By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
"Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part 1)" by Neil Young
An infamous, industry piss fight indirectly involved Young. In 1988 Atlantic wanted to release a CSN&Y reunion album, but David Geffen demanded a cut of the cake, and the whole spat ended up in Fredric Dannen's book Hit Men. Young, who can sometimes be as big a brat as David Geffen, has always been a butcher of sacred bull, and he devoted an entire verse (ahem) of this elaborate eight-minute wonder to sonic corruption. The scenic segment sets a producer against an artist during the recording of a "perfect track" that lacks only "a vocal" and "a song." Somebody bring that producer the new Rolling Stone. Neil "Forever" Young gets extra credit for his "This Note's for You," which skewers MTV, marketing, corporate sponsorship, and anything else he could think of that puts money over music.
"Dear Mr. Geffen" by Rooster Head
David Geffen is an industry legend, the boy wonder of the biz. He owns Jack Warner's famous palace in L.A., he used to do the horizontal bop with Cher, he's had a hand in so many major moves that the historians have lost count. He's either a true genius or a real jerk, depending on how he's treated you. It's reasonable to guess he doesn't have a clue who Rooster Head is, which lends credence to the jerk theory. So the Head writes a musical letter to him: "Dear Mr. Geffen greetings from the band/Mr. Lampshade and the boys would love to shake your hand/We get so excited when you play our songs/We'd be so ecstatic if you took us on." If Geffen released rock this good on his label, he'd be certified a genius.
"Stuffin' Martha's Muffin" by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper
A good case for these musical darts often being hypocritical. Mighty Mojo stuck it to MTV vid-jock Martha Quinn, and later sold his soul to MTV. Elvis isn't the only one who's everywhere.
"Pull My Strings" by the Dead Kennedys
The DK's career skidded to a halt after Jello Biafra and others were busted for including a poster in the Frankenchrist album. The art, Penis Landscape by H.R. Giger, was an especially unattractive, close-up depiction of coitus, although it wasn't easy to tell what it was. Before that, the Kennedys were SRO-ing theaters such as the Cameo, and Frankenchrist was among the band's best work. (That album also included "M.T.V. Get Off the Air.") Nonetheless, Jello and company were angry long before the poster incident, as this track from the Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death compilation evidences. The chorus consists of the word "drool" repeated and followed by the phrase "my payola." The song attacks sell-out dreams ("I ain't no artist/I'm a businessman"), concert shortcomings ("You pay ten bucks to see me/On a fifteen-foot-high stage/Fat-ass bouncers kick the shit/Out of kids who try to dance"), and the way rock stars need big penises and small brains, and concludes, "And when I'm rich/And meet Bob Hope/We'll shoot some golf/And shoot some dope."
"History of Rock n' Roll" by XTC
Only 22 seconds long, this number contains nothing but a few words and four millisecond riffs. And it says plenty. Tagged onto the end of the compilation Rag & Bone Buffet, Andy Partridge covers four decades, just as the title promises. When it comes to industry scheming, airplay inequities, and the business of rock, sometimes the less said the better. Thank you, and good night.
"Mercury Poisoning" by Graham Parker
A somewhat obscure 1979 single, this is hardly the best work of Parker's colorful and prodigious career. But of all the songwriters in the world, none more deserves to be on this list than Mr. Angry. Cursed by inconsistency and an unwillingness to sell out, Parker has chewed the fuzzy end of the lollipop more times than any other major artist. After recording several Seventies albums of mixed worth for Mercury, Parker got out of his contract with the label by turning in The Parkerilla, a double album with three live sides and other superfluity. A few minutes after switching to Arista, Parker issued this hate letter to his former bosses. Interestingly, Arista declined to put its imprint on the promo twelve-inch.
"Zanz Kant Danz" by John Fogerty
No, but former manager Saul Zaentz can sue, forcing the Centerfield album to be recalled so the title of this cut could be changed to "Vanz Kant Danz." When Big John performed live in Miami behind this "comeback" album, he played no CCR songs, thereby making certain Saul wouldn't get a dime of performance-rights money.
"Invasion Hit Parade" by Elvis Costello
With a couple of exceptions during his horns-aplenty period, Declan MacManus has always challenged radio to play his music, and he's always been happy to stick a thorn into the finger of his bosses. When he left Columbia for Warner Bros., his debut for the latter, Spike, featured a stabbing cover: Elvis the Great Entertainer's painted face protruding from a stylized Warner Bros. logo. "Invasion," from Mighty Like a Rose, takes up where "Radio, Radio" left off. Always brash, sometimes snotty, he might not be lovable, but judged by the ability to make excellent records, Costello's aim is usually true. He can be forgiven for Blood & Chocolate, because when it comes to biting heads off, Elvis Costello has the sharpest teeth of all.