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Biggest Sellouts in Rock

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Rock's Biggest Sellouts

by Shawn Amos in GetBack

I was watching TV last night when a Viagra ad came on. Elvis Presley's tune "Viva Las Vegas" had been replaced with an Elvis impersonator singing "Viva Viagra." It hurt — and not because I'm in need of medication. It was almost as bad as that crappy Toyota ad with the bad cover version of the Fixx's "Saved By Zero."

I'll be the first to admit that it's tough being in the music biz. Songwriters, singers, and bands are all finding fewer and fewer ways to get their music heard. Big corporations have a virtual lockdown on outlets for new releases. Wanna get your CD in a record store? Talk to Wal-Mart. Wanna get played on the radio? Try getting the attention of Clear Channel.

You won't have much luck unless you're one of a handful of musicians who have superstar status. U2, Coldplay, Taylor Swift are allowed entry. Everyone else? We’ll see you busking at the subway station. I'll be sure to throw a few bucks in your case because I care.

For these reasons and so many more, you can't blame artists for taking every slim opportunity to get their songs — and themselves — heard. Getting played in a commercial or promoting a product is often the best way. I don't begrudge Feist, Propellerheads, Yael Naïm, or any hipster indie artist who's provided a soundtrack to the latest Apple commercial to any of the money that’s come their way. Get on all the iPods you can.

But there's a line to be drawn. It's the difference between needed exposure and greed. It's the distinction between looking for a break and forgetting to say good-bye. Some songs don't need to be played anymore. Anywhere. Some music and musicians are such a part of the air we breathe that NO ONE needs any reminders. More importantly, the writers and performers of these songs have enough money. They can't cry poverty, and they can't cry lack of exposure. There is no excuse. They are just serial sellouts, often with embarrassingly bad taste in the products they choose to hawk.

Here are the biggest sellouts in rock.

OZZY OSBOURNE

What's an over-the-hill prince of darkness to do once he's no longer selling records? Plug cell phones and video games. I'm sure Sharon made him do it. She has a lifestyle to maintain, ya know?

PETE TOWNSHEND

The Who's songwriter and guitarist will sell his songs to anybody. ANYBODY. TV’s CSI, Hummer ads, insurance ads, Nissan ads. Pete has no shame, and he'll be the first to tell you.

ALICE COOPER

Another Metamusel metalhead who has chosen to pitch everything from Bridgestone tires, to office supplies, to hotels. Plus, he's got some sports bar in Phoenix that serves "Nightmare" nachos and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" Chipotle Chicken Pasta. I'm not kidding.

LED ZEPPELIN

I think I'd rather see Zep tour without Robert Plant than hear "Rock and Roll" in a Cadillac ad. At least they could have picked a cool car by a company that isn't about to go belly up.

BOB SEGER

The granddaddy of all rock sellouts. His "Like A Rock" Chevy ad has been around so long, I can’t even remember when it was actually a song from an album.

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Plus, he's got some sports bar in Phoenix that serves "Nightmare" nachos and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" Chipotle Chicken Pasta. I'm not kidding.

I've been there before, you'll find out the reason why he calls his Chipotle Chicken Pasta "No More Mr. Nice Guy" a few hours later when you're in the bathroom.

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Never understood why any musician or group is considered a "sellout." Perhaps if you spent your hottest years singing militantly against Madison Avenue and Wall Street and corporations, then you suddenly started licensing your music to them, then maybe I can see the point.

But if you are a musician who put some notes and words together and compared your youth to a rock, and allowed a truck manufacturer to use them, where is the hypocrisy in that? If that is the definition, then any musician who signs a record deal is a sellout.

The author claims that it's OK for bands just starting to sellout in order to get exposure, but established bands who do so are just "greedy." Where is the greed in trading a product (music) for money? That is a clean transaction and a fair trade, and no one is harmed by it. How can that ever be defined as greed?

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Perhaps it ought to be as simple as that, but for various reasons, not everybody is equally comfortable with guilt-free capitalism. Right from the beginning, and at various stages of its sinuous evolution, rock'n'roll has presented as a revolutionary, counter-cultural phenomenon, with attendant notions of artistic integrity and relative "authenticity". These notions may be significant to the "consumer" to a greater or lesser degree. Whilst one might recognise that the writer / performer who creates a popular piece of music deserves remuneration- who could argue with that? - the use of such works to advertise everyday products is often perceived as cheapening the art-form, standing at odds with rock'n'roll's counter-cultural pretentions and casting doubt upon the performer's artistic integrity, reducing him/her to little more than a metaphorical prostitute. The issue is further clouded by the question: which do we prefer- the honest whore, or the pious (but insincere) purist?

If the artist is someone who doesn't really stand for anything, it hardly matters that they might prostitute their "art" to to the parasite of TV advertising. However, where the artist has some kind of iconic status, or at least represents something of rock's culture of rebellion / dissent, then...well, that's a different kettle of fish, isn't it? 'Tis to me, anyway.

Personally, I have little problem (nowadays) with musicians earning money for the sale of their recorded music or from their live performances, but I do think that once they allow their music to be butchered for the purpose of advertising incongruous products, they should relinquish the "artist" epithet and simply be referred to as "musicians".

Music is music, and you can do what you like with it.

Art, on the other hand, is not for prostitution.

