Ian McLagan Interview Part One
I first contacted Mac in the summer of 1999, and he granted me about twenty minutes for an interview. After two hours, we had only scratched the surface. At Mac's suggestion, the interview turned into several interviews, and also led directly to my building this website.
This is more an ongoing process than a completed article. What follows is several interviews with Ian McLagan, conducted over a period of weeks, and now years, integrated into one relatively smooth, timeline-conscious article. Enter at your own risk!
DAVE: You were born and raised in Houslow [near London] . Were your first memorable experiences with music there?
IAN: Actually, my first experiences with music were with my grandmother. She played the concertina, self-taught. She was brilliant, could play any tune. If there's any music in me, it must come from her. She was Irish, had 12 kids, and 11 survived. She died a month short of her 99th birthday.
The other day, [my wife] Kim and I had pulled the truck up to a little grassy bank. It was a very hot, windy day, so we opened the windows and bought ourselves a Guinness out of the cooler. We were looking out across the fields, and I was just tapping away. I said, "you know what, I'd forgotten this, but that's what Gran used to do all the time!" [Gran] used to always be carrying a tune! [She was] a little old Irish lady, always tapping her foot and singing, kind of quietly. I'd ask Gran, "What's that?", and she'd get the concertina down and go straight into the tune. Amazing.
DAVE: How old were you then?
IAN: I used to go there every year from the age of six or seven. I'd go to Ireland for my summer Holidays since before I could walk...
DAVE: So, music is just something that you grew up doing?
IAN: I suppose. The first music I ever heard was Irish music [but] I don't remember any of the songs. It's so close to the blues in some ways. Of course, country music is influenced by Irish folk music. It's all linked, isn't it?
DAVE: When did you begin to pursue your own interests in music?
the skiffle craze came in England, every kid had a washboard. This
came from Lonnie Donnegan in about 1958. It turns out
Lonnie was doing a speedy blues-folk at the same time Elvis was rocking
out. In my book, All the Rage, I call what [Lonnie]
was playing "speed folk": You had a thrashing
guitar and a washboard.
You could also make a tea chest bass. Tea chests were readily available in England. They were big, 2½ by 2 ½ foot square, thin plywood boxes. Turn one upside down, attach a broom handle and a bit of string and, "thoomp thoomp thoomp", you've got a fake bass.
DAVE: What did you play?
IAN: I played washboard til they figured out I didn't have any rhythm. They thought, "well, put him on a tea-chest bass", so I made one of them. My first band were the Bluemen.
DAVE: When did you switch over to the Cyril Davies school of American blues?
IAN: That was a long time later. It seemed like it was a long time later. Id begged and begged, so Mum and Dad [finally] got me a Spanish guitar. I thumped around on that until it went out of tune. I didn't really figure it out much... it hurt my fingers, and I kind of lost interest.
Later, a friend of a friend was teaching my mate and me at the same time [how to play guitar]. It was basically just three chords that we were learning, three or four...
DAVE: That's all you need!
IAN: That's exactly what you need! Bo Diddley's been managing with one for his whole fucking career! Ronnie Wood asked him, "Hey, Bo... You ever think about playing any other chords?"
He said "I ain't finished with this one yet! I ain't going on to nothing else 'til I figure this one out!"
good at E, and I could get to an A. B-7th was a bit difficult, so the sound would
thin out as we'd go through the chords. I did that for a little
while, [then] I started listening to the blues. I got into
this band in art school that weren't blues, but Dave Pether,
the lead guitarist, could play Shadows and Ventures instrumentals,
so he would teach me the chords. I eventually joined that
band, which were the Cherokees.
DAVE: Guitar was your primary instrument?
IAN: It was all I knew. I still play the guitar. I actually write songs on the guitar a lot of times.
DAVE: You've returned to performing on stage with the guitar again recently.
IAN: Actually, I've just gotten out of it again! I only play guitar on one song now, Best of British, the title track off the new record. Gurf Morlix, who produced the record, now plays guitar with me, and now that we have two guitarists in the band I don't need to play. It frees me up while I'm singing some parts on songs. On one song, I just play acoustic [guitar], which is just sweet, you know?
