Noel Redding, the Jimi Hendrix Experience bass player had a handy quote for anyone who wanted to enter the music business and who asked his advice: “Study law. Buy a gun…”
Not a stun gun though, presumably. What with Rhianna allegedly “romping with £5,000 strippers” (I say allegedly – it must be true – I read it in the Daily Star) and Justin Bieber making smart alec remarks in the guest books of holocaust victims’ houses and reportedly sharing a tour bus with some illegal substances / weapons (which, for the avoidance of doubt definitely weren’t his or anything) our pop stars appear to be behaving in a more outrageous manner than rock stars nowadays. It almost makes you long for the days when Ozzy was drinking. What’s that? He is? Oh dear…
But whilst we sympathise with Ozzy’s struggles with the disease of addiction, we collectively have less sympathy for nineteen year old millionaires acting like, well, spoilt teenagers.
It’d be nice to say that Bieber is in safe hands. The trouble is, the Music Industry doesn’t have the greatest track record of keeping artists out of trouble. So the next time a performer goes off the rails, let’s remember how the environment they are working in has not exactly been a shining ethical beacon of truth and justice:
Here are ten examples:
1. Creative Accounting: When Guy Hands of private equity firm Terra Firma bought EMI, he believed there was a good cost-out story, and highlighted the amount of money spent on “Fruit and Flowers” for cost-cutting. Unfortunately, this was apparently (and possibly apocryphally) a euphemism for money the previous owners spent on recreational drugs for the benefit of the artists.
2. Theft: Non-payment of Royalties. Perhaps the most blatant and shocking example I have seen of this was described in Frederic Dannen‘s superb book Hit Men. He describes how early R&B label Brunswick Records president Nat Tarnopol took “ruthless advantage of Jackie Wilson” to the extent that “the writing credit for Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around” is listed to Paul Tarnopol, Nat’s son, who wasn’t born when the song was recorded.”
3. Drug Use: I once was told that the most important member of the road crew was the one in charge of the pyro. He guards the gunpowder box zealously and ensures people are kept well away for their own safety. For those same reasons of health and safety it is also a box that customs officials steer clear of. This makes the pyro box the perfect place to store powdery substances that are not gunpowder…
4. Bribing The Press: I once spoke to the former manager of a successful indie band whose lead singer had made some unfortunate and very unwise comments to a journalist. He told me that in order to keep the comments off the front pages a sum of money was paid in cash in a brown envelope to the showbiz editor of a national newspaper.
5. Drug Smuggling Beatles: In his book The Love You Make, Peter Brown tells how The Beatles managed to import large quantities of LSD into the UK. “It had been prepared to order by San Francisco’s famed acid-chemist “Owlsley”…That June the first major outdoor rock festival was taking place in Monterey, California not far from Owlsley’s laboratory in San Francisco. Although The Beatles knew the film rights had been sold exclusively to an American film company, they sent a large complement of film equipment to San Francisco, ostensibly to film the festival. When the camera crew was refused permission to film, as was expected, the airtight camera lenses were filled with liquid LSD and shipped back to England without any problem.”
So that’s how The Beatles managed to obtain “several pint sized vials” of LSD!
6. More Drug Smuggling: Of course, taking drugs on the road and through customs can be a problem, as Tim Burgess recounts in his entertaining bio “Telling Stories”.
On one border crossing the band began hiding their drugs into various panels on the tour bus. “Mini screwdrivers were sourced. Micro engineering was undertaken….Everything was removed then meticulously replaced.” The band asked how far from the border they were: “Seventeen miles” was the answer.
“So we’re going to be there in twenty minutes?”
“No you idiot, we crossed it seventeen miles ago – they never stopped us”.
Add in the fact that the trip was through the Channel Tunnel – yet the band hadn’t noticed – and you’ll never get a better advert for the debilitating effects of drug taking…
7. Drug Taking In The Workplace: According to Danny Davis – a record company promotion man at the Casablanca record label offices in the ’70s, “an adorable little girl would come and take your order for the following day’s drug supply”. (Source: Hit Men).
8. Drug Dealing in Bars: In Moon The Loon by Dougal Butler, we read about what happens when a drug deal goes wrong in the Casbah. Butler describes Keith Moon addressing “a scruffy little Herbert” with the line “Got any coke, dear boy?” Ten minutes later the “Herbert” re-enters with “a bloody great polythene bag…of what looks like top grade coke”. The coke changes hands “for ten dollars and my instamatic camera”. They take a mighty snort only to find that it is “by no means high grade cocaine but…high grade sweet sherbert.” Ah well…
9. Rock star meltdowns: Whilst Spinal Tap brilliantly shows how a band can get upset over the catering….(“It’s a complete catastrophe”)…
…it took Mötley Crüe’s book Dirt to show just how ridiculous things can get as a not entirely sober Vince Neil “threw a fit when all they had was a jar of Gulden’s mustard, not French’s mustard. So he slammed the glass bottle against the wall and severed the tendons in several fingers on his right hand. We had to cancel the show.”
10. Intimidation and Fraud: Perhaps the most scandalous example of a rock star behaving badly occurred at at Decade Records in the late seventies when a songwriter, Tony Signs, was trapped in a room and terrorised by a certain musician who (without naming names) wore face paint that resembled a “demon” or “God of Thunder” and who wanted to steal his songs.
During this little known scandal, and to cover his tracks, the “Demon” also pretended that a phantom was sabotaging the recording studios – a ghostly presence that sought vengeance on those who ruined his career.
Thankfully, all it took was some kids and a dog to sort out the mystery…here are some photos taken at the time *
(* Source: Scooby Doo – third season – The Diabolical Disc Demon)
Record #182 – Jackie Wilson – Doggin’ Around