A few weeks ago, I blogged about my reaction to hearing the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" featured in a Wendy's chili commercial.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who found the placement puzzling.
Femmes' bassist and Milwaukee native Brian Ritchie, who now lives in Australia, took a moment to post a Talkback to my blog. He wrote:
"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 more so."
After I read his response, I contacted Ritchie for a little more clarification.
He said, "… It's a common misconception that 'we' sold out and 'we' are doing idiotic things when it's really Gordon exclusively.
"The sad thing is he makes almost all the money on these things but 'we' share the blame and humiliation equally. Which sucks."
I've met and interviewed all three Femmes several times (though my conversations with Gano were by phone), and both Victor DeLorenzo and Ritchie are great guys. Gano, to me, seemed more aloof and "rockstar," an attitude he's certainly earned. Hanging out with them in their apartments, studios and backstage hasn't changed the fact that the Femmes are still my favorite band of all time. But this may be one case in which ignorance is bliss.
I haven't spoken to Vic yet about this commercial, but Brian's response is both encouraging and a little unfortunate. I'm so glad that he still maintains a high level of integrity about his art. I'm a little disappointed that he apparently loathes Gano enough to publicly call him out on the carpet.
I mean, the Violent Femmes are still touring. I'm not sure I'd want to watch a band play out knowing they hate each other's guts.
So take it for what it's worth. In the coming weeks, I'll try to get feedback from DeLorenzo and Gano on the fallout from the chili commercial -- and the impact the flap has on the future of the Violent Femmes.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.