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I guess because I am a businessman and marketer by trade, I view most everything in terms of it's economic value. I can see where purists feel art can't (or shouldn't) be sold for commercial purposes unrelated to the enjoyment of said art.

When I think of iconic rockers who stayed pure, Neil Young comes to mind. Everything is about the art and not the economic potential. I doubt you'll ever hear a Neil Young song used to promote a products. I'm sure there are others too. I can't speak for the personal economic need of each musician. The general public seems to think that all rock and rollers are literally rolling in dough. Maybe, but I don't have the advantage of a balance sheet to see their net worth (especially the liabilities).

Anyway, there is no right and wrong here.

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Yes, they make a lot of money, but that is the reward for the risk they took to become artists.

As usual, you´re so right... I have seen life from both points of view -I´m not an artist myself but most of my family and friends are- and sometimes you miss safety. But then safety won´t feed your soul... :shades:

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Well, I'll be provocative...

Peter Garrett, frontman for Midnight Oil, has retired from music, and is now Australia's "Minister for the Environment and the Arts" (this is true). Many people have found his performance in this new role a little disappointing/disconcerting. His support for wood pulp mills and plastic shopping bags, and his dismantling of performing arts colleges, are just examples of how Peter has apparently changed:

The Chaser boys get stuck into Peter

Actually, I feel kind of sorry for him, discovering that getting inside real politics is a little more complex than standing on the outside lobbing metaphoric hand-grenades.

LBB

Edited by Guest

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I always said I was on the side that real rockers should never sell out, but now that I'm getting older and have a family, I think I might be changing my position.

Especially the way things are going now a days when these groups can't even sell records because of all the illegal downloading. Most of their money has to come from a source other than record sales. That pretty much leaves endorsments and self promoted products (which some would also consider "selling out"), and touring.

At some point you gotta sit back and realize that maybe these guys need a break.

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Art and marketing have, from their beginnings, had an uneasy relationship. However, art without market is like a non-parented child; attractive by virtue of uniquely untainted mannerisms and very likely to end up outcast from the larger society.

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I've never had a problem with artists allowing (and benefitting financially from) their music to be used commercially. Hell, I was in advertising for over 30 years. It's ridiculous however when it's done by an artist who positioned himself as anti-establishment, anti-commercialism, etc. Ridiculous and hypocritcal. But then they face the backlash so let it be.

My nomination for biggest sellout in rock history is Pat Boone back in the 50's and early 60's. Many radio stations across the nation refused to play songs by black artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, etc. Boone gladly agreed to record his cover versions of their songs. To hear Boone sing Little Richard's Tutti Frutti is truly sickening in so many ways.

Many years later he tried to put forth as a defense the idea that he was merely trying to bring the work of black artists to light. BULLSPLAT!

That man was a sellout of the worst kind (IMO).

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My nomination for biggest sellout in rock history is Pat Boone back in the 50's and early 60's. Many radio stations across the nation refused to play songs by black artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, etc. Boone gladly agreed to record his cover versions of their songs. To hear Boone sing Little Richard's Tutti Frutti is truly sickening in so many ways.

In the 50s, countless artists hoped to cash in on the R&B-based Rock & Roll* demand , and how Pat Boone was the success is inexplicable to me.

When Elvis or Ricky Nelson covered Black artists' songs, it was somehow more credible. Boone was completely lacking in soul, spirit or versatility.

While others moved into Rockabilly, Pat Boone's wholesome sing-songy material had nothing to do with Rock at all, and seemed more like popular tunes from the 1890s. He made Perry Como sound 'cutting edge'.

*[smaller]The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll – Muddy Waters[/smaller]

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Why does art need a market?

:confused:

Art doesn't need a market, but if someone is able to make money with art then they have the ability to spend their entire 9-hour workday making art. If there was no market to art, then all the artists would have to get jobs and have much less time to devote to making art.

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In the 50s, countless artists hoped to cash in on the R&B-based Rock & Roll* demand , and how Pat Boone was the success is inexplicable to me.

When Elvis or Ricky Nelson covered Black artists' songs, it was somehow more credible. Boone was completely lacking in soul, spirit or versatility.

While others moved into Rockabilly, Pat Boone's wholesome sing-songy material had nothing to do with Rock at all, and seemed more like popular tunes from the 1890s. He made Perry Como sound 'cutting edge'.

*[smaller]The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll – Muddy Waters[/smaller]

I don't know if you call it selling out as much as cashing in, but he continued right up until 1997. Check out the songs that he presumed to cover:

In A Metal Mood:No More Mr Nice Guy - Pat Boone

1. You've Got Another Thing Comin'

2. Smoke on the Water

3. It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll)

4. Panama

5. No More Mr. Nice Guy

6. Love Hurts

7. Enter Sandman

8. Holy Diver

9. Paradise City

10. The Wind Cries Mary

11. Crazy Train

12. Stairway to Heaven

:doh::doh: I'm presuming that the album tanked. Unless it was a comedy album. We can only hope. :P

Boone does Judas Priest :rockon:

Yeah baby. :stars:

Edited by Guest
oh my

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I keep running across the "sell out" term in a lot of the reviews I read. I was going to post here about how very much it annoys me every time I see it and why.

But I see I don't need to rant about it after all. As is typical, the lovely SFer's have taken the words right out of my mouth :bow: :bow: :bow:

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