Skip

Cocaine's A Hell Of A Drug
June 16, 2013 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Sly Stone's history of drug addiction and eccentricity is well known. But, a recent California Court of Appeals ruling details how a series of ill advised business deals left Stone destitute.

A PDF of the full opinion from the court can be read here.
posted by reenum (41 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well that was incredibly depressing.
posted by artof.mulata at 6:42 PM on June 16, 2013


The combination of Cocaine and Music Industry Lawyers is especially harmful.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:54 PM on June 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


But why would he go after Sony, Warner and BMI? Why wouldn't he sue Goldstein and Glenn Stone? Those are the people he has an unfair contract with...
posted by queensissy at 7:07 PM on June 16, 2013


Oh, never mind. Sounds like there is a bigger lawsuit at hand and this decision is just saying that Sony, Warner and BMI aren't liable.
posted by queensissy at 7:09 PM on June 16, 2013


Wow, Goldstein and Stone sure sound like some ruthless scumbags.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:15 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe he lives by choice in a van by the side of the road.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:03 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, Goldstein and Stone sure sound like some ruthless scumbags.

That would describe 90% of Hollywood attorneys and agents, in my experience. It is indeed a tour of a sewer in a glass bottom boat.

Industry joke, apologies if it offends: Two female producers get in an elevator with an attractive man. He gets off a couple of floors later and one producer turns to the other and says, "Boy, I'd like to fuck that guy." The other producer replies, "Out of what?"
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:12 PM on June 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


It just goes to show that whether you're working for minimum wage at a retail job or a multi platinum recording star, addiction will eat you alive. He made decisions, based on self, which later placed him in a position to be hurt. I feel for the guy, but to deny him any responsibility in pursuing the next high at the expense of everything he's worked for, welll... Them's the breaks...
posted by Debaser626 at 8:21 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also like how when one used to be/should still be very wealthy, the media throws around the term "penniless", to describe what nearly every one of my peers, including myself, subsides on.

He's still Sly Stone, and I'm sure he could make more money in a year than I can, playing gigs or using his celebrity for personal gain. Penniless my arse.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Money won't buy you happiness, but it will buy your favorite misery.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:27 PM on June 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


Sly's troubles run deeper than "the industry screwed him over" and "he's an addict" and "he's eccentric!". Put it all together, and you have an immensely talented man with a lot of mental health issues (pushing him towards addictive behaviors), and no one to help him make good choices.

Very sad... but with money & fame, so who cares, right?

Nope, still very sad.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 PM on June 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think this is the part, Debaser626, where I put some of the responsibility on the other folks in the story:

Meanwhile, Goldstein's attorney negotiated an end in 1996 to the lien that placed by the IRS on Stone's income. Neither Stone nor his ex-manager Roberts were aware that happened -- and that royalties were not heading to tax collectors anymore but to banks and Goldstein companies.

I really hope Sly wins his suit against those assholes.

And can I toss in a plug for one of Sly's lesser-known albums from the Lost Years, when Sly was supposedly a mess? Because 1979's Back on the Right Track is way underrated. Same Thing (Makes You Laugh, Makes You Cry) and It Takes All Kinds are easily the equal of any other funk from around that time, even if they're not quite the monster grooves Sly and his band created 6-10 years earlier.
posted by mediareport at 8:38 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


We'll pick up Stone's story in the mid-70s when, already a successful musician, he began to run into some personal problems that required Ken Roberts, Stone's friend and onetime manager, to advance him some money to pay off some debts. In return, Stone irrevocably assigned Roberts his BMI-administered performance-right royalties.

Wow. That Hunter S. Thompson quote about the TV business should be modified for the music industry:

"The [music industry] is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the [musicians], a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."
posted by mlis at 9:01 PM on June 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Somehow, stuff like this never surprises me. It's sad, yea. But it never surprises me. I'm reminded of this article. And of many friends situations, or things i've been privy too or just encountered. Like, for example, my friends band that's signed to a certain "indie", but now pretty big label that was famous in the 90s. They play sold out festivals and shit. One of the guys still lives in the back of a "practice space"/venue combo as far as i know. Reminds me a bit of this episode of cribs.

