Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sell out

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Fuck it all.

You think you've grown as cynical and jaded about famous artists as is possible to get. But every now and then, something comes along that reveals a small, shining glimmer of idealism still remains. And then that something stamps it into the ground with a dirty great boot.

Brian Eno was one of the artists I felt had genuine integrity. I've met the man a couple of times and - along with his book (A Year With Swollen Appendices) and various interviews - that was my overwhelming impression of him.... intelligent and honourable. A man of integrity. And I respected him hugely for that. Quite aside from the fact that he made some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard.

Sadly my respect for the man was dealt a potentially fatal blow a few moments ago when I switched on the TV and saw he'd taken on a new job. He's now a corporate salesman for a large telecommunications firm.

One of the most beautiful albums ever recorded is Eno's Music For Airports. The haunting, fragile music has lulled me to sleep more often than I can possibly recall. It may well be the most-listened-to album in my collection for that very reason. It has coloured my dreams for many many years. But no longer, I'm afraid. The subtle colours of Music For Airports have been crudely painted over with a single gaudy shade of orange.

One viewing of that 30 second hard-sell has altered forever the opening piece on Music For Airports and by extension the album as a whole. Television can do that, you know. A visual medium has that power. And I'm damn certain that Eno is aware of that too. His past work clearly means very little to him if he's content to have it remembered as "that music from the Orange ad".

What's next I wonder? Shilling SUVs with Neroli? Or maybe he'll do a sales pitch for McDonalds? Nike and The Gap are always looking for new music to sell the products of their sweatshops... maybe he could give them something off his last album? Or perhaps dig into his back catalogue again... take another piece of music that was once worth something to some of us and reduce it to an advertising jingle for pensions.

Now, I'm certain that there are many people out there working in sales for Orange (or some other mobile phone company) who are decent people with integrity... trapped like the rest of us in this rat-race and making a living as best they can. But they haven't shat all over a piece of art; one that had real value in the eyes of many; in order to earn an extra bonus.

And even if he's donating his fee to charity (he's a patron of War Child after all) it's still a shoddy thing to do. Helping a global corporation sell more environmentally destructive tat to a population already saturated with consumer bullshit in the name of charity just doesn't cut it. Not when he could donate the proceeds of an album, or a year's worth of royalties, or whatever.

I mean, it's not like the man who produces U2 and David Bowie albums is short of a few quid... quite aside from the fact that he's had a successful recording career himself and - in the past - also produced highly successful albums for the likes of Talking Heads, James and many others. How much fucking money does one person need?

Sadly, I suspect I'll no longer drift off to sleep to the gorgeous strains of Music For Airports. The last thing I want, after all, is to have my dreams coloured by advertising jingles.


Blogger Unity said...

It may cheer you up a little, it may not, but John Densmore is still holding the fort against the horrors of commercialism.

He got talked round once - allowing Pirelli to use Riders on the Storm - and was so sickened by it he's since turned down $15 million to allow Break On Thru to be used to hawk Cadillac SUVs and $4 million from Apple.

19/10/05 01:31  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

I thought it was Eno who composed the "Windows sound" for Microsoft back before Windows 95 was launched? I may be mistaken, but if so he sold out a decade ago, at least...

And hell, anyone who can come up with the B-side of Low deserves a little leeway.

19/10/05 12:21  
Blogger Shamisen said...

Consumerism will get us all. Don't fight it, spend it!

19/10/05 12:36  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Nosemonkey, Eno did indeed compose "the Windows 95 sound". And he's also donated his music to adverts for the NSPCC (and other charities).

I don't have a problem with either of those. My issue is specifically with the commercial advertising of consumer products... turning art into an advertising jingle for profit.

And certainly the man has plenty of leeway in my eyes. I have his entire back catalogue (less two impossibly rare items) and consider his collaborations with Bowie, David Byrne and U2 as being some of the finest music ever recorded.

And yes, chances are I'll still continue to listen to much of his music and get his next album whenever it comes out. I'll avert my eyes as I do when Bowie sells pension schemes with "Heroes".

All the same; my respect for Eno has suffered a massive blow. Of course, it now seems that he's more concerned with receiving cash than he is receiving the respect of those who listen to his music... so it's not like he gives a shit.

But Music For Airports really has been ruined for me. And that's a real shame in my eyes.

Unity, there are indeed many artists who have turned down lucrative advertising contracts precisely because they feel the same way about this issue. Julian Cope was offered a huge amount of money by Memorex some time ago for the use of Beautiful Love. He turned it down flat (and unlike Eno, he certainly hadn't provided for his retirement at the time) as he didn't want one of his songs forever remembered as "that song off the advert".

Shamisen; consumerism has this planet in its grip and it is wringing the life out of it. I agree with you that it's already got us all. But I don't agree that means we shouldn't fight it. Indeed, that surely means we should fight all the harder.

Perhaps "Fascism will get us all. Don't fight it..." sounded sensible in the 1930s?

19/10/05 12:56  
Anonymous Joel said...

Didn't Eno compose Music for Airports as a better kind of musak? Perhaps that made it disposable from the start.

19/10/05 13:59  
Blogger 01-811-8055 said...

At the very least it makes a change from An Ending (Ascent) - as used on, well, everything.

19/10/05 18:37  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Bowie, selling pensions? Hmmm...

I know what you mean, though - I had similar feelings with that God-awful BBC version of "Perfect Day". Because, hey - it says it's perfect, right? It's a HAPPY song!

