Robert Fripp clashes with David Bowie’s estate over credits for Heroes, Scary Monsters

The King Crimson man alleges that his work on the two albums has been brushed aside.

king crimson robert fripp
Image: Patrick Ford / Redferns

Robert Fripp, co-founder and guitarist of King Crimson, is alleging that he has not been appropriately credited for his work on David Bowie’s Heroes and Scary Monsters albums.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Fripp revealed that he is locked in a dispute with both Bowie’s estate and PPL, a UK music licensing company. He claims that due to a tangle of rules and regulations, his role as a ‘Featured Player’ on both records has gone unrecognised. At the heart of the debate is the royalties that musicians would receive for airplay and other uses of recorded songs, according to DGM Live, a music company associated with King Crimson.

“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,” Fripp wrote.

However, Fripp continues that PPL does not acknowledge his Featured Player status; rather, the guitarist is regarded as a sessionist on those recordings. As the guitarist explained, the issue is a Catch 22: the David Bowie estate argues that his Featured Performer status hasn’t been accepted by PPL rules, and as a result, the estate does not accept Fripp as a Featured Player. Furthermore, as guitar performances – unlike vocals – do not qualify the artist as a Featured Player, Fripp is unable to lay claim to the status.

“The PPL’s rules and MO perpetuate an historic injustice,” the prog-rock legend wrote. “Rules are not God-given laws to maintain the universe: they are created by people to organise and facilitate interactions in a fair and equitable fashion; which, in the nature of things, can never be exactly foretold. So, with intelligence and goodwill, where the rules do not allow for what is Right to be acknowledged and addressed, the rules are modified to take exceptional / novel situations into account.”

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Fripp ended the note with a jab at the music business. “Dear innocent, reasonable reader: please note – we are dealing with the music industry here,” he said.

“52 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. 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.”

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