Music vs Politics: Primal Scream mistake themselves for The Dandy Warhols, while Sony/ATV spots a disguised song in Nicaragua

It was the Conservative Party Conference this week, the third of the three main UK political parties’ annual get togethers.

As you’ll probably have seen, Prime Minister David Cameron sparked controversy when he suggested that everyone should help out the economy by just paying off their debts. Aside from the fact that he apparently thinks we’re all just in debt for the fun of it, we’ve previously been told to help the economy by spending more money, so I don’t know what to believe any more. I guess I’ll just pay off all my debts using a credit card. That should do it.

Next up, Home Secretary Theresa May suggested that the Human Rights Act should be repealed because the legislation, introduced by Tony Blair’s government to bring the European Declaration Of Human Rights into British law, had enabled an illegal immigrant to stay in the UK on the grounds that he had a pet cat. The judiciary quickly pointed out that this isn’t actually true, and then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, a member of her own party, told the Nottingham Post that her claim was “laughable [and] childlike”.

But it was something else May did that got tongues wagging in the music world. Her choice of music to play her off stage has come in for much criticism.

It’s quite common for musicians to complain when right wing political parties use their music at public events without permission, most musicians having more left-wing leanings. In some cases this has led to copyright infringement claims, although in most countries playing music at public events is covered by blanket licences, so providing the venue owner or event organiser has general licences from the likes of PPL and PRS For Music no specific permission is needed from those who made or own specific songs.

As May left the stage, reports came in that she had walked off to ‘Rocks’ by Primal Scream. This seemed somewhat bizarre, it being quite openly about drug taking and prostitution. Still, that’s what people, mainly The Huffington Post, were saying, and as a result the band felt moved to issue a statement distancing themselves from the Conservative Party.

They said: “Primal Scream are totally disgusted that the Home Secretary Theresa May ended her speech at the Tory party conference with our song ‘Rocks’. How inappropriate. Didn’t they research the political history of our band? Hasn’t she listened to the words? Does she even know what getting your rocks off means? No. She is a Tory; how could she?”

They continued: “Primal Scream are totally opposed to the coalition government, Cameron, Osborne, Gove, Howard, Clegg etc. They are legalised bullies passing new laws to ensure the wealthy stay wealthy, taking the side of big business while eradicating workers’ rights and continuing their attacks on young people, single parents and OAPs by slashing education and social security budgets, and persecuting the poor for being poor. We would like to distance ourselves from this sick association”.

Finally, to really drive the point home, they said: “The Tories are waging a war on the disenfranchised, They are the enemy”.

To answer part of Primal Scream’s statement: No, May didn’t listen to the lyrics of their song before she made her speech. But that’s wasn’t because of any sort of arrogance or ignorance on her part, it’s just because she didn’t actually walk off stage to ‘Rocks’. When she left the stage it was ‘Bohemian Like You’ by The Dandy Warhols that was playing. Still something of an odd song choice, granted. But not ‘Rocks’ by Primal Scream.

This update to the story did not take long to make its way across the Atlantic and to The Dandy Warhols. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor was quick to respond, writing on the band’s official website: “Where do I bitch about this? I’ll tear their fuggin heads off. Well maybe not, but this happened to us in an Arkansas gubernatorial race and it makes me super angry. And then I wanna puke. Why don’t these assholes have right-wing bands make them some right-wing music for their right-wing jerk-off politics? Oh, because right wing people aren’t creative, visionary or any fun to be around. Nor are they productive or even introspective about it”.

He added: “Wait … neither are left-wingers [any of those things] come to think of it. Jesus, I tend to really dislike ANY people who take sides in politics. It is the single greatest contributor to getting nothing done. Fuck ‘politics’. What a joke. I give my charitable donations to people who get on a plane themselves and go to Haiti or Africa and help other people. Do you? NEVER to a political machine. I like to get shit done. You do too. Fuck, now I’m pissed off”.

So, there you go, they only had to play one song and the Tories pissed off two bands. Good work there. However, there was another story about a politician playing a song without permission this week, and this one wasn’t in the UK or the US. For this one we have to go all the way to Nicaragua.

Sony’s publishing company Sony/ATV has threatened to sue Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega if he refuses to stop using a reworked version of Ben E King’s R&B classic ‘Stand By Me’ in campaign videos. Re-titled ‘Nicaragua Triunfará’ (or ‘Nicaragua Will Triumph’), the new version of the song features lyrics in Spanish written by Ortega’s wife Rosario Murillo, and was produced by their son Maurice Ortega Murillo.

In a letter to Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front, sent in July but published this week by Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, Sony/ATV said: “This constitutes a serious infringement of Sony/ATV’s copyrights”.

As yet the party has not responded and is apparently still using the song in Ortega’s political campaign to be re-elected.

Here’s the offending video:

This article was originally published in CMU’s Beef Of The Week column. I also covered the Primal Scream/Dandy Warhols story in a separate article earlier in the week.

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