David Bowie was a born collaborator. That was part of his genius. For his entire career, Bowie displayed a knack for finding the exact right collaborators at the exact right times, and he let the work of his peers help shape his own work. And now, one of those collaborators has announced that he’s in dispute with Bowie’s estate and his music licensing company.
Robert Fripp, the King Crimson co-founder and general all-around guitar genius, worked with Bowie on two of his classics, 1977’s “Heroes” and 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Brian Eno, a longtime Fripp collaborator, brought Fripp in for the “Heroes” sessions, and Fripp unquestionably helped shape the sound of that album. Eno didn’t produce Scary Monsters — that was a Bowie/Tony Visconti co-production — but Bowie still brought Fripp in to play lead guitar on six of the album’s 10 songs, including the singles “Fashion,” “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps),” and “Up The Hill Backwards.”
In a new Facebook post, Fripp argues that he should be credited as a “Featured Player” on those albums. He claims that Bowie, Eno, and Visconti all agreed that Fripp had served as a Featured Player, even though nobody used that terminology at the time. But Fripp also says that PPL, the UK music-licensing company, won’t acknowledge Fripp’s Featured Player status because of its own rules, which Fripp considers to be bullshit.
Here’s what Fripp has written on Facebook:
RF: The dispute centres on the refusal of PPL and the David Bowie estate to acknowledge that RF’s contribution to the Heroes and Scary Monsters albums is that of a Featured Player. This accreditation as a Featured Player is supported by Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, David Bowie himself (although the terminology was not then in use), and the Court Of Public Opinion over four decades.
Essentially, the DB Estate argues that RF’s Featured Performer Status is not acknowledged by PPL rules; and PPL argues that as the DB Estate does not accept RF as a Featured Performer, RF is therefore not a Featured Player – and their rules confirm this. Anyone read Catch 22?
The PPL’s rules and MO perpetuate an historic injustice. Rules are not God-given laws to maintain the universe: they are created by people to organise and facilitate interactions in a fair and equitable fashion; which, in the nature of things, can never be exactly foretold. So, with intelligence and goodwill, where the rules do not allow for what is Right to be acknowledged and addressed, the rules are modified to take exceptional / novel situations into account. This is the Principle of Progressive Approximation: rules are fine-tuned to serve what is Right and True in our society.
However, this depends upon intelligence and goodwill; and a desire to create a fair and equitable society / business / community.
IMO the correct approach for the PPL is to change the rules to match what is right. I note, our past DGM experience suggest that where there are conflicting interests, the PPL default position / MO is to side with the larger, established industry player, regardless of the actual situation; eg Virgin over DGM.
Dear innocent, reasonable reader: please note – we are dealing with the music industry here. Fifty-two years of direct, hands-on experience suggests to me that the majority of players who operate the system, operate the system to serve their own interests. There are a small number of players whose aim is ethical action in business; not directing the industry to promote their own personal interests; these assertions supported by decades of documentation.
Further commentary, with turgid legal commentary and rulebooks, evasion and prevarication, all available. This, a microcosm in our larger societal turmoil, as a new paradigm seeks to be welcomed into our suffering world.
Likely more on this, but currently on the Crimbus hurtling to Cleveland…
I haven’t seen both sides of this story, but, I mean, pay Robert Fripp.