Feeling like a dead duck / Spitting out pieces of his broken luck
January 1, 2019 12:25 PM   Subscribe

My dad painted the iconic cover for Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung,’ and it’s haunted him ever since: His quest to receive proper compensation illuminates the struggle for artists’ rights, and how decades-old grievances become coded into rock and roll mythology.
posted by Etrigan (41 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, it sounds like he doesn't have much of a legal case:

“It's all going to come back to the same question of whether it was initially ‘work made for hire,’” she said. If yes, there’s nothing dad could do. There’s a miniscule chance dad could argue that he licensed his paintings to Chrysalis while retaining his copyrights. If so, the license would only cover what both parties intended at that time — the album artwork for an LP.

“Most courts, however would assume that the original intent extends to use on future technologies for essentially the same purpose [illustrating the sound recordings], ranging from cassettes to CDs and even iTunes imagery. But when you go off into t-shirts and other kinds of merchandise, maybe that's where the license doesn't quite get there,” said Kattwinkel.....


Is album cover art typically done as a "work for hire"? I don't know, but TFA answers another question:

"Who would steal the candy from a laughing baby's mouth/If he could take it from the money man?"
...Even so, Warner Brothers would spare no expense fighting the case.
posted by thelonius at 12:55 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Maybe just let it go?
posted by Steakfrites at 12:57 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


There was a Harold Pinter-sized pause on the other end of the line.
posted by oheso at 1:18 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this quite interesting post; I had no idea that painting was legendary. As a music reviewer from that era I have more Tull albums than I realized – 10 – but I’ve always considered Aqualung one of my least favorite, with a cover that’s particularly hideous. All these years later I have no memory of ever noticing the interior, or back cover, paintings at all; I'm also somewhat startled to see that the tattered broadsheet on the front cover says “Spend Christmas Skiing With Mixed Party [in the] Remote Scottish Highlands.”

As for the moral of the story, as always when dealing with corporations, it's that the artist indeed was lax when he "goofed not specifying future use or getting a signed contract at all."
posted by LeLiLo at 1:27 PM on January 1 [8 favorites]


Maybe just let it go?
posted by Steakfrites


It doesn't sound like he's done a whole lot. A couple of phone calls over four decades. A few months trying to figure out how much of a scammer a scammer was.
posted by Scattercat at 1:55 PM on January 1


My takeaway is that Ian Anderson is kind of a dick.
posted by sundrop at 1:57 PM on January 1 [14 favorites]


My takeaway is that Ian Anderson is kind of a dick.

He was pretty cool about "Hotel California"
posted by thelonius at 2:19 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


If freaking Hal Kant doesn't think you have a case, you don't have a case.
posted by mikelieman at 2:41 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I expected the article to go somewhere more interesting. The painter made a bad decision, but wasn’t really ripped off. The rest of the story just meandered and never really materialized.
posted by snofoam at 2:53 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


I’ve always considered Aqualung one of my least favorite, with a cover that’s particularly hideous.

You say this... while considering the cover of Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:13 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


... the cover of [TO2R&R, 2Y2D]

Do you mean the comic strip inside? The front cover may be ridiculous, but I don't find it all that hideous. The music is a lot worse than on Aqualung, for sure. Tull albums went downhill pretty quickly after the first two or three; with the same guy writing all the material, it got pretty monotonous.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:40 PM on January 1


Stormwatch is great
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Don't you start away uneasy, you poor old sot you see, it's only me.
posted by Oyéah at 3:50 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I loved Aqualung in its day.
posted by Oyéah at 3:51 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Burt Silverman (along with Harvey Dinnerstein) is one of the great realist painters of the late 20th Century (images).

The greatness of Silverman and Dinnerstein is the purity of their draftsmanship, their commitment to the classic goals of painters, and the fact that they never used their great powers in the pursuit of puerile surrealism.

Silverman has nothing to complain about and nothing to be ashamed of. It's astonishing that this incredible artist, with this great career behind him, should give one moment of thought to the fate of a comparatively undistinguished piece of hack work, done for a second-rank rock group, four decades ago.

