Stick It To The Company Or I Want To Bite The Hand That Feeds Me

Well, I’m listening to the Kinks’ album “Lola vs. Powerman…” and Denmark Street comes up. I once read that this album (there’s also Top Of The Pops) was the strongest full frontal attack on the music business ever released by that very industry before the Sex Pistols’ EMI. So I thought about other examples for songs slashing the biz. Here are some more I can think of:

Elvis Costello And The Attractions - Radio, Radio (where a part of the thread title comes from and which he topped by performing it unannounced on SNL, as heard in the clip)

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Workin For MCA

Van Morrison - Saint Dominic’s Preview (he was always disgusted with the business)

Stiff Little Fingers - Rough Trade (well, they slash an indie label, a very important one to boot, but obviously a very scummy one)

Have you got more?

Billy Joel - The Entertainer
Sugarloaf – Don’t Call Us

It’s a common theme.

Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar

Neil Young – This Note’s for You

Rolling Stones – The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man

Traffic alludes to it in “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boy.” (“The man in the suit has just bought a new car from the profits he’s made on your dreams.”)

Triumvirat - Mister Ten Percent

Not the label but critics - Chicago’s Critic’s Choice

Ben Folds’ “One Down” is his “la la la here’s my contractually obligated song” song.

Don’t forget “Moneygoround” from that same album.

The very first song on Kak’s first album, “HCO 97651,” is a somewhat cynical look at the record companies and the issues with cutting your first record.

George Harrison’s “Only a Northern Song” was a denunciation of the Beatles’ music publishing company, Northern Songs. Harrison got the short end of the stick in the deal and was bothered that Lennon and McCartney got nearly all the music publishing rights.

Gram Parsons had a strong anti-industry bent. The criminally underrated Flying Burritos Brothers album The Gilded Palace of Sin had a number of tunes that took potshots at the business and the LA scene in general.

Most notably – and one of my absolute favorites – is Sin City. Such a jaded and beautiful tune. Here’s a great write up on the story of behind the song from the L.A. Times.

Short excerpt from that article:

John Fogarty, ‘Zanz Kant Danz’ and ‘Mr. Greed’ on the ‘Centerfield’ album.
Directed at Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz; Zaentz sued and Fogarty was forced to change the song name to ‘Vanz Kant Danz’.

The Byrds ‘So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ has elements of this:

“Then it’s time to go downtown, where the agent man won’t let you down.
Sell your soul to the company, who are waiting there to sell plastic prayer.”

Two or Three Spectres by Peter Hammill

“Sod the music,” said the man in the suit,
"I understand profit and without that, it’s no use.

First that came to mind. George’s Taxman might also apply: here’s my advice for those who die (Taxman!) declare the pennies on your eyes (Taxman!!).

One of my faves: Graham Parker’s “Mercury Poisoning
The lyrics attack the label (Mercury Records) that had him bound in a stifling contract.

I’m a great fan of Gram Parsons and love Sin City, but have always thought that it was about L.A. in general and not specially an attack on the business. Thanks for the article, very interesting, clears up the meaning of some of the lines I couldn’t quite grasp till now.

I got one more, a favorite of mine: Nick Lowe - I Love My Label

Sue Me, Sue You Blues” isn’t exactly about the music industry per se, but it might fit.

Don’t forget “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish and “Rock Superstar” by Cypress Hill.

Don’t Download This Song

by Weird Al.

The Eagles’ Hotel California

Was it? Is it an encoded critique of the music biz, or is it just a dig on the lifestyle of its protagonists on the L.A. music scene? Maybe the question is moot because the the difference is so fuzzy.