I was trying to turn the Cherokees onto the blues. Eventually, we got rid of the singer. We got rid of the sax player, too. Pete Brown, the bass player, was one year above me at art school. He had a mate, Nick Tweddell, who played harp in the style of Sonny Terry, so we started working up some blues. Bit by bit, we became the Muleskinners, taking our name from the Muleskinner Blues. We used to go and see the Stones, of course, at this point. This was in '62 or '63, when they used to play at the Station Hotel in Richmond...
DAVE: The old Station Hotel, the original...
IAN: It's called the Bull and Bush now. They changed it, and no one there flippin' knows, it seems.
DAVE: They have a plaque, I understand, that says the Small Faces played there when, in actuality...
IAN: ...it's total bullshit. That's right!
We used to have our end-of-term dances there occasionally... I used to go there every Sunday night with the singer, Johnny Eaton, who I'd got into the band. We were both real keen [ on the Stones], and we used to go every Sunday. The Stones used to play all over different parts of London, and we'd follow them around during the week sometimes as well. They were so great, just unbelievable. It changed my life, because this was a young bunch of Londoners playing the music we liked. We thought, "okay, maybe we can do it, too". It meant it was possible.
DAVE: And you saw them early enough that it was well before they were making records. You saw that transition, when the Yardbirds took their place at the Ricky Tick...
IAN: I went to see the Yardbirds once, and I wasn't impressed, frankly. I was impressed with Eric [Clapton], but I didn't particularly like [Keith Relf]. But, the Stones were fucking great! Eventually, I booked [the Rolling Stones] for a couple of end-of-term dances. I became Entertainment Director at school, which just meant 'fucking loser'. [Laughter] All I wanted to do was party, and to throw the party. Strangely enough, I booked Rod, too, when he was with Steampacket.
DAVE: Right, Long John Baldry...
IAN: And Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger.
I booked the Stones first. I hung around after a gig once and helped them with their gear. I said, "If I was to book you, who should I call?" Mick gave me their agent's name, and I called him up. Really, I was just trying to get gigs for my band, but I did book the Stones for the end-of-term dance, and I put my band in to open. I would hang out at their agent, Eric Easton's, office.
Eventually, I got thrown out of art school, because I was never there. I was thinking 'music, music, music'. I'd go out to the West End of London and hang out and get gigs for our band. We actually ended up opening for the Stones on the same tour with the Steampacket. It was their first tour in England after their first American tour, so they were big-time at that point. We didn't have a singer at the time, so I was singing and playing the maracas, like a very watered-down Jagger!
DAVE: When did you get the impetus to switch over to keyboards?
IAN: Oh, that was just a little later. I figured out that I liked the sound of the B-3 and Booker T and the MGs and all that. It hit me. But, I knew Hammonds were expensive. Eventually, I got a Hohner Cembalet, a little electric piano. It was a really annoying thing to play, because it didn't have any action. No matter how gently you hit it, it was just as loud-- really annoying, but it was light and cheap. Then I saw an ad for a Hammond L-100 from a music store in London. It said, 'on free approval, we'll bring it to your house for two weeks'. I thought there must be a catch, but there wasn't. I didn't tell Mum and Dad and, while they were at work and I was supposed to be at school, I got them to come around and deliver it. I had it for two weeks.
Looking back, I realize just how great my parents were!
DAVE: You never appreciate it until it's too late.
IAN: I hadn't seen the members of the Muleskinners for twenty-something years, and the drummer, Mick Carpenter, got in touch with me when I was touring England with Rod three or four years ago. He came up to the hotel, and it was really great to see him. He put me in touch with all the rest of the band eventually, and supplied a couple of the really great photographs for the book.
I forgot where I was...
DAVE: You were talking about how great your parents were. You must have all been bustled over at your place all the time...
