Robert Fripp, King Crimson’s co-founder and guitarist, said he is involved in a dispute with David Bowie’s estate over being properly credited for his contributions to the late artist’s 1977 Heroes and 1980 Scary Monsters albums. The musician took to Facebook on Tuesday to describe what he claims are rules of “historic injustice” that are blocking the recognition of his contributions to the LPs.
In Fripp’s post, he asserted that he was a “Featured Player” on the albums in question. “This accreditation as a Featured Player is supported by Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, David Bowie himself (although the terminology was not then in use), and the court of Public Opinion over four decades.”
During an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Fripp discussed his work with Bowie and Eno on the albums. “With both of them, it was the same,” he said of working with the pair. “‘Here is a context. Robert, please go for it,’ with play and lots of laughter. Lots of fun.
“What I would ask for from David would simply be chords,” he continued. “So that I wouldn’t have to sit down and write out a chart for an hour, or whatever, so I could go in fresh. ‘Here is the map for the terrain — go.’ And it was wonderful.”
However, in his Facebook post, Fripp claims that Bowie’s estate has not acknowledged his role as a “Featured Player” due to PPL rules, which he explained do not recognize his “Featured Performer Status.” PPL is a UK music licensing company that has been established since 1934.
In his post, Fripp argued that “rules are not God-given laws to maintain the universe: they are created by people to organize and facilitate interactions in fair and equitable fashion; which in the nature of things, can never actually be foretold.”
He further proposed that the rules should take “exceptional/novel situations into account” and that the organization should consider changing the rules “to match what is right.”
Fripp went on to take the music industry to task. “Fifty-two years of direct, hands-on experience suggests to me that the majority of players who operate the system, operate the system to serve their own interests,” the musician stated. “There are a small number of players whose aim is ethical action in business; not directing the industry to promote their own personal interests; these assertions supported by decades of documentation.”
Fripp’s rep clarified to Rolling Stone that legal action has yet to be taken. “At present, we are still committed to resolving this through ongoing discussions with PPL and Bowie estate. Only if this fails, will we launch legal action,” he says. “A professor in intellectual property and comparative law has asked to review the PPL rules, as it seems that they discriminate against instrumentalists and are not appropriate for historic releases. An alteration in their rules would seem there obvious solution, which would resolve both this and other historic injustices.”
Representatives for the Bowie estate declined to comment and reps for Eno and Visconti did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment. In a statement, a rep for PPL would not comment on Fripp’s specific case, but noted, “We operate according to a set of Distribution Rules that have been in place for some time and were approved by individuals representing a broad cross-section of the recorded music industry including both Featured and Non-featured performers.”
Stressing that they do not comment on individual cases, the rep continued: “Performers are classified using a performer classification system set out in PPL’s published Distribution Rules. All classification is made based on applying the information we receive from the relevant parties to these rules. It is important to point out that the classifications within these rules do not seek to make any value judgement on the quality, importance or extent of a performer’s contribution on a recording.”