Today in Music History:
In 1970 Elton John makes his performing debut in America at Los Angeles’ Troubadour nightclubThis will be last post until September 12 as I will be away from my puter until then. So enjoy the dog days of summer.
Weird Al Yankovic has a new album coming out in September and he wants you to download a track from the album called Don't Download This Song
which is obviously about downloading mp3's. You can go to his site or you can get it here.
When Al puts out an album, half of the tracks are parodies of songs andthe other half are original compositions by the weird one himself. Al always asks an artist if he can do a parody of one of their songs and if they decline he won't. He doesn't have to ask. By law he could just go ahead and do it. One of Yankovic's most controversial parodies was "Amish Paradise", based on "Gangsta's Paradise" by hip-hop artist Coolio. (Coolio's work "Gangsta's Paradise" already samples heavily from a Stevie Wonder song, "Pastime Paradise," complicating the issue further.) Coolio's label gave Yankovic permission to parody his work and gave the impression that Coolio had as well, but he maintains that he never did. Coolio claimed he was upset, but legal action never materialized, and Coolio accepted royalty payments for the song. (Technically, under copyright law's "fair use" doctrine – affirmed by the United States Supreme Court — one does not need permission to record a parody, though one does need permission to record a satire. However, Yankovic has always requested permission before recording parodies, as a means of maintaining good relationships within the music community.) After this happened, Yankovic always made sure to speak directly with the artist of every song he parodied. At the XM Satellite Radio booth at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show Yankovic and Coolio made up. On his website, Yankovic wrote of this event, "I don’t remember what we said to each other exactly, but it was all very friendly… I doubt I’ll be invited to Coolio’s next birthday party, but at least I can stop wearing that bulletproof vest to the mall."
Now with his new album we have another controversy. A music label's efforts to block a (relatively tame) parody of James Blunt's ubiquitous hit "You're Beautiful" has Yankovic fighting back publicly, and using his Web site as a tool to do so. According to Yankovic, Blunt himself gave his blessing to a song called "You're Pitiful", which was to appear on Yankovic's now-finished but as-yet-unreleased new album. But after Yankovic finished recording the parody, Atlantic Records, Blunt's label, told Yankovic that he couldn't release "You're Pitiful." Though Yankovic has encountered resistance from artists before he says this is the first time a label has stepped in to squash the release of one of his parodies.
"The legality in this case is somewhat moot," Yankovic writes when contacted via e-mail. "James Blunt could still let me put it on my album if he really wanted to, but he obviously doesn't want to alienate his own record company... and my label could release the parody without Atlantic's blessing, but they don't really want to go to war with another label over this. So really, it's more of a political matter than a legal matter."
Of course, it's not hard to circulate a song these days, and Yankovic has helped that process along by making an MP3 of the track available for free download on his Web site. It may not appear on Yankovic's new album, but "You're Pitiful" will still swirl around in cyberspace long after Blunt's original recedes from memory.
"I have a long-standing history of respecting artists' wishes," Yankovic writes. "So if James Blunt himself were objecting, I wouldn't even offer my parody for free on my Web site. But since it's a bunch of suits -- who are actually going against their own artist's wishes -- I have absolutely no problem with it."
Thankfully, most artists seem genuinely flattered to get the "Weird Al treatment." Some groups (including Nirvana) have publicly stated that they didn't realize that they had really "made it" until they heard Weird Al parody one of their songs!
You're Pitiful by Weird Al Yankovic
I'll be back September 12 kitties.