Tuesday, 14 October 2014

My Top Ten Songs About Record Companies

Bah - pop stars. They always blame their label when things don't go well...

10. Stiff Little Fingers - Rough Trade

The SLFs claim to have been betrayed by Rough Trade lies...
We quit our jobs and got all set to fly
Your promises had us riding high
But it's a dirty rough tough trade we find
"Yeah we agreed, but you hadn't signed
Sorry, son, gonna have to throw you
Our lawyers say we don't even know you"
Music is money, kids are no-account fools
You trade in us, we get betrayed by you
9. Graham Parker & The Rumour - Mercury Poisoning

Meanwhile, Graham Parker remains "the best kept secret in the West" because of his own lacklustre record company...
The geriatric staff think we're freaks
They couldn't sell kebabs to the Greeks, the geeks!
Inaction speaks, and

I've got Mercury poisoning - it's fatal and it don't get better!
8. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Working For MCA

From back in the days when record companies handed out free money just for a signature on the dotted line... and some fools tried to take advantage of that.

7. Half Man Half Biscuit - 4AD3DCD

Nigel Blackwell gently pokes fun at the most indie of record companies and its roster of bizarrely named bands.
I dream of occasional fanzine mentions
I’ve been to one too many David Lynch Conventions
I play postal chess with a man who doesn’t know me
I’ve got a better frown than Tony Iommi
And I’ve got a 4AD3DCD
And I’m on a foundation course
6. The Byrds - So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star

A warning to all prospective rock stars about the dangers of going downtown and selling your soul to the company man when all they want to do is "sell plastic ware".

5. The Sex Pistols - EMI

The outrageously rebellious image of the Sex Pistols seems now like yobbish posturing steered to success by the machiavellian mind of Malcolm McClaren. How seriously could anyone take the world's most famous punk once he started selling dairy products? At the time though, it was utterly (butterly) believable and the final track on Never Mind The Bollocks... was a giant one-fingered salute to their former record company that helped make Richard Branson more The Man than anyone at EMI.

See also the rather less scabrous B.L.U.R.E.M.I. and this marvellous lo-fi eulogy to the record company dinosaurs, Wave Goodbye To EMI by Beans on Toast.

4. Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings - Write Your Own Songs

Straight talkin' from Willie & Waylon...
We write what we live and we live what we write, is that wrong?
If you think it is Mr Music Executive why don't you write your own songs?

And don't listen to mine, they might run you crazy
They might make you dwell on your feelings a moment too long
We're making you rich and you're already lazy
So just lay on your ass and get richer or write your own songs.
3. The Clash - Complete Control
They said we'd be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let's make a lotta money
And worry about it later
A smarter and more credible record company protest song than the Sex Pistols could ever have managed. The Clash were true punks, even when they went reggae.

I wish I'd been aware of this song back when I was writing my Rebel DJ versus Evil Corporate Entertainment Company comic, The Jock. I could have put lyrics like this to excellent use...
This is Joe Public speaking
I'm controlled in the body, controlled in the mind


2. Tom Petty - Into The Great Wide Open

A promising rock 'n' roll career implodes, perhaps because "Their A&R man said 'I don't hear a single"... or perhaps because the temptations of rock star excess prove too much. A young Johnny Depp plays Eddie Rebel in the video, the "rebel without a clue" whose luck turns bad when he turns his back on his manager, Faye Dunaway. Stick around for a cameo from a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc in the song's closing moments...

1. The Smiths - Paint A Vulgar Picture

You don't get a more caustic assessment of the "sickening greed" of the "sycophantic slags" who work for The Man... although there's a certain irony now hearing Morrissey deride the culture of "Re-issue! Repackage! Repackage! Re-evaluate the songs...", not to mention "Best of! Most of! Slip them into different sleeves!" Still, he's yet to give away a tacky badge. It was a very different business back then though, wasn't it?

See also Frankly, Mr. Shankly which was Moz taking poisonous aim at Geoff Travis, head of Rough Trade, a man who (apparently) wrote some truly awful poetry...

Which one would you sign with?


  1. Can't think of a record but do recall Prince writing the word "slave" on his face during his fall-out with his record company back in the 90s.

  2. I thought there was a George Michael song to add here with his Sony battle, but then realised that I was thinking of his er erhm toilet incident


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