Sunday, February 7, 2010

(part 214) THE VOW

I was determined to stay sober no matter what. I remember sitting in my house and being afraid to move. I was having visions of getting up and going to the bathroom and cutting my wrists.

I sat for hours and cried. I wanted out! I didn't want to try anymore. Trying had become the blueprint for another round of well almost, but not quite, so now what?

I cursed God, Science Of Mind, and AA. I had had my belly full of make believe recovery. I was not in recovery. I was in rock bottom survival mode.

Death seemed a reasonable solution at the time, but part of me was unwilling to travel that path, sheerly on the outside chance
I would fail, and feel like a bigger fool. I didn't want to die as much as I wanted to live in a life that didn't hurt so much.

I tried to reason that the previous year had been worthwhile, and that what I had really wanted, was for it, or something like it, to continue moving forward.

It was the juggernaut of constant collapse that was making me crazy. It was the end of the thing, not the thing itself. Too many, whom I knew, were situated in a way as to not have to deal with the issues of such basic survival day to day.

They were well above that line in their ongoing pursuit of a happy, joyous, and free life of sobriety. I, on the other hand was seemingly condemned to scrambling for my daily bread over and over again.

This was the cavernous separation between myself and those around me. I thought I might be better off on skid row rather than where I was. If I were around others, I thought, who were constantly up against it, I might not feel so worthless and out of place.

As I sat alone, grinding through my misery, I stumbled on a process of psychology that may have literally saved my life at the time.

Rather than entertaining thoughts of my own death, I proposed to entertain the demise of others. I'm sure this sounds completely irrational to most, but back then, it had the power to flip the coin, as it were, in my favor.

"Fuck em!" I thought, I was tired of killing myself because I'd tried to do the right thing. I had not been so wrong about my choices as to deserve punishment for making them.

OK! I was going down the tubes again, but not because I hadn't done my job, but because I'd refused to play the Goddamned game. I'd honored my word and fulfilled my obligation to write songs and get them recorded. I was paid to do that, and did it.

The real problem was the God forsaken music business mentality of little pricks in offices, trying to control what others created. I'd pissed off the controllers again, the money men.

I had always pissed them off, because they were ruthless little tyrants with no talent. They bought and sold people's work and dreams, and I had pissed them off again. I figured my wrath ought to be directed at them rather than at myself.

I looked back over my own history. I'd always come up with the goods. No matter what was going on, I'd always done my job. There was a laundry list of records to prove that point. But in every case I'd trusted someone who wasn't trustworthy.

It had been the basis for each successive failure in my life. Whether it was Tony Alamo, Andrew Oldham, Randy Wood, Steve Clark, or Dennis and George, there had always been that moment of trust, and the final realization that they were not trustworthy.

The problem was, that by the time I came to that realization, I was already standing in the ruins of another bad decision. They, the collective they had my work, while I was sent packing.

Without exception that had been the repetitive reality of my life from 1963 to 1981. I had nothing to show for my work other than the work itself, and the rights to that work had been claimed by others, or was involved in the process of being claimed by others.

This recognition, on that dismal day in 1981 was the beginning of my fight for ownership of, and payment for my work from 1964 forward. I had kept the rights to the RCA songs, and the songs and masters of the Dennis and George deal... so there was the beginning.

I vowed that I would not die until I made good on that promise. I vowed that one way or another I would own what I created, and that every penny owed to me would be paid.

I was going to clean up the wreckage of my past. Somehow... Someday... No matter how long it took, or how hard it was to accomplish.


  1. Your very accurate and justifiably acerbic description of the "men in the middle" brought this song immediately to mind. I quit teaching in '74 to attempt to play music and write and sell songs. This piece came out of that experience, and it seems to fit these two posts (I hope I haven't posted this one before...).

    Taking Care of Business
    (Don’t You Listen To The Radio, Kid?)

    “Your song doesn’t rhyme,” he said.

    Is that some kind of a crime? Instead,
    I think they’d be happy for some kind of change—

    Ain’t it strange how so few
    Seem to choose for so many—
    Winners and losers? And some haven’t any
    Place they can go to show what they know.

