Music News: Rolling Stones give 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' songwriting credit back to the Verve

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Richard Ashcroft performs in Australia in 2010.
Richard Ashcroft performs in Australia in 2010. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
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Rolling Stones give 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' songwriting credit back to the Verve
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For the past two decades, 100% of songwriting royalties from the Verve's hit "Bitter Sweet Symphony" have gone to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Now, the Rolling Stones are giving writing credit back to the Verve's Richard Ashcroft.

The "Bitter Sweet Symphony" story is one of the most infamous cautionary stories ever about what can happen when you sample other artists' music. That string hook from the Verve's 1997 hit is a sample from an orchestral cover of the Rolling Stones song "The Last Time." The Stones sued the Verve over the sample, and the result was that Jagger and Richards got 100% writing credit for the song.

Now, in what Ashcroft calls "a kind and magnanimous gesture from Mick and Keith," the Stones have returned all writing credit and future royalties to Ashcroft. In addition to thanking Jagger and Richards, Ashcroft also thanks Jody Klein — the son of Allen Klein, the notoriously aggressive Stones manager who launched the lawsuit — for "taking the call." (Pitchfork)

Netherlands singer Duncan Laurence wins Eurovision

This year's Eurovision music competition, controversially held in Israel, ended with victory for Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands. While Eurovision is known for over-the-top, kitschy performances, Laurence bucked the trend with "Arcade," a quiet song performed solo at the piano. Organizers and hosts were pleased with how the event went off, including a guest appearance by Madonna, who resisted calls to boycott the event and appeared in her "Madame X" getup to promote her upcoming album.

Only time will tell whether Duncan Laurence will reach the heights of past Eurovision winners like ABBA and Celine Dion; here he is with "Arcade." (New York Times)

Synth repairman accidentally gets high on LSD from the '60s

Woodstock may have been 50 years ago, but the '60s can still get you eight miles high. That's what an instrument repairman in the Bay Area recently discovered when fixing a vintage Buchla Model 100 modular synthesizer. The synth had been stored in a Cal State dorm room since the '60s, and after brushing his hand against a crystalline residue, the technician was off on an unexpected nine-hour acid trip. The substance was later confirmed to be, yep, LSD — which can be absorbed through the skin, and can remain potent for decades when stored in a cool dry place. (Pitchfork)

"Bongo Rock" drummer Preston Epps dies at 88

Percussionist Preston Epps has died of natural causes at age 88. His greatest musical legacy is bringing bongos to a mainstream audience with his instrumental song "Bongo Rock," which became a Top 20 hit in 1959. He was discovered playing in a Hollywood coffeehouse by a DJ who told him that if he could get that incredible 15-minute bongo solo down to two minutes, he'd have a hit on his hands. The song — and subsequent singles inclduing "Bongo Bongo Bongo," "Bongo in the Congo," "Bongo Rocket," and "Bongo Boogie" — helped fuel a '60s bongo boom. Epps's musical contributions went beyond the bongos, though: he played drums on the Penguins' iconic hit "Earth Angel," and later, as a nightclub manager, he discovered soul singer Lou Rawls. (Billboard)

Natalie Portman says Moby mischaracterized their relationship

Moby has a new memoir called Then It Fell Apart — which his website says is "a journey into the dark heart of fame and the demons that lurk beneath the bling and bluster of the celebrity lifestyle." Bluster might be the key word in that description.

In the book, Moby shares the story of trying to romance a young Lana Del Rey (back when she was known as Lizzy Grant). He took her out to dinner and bragged about being a wealthy musician, to which Del Rey called him "the Man," as in "stick it to the Man," and said he was a "rich WASP from Connecticut." There wasn't a second date.

He also wrote about dating a young Natalie Portman, who has since denied his claim. Portman told Harpers Bazaar, "I was surprised to hear that he characterized the very short time that I knew him as dating because my recollection is a much older man being creepy with me when I had just graduated high school."

The "Porcelain" star took to Instagram to respond, "I completely respect Natalie's possible regret in dating me (to be fair, I would probably regret dating me, too), but it doesn't alter the actual facts of our brief romantic history."

Aretha Franklin left three wills...sort of

When Aretha Franklin died last year, authorities believed she left no will. It turns out, that may not be exactly true. In fact, she may have left three or more wills...but none of them might be admissible in court.

A representative of Franklin's estate has informed the probate court that the estate has discovered three handwritten documents — one in a spiral notebook under her sofa cushions. The documents seem to lay out some of Franklin's intentions regarding the distribution of her assets, naming her children and grandchildren as beneficiaries and pointedly not giving anything to the father of one of her children, a man she says contributed almost nothing to their son's upbringing.

The question is: can these handwritten, sometimes hard to read, documents serve as the equivalent of a legal will? Experts are divided. A document like this can sometimes be considered valid if it's dated and clearly represents the wishes of the deceased, but on the other hand, ambiguity can be problematic, and these documents are somewhat ambiguous. Plus, it's not entirely clear that no further documents of this sort exist. Ken Abdo, an entertainment lawyer, says, "We should be looking under all the furniture."

Right now, Franklin's four sons are divided regarding whether they want these documents to be accepted by the court. If Franklin is ruled to have died intestate — that is, without a will — her assets will be split evenly among her four sons. (New York Times)

This week in music history

This week in 2000, Chuck D testified before Congress in defense of Napster. The file-sharing service was under scrutiny for copyright violations, facing lawsuits from Metallica and Dr. Dre. The Public Enemy rapper, though, said Napster was valuable for emerging artists. "I can get my music out this way, but more importantly, guys who don't have a record deal can be heard worldwide," he said. Referring to major labels, Chuck D added, "The big four control so much of the business, that as an artist, I got a major beef. This system needs to be eradicated, and we must start from scratch." Less than a year later, Napster would shut down its file-sharing network by court order.

