Riders on the Storm
Those impeccable English artists are falling prey as well. Pete Townshend keeps fooling us again, selling Who songs to yuppies hungry for SUVs. I hope Sting has given those Shaman chiefs he hangs out with from the rainforest a ride in the back of that Jag he's advertising, 'cause as beautiful as the burlwood interiors are, the car--named after an animal possibly facing extinction--is a gas guzzler. If you knew me back in the '60s, you might say that this rant--I mean, piece--now has a self-righteous ring to it, me having had the name Jaguar John back then. I had the first XJ-6 when they came out, long before the car became popular with accountants. That's when I sold it for a Rolls Royce-looking Jag, the Mark IV, a super gas guzzler. That was back when the first whiffs of rock stardom furled up my nose. Hopefully, I've learned something since those heady times, like: "What good is a used-up world?" Plus, it's not a given that one should do commercials for the products one uses. The Brits might bust me here, having heard "Riders on the Storm" during the '70s (in Britain only) pushing tires for their roadsters, but our singer's ghost brought me to my senses and I gave my portion to charity. I still don't think the Polish member of our band has learned the lesson of the Opel, but I am now adamant that three commercials and we're out of our singer's respect. "Jim's dead!" our piano player responds to this line of thought. That is precisely why we should resist, in my opinion. The late, transcendental George Harrison had something to say about this issue. The Beatles "could have made millions of extra dollars [doing commercials], but we thought it would belittle our image or our songs," he said. "It would be real handy if we could talk to John [Lennon]...because that quarter of us is gone...and yet it isn't, because Yoko's there, Beatling more than ever." Was he talking about the Nike ad, or John and Yoko's nude album cover shot now selling vodka?
Actually, it was John and Yoko who inspired me to start a 10 percent tithe, way back in the early '80s. In the Playboy interview, John mentioned that they were doing the old tradition, and it stuck in my mind. If everybody gave 10 percent, this world might recapture a bit of balance. According to my calculations, as one gets up into the multi category, you up the ante. Last year I nervously committed to 15 percent, and that old feeling rose again: the greed gene. When you get to multi-multi, you should give away half every year. Excuse me, Mr. Gates, but the concept of billionaire is obscene. I know you give a lot away, and it's easy for me to mouth off, but I do know something about it. During the Oliver Stone film on our band, the record royalties tripled, and as I wrote those 10 percent checks, my hand was shaking. Why? It only meant that I was making much more for myself. It was the hand of greed. I am reminded of the sound of greed, trying to talk me into not vetoing a Doors song for a cigarette ad in Japan.
"It's the only way to get a hit over there, John. They love commercials. It's the new thing!"
"What about encouraging kids to smoke, Ray?"
"You always have to be PC, don't you, John?" I stuck to my guns and vetoed the offer, thinking about the karma if we did it. Manzarek has recently been battling stomach ulcers. So muster up courage, you capitalists; hoarding hurts the system--inner as well as outer.
So it's been a lonely road resisting the chants of the rising solicitations: "Everybody has a price, don't they?" Every time we (or I) resist, they up the ante. An Internet company recently offered three mil for "Break on Through." Jim's "pal" (as he portrays himself in his bio) said yes, and Robby joined me in a resounding no! "We'll give them another half mil, and throw in a computer!" the prez of Apple pleaded late one night.
Robby stepped up to the plate again the other day, and I was very pleased that he's been a longtime friend. I was trying to get through to our ivory tinkler, with the rap that playing Robin Hood is fun, but the "bottom line" is that our songs have a higher purpose, like keeping the integrity of their original meaning for our fans. "Many kids have said to me that 'Light My Fire,' for example, was playing when they first made love, or were fighting in Nam, or got high--pivotal moments in their lives." Robby jumped in. "If we're only one of two or three groups who don't do commercials, that will help the value of our songs in the long run. The publishing will suffer a little, but we should be proud of our stance." Then Robby hit a home run. "When I heard from one fan that our songs saved him from committing suicide, I realized, that's it--we can't sell off these songs."
So, in the spirit of the Bob Dylan line, "Money doesn't talk, it swears," we have been manipulated, begged, extorted and bribed to make a pact with the devil. While I was writing this article, Toyota Holland went over the line and did it for us. They took the opening melodic lines of "Light My Fire" to sell their cars. We've called up attorneys in the Netherlands to chase them down, but in the meantime, folks in Amsterdam think we sold out. Jim loved Amsterdam.