IAN: Exactly! Actually, Mick Carpenter said, "how's your mum and dad?" and I said, "long gone, I'm afraid." He said, "they were great, weren't they? I mean, five nights a week, rehearsing in your dining room, and they were in the next room watching TV, or trying to!" Can you imagine? "Do you remember your mum used to come in with a cup of tea and biscuits?" And I said, "...no..." I was too busy thinking about the music. I never noticed them, you know?
DAVE: At that age, you take your parents for granted. They're an inconvenience, if anything.
When did you sign with the Marquee Artists Agency?
IAN: That was a little later. I used to go anywhere to get work, and the Marquee was one of the places in town to play, and it was run by the Marquee Artists Agency, which was upstairs. I'd go and hang around up there. We opened for Gary Farr and the T-Bones, which was actually Keith Emerson. We opened for them, and someone from the agency expressed interest and said, "we need a band to fill in a few other gigs. Do you want to?" I'd go around and hustle. I had no shame then. It's funny how I find it hard selling myself these days, but when I was seventeen it was "get out of my way!" More salt than Harrod's. Anyway, the end result was that we got to play at the Marquee quite a lot. We actually got our own night there for a little while. We'd open for Jimmy James and the Vagabonds and all these other bands, and eventually they asked if we'd like to back Howlin' Wolf.
The Yardbirds were backing Sonny Boy, and if they couldn't do it they'd get the Authentics to do it. If they were busy, we got the gig. So the Muleskinners backed Sonny Boy a couple of times, and backed Howlin' Wolf three times, and even backed the great Little Walter. It was just unbelievable! It was only about six or nine months, but it was the most amazing time. Three of the greatest harp players ever, not to mention singers! I absolutely revere Little Walter, Sonny Boy, and Howlin' Wolf. I don't know who I love more.
Wolf actually proved himself to be a fantastic, wonderful bloke. People have written how frightening he was, but it was only on stage that he'd project that. Offstage he was the sweetest, warmest man, and he was so kind to us, which he didn't have to be. We were a bunch of fucking idiots, really. We loved the music, but we weren't very good at it.
DAVE: I understand he was really good to his band, always looking out for them and teaching them...
IAN: Well, he became like a second dad to [guitarist] Hubert [Sumlin]...
DAVE: Right. And Hubert was about half his age, which most people don't keep in mind. He was a kid in comparison.
At this time, if you were still playing guitar, you were more looking at Hubert than you would, say, Otis Spann or somebody?
IAN: Well, I'm pretty sure I was playing the Hohner pianette at the time.
I actually heard Three Hundred Pounds of Joy on the radio the other day, and I remember back then when we'd listen to it, we knew that [Sumlin] was playing some kind of bottleneck or slide, because the way the notes just swam. When I heard that the other day, I thought that it's obviously not a slide, but he's just so fluid. The guitar solo on that is unbelievable.
We were absolutely in the right place at the right time. We appreciated it, believe me. We knew that we weren't very good, but Wolf... We had only one rehearsal with him, on the day of the first gig. When he first came in the front door of the hall, he boomed, "my boys!" and he put his arms around the five of us. He made us feel so welcome. It was fantastic.
DAVE: That must have been like... you knew you'd made it!
IAN: Yeah! It couldn't get better than this, could it? But it could, because we still had the gig to do! And then there were more gigs.
DAVE: Did he give you any of the hard times like Sonny Boy gave the Yardbirds, where he'd rehearsed one set of songs and then played an entirely different set onstage?
IAN: No, Wolf was fine. Wolf was really, really sweet.
Sonny Boy was a character. He came into the first gig that we played with him, and he was a little drunk. He was always rolling drunk, but he was perfectly capable of inventing a blues right there, cuz that's what he did a lot of times. He'd just write them as he went along. He could play the old ones, too. He'd play Help Me, which was great. That's Green Onions, so I knew that song. I got to play real piano with him.
There are photographs of us on stage with Sonny Boy, but the only photograph I'm in you can just barely see two of the fingers of my left hand. I was going to use it in the book, but I thought, "I don't think so..." [Laughter] All these photos came from the Muleskinners' drummer, Mick Carpenter, and he turned up with one of my two favorite shots of the whole book, the shot of me in the back of the car, right behind Wolf. I didn't even know the photograph even existed until a couple of years ago.
