Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Milli Vanilli Doesn't Upset Me

Their music is crap, no matter who made it.

If you're wondering what I'm talking about: Milli Vanilli were a pop duo who made really lousy, wildly popular music in the late 1980's, won a Grammy for Best New Artist early in 1990, and then later in 1990 were revealed to have sung none of the vocals on their records or in their concerts, which led to widespread outrage. They were sued by ex-fans and at least one class-action lawsuit was successful.

What really surprised me about the whole fooferah was that so many of Milli Vanilli's fans hadn't realized that it's very common for the music industry to deceive people about who has sung or played what. Granted, they usually admit that they're doing it, which makes Milli Vanilli's case a little bit different. A little bit.

For example, Stevie Ray Vaughan is credited as lead guitarist on the title track of David Bowie's Let's Dance. However, the video of the song strongly implies that it's Bowie himself laying down those hot tracks. Similarly, look at the liner notes for Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, and you will see that that amazing guitar solo on the title track was perpetrated by the one and only Nils Lofgren; however, in the video, it looks as if Bruce is playing the solo.

Deceptive? A little. Does it matter? Eh. Probably depends how big a Stevie Ray or Nils fan you are. I'm a huge fan of both so it bugs me a little, but I'm not so upset that I'm currently planning to sue anyone over it.

At least in both of those cases, the actual soloists are credited on the album liner notes. However, it has been known to happen that musicians don't get their props on the liner notes.

In the case of "I Want a New Drug" from the album Sports! by Huey Lewis and the News, I've long wondered just exactly who the wonderful horn section are. That is a bad horn jam, Daddy! It sounds like Tower of Power, a great horn section, who are credited on later Huey albums like Small World. In the video, at one point there are 3 sax players onscreen. Back in 1984, when the video first came out, those 3 guys looked like Huey and 2 other guys to me. Then again, back in 1984, I was taking a lot of drugs. In a lot of cases, when I look at things I looked at in 1984, they look a lot different now. I looked at the video again just now, and the sax player on the left in the shot with 3 sax players looks a like Johnny Colla, the only regular member of the band who plays sax; and I'm not completely sure, but the other 2 guys look like they might also be Johnny Colla, but in different outfits and wearing shades. Colla is the only sax player mentioned on the album notes, and if that's true, it would mean the horn section was all him, overdubbed. In the video, from left to right, the Collas are playing a tenor saxophone, an alto saxophone and a soprano saxophone.

But who knows. Maybe it was Colla plus Tower of Power, and they weren't credited because of some contractual nonsense. That's been known to happen: musicians have contracts which don't prevent them from playing on other people's records, but do prevent them from officially, publicly being on the liner notes. Why? Because record company executives were put on Earth to screw things up for no reason while doing tremendous amounts of coke.

But if the liner notes are correct and that horn section is all Colla -- blending very nicely with the keyboards, I ought to add -- and in the video, that's Colla standing next to Colla and Colla, then that would be a rare case of neither the liner notes nor the video being misleading.

Except for the last part of the video, where the whole band are onstage, and there's only one Johnny Colla playing saxaphone instead of 3 of him, while we continue to hear several horns.

But hey, nobody's perfect. Not even *shiver* Jeri Ryan.

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