There's so many people out there getting fucked on this kind of thing. I've watched friends tour europe, play festivals on the east coast, and shows in japan and come back fucked and wishing they hadn't quit their shitty 2-6am newspaper delivery jobs because they had made the equivalent of one paycheck from mcdonalds.

What really gets me is that all the time, every time, there's a bunch of people in the chain just raking in money. The label, the promoters, the venue owners(especially if the place has a bar, fuck). Every link of the chain any kind of music related event or release goes through some wheel gets greased. And a lot of times, if someone sees an opportunity to fuck over the artist they go for it without question.

I try my hardest not to sound like a pollyanna about this, but i've just seen too many instances where popular sucessful band of young guys tour all over the place and start getting more sucessful, but eventually give up after a couple albums for various reasons but come away from it with nothing but a story. Like that article says, they would have made more money working at 7-11 despite the fact that they're working what is essentially a full time job + OT with shitty hours.

I've also been to rung one on this ladder myself with a small indie label. They ended up arguing that we owed them money, and since they had a lawyer and we didn't we didn't have the balls to call them on it, and ended up actually losing a whole bunch of money on our CD release/merch/a bunch of shows. In the end, those guys walked away far in the positive and we walked away in the negative.

The number of times i've seen people grab hold of success, play sold out or massive shows, and walk away with nothing just hurts my soul. And that number is only like, 8, but that's still way too many when i know it's happening on a large scale.

Me and my friends make fun of people a bit younger than us who are good musicians(sometimes really good, or really creative) who think they'll get rich or even just make a living playing music. As this article pretty much shows, and as Hunter S. Thompson quipped, the system is pretty much built to prevent you from ever living better than you would working at a grocery store unless you're Michael Jackson.
posted by emptythought at 9:35 PM on June 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


emptythought, even before I looked at your profile, I knew you were from/living in Seattle. This is the city of rock's broken dreams.
posted by artof.mulata at 9:40 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sly and the Family Stone were on the bill of the first concert where I was a roadie, June 1968. The band was awesome. I met him a few times further down the road. I can't comment on his mental health, but he turned into one of the most monstrous assholes in the music business.

The Record Plant in Sausalito was originally built around Sly. In the bathrooms there were mirrors inlaid horizontally in the counter tops. I was told that during the 'seventies Sly would come into the studio alone and turn on the drum machine to a "commercial" beat. He would play the Hammond along with it until he had enough ideas on tape to be the basis for a hit song. Then he would write some words and call in the rest of the band
posted by Repack Rider at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's still Sly Stone, and I'm sure he could make more money in a year than I can, playing gigs or using his celebrity for personal gain. Penniless my arse.

My brother-in-law is one of Sly's attorneys on this case. I don't know about your arse, but I can assure you that your assumptions are incorrect.
posted by scody at 10:05 PM on June 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


He would play the Hammond along with it until he had enough ideas on tape to be the basis for a hit song. Then he would write some words and call in the rest of the band

Is this supposed to be a criticism? A beat is a beat; if he's writing the music and the words I don't see what the problem is.
posted by transient at 10:42 PM on June 16, 2013


Davey Scatino: You told me not to get in the game. Why'd you let me do it?

Tony Soprano: Well, I knew you had this business here, Davey. It's my nature. The frog and the scorpion, you know? Besides, if you would've won I'd be the one crying the blues, right?

Davey Scatino: What's the end?

Tony Soprano: The end... It's planned bankruptcy. Hey, you're not the first guy to get busted out. This is how a guy like me makes his living. This is my bread and butter. When this is over you're free to go. You can go anywhere you want.
posted by oneironaut at 10:54 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


My brother-in-law is one of Sly's attorneys on this case.

What is it with metafilter and there always being someone who is 1-2 degrees of seperation away from basically anyone or anything?

I bet someone on here's brother or sister has been on the ISS, or something like that.
posted by emptythought at 11:02 PM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


What gets me - what REALLY gets me, with the sort of cold, hard anger that animates corpses - is when billionaires in the recording industry get on their high horses about chopping kids' hands off for downloading music. That the entire shitfest is set up to feed greedily on the talents, hopes and hard work of the young, yeah, I get it. Welcome to the machine.

But the hypocrisy? That's special.