Sonny Boy would say some funny things. He'd say, "Hey! I taught John Lee Hooker how to play guitar!" And I'd think to myself, "well, that's nothing I'd boast about, like I wouldn't boast about being your dentist!" Of course, I didn't say this, but we'd snicker amongst ourselves. You know, 'kids'. But he was fantastic. We were in awe, and nothing he'd do could be wrong as far as se were concerned. But he wasn't very helpful. He'd just go into some blues in B flat, whip out his harp, and he'd never give you a clue. The next gig we did together, he just went completely off the rails with some of the songs. Mick, our drummer, couldn't hear him at all because he was behind him. All he could hear was himself. If you're doing a twelve-bar blues, you like to sort of build up to the changes, you know...
DAVE: ...instead of doing a shuffle all the way through it.
IAN: Yeah! And he was doing a fifteen bar blues, and eleven, and Mick had no idea. Sonny Boy turned around and stopped Mick at one point and said, "what the hell do you think you're doing?" Mick was quite embarrassed.
DAVE: It didn't help that monitors didn't exist yet.
IAN: Yeah! Before 'sound' as we know it today!
DAVE: We never did get down to the change from guitar to piano...
IAN: Oh, well, I just figured there was a piano at home, and my Mum had paid for me to have piano lessons but I wasn't interested. Its stupid to think, but I wasn't interested. I could play Chuck Berry riffs on guitar, and I decided to just transpose that to piano. Before I knew it, it ended up as
(at this point, Mac played a riff on the Hammond. This was a phone interview, and I didn't realize he was in his studio. He was a thousand miles away, but ready to smash my mind with some of his brilliant playing. It floored me, Mac punctuating a sentence and a point by playing a riff. I was blatantly stunned, momentarilly reverting to nothing more than a gobsmacked fan- and I went silent for a few moments- Dave)
That's all I had to do, so from rhythm guitarist I became rhythm piano player. Are you still there? The phone cut out, so I thought you'd thought, "oh, he's not going to play that fucking piano!", and hung up! [Laughter]
Anyway, that's all I really played at first. After that, I started checking out Booker T more and more. I was thinking, "wait a minute, you don't have to keep hitting the organ, you just hold a chord!" So I could literally get by without doing too much. Of course, the trick with the organ is to take your hands off every now and again, as well! [Laughter] With the piano, you've got to keep hitting it or there's no sound. With the organ, you need to hold it, and then you need to learn to take your hands off. The silence is a good thing, too.
So, bit by bit, I figured it out.
DAVE: Did the Muleskinners become Boz and the Boz People?
IAN: No, that was actually a completely different band. In fact, [the Muleskinners'] guitarist got in a traffic accident, and was in hospital for some months. I was getting other guitarists in to help, but it was never the same. I had a load of gigs booked, and it was always a lot of work for me because I had to go and rehearse the new guitarist in the afternoon. We had a different singer by then, as well, and he was real good, but it just got to be too much work. I got a call from one of the people at Marquee Artists, and he had a band he was managing called Boz and the Boz People. They wanted to get an organ player, and they'd seen and liked me, so he said [I'd be paid] £5 a week. My first reaction was "whoa!" because that was my first professional gig.
I'd already been thrown out of art school because I was never there. We used to have summer work to do for school [during the summer holiday], and they said that if I went back with my summer work and it was good enough they'd let me back in. I really applied myself the last couple days of summer holiday and did it all, and [the work] was really good. I got back in, collected my grant for the term, around £120, and split. I was a professional musician.
But I was still with the Muleskinners then. I was still booking gigs. When all this happened, I jumped ship and went with a band that was being managed and had gigs. It turned out that they were fucking lazy, at least Boz was. He just didn't give a fuck. I suppose it was funny to him, but I really wanted to get moving, to do something. I was only with them for about four or five months. One day, we were supposed to be in Scotland on a Friday for three gigs, and the van broke down so we missed the Friday gig. We got the van fixed and set off on Saturday morning and it broke down again. Boz just laughed. I said, "you know what? I'm out of here! Goodbye." And I picked my bag up and thumbed a lift home.