    Ain’t it funny and strange, strange and funny,
    How the man with the money is the man in control?
    You can talk about art; you can talk about soul,
    But the man in the middle is the man in control.

    I used to have a fine job—professional fool—
    Teaching the kids how to play by each rule.
    The schoolroom is aching for some kind of change—

    Ain’t it strange how so few seem to choose for so many
    Winners and losers? And some haven’t any
    Place they can go to show what they know.

    Ain’t it funny and strange, strange and funny,
    Lazy and crazy and out of control?
    You can talk about freedom; you can talk about soul,
    But we’re flying to nowhere heading out of control.

    Ain’t it funny and strange, strange and funny,
    Lazy and crazy and sad sometimes?
    You can look to the music as a sign of the times:
    Who cares what it’s saying just as long as it rhymes.

    “Can I hum it?”

    Ain’t it funny and strange, strange and funny
    How the man with the money is the man in control?
    You can talk about art; you can talk about soul,
    But the man in the middle is the man in control.

    Ain’t it funny and strange, strange and funny,
    Funny and strange, strange and funny...
    (Appropriate repetition per Disco needs)

    ©1975 Tim McMullen All Rights Reserved

    Thursday, I sang some pieces from the 1920's and '30's ("Bill Bailey," "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune," "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum," "Blue Skies," "Do, Re, Me") and some originals about war, the women's movement, and the government, to introduce my students to the modern period. A kid then ask if I had a song about school, so I sang my "Too Cool For School" followed by "Taking Care of Business." I haven't sung the latter in probably ten years, but two days later your reminiscences call it to mind again....

    Great to have new installments of the story.

  2. Thank goodness you are writing again! I am sorry to say that once again I'm getting lost in the legalities of your agreement with the lawyers. You were paid to write the songs which you did but the songs still belonged to you? A Music Fan

  3. A Music Fan—

    If you were following the story, you would understand that in this last situation, Bobby was being paid to write and record songs, but what the "lawyer(s)/manager(s)" wanted was not just the finished recordings to market and reap some profit for everyone, but he/they wanted the rights to the songs; more importantly, they wanted the rights to songs that Bobby had written before these shysters were even working with him, songs for which Bobby already had an arrangement with others. In other words, the "new" partners wanted Bobby to help steal the rights of his previous collaborator(s)/
    sponsor(s) [the girlfriend's dad and family] and sell those rights to the "new" partners.

    On its face it was a bad deal because if they were willing to screw Bobby's former partners, they would certainly be willing to screw him. As frustrating as it must have been, walking away was not only principled, it was wise.

  4. Thanks Tim but I have been following this blog and went back again to see if I could find the original agreement that Bobby reached with Dennis and George. In Part 181 in the first paragraph he states that in 1980 he was able to reach an agreement with Dennis and his law partner George but the agreement wasn't described. Was the first agreement honored by all parties before the lawyers began demanding the rights to songs that came before their agreement? A Music Fan

  5. It says I was to be paid 500 a week I was to write songs that would be jointly owned by me the writer and those who put up the money. It was more than they had a right to expect, but I made that offer. They wanted to own the copyrights in part from my previous deal I said no! When you write songs, you don't give away all your rights, unless that is specifically agreed to, which it wasn't. You sell a piece of the publishing and retain ownership of the writing. These things are in pieces, not a whole. I was giving them half the publishing rights, and none of the writing. It is confusing, but you can google the information and get a clear picture if you're interested.

  6. Thank you Bobby, Your first sentence answered my question. I know from experience a little of what happens between song writers and investors and usually it doesn't end well. You are to be commended for your strength and courage in not giving up. A Music Fan

  7. Bobby are you fading away into a new life? Where are you? Please don't stop writing, your life has been remarkable even if you don't have anymore to write about the music business please go on with how you've lived since the early 80's. It's still about you and is a part of a whole. You are remarkable and have lived through more pain and frustration than most please don't stop! A Music Fan