In complicated moral issues where multiple groups have different takes, one of the things I fall back on is the "Who is lying to me the most?" test in determining where my sympathies should lie. Sometimes, as in much of politics, that's not much help.

Here, though it's a quick and easy win.
posted by Devonian at 2:49 AM on June 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


"There's two things in this world can get you into trouble - your dick and your signature." - Billy Bragg.

"I try my hardest not to sound like a pollyanna about this." - emptythought, above.

Not much danger of that. A polyanna is an excessively joyful or optimistic person - named after the character in Eleanor Porter's novel. Was it Jeremiah you actually had in mind?
posted by Paul Slade at 4:12 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cassandra, maybe.
posted by unSane at 4:34 AM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Status Blow - Francis Rossi spent about £2 million on coke. (the sun).
posted by marienbad at 5:10 AM on June 17, 2013


What gets me - what REALLY gets me, with the sort of cold, hard anger that animates corpses - is when billionaires in the recording industry get on their high horses about chopping kids' hands off for downloading music.

This cannot be repeated often enough.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:10 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Davey Scatino: You told me not to get in the game. Why'd you let me do it?

Probably my favourite bit of dialogue from the whole series.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:42 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this supposed to be a criticism? A beat is a beat; if he's writing the music and the words I don't see what the problem is.

I didn't say it was a "problem." It was an observation. I have been around the music biz for 40+ years. One of the guys I worked with for 40 of those years has a couple of songwriting Grammys on his mantel.

When it comes to a "commercial" beat, just count four to Mick Fleetwood and you'll get it. But Sly would spend hours noodling along with a synthetic beat, then listen to those hours of tape and pick two minutes he liked. Fade in, fade out and start the overdubbing.

To my knowledge Sly is the only artist who wrote songs that way. To me it seems like the essence of all the coked out rockers I have known, high and jamming with himself for hours. Totally self-indulgent, screw the rest of the band. Successful? Yes, but at a high price.
posted by Repack Rider at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was it Jeremiah you actually had in mind?

Cassandra, maybe.

Debbie Downer?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:22 AM on June 17, 2013


To my knowledge Sly is the only artist who wrote songs that way.

With all due respect, I'm pretty sure a lot of artists have worked more or less the same way before and after--how is writing the way you described any different (for example) from Willie Nelson's years of punching a clock as a songwriter--not even having a "rest of the band" to screw.

I don't really mean to be critical here, I'm just trying to understand, do you see his working method as part of what qualifies him for the title "one of the most monstrous assholes in the music business," or is that just an incidental observation? I guess if he was still an active member in a band at the time and just turned his back on the rest of the band completely and started taking control of the whole process and cutting his bandmates out of the process of arranging, I can see that as pretty ass-holish, if there had previously been different expectations. Is that what you mean, Repack Rider?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on June 17, 2013


Really? You're going to rag on a songwriter for his process?

Looping a backbeat and noodling over it is an absolutely standard way of working.
posted by unSane at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Totally self-indulgent, screw the rest of the band.

Well, in his case it might have been if you think of the band as the artistic entity. For all intents and purposes, many bands have one member, as far as copyright goes. If one person coming up with songs and then playing several of the parts or bringing in hired gun pro musicians to either play or perform on tour is the wrong way to go, you'd have to throw Prince out, too.
posted by mikeh at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


But Sly would spend hours noodling along with a synthetic beat, then listen to those hours of tape and pick two minutes he liked.

so he basically invented EDM?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:38 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not much danger of that. A polyanna is an excessively joyful or optimistic person - named after the character in Eleanor Porter's novel. Was it Jeremiah you actually had in mind?

Yep, You're completely right there. My memory was just screwed up since i totally remembering seeing someone use it on MeFi that way before and i had completely forgotten the source material/definition. I absolutely meant "Overly negative/exaggerator/finding issue where there isn't one" kind of thing.

To my knowledge Sly is the only artist who wrote songs that way. To me it seems like the essence of all the coked out rockers I have known, high and jamming with himself for hours. Totally self-indulgent, screw the rest of the band. Successful? Yes, but at a high price.

