil glitch.

10:44 PM  

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