OK, so I just threw out there on Twitter the musing that all the angry songs about record companies seemed to be from punk bands, and was inundated with other suggestions. So here’s a Top Ten.
1. Stiff Little Fingers – Rough Trade. In a catalogue of angry songs, this has got to be SLF’s angriest. Yes, “the Troubles” were bad, but it takes an indie record label to really get Jake Burns ranting. “We were betrayed, betrayed, betrayed, betrayed, betrayed by Rough Trade lies! Betrayed by lies!” [Someone now tells me this was about Island records, before SLF signed to Rough Trade, and should read as rough trade lies, not Rough Trade… Confusing!]
2. Sex Pistols – EMI. And at the end… “A&M…”
3. The Clash – Complete Control. Perhaps the perfect summation of the punk ethos, but they still ended up releasing triple albums… I remember the debate when London Calling was released about whether releasing a double album was a grand betrayal of everything punk rock stood for. I still think it would have been better whittled down to ten songs.
4. Generation X – Gimme Some Truth. Well, there’s a bit of a rant about Bernie Rhodes at the end, so I assume the song is aimed at him.
5. Blur – Country House. This could now be seen a a bit of a dig on floppy-fringed Tory-schmoozing cheese-making bassist Alex James, but apparently it’s about record company execs.
6. Pink Floyd – Havw A Cigar. Suggested by John Rentoul, the Indy political journalist. I’ve never heard it. It includes the line “and by the way, which one’s Pink?”
7. The Smiths – Paint a Vulgar Picture. Much-nominated. I can’t remember how it goes. People think I like the Smiths more than I do.
8. Robbie Williams – Freedom. A cover of George Michael’s song, given a new twist when Robbie escaped from the hell that is being in a hugely successful boy band and got to hang out with Oasis and get fat and become a global megastar and move to LA and then rejoin said boyband for a mega-selling tour.
9. Mel C – The New Superstar. According to Aaron who nominated this she’s done “loads of songs about hating record companies”. I will take his word for it. The first thing Aaron ever said to me when I met him at a party round a Labour activist’s house in Manchester during the Oldham by-election was “so what’s your favourite Spice Girls” song. You’ve got to give him credit for trying. (My answer was “Spice up your Life”.)
10. Julian Cope – Bill Drummond Said. Not quite sure what he’s on about in this song. Anyone would think he was on drugs. Drummond’s response was “Julian Cope is Dead” so we can assume Cope wasn’t being nice about him.
Other tweeted suggestions include Punka by Kenickie, Dinosaurs will Die by NOFX, Wave Goodbye to EMI by Beans on Toast, Fools by Motörhead, Working for MCA by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Song for Whoever by the Beautiful South (not sure that counts, it’s not about record companies or management is it? and not angry, more just a bit sarky), Rosa Parks by Outcast, Don’t Let the Record Comoany Take you our for Lunch by Jeffrey Lewis, and someone who said “Public Enemy, KRS One, Tribe Called Quest, Genius/GZA” but didn’t specify which tracks. There’s also, I suppose, So You Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star by the Byrds, a dig at the music business which was inspired by seeing the rise of manufactured band, the Monkees – but it’s generally accepted that the Monkees were a great pop band.