Absolutely everyone has a disagreement from time to time, and if you’re famous, these disagreements can become pretty public pretty quickly. And sometimes, you seek revenge.
Of course, these are usually various grievances that equate to nothing more than the equivalent of a ‘rap feud’, but sometimes these disagreements can get a little bit larger, and start to involve everything from fellow musicians, to record labels, to those in charge of copyright. At this point, it would probably be best to resolve the issue amicably.
However, some musicians out there have decided to take the the low road, and fight fire with fire in an attempt to gain the most cathartic result out of the situation. Because there are some pretty great stories of musicians winning against those who have wronged them, we’ve decided to take a look at seven of the best stories of musical revenge.
Taylor Swift vs. Katy Perry
It’s never really been made clear why exactly there’s been bad blood between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, but the generally accepted version is that while the two were touring together in 2012, Perry snatched some of Taylor’s backup dancers, causing them to leave the tour early, and leaving Taylor without said dancers. Oh, then there’s also the fact that both of them dated John Mayer, but who knows how much weight that carries.
Then a couple of years ago, Taylor, like Jay-Z and other famous musicians, decided to take their music off Spotify to boycott the streaming service. Fast forward to 2017, Katy Perry spent most of May aggressively promoting her new record Witness on Spotify, which was released on June 9th.
You know what else happened on June 9th? Taylor Swift just happened to release all of her music back onto Spotify. This move attracted huge publicity, but was it enough to cause folks to completely forget about Katy Perry’s new record? Not quite, but good try Taylor.
The Shamen vs. One Little Indian Records
You might remember Scottish ravers The Shamen from their track ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ and its litany of drug references. The record, their second with English record label One Little Indian was hit, and saw the group even make it to #99 in the very first Hottest 100 countdown. However, the follow-up record wasn’t received quite so warmly, and the group’s popularity began to wane.
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In 1996, the group were disenfranchised with One Little Indian and wanted to move to a different label, but their contract told them they still had to deliver one more record. This, in addition to the insistence of label’s founder Derek Birkett’s insistence on a return to their earlier sound, the group took one week to record a deliberately terrible instrumental record that they knew wouldn’t sell.
Oh, but that’s not all, if you were to look at the track listing for their record Hempton Manor, the first letter of each track spells out the phrase ‘Fuck Birkett’. Again, subtly wasn’t exactly their thing.
Van Morrison vs. Bang Records
Van Morrison‘s first solo album Blowin’ Your Mind! could be considered a success to basically everyone who isn’t Van Morrison. When he signed with Bang Records to record the album, he didn’t exactly study his contract too hard, and basically signed away total control of his music to the record label.
Desperate to find another label to sign him, Warner Bros. appeared, but there were issues that needed addressing, namely that Morrison was under contract to record approximately 30 more songs for his previous record label.
Morrison jumped at this chance, picked up his guitar, and laid down 31 songs of… questionable quality. One of the most memorable and most famous of these tracks is called ‘Ring Worm’, and is basically about letting someone know that they have ring worm. Of course, this wasn’t up to the label’s standards, so these songs went unreleased for a while until they turned up on the appropriately titled Payin’ Dues record.
While some may have just assumed at the time this was Morrison’s new direction and he had just plain lost it, you need to remember that his very next record, once signed with Warner Bros., was Astral Weeks, a record often called one of the greatest of all time.
Metallica vs. Record Stores
You might have thought a Metallica entry would focus on their lengthy feud with Napster, but no, this one takes place 13 years prior to that, in 1987. See, Metallica had just finished recording an EP full of covers of ’70s and ’80s punk and metal songs, and wanted to make sure their fans weren’t ripped off. As a result, they decided to make sure the price was universal, and titled it The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited.
Of course, some record stores instantly ignored this, charging a higher price for the CD versions rather than the cassettes, and even went so far to retitle it as The $9.98 C.D.
The band of course foresaw this and included stickers on the original release of the cassette which included the phrase “If they try to charge more, STEAL IT!” While it’s not clear if a higher rate of theft was reported as a result of the stickers, we’d like to think Metallica had a small win with that one.
As you would expect, Australia wasn’t exempt from shady retailers either, with many Australian stores placing a sticker on the front that made sure fans were clear that this suggested price was merely the title, and not what fans would pay for it. Sneaky, but understandable.
The KLF vs. the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society
The KLF were a strange band, to say the least. They enjoyed pushing boundaries and seeing how far they could get, but when it came to their debut record, this attitude would cause some problems. Their debut record was titled ‘1987 (What The Fuck Is Going On?), and featured a vast amount of unathourised samples, which were used in the album’s composition. Think a much more illegal version of The Avalanches.
As a result, the British Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, acting upon a copyright complaint from ABBA, ordered the group to recall and destroy all copies of the record.
Of course, they did, but they were feeling pretty jaded about this whole affair. So what did The KLF do? They passive-aggressively re-released the record, except this time, it featured none of the offending samples. This would be great if it wasn’t for the fact that the majority of the record was samples, which meant that the record they ended up releasing contained very little music, and long periods of silence. In fact, it contained so little music that the new version of the album had to officially be called a single.
The Sisters Of Mercy vs. EastWest Records
The Sisters Of Mercy are well-known for being one of the most famous goth bands of all time. Despite having broken up and reformed a few times, they managed to pump out three highly influential records between 1985 and 1990.
However, like some of the entries in here, the group’s record label piped up and told them that The Sisters still owed them a couple of records. of course, the group’s frontman, Andrew Eldritch, had basically given up on recording by this point and wasn’t too keen on the idea, so he decided to mess with them somewhat.
Andrew Eldritch formed a group called SSV-NSMABAAOTWMODAACOTIATW, who are “absolutely not” The Sisters Of Mercy, and whose name ‘allegedly’ stands for ‘Screw Shareholder Value – Not So Much A Band As Another Opportunity To Waste Money On Drugs And Ammunition, Courtesy Of The Idiots At Time Warner’. This group released a record called Go Figure, and contained droning techno music (composed by musicians hired by Eldritch) with only occasional sampled mumbled vocals from the group’s frontman.
Because of the presence of Eldritch’s vocals, EastWest Records accepted the record sight unseen as a replacement for the two contractually obligated records from The Sisters Of Mercy, and let Andrew Eldritch go free from his contract. Happy days.
Dead Kennedys vs. The Whole Recording Industry
Music piracy has been around for a very long time, and with the rise of home recording techniques came a rise in anti-piracy efforts by the music industry. Cheap home recording technology meant that music lovers could record their own music onto cassette tapes to listen to at their own leisure, which lead to the creation of a British campaign which warned that “Home Taping Is Killing Music”. This of course made sense, because with more people recording bootleg audio, this meant less people buying records, and less money going into the industry. It’s a tune we’ve all heard before.
Enter the Dead Kennedys. The Californian punk band weren’t exactly friends of the music industry, and in fact their 1985 record Frankenchrist would see them brought up on charges of obscenity due to their record artwork. In 1981 though, they released the EP In God We Trust, and one of the available formats this EP was available on was the trusty cassette tape.
The Dead Kennedys decided to cram all the music from the EP on one side of the tape, with a message on the other side that simply read “Home taping is killing record industry profits! We left this side blank so you can help.” You certainly have to hand it to them, they knew how to make a scene.