I left the Boz People on Saturday, and on Sunday I went to see my girlfriend. I was on the tube coming across London, and our neighbor's cousin got on. He asked how I was, and I told him I was doing great. Actually, I was really pissed off cuz I was out of a job and I didn't know what I was going to do. He asked, "how's the band?" and I said, "oh, well, I just left." He said, "Oh! You should join the Small Faces!" I said, "Yeah! Very funny!" The next day, I was a member! Monday morning, I got a call from Don Arden, who was the Small Faces manager, and I joined the band that day!
DAVE: That would have been late October?
IAN: November the 1st, 1965.
DAVE: And did you know much about the Small Faces then?
IAN: Oh, yeah. I'd seen them on television. My dad said, "Hey, Ian, look! Check it out! This geezer looks like you!" It was Ronnie Lane.
DAVE: Did it come as a surprise? Had you known any of them?
IAN: No! Apparently, there was a review of a Boz and the Boz People gig in Beat Instrumental magazine, and it was a good review and they'd raved about me. They had a photograph of Boz with my name underneath it. Of course, the [Small Faces] guys read about this guy who plays a Hammond and plays it really well, and the photo makes them think he's good looking-- Boz is a good-looking guy, kinda too good-looking! And so they told Don, "Get that guy! That's the geezer we want!" I was kind of officially in the band before I'd met them. I had an interview with Don, then I was told to go away and come back a couple hours later. I came back, then they walked in.
I actually didn't know which band I was interviewing for until I left the office the first time. I'd been there most of the afternoon waiting for an interview, and there were photographs on the wall of the different bands he managed. I was trying to figure which band I was there for. "The Animals? Nah!" Alan Price had left, and they'd just got Dave Rowberry in. It couldn't be them. There were the Nashville Teens, and John Hawken was a great piano player so I thought, "it ain't gonna be them!" There were the Small Faces, and I thought, "no way." And there were the Clayton Squares, which were a band I'd never even heard of. They were touring Germany and all that, and I thought it must be them. I didn't know for sure, but it certainly wasn't the Small Faces. I said, "what band is this?", and Don said "the Small Faces, but you're not to tell anyone! Don't even tell your parents." When he told me, I was in seventh heaven. I was in the clouds, gone.
I went to this pub that I used to go to called the Ship, which was right next to the Marquee, and had a pint of beer and waited until Dad got home. I called him up and told him I'd got a gig with a band, and he said, "have ya?!" I said, "yeah, but I can't tell you who!" He said, "okay!" I said, "I won't be home for a bit. It's really exciting, but I can't tell!" Anyway, he guessed! I didn't call him back for two weeks, but he just had a feeling that it was someone big.
DAVE: Hey! You were on to £20 a week!
IAN: No! When I went back, [Arden] said, "how much are you earning at the moment?" I lied, and said £20 a week. He said, "okay, you start at thirty. You'll be on probation for a month. If the guys like you and everything goes well, you'll get an even split with the band!" Which, of course, meant 'fuck all'! My money went down to twenty!
After a couple of months I asked Ronnie, "what's happening?" He said, "what do you mean?" "Well, Don said I'd be on probation..."
"Oh! Fuck off!" He went up to the office, "'Ere, Don-- Mac's in the band, all right?!" "Oh, yeah...fine." And my money went down. I never told Ronnie and Steve until years later. I just couldn't do it!
DAVE: They'd only been together for a matter of ten or eleven weeks...
IAN: Yeah, they only had one single out, Whatcha Gonna Do About It, which was a minor hit. Their second record was coming out that week.
DAVE: Jimmy Langwith [Winston] was only on the first two singles, and you came in for the third single.
IAN: Yeah. Sha La La La Lee was the first thing I played on.
DAVE: Had he actually gotten the ax by then, or was this all under the table?
IAN: He hadn't actually been told, I don't think.
DAVE: When did you all move to the Pimlico flat?
