Monday, July 12, 2010

Follow Up to Skinhead Anthems

A curious follow up to the Miles Wootton/Last Resort post I made a while back.

Somehow, over the course of the last few months I must have missed that Miles Wootton actually wrote a comment on my blog post in March! “I cannot really understand how the words of my song "Skinheads", written in 1970, assigned to Warlock Music soon after, recorded by me and others, have somehow been adopted and adapted by The Last Resort and numerous other "punk" bands. Evergreen Copyrights are investigating. Thanks for discovering all this, Timothy Radar and I would be very pleased to correspond with you if you send me your e-mail address.” –Miles Wootton.

I would probably had missed this had I not got an email from him the other day (July). “Dear Timothy, First of all, many thanks for the information about what can only be called the "Theft" of my decades-old song about Skinheads. A friend of mine has discovered many other "covers" by punk bands. I seem to have come to a 50/50 arrangement with The Last Resort but you probably know that record labels change and, frankly, I'm not expecting to make a fortune. But it was nice to discover your posting (quite by chance) and thanks again. Contact me if you will. Kind regards” --Miles (Wootton)

This was quite unexpected, as I had thought that the Last Resort song was actually a simple cover of a song created by someone they either admired, or knew personally. What I didn’t expect was to uncover, for Miles, what seemed to be an unknown number of punk rock bands playing his tune as a classic of the Oi! genre. Nor did I think that I would, in fact uncover a little more information about the career of a man, who quite frankly has very little information on the internet attached to his name! Hopefully this wil bring about some more information about Miles Wootton as well as the origins of Skinheads/Violence in Our Minds.

It also came as quite a shock to me, frankly, that this blog would also change in many ways the publishing and royalties situation of this song. This was not my intention in the slightest, like I had said earlier, it simply thought this was the situation of an innocent cover that not very many people where aware of!

The following excerpts are reprinted from a series of emails with Miles Wootton, and are used by permission.

When did you discover that "Skinheads" had been covered, albeit changed, by The Last Resort as "Violence in Our Minds"? The Last Resort version, in the almost 30 years since its recording, has become one of the most famous pieces of music to emerge from the Oi! Subgenre of punk rock, and is covered by many in a fashion of almost a "standard" if you will:

“I only discovered about covers of "Skinheads" via a friend who found your blog. Frankly I was shocked at the cheek of it all. To be honest, Punk is not, as we quaint English put it, "My Cup Of Tea" but each to his own.”

Is there any links/connections between you and the Last Resort? I mean, you are not one of their long lost uncles or anything right? Which brings me to ask how do you think they heard the song? Was it widely available, did it chart? Etc.

“I had never heard of The Last Resort, but obviously they had not heard of me either.”

"Sunday Supplement World" was a privately recorded LP done in the studio of the long defunct Radio Brighton and Long Man Records was a fairly arbitrary label title. I was always a full-time teacher, but, in those days, the job allowed me to write many songs and perform in clubs all over the South East (including the Troubadour in London) and it helped put bread on the table for my family. I wrote hundreds of songs, mostly rubbish but not all. I suppose my most lucrative one was "The Joggers Song"- the B-side to Fred Wedlock's hit "Oldest Swinger in Town" which got to no. 3 in the charts.”

What were your influences at the time of recording "Sunday Supplement World"? I have found the record to be curious in that it has a lot of lyrical playfulness, and is quite funny. For someone like me, in the United States, a lot of the late 60's British folk that gets exported tends to be more serious, and rooted in Scottish Folk traditions, as well as a blend of more contemporary musical trends.

“I was very much part of the scene in the early days and did quite well. But I realized my limits and held on to the day job. Glad I did now at my advanced age. I was never really a folk-singer though I did them in the early days at Oxford. I come from a music-hall family (Vaudiville?) and decided to go for the cheap laughs. My heroes are Tom Lehrer and the British Jake Thackray who got his inspiration from Georges Brassens. I never did serious songs; left that to the genious people like Martin Carthy. I made another album called "The Great Fishfinger Disaster" I currently have a CD out called "The Least Worst of Miles Wootton" Sells reasonably well though I don't do gigs any more.”

Are you at all flattered that your words, unbeknown to you have become a vital part of youth culture and quite popular?

“I must say that to have my whimsical and slightly satirical ditty stolen and distorted by a bunch of illiterate and unmusical Far Right louts doesn't give me much pleasure. Luckily, nobody I respect will ever hear it. Significantly the best line, which sums up the whole song, and which I wrote first, has been omit "There's nothin' on the top of me ‘ead and even less inside.”

