the violent femmes need cash

Some time ago, on this site, I posted a link to some absolutely horrendous footage of the band the Violent Femmes appearing on a crappy sitcom called “Sabria the Teenage Witch”. I think I said at the time that it marked the low point of their rapidly fading career. Well, I didn’t know it then, but they apparently hadn’t really reached the bottom yet. It may be old news to some of you, but Gordon, the lead singer of the band, apparently sold the advertising rights to their anthem “Blister in the Sun” to the fast food chain Wendy’s after that. [You can see video of a resulting ad here.] Following is a comment left by band member Brian Ritchie shortly afterward on a Milwaukee blog.

For the fans who rightfully are complaining about the Wendy’s burger advertisement featuring Blister in the Sun, Gordon Gano is the publisher of the song and Warners is the record company. When they agree to use it there’s nothing the rest of the band can do about it, because we don’t own the song or the recording. That’s showbiz. Therefore when you see dubious or in this case disgusting uses of our music you can thank the greed, insensitivity and poor taste of Gordon Gano, it is his karma that he lost his songwriting ability many years ago, probably due to his own lack of self-respect as his willingness to prostitute our songs demonstrates. Neither Gordon (vegetarian) nor me (gourmet) eat garbage like Wendy’s burgers. I can’t endorse them because I disagree with corporate food on culinary, political, health, economic and environmental grounds. However I see my life’s work trivialized at the hands of my business partner over and over again, although I have raised my objections numerous times. As disgusted as you are I am moreso.

I don’t know how much I blame Gano for selling the rights. I’m sure it was an act of desperation on his part. And I don’t know how much I believe Ritchie’s righteous indignation. It may be legitimate, but I can’t help but wonder if it had more to do with money than with integrity. It’s worth pointing out that he’s suing Gano for half the money. Maybe he plans to hand the cash over to something like a Violent Femmes Foundation for the Integrity of Punk, but I imagine that he’ll just use it to live on, as I’m sure Gano is.

There’s not really a point to this post. This is apparently old news. The Wendy’s ad came out over a year ago. I just learned about it, though, and it made me kind of sad. As someone who once loved the band, it’s kind of hard to accept that they’re just as flawed, greedy, desperate, and fucked up as anyone else. I can accept that their music hasn’t stood the test of time, with the exception of maybe two songs, but it’s hard for me to accept that they’ve become desperate little rodents fighting over the crumbs of their career. I suppose it’s how things had to end, but it’s depressing all the same.

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  1. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I don’t know. Isn’t being “flawed, greedy, desperate, and fucked up” kind of the essence of punk rock?

    Isn’t being an upturned-nose Richie “gourmet” more of a betrayal to punk’s values than making a cheap buck on cheap meat? Do punks eat at The Moosewood or Denny’s?

    To me, Richie sounds like another greedy “ben and jerry” era hippie. Gano is still fucking everybody. Gano, for me, is a long spit closer to punk’s resounding, universal “fuck you” than Richie’s “How dare he impugn our moral legacy.”

  2. mark
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    I like the way you think, OEC. And I agree for the most part.

    As for the punk ethos, I think that the universal “fuck you” you speak of is supposed to be directed outward, and not at one’s bandmates.

  3. Posted March 12, 2008 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Here’s the thing though, when they made their music, it was before any of this. The music is still the same, even if the people who created it have changed. And personally, I’m attached to the music, not to the VF’s as people. I guess the sad thing is that instead of hanging on to what they once did by actually still going out and doing shows, they’re fighting over stuff like this…

    As for selling the rights to Wendy’s, I don’t see anything wrong with that at all, except it’s too bad everyone couldn’t have gotten at least a little bit of a cut.

    Very cool post, though! For some reason their song “Jesus Walking On The Water” is playing in my head.

  4. Tommy
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    … ain’t singin’ for Pepsi, ain’t singin’ for Coke, don’t sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke. This note’s for you …

    God Bless Neil Young for this classic lyric.

    Things change, times change. You gotta eat.

    Dust off London Calling or the Bunnymen’s -Heaven up Here and give them a listen. All will be good again.

  5. BrianB
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    London Calling is in some current movie ad – from the soundtrack I’m sure, but if it’s in the ad for the movie, is that supposed to be a sell out too? Sooner or later every tune will make its way into tv ads. There are some holdouts like Neil Young, but even he won’t live forever and someday someone else will own his songs and will sell them. It’s best not to get too worked up about it. Talking about what punk stood for back in the day already sounds like old war stories from Grandpa Simpson. Advertising is just another way to get the songs played and some kids will hear it on tv and look it up on the internet and buy it from iTunes. It’s just a different distribution model than we grew up with.

  6. Posted March 12, 2008 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Man, lighten up. It’s just a dippy pop song from the way back. Let the dude make a buck, will ya? Are your widdle memowies sullied? Did your widdle bewief system get desecrated? Jeez, it’s not even that great of a song. Let it go and move on.

    p.s. Everybody under the age of 26 is laughing at you, old man. (Born after 1982, the release date.)

  7. deadhand dan
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Punk is dead. Didn’t you hear the death knell when the MPT sold out, to an evil empire at that?

  8. mark
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    You might want to read my post again, Curt. I wasn’t calling Ganno a sellout for selling the song to Wendy’s. If anything, I was questioning the sincerity of Ritchie.

  9. Posted March 13, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Aw-aight. I was mostly just giving you crap about pining away for an old song. Sorry. It’s the anti-nostalgist in me. I already miss next week.

  10. newman yort
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    applause for ritchie.. of course he is going to sue… is he supposed to meet him behind the school and settle things… give me a break… although, he should probably use a different lawyer than the one that set up his contract with the band… kind of naive though to let guano have that kind of control…

  11. newman yort
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    one last thing.. when you say “you gotta eat”… maybe you mean “you gotta a have a penthouse in manhattan, doorman, limo, cash, travel the world, etc”… trust me tommy this is not about eating.. this is about millions of dollars and selling out.. this is not about guano making his rent… even if it was, how can a vegetarian sell out to a crap restaurant like wendy’s.. the only thing i can see is that he got wendy’s to use a song like “blister in the sun” to promote their food.. think about it… that is pretty funny and if he is playing some game on them than i stand corrected… blister puss in your burger… kind of hilarious… unlikely though, because ritchie is so pissed… and i always thought guano was my man…

  12. Posted April 30, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    The Violent Femmes are playing a concert in Las Vegas this Friday night (May 3rd) that will be streamed live and free on the Relix Channel. The concert begins at midnight EDT.

    Here’s the livestream link:

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