IAN: That was the day after Christmas, Boxing Day. That was Steve, Ronnie and me. Kenney never moved in, cuz he was still living at home with his parents. He was only 17!
DAVE: And you were the oldest, so that was no problem: Move out of the house, move in with a professional band, have all the girls, anything that rolled across the table...
IAN: There never was much girlie action. We were more into the music and smoking dope and getting high and staying up all night. In fact, there was very little girlie action until a bit later. Besides, on the road we were kept so separated from the fans. It's the way our road manager or driver had it set up. We'd get to a gig and there'd be lots of screaming girls, so we'd run into the dressing room. You couldn't get close to the fans then. It was too berserk. And they were too young, so it wasn't a question of shagging. That would come later! [Laughter] They had to grow up a little bit so we could get to them without them going potty.
DAVE: How did you get on with the band from the first day?
IAN: That very first day, after Don and I discussed the money, he said, "let's get the guys in." They were waiting outside, so they came in, and Steve and Ronnie picked me up! They looked at me and laughed, because I was the same size. It was so funny! We were just instant mates! It was the strangest thing. It was definitely meant to be. I sort of 'went home', found me brothers.
DAVE: How soon were you rehearsing and putting tracks down with them?
IAN: Actually, we rehearsed the next day for a little bit for a mimed radio show, if you can imagine. It was called Ready, Steady, Radio. You were in front of a live audience, and you mimed to the record. I don't know what that was about! The following day we went down and properly rehearsed for a gig in Swindon. We did our first gig that night, then toured non-stop. We played every night for close to a month before we came back to London.
IAN: 'Unreal' is right!
DAVE: It occurs to me more and more, after recently listening to what little live stuff there is of the Small Faces, what a remarkable job Marriott did of playing live and getting that force across, both with his guitar and that voice! It also allowed you to come out to the forefront with the organ and carry the middle register and do fills
IAN: It was really raw. He would develop a song and it just became a groove, and he would make up the words as he went along. It was kind of a blues jam. It sounds kind of boring when you think of 'blues jam', but he was dynamic. He had the voice of an old black man!
DAVE: Well, who is? They're reprehensible, like most companies are.
IAN: There not as bad as some I could mention, like Charly Records. Those thieves never gave us a penny!
DAVE: It sounds like a licensing scam from hell.
IAN: Yup. I'd like to meet that Belgian bastard and kick him in the nuts. I'm finishing off all the corrections and new bits and pieces for the paperback version of All the Rage, coming out in February of next year. I'm tagging on a little bit about Charly for this, cuz I'd left him alone [in the hardback edition]. I figured, "fuck it".
DAVE: Why did you leave Charly out?!
IAN: I don't know why! I wasn't fully aware of the situation. I just want to put him in it a little bit, threaten him a bit.
DAVE: You look at anybody that had a hand in the til back then... and they all did. They're all reprehensible.
IAN: Oh, man, they're still doing it! Arden's still lying through his teeth! Did you read that article [on Arden] in Mojo? Check the [following] issue, because I've made my [position on Arden] quite clear.
DAVE: Did they do a piece on him?
DAVE: Why? Who'd give a rat's ass?
IAN: That's what I was angry with: that they would give him space. But at least they gave me equal space, whatever that means. It's great to say he's a liar in print, because I couldn't say it in the book.
DAVE: So the publisher had to make some changes [in All the Rage]?
yeah. Apparently, you're not allowed to say he's a thief when
he patently is. Its not a question of me getting sued-- In
England, they would sue the printer, the editor, the publisher, everybody. It's
DAVE: Publishing is just as bad, if not worse, than the record industry. Five corporations own all the record companies...
IAN: Yes! There's United Biscuits, Boozers Unanimous... it's unbelievable. It's just a bunch of accountants and lawyers.
DAVE: And they have no interest in the business or product. They're running 'art' like it's a corporation, and a very bad one at that.
IAN: It drives me fucking nuts!
