Great Moments in Douchebaggery is brought to you by Rocks Off's upcoming Washington Shore party, Thursday, February 11, at the Washington Avenue Drinkery. All types of douchebags are encouraged to attend.
In the early '80s, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson were good friends. They recorded two successful duets together, "Say Say Say" and "The Girl Is Mine," both fairly awful songs, but the chemistry on them is undeniable; both performers clearly had a great time working together. It's just too bad Paul felt the need to impart financial advice to a man who, history shows, likely had no concept of the relationship between actions and consequences. As often happens in conversations between millionaires, the subject of money came up. After Jackson stated that, each morning, he was forced to fire slightly fewer hundred dollar bills from his Happy Morning-time Wake-Up Money Cannon, McCartney mentioned that the real money was in royalties. Buy up the sheet music to classic songs, and you've made an investment that will pay off immediately, and for as long as the songs are popular. Jackson may have been naïve about a great many things - business ethics, for instance - but the man did grow up inside the music industry, and the wheels didn't turn for long inside the King of Pop's head before he figured out how best to heed Paul's advice: Why, buy his songs right out from under him! Which, in 1985, is exactly what Jackson did, shelling out $47.5 million for the rights to somewhere between 159 and 251 Beatles songs. What did that mean, exactly? It meant Sir McCartney had to pay Michael royalties to perform his own goddamn material. During his 1989 tour, McCartney was mortified to learn that he would have to get Jackson's permission to print the lyrics of the songs he had written in his tour program. Ouch.
The rumors of Michael Jackson's status as a castrato have to be untrue, since the man clearly had thunderous, imposing balls. Imagine this shit: you build a hot rod from scratch, just like Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. It's a beautiful machine, poetry in motion, sex on wheels.
One day, while you're not paying attention, a stranger comes to your house and buys it off a family member, then turns around and offers to let you take a spin in the thing... at a generous rate of $500 an hour. If you weren't ass-blastingly high from smoking every last ounce of England's best pot and weak from your meatless diet's protein deficiency, you might have been moved to bury a tire iron in the guy's smug fucking face.
As it was, McCartney wrote to Jackson several times and continuously tried to call him in order to, if not get his songs back, at least get a larger cut of the royalties, which were still set at the same level they had been before Paul became a successful solo artist. Jackson constantly dodged the former Beatle, and on the rare occasion Paul managed to reach him (no doubt due to one of Jackson's handlers saying Donald Duck was on the phone), Jackson would simply giggle sheepishly and say "Oh, that's just business, Paul!" before promptly ending the conversation.
Hey, how about that: Looks like Joe Jackson had an influence on the kid, after all.
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Unlike the Lennon / McCartney drama, however, this one did not get a chance to end happily (in case you didn't know, Lennon and McCartney reconciled and were friends for a few years before John's assassination). Michael Jackson stated to many people that he had always felt sad about how badly his friendship with McCartney had soured; not sad enough to turn the song rights back over immediately or even adjust Paul's cut, but then, as alarmingly as Jackson was bleeding money in his later years, he may have needed the income from those songs even more than McCartney, who lost a big chunk of money himself when he divorced his churlish monopedal wife, Heather Mills.
Nonetheless, in January 2009, Jackson decided to leave all the rights to those songs to McCartney in his will, this being no small gesture due to Jackson's deteriorating health. Sadly, McCartney was able to collect those rights a scarce six months later, when Michael Jackson died without ever having formally buried the hatchet.
Jackson's death was a tragedy, and the fact that he passed away while still not on speaking terms with a friend he needlessly douched over nearly a quarter-century earlier made it even more so. However, it's difficult to feel too bad for Paul, especially after he tried to get the Lennon/McCartney credit on "Yesterday" changed to "McCartney/Lennon."
Come on, Paul, we all know you wrote it, why belabor the point? Did you just wake up one morning with the burning need to fuck with Yoko Ono? It looks like even when death is involved, sometimes it's still difficult to let go of old feuds.