This is just a rant I had . . .
It’s not often I shout at the radio, but this happened over the weekend when the BBC disparagingly reported that Spotify and other music streaming services were still making the music of Gary Glitter, Lostprophets and Rolf Harris available.
The tone was that Spotify was despicable and in the wrong not to ban music by these convicted sex offenders. However laudable (albeit without any thought) the intentions, this stance is simply wrong.
Just to stress: the crimes committed by these people are despicable, and it’s up to you whether you stop buying their music (though I doubt anyone has bought anything by Glitter or Harris for some time). But it shouldn’t be down to the BBC — or anyone else — to call for private companies to censor their output.
It’s a different thing cutting out Top of the Pops repeats featuring Jimmy Savile: he wasn’t creative and wasn’t interested in the music anyway (he used to boast he could record his two-hour radio shows in 15 minutes — he just recorded the links and never played the music).
But calling for a ban on creative performers is just wrong, on many levels, as well as inconsistent and hypocritical.
Surely art and the person who makes it are separate? Even when they’re not, their music can be enjoyed — take Wagner and his anti-Semitism and racism, or Mozart’s racist Magic Flute or Shakespeare’s viciousness in Merchant of Venice.
As for consistency: while Ian Watkins (Lostprohpets singer) is extreme, if you’re going to ban Harris and Glitter, there’s a few others you need to look at, too.
Elvis Presley started seeing Priscilla when she was 14 and she moved in when she was 15. Presley was never charged but Chuck Berry was: he was convicted in St Louis of transporting a 14-year-old girl across a state line and served time.
Most famously, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 14-year-old cousin Myra Brown; he was never prosecuted, though admittedly it proved a setback to his career.
Woody Allen is still working, despite taking pornographic photos of a child and I won’t mention Roman Polanski.
Worst of all: Errol Flynn, who was acquitted on statutory rape charges involving two teenage girls, and allegedly introduced a phrase into the language: “In like Flynn”, which means men hitting on girls and getting away with it.
Then there’s Lolita, the story of a man involved with a 12-year-old. You can imagine the BBC banning a rock band but defending a production of Lolita on artistic grounds.
The law views murder as more serious than rape or child abuse, and plenty of performers have murdered but remained critically acceptable.
One of the most famous is Sid Vicious, charged with murdering Nancy Spungen. A world without Sid’s music wouldn’t be a much poorer place (sorry, Sid); not so with Phil Spector, generally agreed to be a lunatic and now serving time for murder. Take a high moral ground with him and we’d lose all those songs with that famous Wall Of Sound.
Motley Crue are beloved for their roguish behaviour but singer Vince Neil drunk-drove and killed Hanoi Rocks drummer “Razzle” Dingley. Neil pleaded guilty to a vehicular manslaughter charge as a result of the accident, but his career continued.
Jim Gordon wrote the beautiful piano coda for the classic Layla, but also murdered his mother with a hammer and a knife.
While Harris’s contribution to music won’t bother history much, Glitter and Watkins are important: Glitter was at the forefront of glam and can’t be erased from history while Watkins was one of the leaders of a resurgence in music in South Wales.
There’ve already been glam rock radio shows and compilations that don’t feature Glitter. He was at best a jobbing singer: his musical style was invented by producer Mike Leander, who co-wrote most of the hits, but whatever Glitter did, it’s rewriting history to ignore his contribution.
When I discussed this on Facebook there was surprisingly little dissent.
The main issue is of course Royalties: Watkins made about £100,000 between arrest and conviction while Glitter earns a fortune: £300,000 in 2012, largely from US music royalties. His tune Rock and Roll, Part2 has been popular at American sporting events for decades and he gets money from Oasis, who sampled Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
The obvious solution came from Dave Wedgbury at A&A Music: when someone is convicted of a serious offence, one that causes pain to others, any earnings during their prison sentence should go to their victims. In the case of high earners like Glitter, the excess should go to charities helping victims of the same crime.
It’s a perfect solution.
If you don’t want to buy Gary Glitter, that’s ok. If you want to buy early Oasis or a glam rock compilation, that’s ok too, because a sick man is not benefitting from the Royalties.