DAVE: It was bad enough back when labels could sometimes tell when they heard a good act. It's got to be really getting you down now! There's no research and development, no A&R. It's just a bunch of guys who made names for themselves running corporations that sold fabric softeners and breakfast cereals. They don't know music and they don't care. They don't even care enough to keep the guys on the payroll that do know and care and aren't afraid to say so. All they want is next week's Vanilla Ice or Ricky Martin, just some quick hits. There are few bands signed today that will be around in two or three years. One-hit wonders, all of them. The CEOs just want enough capital to absorb someone else's catalogue, because it's cheaper to repackage things.
IAN: It's fucking depressing. What's more depressing, it seems to me, is that the record company guys are all getting fired, and record companies are all looking around, scrambling. But they're not going for [an artist] who's got something decent, theyre just going "well, we'll latch onto something we can mold". Theyre just not looking.
DAVE: You're talking about a nonstop touring schedule, so you must have been squeezing session time in-between...
IAN: Yeah, we'd go into the studio for an afternoon and then do a gig that night. Basically, we were cutting singles, so we'd go in and cut two sides. Four tracks: Basic track on one, any solos on another track, vocals on another, and backing vocals on another. Boom! Mix down. Very basic.
DAVE: Yeah,... very basic, very cheap!
IAN: Very cheap, very Don Arden!
DAVE: There ya go! Was Don Arden ever a Decca employee?
IAN: No, we were signed to his company. We weren't actually signed to Decca. We were signed to his Contemporary Records. They never paid us a penny, by the way. Not only were they only paying us £20 a week, they were taking our recordings and licensing them to Decca. Decca was presumably paying them, as [Decca] certainly weren't paying us. Actually, Decca never did pay us until 1991, after Steve died. No apologies for where the money went from 1965 to 1991, twenty-fucking-six years. "No apologies, and here's a little we found in an account". They paid us in 1991 at the same rate they would have in 1965, and they stopped paying us last year altogether. We're in dispute with them, and I'm in dispute with them. I want to get paid from 1965 on. Ain't that a laugh?
DAVE: So they're screwing you on the CDs?
IAN: CDs aren't in our contract. That's what we're disputing.
DAVE: Everybody should be disputing that. They should all have 'slave' written across their faces, like Prince did.
[When, in 1982, a standardized format for compact discs was agreed upon, the record industry was quick to capitalize. How better to swell their coffers than to sell a CD at $15.98 instead of an LP at $8.98, with very little difference in the cost of production between the two? As soon as CD hardware and software prices stabilized, the record industry majors unilaterally announced the death of vinyl. When sales of vinyl didn't naturally slump after their declaration, the industry undermined the format. First, they stopped allowing retail outlets to return vinyl products, so stores were less likely to order vinyl in the first place. Then they limited the production of vinyl. Often, they stopped production on vinyl titles that were climbing the charts. A typical title might show sales of 50,000 CDs, 150,000 cassettes, but only 15,000 LPs, but what they weren't telling you is that only 15,000 records were pressed! Thus, they had sales figures to back up their prognosis.
Furthermore, record companies still pay royalties to artists based on pre-CD contracts. They didn't update royalties to reflect the huge profit margin discrepancy between CD and LP formats. Most artists that complain or attempt renegotiations are, to this day, given excuses like 'research and development costs' on CD technology (even though it is now cheaper to make a CD than it was an LP). Usually, only big artists with a huge market share are being treated fairly, and only if they have good representation. Artists unlucky enough to have signed contracts basing royalties on pennies-per-unit-sold are wholly screwed.
Artists are not reaping the rewards for the artificially inflated prices of CDs. Most were never properly paid when their music sold on other formats, and far fewer are getting a fair shake with CD sales. The consumer certainly isn't being well treated, either. Despite reduced overhead, CD prices continue to increase. Many consumers have been forced, through calculated obsolescence, to purchase music collections over and over again-- on vinyl, 8-Track, cassette, CD, etc. And how many versions of a CD title must you buy before the label releases a version with optimal sound quality, correctly mastered from the best source? The record majors have wronged enough people to warrant class-action suits. Its time artists take over the business that has raped, robbed and starved them from the start. Break the Big Five, end their control over market share and distribution, and put music back in the music business. -- D.M.]