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Monday, February 17, 2014

FLASHBACK - Neil Young: "MTV, you spineless twerps"

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Neil Young's "This Note's for You"

Lots of recent chatter on Bob Dylan becoming Chrysler's latest car salesman at the Super Bowl last week.

In 1988, MTV placed a station-wide ban on Neil Young's "This Note's for You" video due to "problems with trademark infringement."

Neil Young's "This Note's for You" video satirized high profile musicians like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston for selling out by endorsing brands.

Young wrote the following open letter to the MTV executives:
6th July, 1988

MTV, you spineless twerps.

You refuse to play "This Note's For You" because you're afraid to offend your sponsors.

What does the "M" in MTV stand for: music or money?

Long live rock and roll.

Neil Young
In response, Young offered to re-shoot the video; however, MTV claimed the lyrics were just as problematic.

MTV eventually reversed the ban and the Julien Temple directed "This Note's for You" went on to win Video of The Year at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989.


Neil Young's "This Note's for You"

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4 Comments:

At 2/17/2014 08:08:00 AM, Anonymous regular stairs said...

having worked for eMpT(V)y, their standards and practices were always comical - "Walk on the Wild Side" lyrics flagged for "valium" and not "giving head" on some ancient lyric sheet - "no headless women" in videos (objectification of the female form)...biggest worry in the modern age (2Ks) were the rap videos where every other word bleeped and every logo blurred - but the record companies always wanted to slip stuff by, combined with that "artist's vision" thang...

 
At 2/17/2014 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Tony said...

From "Shakey"

Corporate sponsorship had become rampant in rock and roll. The Rolling Stones were sponsored by Jovan perfume, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood were selling beer, Michael Jackson had been bought by Pepsi for $15 million. And Young, to the dismay of MTV and some of his peers, decided to poke fun at it.
The video was directed by Julien Temple, who would create Young’s slickest videos in the years to come. Temple matched the tone of the lyric perfectly. The spot opens with Young somberly walking the streets, mimicking Clapton’s beer commercial. As Young croons about having “the real thing,” ghoulish celebrity look-alikes prance about, with Whitney Houston using a brew to out a fire on Michael Jackson’s head. Then comes a devastating parody of Calvin Klein’s obtuse perfume ads: “Neil Young’s Concession for men.” Finally a sardonic Young peers into the camera, exhibiting a beer can labeled SPONSORED BY NOBODY.
Pretty funny stuff, and it got a whole lot funnier in July when MTV standards and practices banned the spot—allegedly because it made references to brand names. The fact that Young’s clip was an obvious parody made one wonder who was being protected: the audience or the advertisers. “We knew we were fucking with MTV’s wallet, which is worse than fucking with their hang-ups with sex and violence,” said Temple. “Their wallet is their most important asset.”
“What does the M in MTV stand for: music or money?” wrote Young in an open letter, dissing MTV as “spineless jerks.” The thrill of seeing MTV squirm on account of a forty-three-year-old rocker who wasn’t on their playlist was rich. MTV provided “This Note’s for You” the kind of publicity you can’t buy. “I still can’t believe that such a dumb little song helped resuscitate my career the way it did,” Young later told Nick Kent.
On August 21, the channel broadcast a special twenty-minute report in an attempt to explain themselves—and finally showed the video. Host Kurt Loder interviewed a grumpy Neil Young—looking absurdly cool in all white with huge sunglasses, a Cirque du Soleil T-shirt and a cap from Pink’s hot-dog stand.
“Your bosses or whatever, they really messed up,” Young said, going on to explain why he was even present for the interview. “You’re so big that if I don’t come down here, not only might I not get this video on, I might not get the next video on. How am I supposed to know? The last thing I want to do is rub it in your face…. I just want to get my video on the air so people can see it—they can judge for themselves.” Young declared MTV “should be called television music, not music television.”
Crazily enough, “This Note’s for You” would go on to win Music Video of the Year at the MTV music awards—although the sound feed mysteriously dropped when Young stepped up for his acceptance speech. In the long run, the victory would be meaningless, as MTV has remained almost completely Young-free.

Mcdonough, Jimmy (2003-05-13). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography (p. 619). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 
At 2/18/2014 08:58:00 AM, Anonymous regular stairs said...

One more comment(s) from me:

I've always agreed that it's cool to not use your songs for adverts, but something Iggy Stooge said re his Nike song usage (paraphrased) I've always agreed with too:

"We'll the songs were never conceived commercially, so what's the big deal?"

That being said, "This Notes for You" is a parody song, and a good one at that. Neil was just taking the piss, and knew he needed to court MTV to air it to make the song most relevant.

I wouldn't be surprised of some collusion to hold up the vid back when (by whomever - MTV or Neil's ppl)for effect...

 
At 2/23/2014 07:12:00 AM, Anonymous Nemouse said...

Thanks for the reminder, and awesome video. Thought it was really strange to have Dylan in that commercial. My immediate reaction was that you can add this to the list of reasons why the analogies between Dylan and Young are so misguided. The party line is that Dylan's motivation was driven by the common man them in Detroit, somewhat of an embedded social activism element. I know some folks in Detroit that really liked the commercial. But still tough to put aside the overtly commercial element including Dylan.

But my biggest objection to the whole thing is how little the actual car was featured. I have seen the new Chrysler 200 and it looks like an awesome car. Really!

 

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