When the boomers die off, Silverman will be remembered for the rest of his oeuvre -- and Jethro Tull the band will be forgotten.
posted by Modest House at 4:50 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


My takeaway is that Ian Anderson is kind of a dick.

as the article reports, Anderson never much liked the cover which he believed was intended as a likeness of him, which I can easily believe because that's what I've always assumed ... ever since I first saw it in 1972 sometime. Though a quick look at a Burton Silverman self portrait does indeed reveal a likeness to Mr. Anderson. Which leaves me thinking this whole thing is rather star-crossed, and thinking that if there's a villain, it's probably Tull manager Terry Ellis, but even that seems a stretch ... certainly in comparison to many other outright criminal rock managers over the years.

And speaking of Terry Ellis, you may him know him better as the architecture student from the Bob Dylan movie, Don't Look Back.
posted by philip-random at 5:03 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


That $1500 in 1970-1971 would be worth around $9-10k now. Aside from there being no written contract, paying an artist 9 or 10k for their work in 2018, for 3 paintings that would be used as an album cover, seems like a defensible sum if you want to claim it was "made for hire."
posted by tclark at 5:18 PM on January 1 [12 favorites]


... Anderson never much liked the cover which he believed was intended as a likeness of him...

A history of the band's early years says (p. 64) that the cover (indeed, the whole concept for the album) was inspired when Anderson's then-wife Jennie – not mentioned at all in the Silverman article – brought home photos she'd taken of homeless people along the river Thames. One of her pictures of an "old man in tattered clothing" – which Anderson claims he would have preferred as the cover – led to her co-writing the title song with her husband.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:13 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


>My takeaway is that Ian Anderson is kind of a dick.

He's apparently recently (meaning 'in this century') fired Martin Barre, or declined to invite him to continue participating in what currently passes for 'Jethro Tull', or something. They had a brief snit about it, and while nobody ever looks good in a snit, the suggestion that Anderson would rather just hire a cheap backup band, and not really split whatever money or credit is left with anybody else, sort of has the ring of truth to it. As somebody who was a huge fan a long time ago, I am willing to consider the possibility that Anderson might be kind of a dick. On the other hand, as Barre says very generously, "Everybody has the right to do what they want in life."
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:36 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


My partner's father, who passed away a few months ago, was a painter who did album covers for a while, as well as book covers.

As far as I could tell, he never got anything after the original check, regardless of whether it was a book or an album cover. I can't exactly confirm with him now, though.
posted by SansPoint at 8:40 PM on January 1


If he's still kinda pissed about this situation, it seems like he might be sitting right in the middle of the 304(c) notice of termination period, which would give him a possible path to try to claw back his rights without requiring a terribly expensive lawsuit on his part. Termination doesn't apply to works for hire, but whether it actually was a work for hire doesn't seem entirely clear.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:04 PM on January 1


Stopped paying attention to Tull after Aqualung but I still listen to it from time to time. Don't understand why people are blaming anyone in the band from what seems like routine management behaviour. This is an old man with a grudge and somehow another old man who doesn't want to get involved is a hate figure! Metafilter does like its cardboard villains.
posted by epo at 3:23 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


But... he got paid. As a creative working for the music industry that's kind of a miracle in itself. He should be grateful that they didn't find a way for him to owe them money.
posted by Grangousier at 3:35 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


This reminded me of the interview Ian Anderson gave with Harmonix (makers of the Rock Band video games) where he just starts slagging off the entire genre of music video games apropos of nothing.
I think I've seen it on the television screen about gadgets and computer things that people playing these plasticy-looking guitars and it's just, well, I just can't really find any...it's a bit like, why? Who's inventing something the world actually doesn't need? But people will gravitate to it because it's there. Because it seems fun, because it's loud and aggressive. It's simple as a fantasy, but I must say from the point of view of pretty much all gameplay, I'm just one of those people who's just never found games particularly enjoyable.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:07 AM on January 2


Funny, just the other night we were talking about our disused home karaoke system which has a video version of this song (link to when time I mentioned it here, not a video).
posted by exogenous at 7:05 AM on January 2


Dad’s studio is located on the top floor of my parents’ brownstone on the Upper West Side. It’s a glorious mess

Tiny violin.
posted by Damienmce at 7:12 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I thought this was going to be a story about how they reneged on paying him at all. Not one about how he got paid, and then the album and artwork became famous and he could’ve made a lot more money with a better contract. Them’s the breaks, pal, it’s not like you’re Van Gogh, dying penniless after a lifetime of failure.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:48 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


He got $1500 in 1971 dollars for that hideous artwork? What is he complaining about?
posted by w0mbat at 8:07 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Personally, I'd be embarrassed to admit I painted that awful art, or even worse had ever had any association with Jethro Tull.

