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Albums They Didn’t Want to Make

April 29, 2019

Musicians record and release albums because they need to share with the world the music they wrote from their heart and soul. Or, they make records because they’ve been forced to do so by powerful entities.

Contract Breaking Sessions

Legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison signed a deal with Bang Records in 1967, and it’s through that label that he released his biggest and best-known song, “Brown Eyed Girl.” But soon thereafter, Bang head Bert Berns died, leaving his wife, Ilene, in charge of the company, who sold Morrison’s contract to Warner Bros. He still had to record an album for Bang, which he didn’t want to make because he didn’t get along with Ilene Berns. So, Morrison spent a day banging out a whopping 36 short, terrible, barely coherent songs. Among them: “Scream and Holler,” “Twist and Shake,” and “Big Royalty Checks.” It was so bad that Bang wouldn’t release it, but hey, obligation fulfilled.

The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?

The IRS famously seized Willie Nelson’s assets in 1990 (including his farm and a wealth of his possessions) because his accountants failed to pay the country legend’s taxes — amounting to $12.6 million — for a number of years. Nelson also hastily recorded an album with the specific goal of quickly raising money to pay down that tax bill…and he gave it a darkly funny, kind of heartbreaking, name.

Here, My Dear

In 1977, R&B icon Marvin Gaye and his wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, divorced after 14 years of marriage. As Gaye was heavily addicted to cocaine, he couldn’t afford to pay the substantial alimony payments Gordy Gaye had negotiated. The solution: He’d make an album, and his ex-wife would get all the royalties. (It helped that Gordy’s brother was Berry Gordy — Motown Records founder and Marvin Gaye’s boss.) Gaye had intended to write and record a quick, crummy album — hence the cynical title of Here, My Dear. Instead, he made a critically acclaimed album about the sad end to the marriage that precluded him having to make the record in the first place.

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