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Musical Ad pisses off writer

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Their ‘Son’ was Fogerty’s babyJohn Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son,” was sold to Wrangler for TV ad by the label.

..one of his most meaningful songs, the Vietnam War-era protest anthem “Fortunate Son,” has been used by Wrangler as a patriotic endorsement of its jeans.

So, this has happened to The Beatles, The Stones, ect. I know things aren’t as simplistic in the music business as I am about to make them. Why don’t you just retain the rights to your music??? I don’t know why artists sell off the rights to the music and quite frankly, I find it hard to find sympathy for anyone who sells the rights to things, then complains about what gets done with them. I call this the Ace Frehley syndrome.

Years ago, when Ace left Kiss, he sold the rights to just about everything except his royalties. In other words, he sold the rights for Kiss to rerecord all of his work without him, sold his vote for how to use the Kiss brand, etc. He even sold his rights to the “Space Ace” costume to them. The only thing he retained the rights to is the royalty checks on his publishing and the sales. Not long afterward, he started complaining about the rampant Kiss marketing (hell, as recently as a few months ago, he was complaining about the Kiss Koffin…). Recently, when he refused to play a gig Kiss was doing, they hired a guitarist to stand in for him and put him in the “Space Ace” costume. Ace was pissed and fired out in the press. In my book, Kiss had every right to do that, since he sold them the rights. He tried to make a quick buck when he could have held onto everything and both made more money in the long run and retained a right of refusal.

The real kicker in Fogerty’s case, though is the song content. The song is a Vietnam-era protest song. It’s being used in the Wrangler ad as a patriotic endorsement of jeans. They only really use the first two lines:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag

Ooh, they’re red white and blue

While the whole song goes like this:

by: J. Fogerty
performed by: Credence Clearwater Revival
From Willy And The Poorboys 1969

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”,
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no.

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no no no,

That kind of does piss me off. The song is not patriotic, yet has two lines that can be used that way. How a song is used when the artist signs away the rights is too bad, but advertising that twists anything to their own devices is like lying.

Car ads do it all the time. Like that Jeep ad where the Jeep is under a river, the people walk over it and the Jeep pulls out. In little, itty-bitty writing across the bottom of the screen, it says “This vehicle is not intended for or will not run under water.” The other Jeep ad has the Jeep climbing Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary talking in the background. Again, a little, tiny disclaimer says that the vehicle won’t necessarily perform like that. Another one has a Ford Explorer under water, like a submarine. The disclaimer, again in tiny lettering says that the vehicle won’t run under water. This, to me, is not truthful advertising when an ad blatantly lies about a product or portrays it for different use. Not because I believe them, but because I’m not a dummy and wish these companies wouldn’t treat me like one.

This was originally posted on my site, JimSpot on November 1, 2002

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About Jim Schwab

  • Even established artists will not get signed to a Major Label if they insist that they should “retain the rights” to their music. An unknown artist has no leverage whatsoever and seldom realizes that a six figure “advance” is just a loan with their future as collateral. Fogerty lost control of his song publishing before Creedence had a single hit. And the recordings that he paid to produce (and was not paid to promote) belong to the record company. Sure, it was his “choice” to sign those contracts, but if he hadn’t, we’d have never heard of him. And every time a big entertainment conglomerate stands to lose some money, their lobbyists get copyright law changed to prevent their cash cows from falling into the public domain or (gasp) reverting to the artists who created them.

  • me too

    Thank you Hazy Dave for saying what I wanted to say. Jimspot seems to be embarassingly uninformed about the topic.

  • me too

    Thank you Hazy Dave for saying what I wanted to say. Jimspot seems to be embarassingly uninformed about the topic.

  • Thank you Hazy Dave for saying what I wanted to say. Jimspot seems to be embarassingly uninformed about the topic.

  • In Ace’s case he was probably whacked on drugs when he signed the paper. In the Beatles and Stones’ cases, the machinations of the music industry at the time were not designed to work in their favour (nor, arguably, are they now). Whatever other advances the Beatles may have later made, they started out much like any other band of the period, i.e. powerless, being assigned to a producer who told them what to record and how to do it. The Beatles were just lucky that George Martin gave them their head later on…

  • I think of political expropriation, like Reagan’s second campaign, in which he commandeered “Born in the USA,” a harrowing list of miseries begot of nationalism, as somehow a song about patriotism. It is, in a way, but certainly not in the way that Ed Meese, etc. intended.

  • ebarassingly uninformed? no. coldly indifferent, yes.

    It’s not my problem, concern or point that they are in effect forced to sign away the rights. They do so in order to get the contract. That I understand and don’t really care about. They signed the rights away, period. The debate about whether or not we would ever have heard of them after that is irelevant.

  • I see both sides of the arguments here, but one can retain artistic control and still retain the rights to the music.

    When Built to Spill was approached by a big label Doug Martsch would say this:
    1.) I retain the copyright
    2.) I keep the masters
    3.) I will tell you when I’m ready to release another CD.

    Sure, he got a big fat NO by several slobering cash-cow labels, but he eventually got his deal.

    The moral of the story is that bands shouldn’t say yes to the first record deal that comes along. Oh, and Ace needs to buck up. You sell it and YOU DON’T HAVE ANY SAY… it’s not that tough to understand.