Tag Archives: john lennon

Music on Mondays (4-20-13)—You can’t catch me but we can all come together in Folsom Prison

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Many decades ago when personal computers were just hitting the market, I got a gig with Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Houston’s largest law firm at the time, merging the computer culture with their corporate culture and teaching their secretaries, paralegals, assistants, and attorneys how to use computers and the prevalent software at the time, which was Lotus-1-2-3, PC Write, WordStar, and WordPerfect.

Ever since those days I have had an inordinate interest in the law, often making it an avocation wherever I have been.

Perhaps the aspect of law that I most enjoy is copyright law, so it’s only natural that when my love of music butts heads with the law, I find it interesting. I mean, after all there are only so many notes, chords, and riffs that can be strung together to make music and songs. Over time, then, there’s bound to be a little borrowing here and there, even if only subconsciously.

Here are two music lawsuits involving the very rich and famous, and that the richer and more famous person lost:

The great Johnny Cash was sued by Gordon Jenkins who claimed that Cash used lyrics and melody from Jenkins’ 1953 composition “Crescent City Blues” in his 1955 hit “Folsom Prison Blues.” Even the opening lines are similar. Cash paid up, to the tune of $75,000.

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There’s no question that in the realm of music, Chuck Berry was rich and famous. However, he sued someone even richer and more famous, John Lennon, and won.

Berry’s publishing company sued Lennon, claiming that lines and melodies for “Come Together” were taken from Berry’s 1956 song, “You Can’t Catch Me.” As part of the settlement, Lennon agreed to record three songs owned by publisher Morris Levy, including a cover of “You Can’t Catch Me” for Lennon’s 1975 covers album Rock ‘N’ Roll.

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Music on Mondays (10-13-14): The only thing you done was yesterday

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

If you’ve been around rock ‘n’ roll music as long as I have, you’re probably familiar with The Beatles, and if you’re familiar with The Beatles, you probably know that their breakup in 1970 was rather nasty, especially between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. That nastiness continued until Lennon took a break from music when Sean was born on October 9, 1975.

Lennon believed that McCartney’s song “Too Many People,” from 1971’s “Ram” album, reeled off a laundry list of complaints directed at him, including most specifically the line, “too many people preaching practices.” Lennon hit back, and he hit back hard with “How Do You Sleep?” from Lennon’s 1971 masterpiece album, “Imagine.”

Here are the lyrics to “How Do You Sleep?”

So Sgt. pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother’s eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was  in your head
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?
You live with straights who tell you, you was king
Jump when your mamma tell you anything
The only thing you done was yesterday
and since you’ve gone it’s just another day
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?
A pretty face may last a year or two
but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do
The sound you make is Muzak to my ears
You must have learned something all those years
How do you sleep?
Ah how do you sleep at night?

The whole song is one big dig at McCartney.

“Those freaks was right when they said you dead” is a reference to the “Paul is dead” hoax of 1967 (and onward).

“The only thing you done was yesterday [a reference to The Beatles’ 1965 classic “Yesterday,” written and sung by McCartney] and since you’ve gone it’s just another day [a reference to McCartney’s 1971 classic “Another Day”]. Since McCartney’s “sound … is Muzak to my ears,” at least we know he liked “Another Day.”

Here are “Yesterday,” “Another Day,” “Too Many People,” and “How Do You Sleep?”.

“Yesterday” by The Beatles, 1965
One of the most covered songs in history
with over 2,200 cover versions so far.

“Another Day” by Paul McCartney, 1971

“Too Many People” by Paul & Linda McCartney, 1971

“How Do You Sleep?” by John Lennon, 1971

There is much more, with each artist getting in digs at the other up until Lennon’s sabbatical beginning in October 1975.

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The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music on Mondays: Jim Morrison & John Lennon

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This past weekend was a significant one for musicologists. Jim Morrison of The Doors would have been seventy years old had he lived. Morrison had a severe alcohol dependency which many believed led to his death. Others believe he died of a cocaine overdose. Since autopsies were not required in 1971, especially in France where he died. Pursuant to French law at that time, autopsies were only performed if foul play was suspected. Thus the continuing controversy over how he died. Morrison is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and his gravesite is one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions, although I’m not sure I would call it a “tourist attraction.” Let’s just say it’s well-visited….

I could easily include here any number of famous Doors songs: “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman,” “Love Her Madly,” “Hello, I Love You,” “Riders On The Storm,” etc., but those standards have been played billions and billions of times through the years; you’re probably quite familiar with them. Instead, I give you one of my favorite non-standard Doors songs: “The WASP (Texas Radio & The Big Beat)” from their “L.A Woman” album released in 1971, just 2½ months before Morrison’s death.

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The other event that happened this past weekend was the 33rd anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Lennon, of course, was one of the Fab Four from The Beatles. Imagine, so to speak, all of the Lennon standards I could include here: “Imagine,” “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” “Power To The People,” “Give Peace A Chance,” etc., and that doesn’t even include all the songs he wrote with The Beatles.

