Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger, Densmore ... Albeniz: a little non-copyright story

I have known large parts of Asturias by Isaac Albeniz (which I have just heard on Radio 3 played, I think, by Miloš Karadaglić, although the playlist on the website doesn't confirm anything as it's The Gramophone's chart that Rob Cowan's working through) for years. Ever since I bought Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, in fact, which was in about 1973. But notwithstanding my wide musical taste (and Mr Fender's music culture classes at school) I didn't know of Albeniz - and The Doors didn't enlighten me.

Spanish Caravan, the Doors song that (being generous) quotes extensively from Asturias, is credited to the four band members. Albeniz died in 1909, so even in 1968 when The Doors recorded Spanish Caravan (on the album Waiting for the Sun) it was out of copyright, probably everywhere but certainly in the UK and the USA. For the UK, the right to be identified as the author only raised its ugly-or-not-depending-on-where-you-stand head in the Paris Act of the Berne Convention in 1972, and we took 19 years to get it into law, by which time Albeniz had been in Montjuic cemetery for 80 years and his rights had expired before even being conferred. If only the UK had acted more promptly on that change to the Berne Convention! Even so, because the government was so ungenerous about it, the right has to be asserted, so Albeniz's right to be identified as a co-author of Spanish Caravan would not have been secure automatically.

And my point is? An interesting illustration and history lesson, I suppose, and four celebrated rock musicians in a morally suspect place because they didn't name the other composer. There's a pile of literature on the subject, some of which claims that it was Paco de Lucia's Spanish Dance #5, and also that the song was Robbie Krieger's work - not surprising given the subject and the prominence of the guitar, and he plays it very well - and it seems he happily acknowledges Paco de Lucia, but not Albeniz. But who wrote the lyrics? They certainly sound like Morrison's work.

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