20/10/05 15:23  
Blogger merrick said...

Quick point of fact and also additional credibility to the point you're making, Jim - Julian Cope was offered a chunk of wedge by TDK for Beautiful Love, not Memorex. It would've been a moderately sized campaign, but certainly enough for an artist who had no guarantee of continuing to make money from his work to consider.

The Serious Money was offered around the same time, by Levi's for East Easy Rider. Easily enough to buy a big fat house and remove the threat of ever having to go back to a normal job.

He did dither for three days, then declined.

In doing so, he not only preserved the dignity and credibility of his work, but he sets the bar high for the rest of us. He makes it clear what a fucking sell-out people like Eno are, and he dares the rest of us to maintain our standards.

20/10/05 17:09  
Anonymous iotar said...

Ah, I always assume that there is a gaping chasm between artist and art. When I discover that a artist whose work I respect is actually a reasonable human being, I'm somewhat surprised - to discover that they are human as much as anything, but at that point the fallibilities inherent in an individual rather than an image come into play.

Anyway, I kinda wish I had Music For Airports in my back catalogue to sell to a corporate giant. If I'd recorded anything that long ago I'm sure I'd be sick of it by now.

21/10/05 10:09  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

I think it's worth noting that a telecommunications company isn't that evil a trhing to be promoting. Sure it makes him a bit of a corporate whore, and as you say risks spoiling some of his music for some of his audience. As a bit of a corporate whore he'll probably cheer himslef up with the thought that it'll also open his music up to some new listeners too, albeit the sort of ones whose record collection sounds very similar to the noise their TV makes.

But from a purely moral angle it really isn't (in my view) as if crossed over to the dark side - he's not plugging McDonald's (like Justin Timberlake) or sharking loans (like Jim "may he get a saguaro cactus lodged in his urethra" Davidson).

21/10/05 15:49  
Anonymous Dave said...

I don't think Jim Davidson ever crossed over to the dark side. He was born there. Pretty much like Justin Timberlake too. SUUUUCCCKKKK Satan's cock boys!

24/10/05 10:01  
Blogger L said...

he must be rolling in it

27/10/05 04:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get over it you whinger. No-one gives a **** what you think anyway.

27/10/05 11:21  
Blogger Ms Vile File said...

Oh dear. Is it at all possible he doesn't own the rights to his music, and thus is excempt from blame? Probably not, but hope springs eternal.

Otherwise, he could continue in the style in which he has begun, and become the new face for Eno's antacid tablets.

27/10/05 22:08  
Blogger merrick said...

Ms Vile File, I am pretty darn certain Eno owns the rights. His ambient stuff was released on EG Editions, his own label. If any established label with an eye for commercial success at the time were in possession of such an item as a bargepole, they wouldn't have been using it to touch Music For Airports.

Oh, and I love the Anaonymous who wonders 'who gives a **** what you think'.

Surely, if you are reading someone's opinions on their blog you are automatically engaged in the activity of giving a **** what they think.

What a trememndous rebuttal to Jim's point, to come from someone who can 'give a ****' whilst thinking they don't. How I cower before their intellecutal might.

28/10/05 11:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Like every other inane blogger you have an inflated sense of your own influence.

Anyway, it's Eno's property and he can do with it what he wants.

You lot are sad for whinging about it and I'm even sadder for bothering to write this.

28/10/05 13:11  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Anonymous - no your real sadness lies in your pussy-ass use of asterisks to hide your naughty words, you great tit. Say it, you great leper:

Jim, no-one gives a fuck what you think.

Except that this is demonstrably false - I for instance give a bit of a fuck what Jim thinks.

28/10/05 19:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Brian Eno and the Orange UK Ad: Brian eno was part of a history of ledgendary music, and that is still there; No one can take that away from any fan or admirer. But to dash him for a high-profile director's knowledge of music set to a beautiful piece of contemporary dance for a client, happening to be a blameless mobile carrier, is a bit silly. My partner is in the business, and away on tour for almost a year; whenever I see it, I am captured in the pub, wherever, and it instantly reminds me of the magical power of dance and music not usually associated; that it is now in the view of the public at large is superb. Let there be more ads devoid of rubbish nomenclature and instead just a pleasure to watch; If they catch a subscriber ready to jump, so be it, I'm not, but they get points for it. In that arena, if you don't advertise, as in orange's case for the past few years of brand identity loss, at least they have afforded something interesting, and the far side of insulting to watch for those whom appreciate it. Get off your high-horse! Music and performance is for all to enjoy. -j.france

1/11/05 02:04  
Blogger Ms Vile File said...

Who hasn't had a favourite song ruined by high-rotate commercials? The elusively beautiful imagery in one's head transplanted with with an SUV or disposable nappies advertisement. Once those new images are in, there's no getting them out. A thing of beauty gone for ever.

So there, fart face.

8/11/05 20:39  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

I've got a long follow-up to this piece in the works (started life as a response to some of the comments here but got out of hand).

Expect it in the not-too-distant future.

9/11/05 21:56  
Anonymous David Evans said...

Not his first to be used for advertising: there was something from Music for Films used for a spray-on cooking oil, and 'Spinning Away' from 'Wrong Way Up' advertised a clothes store. In 'A Year With..' he did discuss the qualms that stopped him from letting 'The River' be used.

I understand your pain, but my personal feeling is that the more people hear the music the better. The Orange ad just makes me feel good, and I won't be reminded of Orange next time I listen to MFA

20/11/05 23:30  

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