It's the a-rock-a-lypse — s Finnish metal band Lordi sing in their song "Hard Rock Hallelujah," which, this week in 2006, won Lordi the top spot in a surprising Eurovision competition. Finland had competed in Eurovision — sort of a wilder version of American Idol where countries across Europe compete — since 1961 and they had never won. In fact, during their 40 years of competing they came in dead last eight times. In came Lordi to save the day. The band are like a mix of AC/DC and Kiss, only their costumes are horrific monsters. They not only won the finals and the semifinals, their final score was a record-breaking 292 points. All hail Lordi!

This week in 1966, the Castiles hit the studio to record their single "That's What You Get" b/w "Baby I." At the time they were a high school band in New Jersey, but their guitarist would go on to make a name for himself as a solo artist: Bruce Springsteen. In his memoir, Springsteen wrote,

We walked out of the studio that afternoon with a two-track tape and some acetates. [...] We already knew we'd hit a wall locally. There was just no place left to go, with either our record or our "career." We were now the big dogs in town. [...] Since Frank Sinatra, no one of import had known the Garden State existed or had come far enough south down the parkway to realize there were people there, much less rock 'n' roll being made.

On Chapter and Verse, the compilation album accompanying his book, Springsteen included the Castiles' "Baby I."

This week's new releases

Cate Le Bon: Reward

Welsh artist Cate Le Bon loves to challenge herself. For her 2013 release Mug Museum she crafted 100 mugs by hand. To prep for her next album, Reward, she moved to an isolated cabin and took a class learning to carve wooden furniture. That isolation and loneliness seem to seep into the lyrics. In "The Light," she sings that she is "holding the door for my own tragedy, take blame for the hurt, but the hurt belongs to me."

Justin Townes Earle: The Saint of Lost Causes

When your dad is Steve Earle and you're named after Townes Van Zandt, it's understandable that it might take a while to make a name for yourself — especially when you're a singer-songwriter who also makes moody, confessional and sometimes politically-charged music. Justin Townes Earle has very much come into his own, though, and after a run of introspective music he's decidedly looking outward with his new album The Saint of Lost Causes. He visits many corners of America and finds characters searching for hope, whether in "Flint City Shake It" or "Appalachian Nightmare." The title track lays a loping beat over haunting pedal steel, landing somewhere between Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad" and Father John Misty's "Bored in the U.S.A." No ironic elegance here, though: just a hard look at a hurting country.

Here's a solo acoustic rendition of that song, recorded live at The Current's SXSW day party.

Sebadoh, Act Surprised

Lou Barlow has been busy making music with his solo project as well as with Folk Implosion and Dinosaur Jr., and this week we're getting the ninth album from Sebadoh, Act Surprised. It's been about six years since Barlow, along with Jason Loewenstein and Bob D'Amico, released music for Sebadoh. The songs are fast rockers with a soft underbelly, but the band still slows it down with songs like "Celebrate the Void."

Sting, My Songs

Always restless, Sting has never stopped reinventing his own songs. That's what his new album, aptly titled My Songs, is all about. It contains 15 new versions of songs originally released in the 20th century, from 1978's "Roxanne" to 1999's "Brand New Day." These new versions are kind of Frankenstein creations, re-mixing elements of the original recordings with new studio recordings and live concert recordings. It could be a project to introduce Sting to a new audience, but that will probably continue to fall to artists like Juice WRLD, who sampled "Shape of My Heart" on his track "Lucid Dreams." My Songs really seems like a project for longtime Sting fans who've memorized every detail of the original tracks and are ready for something new...but not too new. Here's one of the wilder reinventions: Sting turns "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," a jazzy hit from his solo debut Dream of the Blue Turtles, into a sort of disco jam, complete with Chic-style guitar fills and big bold synths. Get ready for a trip. (Jay)

Viral clip: Runaway Train 25

"Runaway Train" is a beautiful song, but part of what made it such a sensation when Soul Asylum released it back in 1992 was a haunting video that spotlighted the faces and names of actual missing kids. The video helped reunite many of the runaways with their families, which is why the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has released a new version of the song and video called "Runaway Train 25." (Yeah, we're a couple years past the actual 25th anniversary, but, you know, these things take time.)

The new version of the song is a cover performance by Jamie N Commons, Skylar Gray, and Gallant. The video comes in both a standard version and an interactive version that you can see at runawaytrain25.com; in the interactive version, you see images and names of young people who went missing in your area. Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner calls the project "very cool." (The Current)


Audio sampled
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
James Scott: "Frog Legs Rag" (Public Domain)
Lordi: "Hard Rock Hallelujah"
The Castiles: "Baby I"
The Andrew Oldham Orchestra: "The Last Time"
The Verve: "Bitter Sweet Symphony"
Duncan Laurence: "Arcade"
Jesse Spillane: "Ruffling Feathers" (CC BY SA 4.0-02)
Preston Epps: "Bongo Rock"
Moby: "Porcelain"
Cate Le Bon: "The Light"
Justin Townes Earle: "Saint of Lost Causes" (Live at The Current Day Party)
Sebadoh: "Celebrate the Void"
Sting: "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"
Jamie N Commons and Skylar Grey feat. Gallant: "Runaway Train ft. Gallant"


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