Write On is the section of Clash where we hand control to an artist of our choosing to write, well, whatever they want, really. Simple concept, maximum results. This time, we’ve some thoughts on control (our theme for issue 97) from Sinead O’Connor, who popped back into the UK charts in August with her 10th studio album, ‘I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss’.
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Sinead O’Connor, ‘Take Me To Church’, from ‘I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss’
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“In the context of the music business one never knows who is in control. One is 18 and delighted merely to be getting away from home and country. Believing a miracle has come to pass, because one has: you have a cash card!
“You can take out 200 quid a month and it’s not the money of a man. Oh wait, is it not?
“You sign your deal delightedly (and remain delighted BTW) and are stunned when asked to agree that if, and or when records are released on the Moon, they will still be the property of not you, but the record company.
“While your head is melting over the first part of that, and you couldn’t string another thought together, they get you to agree the rest.
“You’ll have seven per cent, out of which every penny spent on promoting and recording you will be recoupable. Including your lunch and your band’s lunch while recording. And even the three quid it cost for the cab to send the lunch money you have to keep calling for despite being pregnant.
“In all seriousness, they discuss the Moon yet never foresee the Internet. All men.
“They don’t explain much of what you’re signing. At least not in the manner in which one might explain things to a giddy 18-year-old who plainly hasn’t a wit in her brain and, clear unto all but imbeciles, just wanted to get the f*ck out of Dodge and this seems as good a way as any.
“Plus Pete f*cking Townsend was like right opposite you on the plane, so you never even looked out the window to say goodbye. ‘F*ck that place’ rightly having been your motto ever since. Focus on the rocker.
“They own you. They can sell you. You may not even know you’ve been sold ’til after the event. What 18-year-old has ever heard the words, ‘Key man clause’?
“They get to own 93% of you for f*ck all. You don’t even fully understand what planet you’re on until you’re approximately 46. Because musicians is very stupid people. That’s why they made the music business. Not crazy enough for the nut house, nor criminal enough for jail, yet utterly dysfunctional in any formal or 9-to-5 situation, someone kindly created for us a place where we can live in our own reality. And for the most part being that we’re very stupid, we ignore all the other realities.
“The business heads know this about us. We’re teenagers, runaways. Girls who don’t wanna be man-trolled. Boys who don’t want be anything-trolled. We’re grateful for the cash because we didn’t realise they were making off like happy pimps in the morning.
“We didn’t even have the luxury of knowing we were being f*cked. I like to know. I think any reasonable person would, really.
“I’m 47. I shall be a glorious 48 in December. I am still owned. I can still be sold. I am often sold. I do not own me. I own small parts of me. I have a big voice. Behind the scenes I’m voiceless.”
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Words: Sinead O’Connor