For a full seismic minute in the movie “Joker,” a perverse moment of rebirth is accompanied by rock ‘n’ roll beat as Joaquin Phoenix dances down a concrete staircase, ultimately performed as the clown prince of crime.
The song he’s strutting about is the mostly instrumental 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part 2” by British glam-rock singer Gary Glitter, an artist with his own dark history.
For memory :
9:13 a.m. on October 12, 2019In an earlier version of this article, the title of the documentary “Leaving Neverland” was misreported as “Finding Neverland”.
For some viewers, this is a disturbing song choice from director Todd Phillips, as Glitter (born Paul Gadd) is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence for sex crimes against minors. Critics in the media and on social networks were quick to speak out.
The Daily Beast said the song’s inclusion “shocked British audiences”, while USA Today noted that Glitter “is likely to receive royalties from the success of” Joker “while he is behind bars.” .
“I won’t pay to see #JokerMovie until they either remove the song from convicted pedophile Gary Glitter or pay royalties for it to a child abuse charity,” @hooperstarium posted. And @ sharonhollydav1 tweeted: “So when you buy a ticket, remember who gets part of it.”
Neither Phillips, music supervisor Randall Poster nor the Warner Bros. movie studio. did not respond to requests for comment on the song’s inclusion. Phillips, who directed the hit comedy “The Hangover,” seems comfortable with its noise for convenience: in 1993, he made a documentary about the late self-harming punk-rock extremist GG Allin; and as “Joker” was released last week amid a storm of concerns about the film’s perceived incitement to violence, Phillips lamented the difficulty of creating comedy amid the rise of “waking culture “.
Yet, in an age when an artist’s disgusting or illegal past behavior is increasingly likely to attract scolding, filmmakers and their music supervisors must weigh the pros and cons of including songs from controversial performers. or dishonored.
Mary Ramos, a 25-year musical collaborator with director Quentin Tarantino, recently struggled to include a song written by Charles Manson in “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood”. When the filmmakers were assured that no one related to Manson would receive royalties, they went ahead.
âThere is so much amazing music out there, it’s a good idea to try and uplift other work rather than using a song with a tainted story,â said Ramos, who licensed the song. of Glitter for the comedy “Happy Gilmore” in 1996, before his criminal troubles began. âBut it all really depends on the character and the story. Supervising film music is an art – the songs are not chosen at random.
For “Joker” much of the criticism has centered on assumptions that Glitter personally benefited from his use in the film, but Glitter sold all of his rights to the recording and publication of “Rock and Roll Part 2″, co-written by the late Mike Leander, along with his other songs over two decades ago, according to Snapper Music, the London-based label which now owns Glitter’s main recordings.
“Gary Glitter is not being paid,” said a spokesperson for Snapper in London who asked to remain anonymous. âWe had no contact with him. The song has always drawn filmmakers and television showrunners long before “Joker”, landing in “Meet the Fockers”, “Boyhood”, “South Park” and “The Office”. “People usually come to us,” added the spokesperson. “We don’t promote it at all.”
Snapper purchased the Masters from Glitter’s catalog in January 1997, several months before the singer’s legal troubles began with the discovery of child pornography on his laptop and in his home. His new label’s plans for a retrospective album were quickly canceled. Unlike other artists inherited from the label, Snapper does not sell physical copies of Glitter’s discs, which are only available as digital streams and downloads.
In the United States, songwriting rights for âRock and Roll Part 2â belong to Universal Music Publishing Group, which represents Glitter, and BMG, which represents Leander. A representative of Universal’s Publishing Group said, âGary Glitter‘s editorial interest in the copyright of his songs belongs to UMPG and other parties, so UMPG does not pay him any royalties or other consideration. .
In 2014, Billboard reported that the song still earned $ 250,000 in annual performance royalties. And a seasoned music supervisor estimated that “Joker” probably paid between $ 100,000 and $ 200,000 for the song, a total split roughly evenly between the rights holders to the song’s edition and its main recording.
“Rock and Roll Part 2” was recorded at Spot Studios in London in 1971 by Glitter and his producer Leander, who played all instruments. Glitter handled the vocals for “Hey!” and led the applause.
The single (officially the B-side of “Part 1”) was in the top 10 in the US in 1972. Glitter was even more popular in the UK. brown in the movies and, most importantly, a call to arms for fans at almost every sporting event in the United States
âHe was quite a surprising character, sort of absurd but threatening,â says critic Simon Reynolds, author of âShock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacyâ. âThe music had an undeniable strangeness. The later revelations about Glitter’s sex crimes, Reynolds adds, “have ruined a lot of people’s memories.”
Glitter was arrested and convicted in England in 1997 for downloading a large cache of child pornography. He was then deported from Cambodia and jailed in Vietnam for sex offenses. In 2015, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for various sex crimes involving minors.
Now 75, Glitter isn’t due out for another dozen years.
This story made his songs problematic for filmmakers and their musical supervisors. Glitter is just one part of a line of popular artists who have been accused or convicted of a range of illegal and immoral activities, including Phil Spector, R. Kelly and Michael Jackson.
“This is a subject that has been the subject of much nightly discussion,” said Ramos, who was moved earlier this year by the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which alleges in excruciating detail that Jackson sexually abused her. young boys. ” This is a difficult question. I like this music. I grew up with this music. But it’s hard to listen to now.
The strength of his most ardent fans and outspoken family members has managed to derail significant damage to Jackson’s business legacy thus far. “Even with the documentary, I still hear it,” says Tiffany Anders, music supervisor of the “PEN15” and “Sorry for Your Loss” television series. âI always get kicked out of Michael Jackson like nothing has happened.
“There are so many people now who have made music and gone to jail for horrible and horrific crimes,” Anders adds, arguing that using a song does not amount to endorsing the criminal behavior of a fallen pop star. “I don’t think we should limit ourselves creatively because people are messed up.”
While producer-songwriter Phil Spector finds himself in California prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, his music continues to land in film and television projects such as “Shaft”, “Welcome to Marwen”, “The Voice” and “Glow”. If a classic Spector track from the early ’60s was perfect for a period movie, Anders would consider using it.
Song licensing can get even more complicated with hip-hop, whose tracks often include samples of older songs from problematic artists who then share co-writing credits and royalties. Anders recently licensed Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta”, which includes a sample of Michael Jackson, but that didn’t stop her from using “the best Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop artist.”
It will always be difficult to maintain a consistent moral line regarding the use of music by artists with a turbulent past. Janet Billig Rich, a longtime music supervisor and manager, recalls a recent meeting with a client where someone made a song suggestion: “Rock and Roll Part 2”.
âThe client was like, ‘Gary Glitter? We cannot associate this with our brand! ‘ Billig Rich recalls. “I would advise a client: you have 10 or 20 seconds to do it [in the film]. You want him to do a lot of heavy work. You don’t want him to have baggage.