What's been going on (Part 749)

Hi all.

Once again, it's been a while.

OK, so the BIG news last time was that the long-awaited JB songbook, a compendium of tabbed and musically notated versions of Jeffsongs, was actually on the way. You can see the previous update (where I was all excited about this) here. (Then, of course, use your back button to get back to here.)

More about this in a moment.

In the meantime, May saw a few JB tribute shows here in Australia. I participated in one in Sydney and then another in Melbourne the following week. In Sydney, Graham Rix and I reprised our 1999 last-minute what-the-hell-song-will-we-do routine, and this time we did "Satisfied Mind". Later on, at the very end, I dueted on "Forget Her" and "Eternal Life" with Matt Anderson, which was fun.

In Melbourne, a full-monty band was organised, drums and everything(!), and we performed "I Woke Up In A Strange Place" and "Murder Suicide Meteor Slave". Deliberately eclectic choices, I admit. But we sure as hell enjoyed playing them. (The "we" included Jonathan Flack and Louise Treyvaud on vocals, Ashley Brideson on the keys, and Jon's mates Seren and Matt as the rhythm section. Unlike Graham and I, we all managed to meet up and rehearse ...the night before!!)

In other news ... the "new site". I have been promising a whole site revamp for a while, and now I have just admitted defeat and asked for help. My slightly mad mate Muz, who guested with Graham and I in Sydney last year doing "Lover", is a whiz on web site stuff, and is busy doing a whole redesign at home. When we're both ready to upload the new thing, well, you'll know because it will look way way different.

But new design brings up the issue of new content, which brings up the issue of ... new tabs. Which brings up the issue of the *sigh* songbook.

Here goes. The story is that for quite some time now, Mary G. and the JB estate have been discussing with me the idea of a songbook, with the plan that I would be involved. The "third party" in this is Hal Leonard Corp., a US book publisher that specialises in tab/music books.

Mary was (I am pleased to say) keen for my involvement and put me in touch with all parties (her lawyer, the Hal Leonard folks, the Fun Palace folks, etc. etc.) and we all carried on various email and phone discussions. The plan was to move fast, so I quickly sent off sample tabs to HLC, while they sent me sample books to peruse. Mary and I had agreed at that stage that my role would be confined to basic (but accurate!) tablature, with all the extra detail to be added at HLC's end by their transcription specialists.

Just to recap -- this is from the first edition of the "Newsletter" circulated by email and available for reading at www.jeffbuckley.com.

"Jeff Buckley Songbook"

"Hal Leonard Music Publishing Company has agreed to help Jeff's mother create a complete Jeff Buckley songbook with piano score, complete lyrics and guitar tablature. Mary has enlisted the help of Australian musician Michael Harris to supply the guitar tablature. Michael has already done extensive work on his own website devoted to the guitar tablature for all of Jeff's songs. Though we presently have no idea how long it's going to take us, the foundation for the work has been laid and world-wide publication will be pursued in earnest as soon as the upcoming live album is under wraps."

Well, after the event -- after viewing printouts of a couple of tabs (which were much as they are on the site, with a few minor corrections and edits) -- HLC have decreed that, although my tabs are "accurate enough", they are not "professional enough" and therefore HLC plan to do all the work themselves.

This firstly strikes me as unfair on their part. I delivered what I was asked for, and if they wanted more detail (not what Mary and I agreed to, but if that's what they want, I would deliver it!) they could send them back and ASK for them to be redone. Secondly, it seems just wasteful on their part to duplicate the effort I have already put in. I don't see how they could be sure it would save them money to do it all internally, since I had not at that stage quoted any price or fee structure (for them to compare).

So first I think it's bad ethics (i.e. unfair) on their part to exclude me. I also think it's bad business, since it's not likely to save them money. I suspect it's also bad politics, because my involvement in this project has been talked about for a long time now (the above newsletter excerpt dates from almost a year ago), in public, and I believe there is considerable goodwill "out there" in Jeff-guitar-fan land for all the work I have done, which would be reflected in any authorised book I would be involved with. For the Hal Leonard people to exclude me from the project for no very good reason will not (I believe) reflect well on them, or the book they intend to produce.

I had already hired a lawyer to handle the legal niceties -- which of course means I am hundreds of dollars out of pocket before we even get started -- and he is dubious about what legal recourse I have in all of this. As far as we can tell, they do have the right to sideline me if they choose, despite anything agreed between Mary and myself. But, as I have outlined already, it seems a poor choice from any angle I can think of. The most obvious "non-legal" (I don't mean illegal!) idea I have is to ask you folks what you all think. And maybe you could pass your opinions on to Hal Leonard Corp. as well.

Please keep in mind that, with the songbook project explicitly in mind, I took some time to work up a series of new tabs of songs, but I am very reluctant to upload any new stuff onto the site while this matter remains unresolved. Hence, while all this is being debated, the site will stay as is -- EVEN IF I go ahead with the whole site redesign thing! The look of the site may change but there will be no new content until the songbook issue is cleared up. Which is NOT the way I want it to be!

So ... what do you all think? Do you agree with me? You are welcome to write to me about this and let me know your views. (Email address on front page of site.) I'd also encourage you to express your views to the Hal Leonard Corporation via their email contact page. I would ask that if you write to them, you state your views, whatever they may be, plainly and politely. Please don't flame or be abusive. (That includes if you want to tell them my tabs suck and they were right to dump me. Hehehe.)

In happier news, I met up with Ben Harper when he played Melbourne recently. We talked Jeff songs (and played "Lover" again, he is still keen to perform it!), and songbooks and website tabs. For HIS material. More details when they come to hand. And I will try and chase down why his site doesn't have ANY tabs up on it at the moment!!

regards, michael

PS: "Use the Force, Luke!" ...or else just click your browser's back button to get out of here.