But I guess that artwork is appropriately terrible considering what the music sounds like.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 8:25 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I actually think it’s a reasonable article about how the way we set up our lives is inherently assholish sometimes. Handshake contract, doesn’t say anything about the rights. Would it have killed them to kick him some money from time to time for a wildly successful work he helped make?
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


As the old saying goes:

Nil nisi de Tull.
posted by Splunge at 11:10 AM on January 2


......he just starts slagging off the entire genre of music video games apropos of nothing.

Maybe they shot down his Flute Hero idea
posted by thelonius at 1:34 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Personally, I'd be embarrassed to admit I painted that awful art, or even worse had ever had any association with Jethro Tull. \

It's almost as if you're not a Tull fan. I am, and have been for so long it's hard to have much objectivity on things. But that said, I do think the cover of Aqualung stands up pretty well against certain other famous covers of its time. Not the best by any means, but at least it's not just one of the roadies dressed up in tights and whatever, waving around a plastic sword.

And the more I think of it, given the context of the time, I think it's a comparatively strong cover for reasons pointed out in the article:

“This is just a cool painting — a cool rough, impressionistic painting which I think stands out for that reason.”

And that piece in the gatefold -- fourteen-fifteen year old me LOVED that.
posted by philip-random at 2:09 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Everything I ever created for the animation industry was explicitly work for hire with all rights rescinded for all time, throughout the universe.

I was fine with it and feel that it's understandable in a lot of situations, but many of the contracts I had to sign positioned themselves to exert some possibility of the company owning rights to anything I might create or develop (on my own time) during the period of working for hire. It wasnt explicit but it was the sort of language that made you feel vulnerable. It bugged me but I needed to eat.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:07 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Amazing cover for an amazing album. Growing up in the US in the 1980s everyone knew Aqualung but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard any other JT albums . So from my perspective this was their big one. Also the artist’s other stuff linked above is great.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:49 PM on January 2


silly to bother this Ian Anderson guy, he should have appealed directly to Mr. Tull himself
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:05 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Growing up in the US in the 1980s everyone knew Aqualung but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard any other JT albums .

Well that's the Classic Rock radio format for you. Even, say, The Stones - they reduce them to like at most 5 songs, and that's all they play. You used to at least hear "Bungle In The Jungle" or "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day" on the radio, but the format eventually decided that like 2 or 3 songs from Aqualung were canon, and that's all you get.
posted by thelonius at 6:19 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


He made a bad deal and didn't realize it. It sucks, but it happens.

What this guy needed was a Neal Adams to his Siegel & Shuster... the guy in the industry itself that will stand up for you... and get others to stand up for you... and say "This isn't right." I think he thought Anderson would be that guy. Guess not.
posted by prepmonkey at 9:05 AM on January 3


I photographed Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson for a magazine once. That's the only time I've ever seen a handgun casually lying on a table in England. This was before the 1997 handgun ban, so presumably no law was being broken, but seeing the gun definitely weirded me out.
posted by w0mbat at 12:32 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I loved Aqualung in its day.

Still do, though I don't play it very often. (And when I do it might just be Wond'ring Aloud but "Cross-Eyed Mary" also gets the occasional spin.) It's Peak Tull - their other good disks were Benefit and just some of Stand Up; after that, all of their output's unlistenable.

Anderson never much liked the cover which he believed was intended as a likeness of him

He's probably also no big fan of the version Guy Peelaert painted for Rock Dreams.
posted by Rash at 4:23 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


new beanplating video
posted by thelonius at 6:53 PM on January 5


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