Well, you might as well shit on Stevie Wonder, Dave Grohl, and a lot of the other guys who would write tracks for a full band by themselves then bring in session musicians or their band to actually record it.

Writing stuff like that and bringing in people to play it is pretty normal. There's plenty of bands out there where everyone kinda just "jams", or brings some ideas to the table and combines them... But it's also fairly common nowadays(especially with digital production being the norm. Everyone is making their demos and even albums on a macbook with a copy of logic, reason, ableton, etc).

Hell, it's pretty common nowadays for one or two guys to write all the parts, and then only the guitar, bass, or vocals to actually be performed. Or even just the vocals.(And i'm not just talking about boots and pants house music here).

It's indulgent if you want to read it that way, but when it's someone everyone likes and isn't trying to paint in some negative light they're a "Musical Visionary" or some shit spoken about in the kind of hushed reverent tones that Stevie or Michael Jackson are. Or Prince. I could go on.

He had a lot of contemporaries who wrote and even recorded alone often, if not even predominantly.

And i don't even have the energy to start on how many interesting, creative, somewhat reclusive musicians i've known who worked like that(or not!) who were horrible fucking alcoholics/drug addicts/etc. Fuck, artists in general. I've met exactly one super prolific artist who wasn't hitting some kind of mind altering substance pretty much on the daily. That's a whole other discussion.
posted by emptythought at 1:26 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


For sure. I have a band and I bring full songs to them with basslines, drum parts, vocal harmonies and even guitar solos worked out. They always change when other people play them, which is great, because a couple of them are much better musicians than I, but it's a TOTALLY standard way of working if you're a songwriter who fronts a band.
posted by unSane at 2:54 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this where I tell my Sly Stone story?

...there's not much to it, except that my minder when I was very young (like 6 months to 16 month young) was a woman who'd formerly taken Sly Stone in, and cared for him while he was a complete mess from the drugs. She later ended up suing him for using what she said were her words without permission, and eloping to I think Colorado with a psychiatrist who turned out to not really be a psychiatrist.
posted by subdee at 4:12 PM on June 17, 2013


Colorado? Was Sedona full?
posted by thelonius at 4:30 PM on June 17, 2013


I read that as Sly Stallone.

Also, I don't really think you can blame bad business decisions on Cocaine, plenty of sober people get scammed every day.
posted by delmoi at 5:57 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And i don't even have the energy to start on how many interesting, creative, somewhat reclusive musicians i've known who worked like that(or not!) who were horrible fucking alcoholics/drug addicts/etc. Fuck, artists in general. I've met exactly one super prolific artist who wasn't hitting some kind of mind altering substance pretty much on the daily. That's a whole other discussion.

I'm sure I'm not the only person here who would be interested in having this discussion, actually...
posted by jokeefe at 6:33 PM on June 17, 2013


Wow, Goldstein and Stone sure sound like some ruthless scumbags.

That's the music industry. While George Goldner ran Roulette, he made himself co-writer of many songs, including hits by The Teenagers. Destiny caught up with him in 1970.

Morris Levy, aka The Octopus. acquired Goldner's Gee label hits. Suddenly, he was co-writer of the hits. The kids who wrote the songs got bupkis. Destiny acquired Mr. Levy in 1986, when he was convicted of extorting of a music wholesaler.
posted by Twang at 6:41 PM on June 17, 2013


do you see his working method as part of what qualifies him for the title "one of the most monstrous assholes in the music business,

Methods are immaterial to his assholery other than being symptomatic of it. He was an asshole who was a good musician. I met plenty of those in 40 years, but he's high on the list.

Sly was in Columbia studios in SF for a session just before the band I worked for (Sons of Champlin) came in. He was there while I was moving the gear in. The engineer told us that the studio owned a Fender amplifier for use during sessions. After Sly's session, he picked it up and started carrying it to his car. The engineer informed Sly that the amp belonged to the studio. Paraphrasing here because it is second hand, Sly told the engineer that if he had a problem with it, to call his lawyer.
posted by Repack Rider at 7:04 PM on June 17, 2013


I don/'t doubt that he's a prick, but the way he writes is not 'symptomatic' of that.
posted by thelonius at 4:20 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


« Older "We perceive the world through metaphors"   |   Global Bloomsday Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post