Robert Fripp in dispute with Bowie’s estate over ‘Heroes’ & ‘Scary Monsters’ credits
In addition to being the longtime leader of King Crimson, guitar great Robert Fripp also frequently lent his talents to other artists, like David Bowie. He played on Bowie's 1977 album "Heroes" and on his 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and now he is in a "dispute" with Bowie's estate, who Fripp says refuses to acknowledge that he was a Featured Player on those albums. He says that Brian Eno (who helped recruit Fripp for "Heroes"), Tony Visconti, and Bowie himself all considered Fripp to be a Featured Player at the time (although they didn't call it that back then), but that UK music licensing company PPL now does not consider him one because of the company's rules, which -- in Fripp's words -- "perpetuate an historic injustice." Here's his full statement:
The dispute centres on the refusal of PPL and the David Bowie estate to acknowledge that RF's contribution to the Heroes and Scary Monsters albums is that of a Featured Player. This accreditation as a Featured Player is supported by Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, David Bowie himself (although the terminology was not then in use), and the Court Of Public Opinion over four decades.
Essentially, the DB Estate argues that RF's Featured Performer Status is not acknowledged by PPL rules; and PPL argues that as the DB Estate does not accept RF as a Featured Performer, RF is therefore not a Featured Player - and their rules confirm this. Anyone read Catch 22?
The PPL's rules and MO perpetuate an historic injustice. Rules are not God-given laws to maintain the universe: they are created by people to organise and facilitate interactions in a fair and equitable fashion; which, in the nature of things, can never be exactly foretold. So, with intelligence and goodwill, where the rules do not allow for what is Right to be acknowledged and addressed, the rules are modified to take exceptional / novel situations into account. This is the Principle of Progressive Approximation: rules are fine-tuned to serve what is Right and True in our society.
However, this depends upon intelligence and goodwill; and a desire to create a fair and equitable society / business / community.
IMO the correct approach for the PPL is to change the rules to match what is right. I note, our past DGM experience suggest that where there are conflicting interests, the PPL default position / MO is to side with the larger, established industry player, regardless of the actual situation; eg Virgin over DGM.
Dear innocent, reasonable reader: please note - we are dealing with the music industry here. Fifty-two years of direct, hands-on experience suggests to me that the majority of players who operate the system, operate the system to serve their own interests. There are a small number of players whose aim is ethical action in business; not directing the industry to promote their own personal interests; these assertions supported by decades of documentation.
Further commentary, with turgid legal commentary and rulebooks, evasion and prevarication, all available. This, a microcosm in our larger societal turmoil, as a new paradigm seeks to be welcomed into our suffering world.
Likely more on this, but currently on the Crimbus hurtling to Cleveland...
Stay tuned for any further developments on this story. Meanwhile, King Crimson's 50th anniversary tour is underway now and recently hit NYC's Radio City Music Hall. (Did you go?) Their classic albums are all now finally on streaming services.