Sunday, September 10, 2006

NEGATIVLAND - Gimme the Mermaid

Ahh, the sweet sweet sound of copyright infringement. Plunderphonic superstars Negativland, formed in 1980, was busy sampling other peoples work before the term sampling was even around. Conceptually from dadaesque nonsense beginnings, the random sampling collages began to take on a life of it's own. Mark Holser of the group talks about Negativland's evolution in an interview shot at Creative Electric Studios after the opening of a Negativlandland exhibition in Minneapolis.

Negativland's most infamous project was the U2 record (often referred to as 'The Letter U and the Numeral Two') with samples from 'America's Top 40' host Casey Kasem ranting between takes in the studio. In 1991, Negativland released a single with the title 'U2' displayed in very large type on the front of the packaging, and 'Negativland' in a smaller typeface. An image of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane was also on the single cover.

U2's label Island Records sued Negativland claiming that the 'U2' violated trademark law, and the song itself violated copyright law. Island Records also contended that the single was an attempt to deliberately confuse U2 fans, then awaiting Achtung Baby.

'Gimme the Mermaid' (2002) is a short from the group, with help from Disney animator Tim Maloney, who created this using his employer's equipment after hours. 'Mermaid' combines the sound of a music industry lawyer with the voice of the Little Mermaid and Negativland's helium-tinged cover of Black Flag's 'Gimme Gimme Gimme.' The video appears on the band's release, No Business, available via Stay Free!

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