Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I suppose one of the points of having a Hall of Fame is so that people can have discussions about who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. (Discussions about whether there should even be a Hall of Fame seem to be largely confined to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) Something about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that has bugged me for a while is why Bob Welch was not inducted with Fleetwood Mac. All of the other members of the band were inducted-- but Welch, who was the guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the band in the period when it transitioned from Brit Blues to LA Pop was locked out. Are the four sides the band recorded with Welch their best work? I'd say Future Games, Bare Trees, PenguinMystery to Me, and Heros Are hard to Find are an important piece of the band's output. Christgau gives Games, Trees, Penguin and Mystery each a B+, which seems fair. Heros gets a B-, and I'd say that's about right as well. (It was, however, their first US Top 40 album.) Back then every hip dorm room had a copy of at least one of these: usually Bare Trees or Mystery to Me. It is certainly worth noting that the band kept rolling during this period-- the personnel changes that it went through would have scuttled most other acts. (It was a good time for bands like this, which were allowed to keep making records even without scoring a major hit. As with movies the age of the blockbuster would soon arrive. Ironically, the Mac would be one of the acts that brought about the demise of the mid-list band.) When Welch left the band they were on strong enough terms that Fleetwood, Chrisine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham played on the re-make of "Sentimental Lady" in 1974. Per Wikipedia, in 1978, Welch, Fleetwood and the McVies had signed a contract with Warner Bros. agreeing to an equal share of all royalties from their Fleetwood Mac albums. Welch alleged that the other three  had subsequently struck various deals with Warner Bros. that gave them higher royalty rates, and had failed to inform him of the new, higher royalty rate, thus depriving him of his fair share of royalties. He sued, and the matter was ultimately settled, but during the pendency of the law suit he wasn't in direct communication with Fleetwood. In other words, an important member of one of the most disfunctional bands in the world got screwed over for an honor because he was getting screwed over on his royalties.

It would be fun to locate the court file on Welch v. Fleetwood, and it would be even more fun to put together a casebook for a class on Rock and Roll Litigation. The nitty-gritty of how bands are organized and managed is something I'd love to devote some time to.

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