Thursday, 4 August 2016

My Top Ten Songs About Record Company Bosses

Ten songs sticking it to (and occasionally praising) The Man. 

10. The Rolling Stones - Andrew's Blues

In which Mick & Keef take (gentle) piss out of their original manager, Andrew Loog Oldham... although this was recorded back in 1964 while they were all still mates. Never officially released, and probably a little NSFW if you do your blog reading in the office.

9. John Fogerty - Vanz Kant Danz

Originally titled Zanz Kant Danz in direct reference to Fogerty's old boss at Fantasy Records, Saul Zaentz, who (back in the 80s) owned the rights to the Creedence Clearwater Revival back catalogue. When Fogerty had a hit solo single with The Old Man Down The Road, Zaentz claimed it was a rip off of Creedence's Run Through The Jungle... and effectively sued Fogerty for plagiarising himself. He lost, but this was Fogerty's response...

Vanz Kant Dance, but he'll steal your money...

Watch him, or he'll rob you blind
To be fair, it's not Fogerty's finest hour (and the Claymation pig video is awful), but it's a great story, and because it's the 80s: we forgive you.

8. George Harrison - Beware of Darkness /  John Lennon - Steel & Glass

Allen Klein goes down in history as the music company mogul who managed to piss off both the Beatles and the Stones. You can chase up the history of all that yourself, but both the above songs have been seen as former Beatles having a dig at their former manager. An early version of Beware of Darkness contained the lyric "Beware of ABKCO" and many believe Steel & Glass was Lennon putting the boot in too (although John remained closer to Klein than the other Beatles and refused to confirm the song was about him).

There you stand with your L.A. tan

And your New York walk and your New York talk

Your mother left you when you were small

But you're gonna wish you wasn't born at all
7. Aerosmith - No Surprize

A&R man Clive Davis was the guy who signed Janis Joplin, Donovan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Earth, Wind & Fire and Santana (among others) to CBS before founding Arista Records where he brought us Patti Smith, Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. One of his biggest signings at CBS though was Aerosmith, and Steven Tyler thanked him personally by mentioning him in the opening track to their 1979 album Night In The Ruts. It's not the band's best album as they were pretty much imploding at the time due to money issues, drug abuse and relationship problems (guitarist Joe Perry quit the band for five years during it's recording while still owing CBS a bill of $80,000 in room service... that's a lot of bottles from the mini bar).

No Surprize is the best track on an otherwise dodgy album, and it works as a potted history of Aerosmith from the early days...

Nineteen seventy one

We all heard the starters gun

New York is such a pity

But at Max's Kansas City we won

We all shot the shit at the bar

With Johnny O'Toole and his scar

And then old Clive Davis said

I'm surely gonna make us a star
...right up to the horrific realities of being a tragically impoverished rock star in 1979.
Candy store, rock n' roll
Corporation jellyroll
Play the singles, it ain't me
It's programmed insanity! 



Could ever make a mountain fly

If Japanese can boil teas

Then where the fuck's my royalties?
Hey, Steven: doesn't everybody boil tea? What makes the Japanese so different?

6. Bob Dylan - Dear Landlord

Another unconfirmed one, but most Dylan fans believe this to be a thinly-veiled attack on his Bobness's former manager, Albert Grossman: a man who, in name and appearance (Dylan described him as being like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon) must be the archetypal music business boss.

Dear landlord

Please don't put a price on my soul

My burden is heavy

My dreams are beyond control

When that steamboat whistle blows

I'm gonna give you all I got to give

And I do hope you receive it well

Depending on the way you feel that you live
5. Mike Garry & Joe Duddell - St Anthony: An Ode to Anthony H Wilson

Written and released posthumously, which is probably why it's a little more respectful than most of the "tributes" on this list, but there's also much to suggest that Anthony H. Wilson was a little different from many of the other bosses mentioned here. The Factory founder is held in high regard by most of the artists he signed and lots of other folk he crossed paths with along the way... which is demonstrated by the video which features contributions from the likes of Iggy Pop, Christopher Eccleston, Bernard Sumner, Shaun Ryder and Rowetta, Mark Radcliffe, Miranda Sawyer, Terry Christian, John Cooper Clark and Steve Coogan (who played Wilson in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People).

