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Levon Helm recollects The Last Waltz


shitidiot
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Levon Helm recollects The Last Waltz

"As far as I was concerned, the movie was a disaster. ...

"I took Ronnie Hawkins with me to a screening of The Last Waltz just before its official release. All The Band was there, plus family, friends, people who'd worked on the project. For two hours we watched as the camera focused almost entirely on Robbie Robertson, long and loving close-ups of his heavily made-up face and expensive haircut. The film was edited so it looked like Robbie was conducting the band with expansive waves of his guitar neck. The muscles on his neck stood out like cords when he sang so powerfully into his switched-off microphone. Hawk kept nudging me and laughing at this. Halfway through he whispered, "Was Richard still in the group when we did this?"

"Because there were almost no shots of Richard in the movie. ... Where was Richard? In the interviews he was depicted prone on a sofa at Shangri-La, his hair wild and eyes shining like wet moons, looking like Che Guevara after the Bolivians got through with him. ...

"I was in shock over how bad the movie was. Nine cameras on the floor, and there wasn't even a shot of Richard Manuel singing the finale, "I Shall Be Released," his trademark song. ... It was mostly Robertson, showing off and acting like he was the king.

"The lights came up. I lit a cigarette and looked at Hawk, who pounded me on the back and loudly exclaimed, so everyone could hear: "Hey, son, don't look so glum. The goddamn movie'd be awright if it only had a few more shots of Robbie. Haw haw haw haw haw!!!"

"Today people tell me all the time how much they loved The Last Waltz. I try to thank them politely and usually refrain from mentioning that for me it was a real scandal."

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Too bad he doesn't get the same royalty checks Robbie gets.

Unfortunately, there is a simple legal reason Levon doesn't get the same cheques. For the most part, he is listed as having played on the music, but not as having created it. It's the same reason that Paul McCartney is richer than Ringo Starr and why Ron Wood will never have the same stake in the Stones'as Keith Richards.

Where this becomes problematic is when a songwriter brings a song or the makings of a song to a group and then the group works to complete it...which, I believe, is what Levon is saying often happened. The question is at what point should a band member be considered as the "creator" or "co-creator" of the music? Gets tricky and is something that should be clearly spelled out in any band agreement. Unfortunately, the whole area of intellectual property and royalties etc. was one that didn't get its due attention in the past and has plaqued artists including the Beatles to this very day.

The Tragically Hip have one of the most interesting band agreements that I am aware of. It's my understanding that from their inception the original 5 members agreed that should any member leave, the group Tragically Hip would cease to exist. In other words, the other members could continue - with or without new members - but not as The Hip. It was also agreed that no matter who contributed what to the songwriting process...whether Downie did the lyrics and Baker did the music or whatever...that every song the group ever did would be considered to have been written by the group and listed accordingly. Been that way since day one. 20+ years later...still together and still friends. Gotta spell it out in the beginning.

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One of the other interesting arrangements I heard about was the one the band Triumph had. The band was a trio, and the band agreed that each member got an equal (1/3) share, unless/until a member left, at which point that member's share dropped to one ninth, with the other two members splitting the rest (4/9 each, presumably).

Aloha,

Brad

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One of the other interesting arrangements I heard about was the one the band Triumph had. The band was a trio, and the band agreed that each member got an equal (1/3) share, unless/until a member left, at which point that member's share dropped to one ninth, with the other two members splitting the rest (4/9 each, presumably).

Aloha,

Brad

No wonder Rik Emmett was so surly when I asked him if he was still on speaking terms with his former bandmates.

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One of the other interesting arrangements I heard about was the one the band Triumph had. The band was a trio, and the band agreed that each member got an equal (1/3) share, unless/until a member left, at which point that member's share dropped to one ninth, with the other two members splitting the rest (4/9 each, presumably).

Aloha,

Brad

They do say, don't they, that music enhances the math centres of the brain. Pity all the economics has to enhance all that as well.

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Unfortunately the list is endless. I'm sure the recent battle between Courtney Love and Dave Grohl over the Nirvana catalog had Kurt rolling over on numerous occasions.

Hell even good ole boy, Chad Kroeger got into it recently when he fired his drummer and then discovered said gentleman would continue to receive funds from the well endowed Nickleback coffers for the songs he had played on while a member of the group. No way said Chad yer fired. No more pay. Off to the courts we go.....

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Why alla time huh? Hey Scully... I'm going to rip you off for eleven dollars and fifty cents...your take from the entire earnings from wed's show and if you don't like it talk to the pro-motor...I bought you a beer near the end of the night and you said 'hey I'll get you back' but you never did you lying....ah nevermind...

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Although the current scene isn't a pretty one, I think it's a necessary one. With the internet & other factors finally forcing the music industry out of the dark ages, I'm hopeful that what will be hammered out is a more just and equitable system by which fans receive music and also by which artists are compensated for its creation and performance.

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