The Beatles formed the publishing company Northern Songs today in 1963, to control royalties to songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The principals in the limited liability corporation were John, Paul, manager Brian Epstein, and music publisher Dick James. Ever-ethical producer George Martin was offered a share, but turned it down, thinking his position with EMI records would create a conflict of interest. In a 1965 move to avoid the Taxman, the company went public. 1,250,000 shares valued at 17 pence (about $.28) a pop, were sold on the London Stock Exchange, offered at 66 pence ($1.09) and gone in just under a minute. John and Paul tried to buy James out when Brian Epstein died in ’68, but he was having none of it. The deal they struck gave Lennon and McCartney each 15%, James and his partner Charles Silver got 37.5 %, George and Ringo shared 1.6%, and the rest was controlled by various financial groups. George and Ringo started their own publishing interests as well, and George wrote a song about the legal wranglings, Only A Northern Song, that was left off Sgt. Pepper, but added to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.
James and Silver sold their share to England’s ATV television network for £1,525,000 ($2,500,000) without telling John and Paul, who were obligated to continue writing songs under contract until 1973. They turned down an initial higher offer from ATV, but eventually sold out to get out of the deal for £3.5 million. When John was killed, Paul and Yoko tried to buy Northern Songs back, but the price was too high for them. When Paul got together with Michael Jackson in 1981 to record the song Say Say Say, Jackson asked for financial advice, and Paul gave him a fatherly talk on the importance of publishing rights. Michael listened attentively, and according to Paul said “I’m going to get yours”, to which Paul replied “Ho Ho Ho, you’re good”, having no inkling that Michael would plunk down $40 million for the lot in 1985. Ten years later Michael sold his whole catalog to Sony Music for $95 million, and controlled half of the new company Sony/ATV Music Publishing, though Paul was able to get rights to Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You from EMI. A month after Michael died in 2009, Paul told David Letterman all about it:
But Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison don’t own most of their own songs, which is why nowadays you see this sort of thing:
The Rolling Stones were down under today in 1966, playing Centennial Hall in Adelaide on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, with The Searchers opening. The girls still screamed, but when they did the screams came out of their mouths in the opposite direction.
Pink Floyd were at EMI studios in London today in 1967, in day two of recording their debut album The Piper At The Gates of Dawn. The Beatles were down the hall, recording the massive piano chord that ended A Day In the Life. The studio wouldn’t be known for the street it was on, Abbey Road, until their Abbey Road album came out in 1969.
Genesis released their first single The Silent Sun today in 1968. Singer Peter Gabriel and keyboard player Tony Banks said they wrote the song in the style of The Bee Gees to impress producer and Bee Gees fan Jonathan King. It was a long way from the prog rock they would invent in the next few years.
Marc Bolan performed as Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester England tonight in 1969. At the time his band was still an “underground folk” with percussionist Steve Took, but by the next year March would shorten the name to T-Rex, and head in a more “glam rock” direction. Opening tonight’s show was a one-man mime act performed by David Bowie, who would later go a bit glam himself.
The 41st guitarist on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100 of All Time list, Mick Ronson played the first of two solo shows since leaving David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars tonight in 1974 at The Rainbow in London.
The Sex Pistols were awarded the British music magazine New Musical Express (NME) “Turkey of the Year” prize, as voted by readers, today in 1977. They did not seem to care.
The Police filmed a television commercial for the Wrigley’s chewing gum corporation today in 1978, dyeing their hair blonde for the spot, presumably because Wrigley’s liked blonde boys. They stuck with the look.
Andy Warhol, the patriarch of Greenwich Village’s Pop Art scene in New York, manager of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, and the artist who designed their famous “peeled banana” album cover and The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, died after a gall bladder operation today in 1987.
The Grammy Awards included a category for “Heavy Metal” for the first time tonight in 1989. The awards show celebrated the milestone with a performance by Metallica, but the award went to Jethro Tull, who hadn’t been rocking all that hard for quite a while. Metallica fans in the audience booed. Metallica did get the Heavy Metal Grammy nod in ’92, and drummer Lars Ulrich in his acceptance speech at Radio City Music Hall would go on a bit of a tirade about Jethro Tull getting the award, and thanked them for not putting out a record that year. KZOK’s Scott Vanderpool was in attendance hoping his friends in Soundgarden would get it, in a tuxedo and ponytail that got him asked on numerous occasions if he was Michael Bolton.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
British guitarist Mick Green of Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas and the Alice Cooper inspiring Johnny Kidd and The Pirates would be 73. He died five years ago.