St. Anthony was written by Manchester poet Mike Garry and set to music (based on the tune of New Order's Your Silent Face) by composer Joe Duddell, who's previously worked with New Order, James, Elbow and others. It's a hugely affecting piece of music, a credit to all those involved. For more information (or to download the charity single or EP), click here.

4. Joni Mitchell - Free Man In Paris

Poor old David Geffen. He had such a tough time being a multi-millionaire music mogul that he could only ever feel free in Paris. Fortunately, Joni Mitchell was there to soothe his furrowed brow with this top tune from Court & Spark.
I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers
Lately I wonder what I do it for
If I had my way
I'd just walk through those doors
And wander down the Champs-Élysées
Going café to cabaret
Thinking how I'd feel when I find
That very good friend of mine

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favors
No one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow
But for the work I've taken on
Stoking the star-maker machinery
Behind the popular song
Doesn't your heart just bleed for him?

By the way, I'd love to have given this one to Carly Simon for You're So Vain, but although she has claimed that song is about a composite of three men, she won't confirm that David Geffen was one of them (even though a lot of people suspect he was...along with Mick Jagger & Warren Beatty).

3. Belle & Sebastian - Seymour Stein

It's an indie top three this week, just like the good old days. Proper indie too, nothing yobby or from the watered down 21st Century!

Stuart Murdoch takes a backseat and lets Stevie Jackson sing lead vocals on this one, a story about the rest of the band flying out to LA to visit the legendary record producer while Murdoch stays home and moons over a girl. (Typical Stuart Murdoch, really: this is the same guy who called this album 'The Boy With The Arab Strap' as a reference to the grumpy Scottish band... and claims to have had no idea what they'd named their band after.)

I heard dinner went well

You liked Chris's jacket

He reminded you of Johnny

Before he went electronic
Interesting that both this and the next song reference The Smiths. That's proper indie right there!

2. The Pooh Sticks - I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well

Ah, the Pooh Sticks. Self-aware indie pop not afraid to mercilessly take the piss out of the whole business, where (more than any other profession), it's not what you know: it's who you know.  And not only does this late 80s indie classic mention the notoriously grumpy Creation founder... but also this next guy too...

1. The Smiths - Frankly, Mr. Shankly

It's been so long since I featured The Smiths on this blog... you'd almost think I wasn't a fan.

As has been well established, this was Morrissey's ungracious tribute to Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis. He did apparently once write Morrissey a poem... and, well, Moz makes it quite clear here what he thought of that.

And finally, this is one to play to anyone who ever tells you the Smiths were "miserablists".
But sometimes I'd feel more fulfilled
Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill
I want to live and I want to love
I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of!

The Beatles, The Stones, The Smiths, Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Shit, I'm turning into MOJO. Your suggestions are welcome for songs about the managers of less well-known music industry managers. I was surprised I couldn't find any songs about Phil Spector, Joe Meek or Berry Gordy. Perhaps you know differently...

Vanz Kant Danz'

John Fogerty's animosity toward his old record-company boss Saul Zaentz lasted until the latter died in 2014. It all stemmed from Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1967 contract with Fantasy Records, which Fogerty for years wrestled to get out of. The wounds were still fresh in Fogerty's mind when he released his comeback LP, 'Centerfield,' in 1985. The album's closing track, 'Zanz Kant Danz' ("but he'll steal your money," went the chorus) pissed off Zaentz so much that he sued Fogerty for defamation. The song's title was later changed to 'Vanz Kant Danz,' but the point was made and the damage was done.

Read More: Evil Record Label Songs |


  1. In terms of sheer musical quality, this has to be up there with the very best of your top tens. 'Ode to Anthony H. Wilson' really is an extraordinarily moving piece and extra points for digging out 'Andrew's Blues'. Marvellous.
    May I also humbly submit 'Virgin' by Singers & Players featuring the mighty Prince Far-I. 'You call yourself Branson, but I know that Branson's a pickle with no place on my plate'.

    1. Top suggestion, Swede. I forgot all about Tricky Dicky.

  2. Good stuff Rol - a follow up on record labels perhaps?

    1. Been there, got the T-shirt...

    2. Good stuff -glad to see EMI featuring


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