Honestly, I did have a number of other questions for Miles Wootton, which he was a little more reserved on answering. I was curious how he viewed punk rock in light of the folk tradition; whether he could see punk as a modern idea of folk or parochial songwriting; what he saw the difference between folkies swapping songs and this situation; and of course what was the impetus to write “Skinheads”, whether it was first hand or though the papers; as well as a request for photos and more info on his teaching career.

THE FOLLOWING IS A BRIEF EXCHANGE WITH WOOTTON, HIS PUBLISHER AND THE PUBLISHER OF THE LAST RESORT TUNE (it is quite an interesting thing to think about that the Wootton song released in 1970, and the Last Resort song was released in 1982):

From: Miles Wootton
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 4:42 PM
To: Evergreen Music Publishing (Miles’ Publisher)
Subject: "Skinheads" song by me and assigned to Warlock Music
decades ago

Hello there,

I gather Lucie Holden has sent you details about my song which seems to have been recorded many times. Not credited to me. And the title changed to "Violence in Our Minds" by a group called, aptly, "The Last Resort".

I have contacted them and they say it has been "published" by Cringe Music.

As I said. all you have to do is to go to Google Images, type in Miles Wootton Songs, click on my record cover and all will be revealed.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope we make some money!
Miles Wootton.

On 24 Mar 2010, at 20:29, Evergreen Music Publishing (Miles’ Publisher) wrote:
Hi Miles - Kobalt has been in touch with Kassner Music regarding this situation. Kassner Music have now given them the following reply:

"After carefully listening to 'Violence In Our Minds' and 'Skinheads', we realized there are in fact similar elements in the two songs.

However, as only one verse from the original song appears on The Last Resort's song, we do not think it is a cover of 'Skinheads', as most of the work is new and original - including lyrics and arrangements. Therefore, in order to be fair to the two parties, we would suggest a 70/30 split in our favour.

Please let me know what you think. "Would you be willing to accept a 30% share of 'Violence In Our Minds'?”

From: Miles Wootton
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 7:25 AM
To: Evergreen Music Publishing (Miles’ Publisher)
Subject: Re: "Skinheads" song by me and assigned to Warlock Music decades ago

Hello there Tara and thanks for your reply

You ask me two questions. What do I think? Well, as was pointed out, my words provided "the meat of the song" and I have not given permission for any more to be added. Personally I reckon I should have 50%. I'll get on to PRS and see what they think and contact you again.

The other matter is the list of other bands who have used my words. Presumably their versions are published by Kassner too.

Lastly, the mere fact that Kassner has made an offer at all implies an acceptance of some unautherised plagiarism. And whole phrases have been lifted. I'd be interested in their views.

But thanks again for your work on my behalf and I'll get back to you when you've had another chat with them and I've talked with PRS.

All good wishes- Miles.

From: Evergreen Music Publishing (Miles’ Publisher)
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 9:24 AM
To: 'Miles Wootton'
Subject: RE: "Skinheads" song by me and assigned to Warlock Music decades ago

Hi Miles - I've passed your response onto Kobalt and have explained that you would like 50% ownership in the new composition: 'Violence In Our Minds'.

I'll keep you posted.
From: Evergreen Music Publishing (Miles’ Publisher)
Sent: Thursday, March 30
To: 'Miles Wootton'
Subject: RE: "Skinheads" song by me and assigned to Warlock Music decades ago

Hi Miles - I have just heard back from Kobalt about this, Kassner Music has agreed to a 50/50 ownership split for the new composition "Violence In Our Minds", which samples your song, "Skinheads". They are in the Midst of speaking with MPCS regarding adjustments. Kobalt will get back to me as soon as they have more details.

I'll keep you posted.


Unknown said...

This is kind of the digger's holy grail isn't it? Fun tune, historically important but almost unknown and you eventually become part of the story. Crazy!

Unknown said...

This man is seriously delusional, and I almost want to write him an email myself. If ANTYTHING, he should just be happy that his music is listened to at all....and has passed on to future generations thanks to these "punk" bands. Not saying The Last Resort were all that original (hell they definitely were not "far right" lunatics like Woo Woo Wooton says), and it has been said that "Skinhead Anthems" was merely just a cheap cash in on the scene at the time, but hell...they reached a helluva lot more people than he ever has.....And now he is digging for money? He is angry and frustrated that he didn't get to be as a successful musician as the dudes that would probably have beaten him up if they saw him.

AliBan said...

I think that Andy's comment does not reflect well on himself. I'm sure it doesn't fit well with a blogspot which is about music and art. Mr Wooton is not delusional, just annoyed that his work has been appropriated by soemone else and not even a)consulted b)credited or c)paid. I expect Andy wants to be paid for work he does? It is surely reasonable that Mr Wooton expects the same. Because this kind of rip off happens to such an extent, there exists an organisation to protect British artists - The MRCPS. I hope they do their job and get any pennies owed the right person.