Best Evil Record Label Songs
In the history of evil, there aren’t too many things more vile than record labels. Just ask any artist who’s been screwed out of thousands of dollars by these cigar-chompin’, coke-snortin’, pockets-linin’ devils. It took a while before artists grew a pair and stood up to the bosses who signed their paychecks, but writing songs about record companies — which have been known to shelve entire albums if they don’t hear a hit single or hold bands hostage as they fine-tune the details of their contracts — has become a favorite pastime of musicians since the late ’60s. Our list of the Best Evil Record Label Songs features a few of the brave souls who’ve stood up to the Man.
In 1977, just as they were making noise throughout the U.K., the Clash recorded a song called ‘Remote Control.’ Without asking the band, its record company released the song as a single. The Clash responded by disowning ‘Remote Control’ and writing ‘Complete Control’ about the incident. “They said we’d be artistically free when we signed that bit of paper,” Joe Strummer snarls over one of the band’s toughest riffs.
The Sex Pistols ended their one and only album with a slam on their former record company, which released their career-making singles. The full-length, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols,’ came out on a different label, thanks to some shrewd maneuvering by the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, after EMI dropped the group following a swearing incident on prime-time TV. The Pistols spit their hate for all record companies, not just their old one: “I can’t stand those useless fools.”
For their final album, 1987’s ‘Strangeways, Here We Come,’ the Smiths penned an ode to record-company greed. And this was before their slim catalog ended up on shelves in about five dozen different forms. Morrissey somewhat cheerfully sings, “Reissue, repackage, re-evaluate the songs / Double-pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge.” If he only knew …
Oddly enough, the only song by SoCal ska-rockers Reel Big Fish to receive any mainstream attention is this 1997 track about … selling out to the mainstream. Lines like “I signed on to the record company / They say they’re gonna give me lot’s of money if I play what they want you to hear” may be delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, but you gotta think the band — which is still around — cringes just a little bit every time they have to sing their only hit.
Ting Tings singer Katie White has stated, on more than one occasion, that her group’s big single ‘That’s Not My Name’ stems from frustrations with her record company, which pretty much treated her as just another faceless female vocalist. “They call me Stacy, they call me Jane,” she laments. They also resorted to just referring to her as “bird” and other generic, demeaning terms. Either way, “Katie” was apparently never uttered.