Again, though, instead of including those standards here, I give you a “How Do You Sleep?” Lennon and McCartney had quite a cantankerous relationship after The Beatles broke up in 1970, and they attacked each other in their songs. Listen to their albums in order from 1970 to 1974….

“McCartney,” McCartney, April 1970
“Ram,” McCartney, May 1971
“Imagine,” Lennon, September 1971
“Wild Life,” Wings (McCartney), December 1971
“Red Rose Speedway,” Paul McCartney & Wings, April 1973
“Mind Games,” Lennon, November 1973
“Band on the Run,” Paul McCartney & Wings, December 1973
“Walls & Bridges,” Lennon, October 1974

Pay attention to the words and titles of songs. They weren’t happy with each other. Once McCartney dropped his name from “Paul McCartney & Wings” to become simply “Wings,” the personal attacks on Lennon through music pretty much came to an end. Lennon retired from music in 1975, choosing to stay home and raise Julian, not returning to the music studio until 1980 to record “Double Fantasy.”

One of Lennon’s songs that is most critical of McCartney is “How Do You Sleep?” from Lennon’s classic 1971 album “Imagine.” Lennon gives McCartney credit for “Yesterday,” but after that he says that McCartney is just “another day” (a reference to McCartney’s first post-Beatles hit “Another Day”) and sounds like Muzak, possibly the ultimate criticism (smile if you remember Muzak). The lyrics, I thought, were quite clever, in classic Lennon style. I have included the lyrics after the video.

So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise.
You better see right through that mother’s eyes.
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead.
The one mistake you made was  in your head.

Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

You live with straights who tell you, you was king.
Jump when your mama tell  you anything.
The only thing you done was yesterday.
And since you’ve gone you’re just another day.

Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?
Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

A pretty face may last a year or two,
but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do.
The sound you make is Muzak to my ears.
You must have learned something in all those years.

Ah, how do you sleep?
Ah, how do you sleep at night?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
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The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Music on Mondays (11-11-13)—Singers and songwriters

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Back in the early days, the music industry consisted of singers and songwriters. Songwriters wrote the songs, and singers sang them. If you look at music charts from the 1940s through the 1970s, you will notice that there might be four or five versions of the same song on the charts. Songwriters wrote the songs and then sold them to singers while keeping royalties from music publishing.

In many cases, singers got a monetary advance from the record company. When the record was released, and you bought it, you actually were supporting the record company and the music publishing company more than you were the recording group. Debut groups sometimes had recording contracts that paid them a mere penny per record sold. That included The Beatles, whose initial recording contract gave the group one penny for each record sold. That penny, though, was split between John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The royalty rate was further reduced for singles sold outside the United Kingdom, for which The Beatles received half of one penny per record sold, again split between John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Although songwriters also made money with the release of the record, they made additional money from royalties from the sale of sheet music, public performances, cover versions twenty years later by a different artist, etc.

When Whitney Houston died a few years ago, it was revealed that she basically died penniless, mostly due to her apparent drug addiction but also due to the fact that she wrote very few, if any, of her hit songs. They were written by songwriters. The public felt sorry for her in her death and started buying all of her music posthumously, wrongly believing that they were supporting her estate. They were not. They were supporting the record company, the music publishing company, and the songwriters. Many songwriters got extraordinarily rich when her hits became hits again after her death.

For example, “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney’s #1 hit from 1992, was written by Dolly Parton and was a hit for her in 1974. Dolly made a lot of money from that song in 1974, in 1992 when Whitney released it, and again after Whitney’s death in 2012 when the public started buying it again.

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The Beatles were the first to recognize that songwriters didn’t get the glory but got a hefty part of the money. They became singer-songwriters, and the John Lennon-Paul McCartney partnership is recognized as the most prolific in the history of music, even outshining Rodgers & Hammerstein of musical fame (“Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” etc.).

How lucrative are publishing rights? Very. When Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson were recording “Say, Say, Say” in 1983, McCartney introduced Jackson to the world of music publishing, telling Jackson that he was earning $30 million per year from royalties on the songs of other people that he owned. For example, McCartney owns the publishing rights to all the music by Buddy Holly.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Jackson followed up on that knowledge when he bought the catalog of Beatles music from 1962 to mid-1967. The Beatles’ early music was owned not by them but by their publishing company at the time, Northern Songs. When the Northern Songs music catalog was sold in the early 1980s, Jackson acquired The Beatles music for $40 million. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono initially had bid for The Beatles music, but ultimately Yoko Ono apparently thought the price was too high.

Publishing rights to Lennon-McCartney music from mid-1967 on belongs to Apple Corps, a multimedia corporation that The Beatles founded in mid-1967 partially to manage their publishing rights and royalties.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, BRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos