Perfect Sound Forever

Barclay James Harvest

BJH from 1990: photo from the BJH website

Part 3 (of 3)
By Mark S. Tucker

For a few years following that, Godfrey and the band were on, or so BJH claims, good terms. They point to Godfrey's citation of Wolstenholme, on his 1974 solo release The Fall of Hyperion, as his "musical confessor" (huh? ArchBishop Wolstenholme of Canterbury?), as an indication of a condition of good roads and good weather 'twixt the five. Godfrey, on the other hand, claims to have pursued legal possibilities almost from the start. According to him, the group at first publicly completely disowned any hint of close ties to him (an odd move, if true, severely hobbled now by the claim that all was well) and later admitted to a personal relationship. Further, their claim has always been that Godfrey made no significant contributions to their music - an even more bizarre statement whose disproof is very much in the record. Godfrey was blocked from pursuing any action in the '70's due to a common legal double-bind: even if damages were proven in court, BJH had no monies to seize (remember, their larger fame and fortune came later), hence a positive decision would have been a Pyrrhic victory, putting no shekels in barrister pockets, pretty much guaranteeing no lawyer would take on the task. More to the point, and heinous in any esquire's eyes, Godfrey himself hadn't the money to hire representation in the first place. Later, when BJH began to reap enviable profits and England's legal assistance rules changed in the '80's, the solicitors' (Brit term for lawyers) interests increased dramatically, collectively reversing themselves. Now, from shysters who had turned him down earlier, the new assessment of the case was seen to be very strong indeed and law dogs were eager as alligators to see Lady Justice restored to her throne, scions of honor and fair play that they say they are.

Applying for legal aid in 1983, the substance of the allegations was shown to be sufficient to warrant an envisioning of successful outcome, obtaining Godfrey assistance in 1984. This commenced a ten-year battle, with the plaintiff attempting to get into court and BJH's representatives working diligently to prevent it. In 1995, eleven years later(!), Godfrey succeeded. Remarkably, for such a hideously torturous wait, the trial lasted only two weeks, with a circus of experts being trotted in and out of chambers for testimonies as to what constituted 'writing,' 'arrangement,' conducting' and so on. Unfortunately for BJH and their label, the judge was a fancier of music and became fascinated with the proceedings, rather than bored, as they'd hoped.

The upshot was that Godfrey proved his case more than substantially for claimancy to credit for at least four of the six songs brought into question. The accounts of the degree of determination vary, though. BJH's website is quiet on Godfrey's authorship in "Dark Now My Sky" and "When the World Was Woken." It claims his court-decided contribution was substantial in "Mockingbird,' sufficient in "Galadriel," and very borderline in "Song For Dying" and "The Sun Will Never Shine" (note please, dear reader, that even "very borderline" admits to contribution, no matter how diminutive the rhetoric of the decision). Godfrey claims the judge found him, as he'd always claimed, a joint composer of all six works, jointly and equally owning the copyright. To him, the decision reads that he was substantial in his contributions to "Mockingbird," "Dark Now My Sky" and "When The World Was Woken." For the others, he says the court saw his work in them as "significant," in sharp variance to BJH's claims.

Godfrey's site carries an interesting article by a gent named Simon Starkey. It's partisan but fair in its viewpoint. A Web search of the name and article turns up absolutely nothing and Googling the name alone pulls a very short list of various articles that may or may not be from the same scribe. It appears, though, that we can be pretty sure the column did not derive from a journalistic source and was probably written exclusively for Godfrey's site. Be that as it may, one thing is dead certain: Godfrey was absolutely, undeniably a co-author in at least several Barclay James Harvest songs and their denial of such is shameless, whatever meritorious achievements they otherwise rightly claim. It's not bad enough that every major record label on earth, possibly excepting Discipline Global Mobile, rapes its roster of artists? Now we have to countenance artists screwing each other as a bonus? Shame on 'em.

Beyond BJH, Godfrey won his rights against the record labels as well. However, anyone who has studied law knows quite well that winning a decision and collecting on it, or forcing peformance, are two entirely different things altogether. According to Starkey, Polydor has basically adopted a fleering attitude and told Godfrey to go screw. Perhaps their mothers never taught them how to play fairly with others? Nonetheless, the court found for no monetary damages, only title to copyright, and this is Godfrey's beef. He may not collect monies because he did not act "in a timely manner" (long story, full of legal rhetoric and "niceties," but the aforegoing covers the gist of it: basically, the court weaseled out of making a decision in this regard by using specious unaligned circumstances for exculpation). But in the end, he's entitled to have his name appear in credits on BJH albums. Will it suprise the reader that BJH's label adamantly refuses to do so and that the group itself appears to be in no hurry to put in an opinion on this ethical matter? No? I didn't think so.

This is one of the dark secrets understood only by those who study law. One is perfectly free to break any law which is not in the ability of the victim to be able to defend to any degree of grant of remedy by the courts. How much in monetary damages or injury to reputation could Godfrey claim he suffered by a refusal to credit properly when the court has awarded the group the ability to walk away scott free in the first place? You see the problem. It's not a enviable awakening, but courts are interested in only two things: damage and remedy. As to abstract concepts like 'justice' and 'fairness': puh-leeeze! Get modern, Giacomo! Money, honey, that's what we want! If no money's involved, please do not look to Lady Justice.

What, then, is the truth of the matter? Let's sum up a bit and dig a little more deeply regarding certain facts that, while they may be open mostly to aesthetic fundaments, can, when coupled to a set of facts, act as indemnifiers for a number of assertions. These lay a background that prepare for a set of questions I later concocted and posted to Godfrey. There are eight:

Eight Points

1. On the original vinyl US issuance of Barclay James Harvest, Robert John Godfrey is cited as "Resident Musical Director" (producer Norman Smith is credited with arranging and conducting "Mother Dear"). This is changed on the recent CD remaster credits to merely "arranging and conducting." A strange dimension is then added when, with everyone else's name in bold-face -even the guy who merely reissued the artwork! - Godfrey's and Smith's names are left in plain font. Mark Powell's liner notes show Wolstenholme praising of Godfrey as a "wunderkind" and as the one who came up with the idea of orchestrations for BJH. Powell plainly states that it was Godfrey who approached the group, not the other way around (BJH members hadn't even known of his existence until he walked up to them on December 7, 1968, where they were supporting Gun in concert at the Roundhouse, and introduced himself). Wolstenholme confirms this: "He thought he could realize his ambition of arranging and conducting an orchestra through us and offered to write arrangements and to assemble the musicians for an orchestra. John Crowther employed him to act as our arranger and our dalliance with orchestras took off from there."

One thing is clear, before Godfrey, BJH had no orchestra; after him, they did. However, the BJH members had themselves played tenor horn, oboe, saxophone, and cello, and their early demos showed a chamber approach. Efforts in this direction were a good deal less than satisfactory and a mellotron was seized upon as the remedy... until meeting Godfrey. On the BJH website, buried deep in an article entitled "Robert John Godfrey and Barclay James Harvest," written by uncredited hands, it is stated that Godfrey "helped [emphasis mine] to assemble the 'Barclay James Harvest Orchestra'" but this seems strange. The group had tried an infrastructure impromptu chamber approach and failed, opting for the mellotron. They were being subsidized by Crowther and certainly in no position to approach others to work for them, living on bare ducats themselves. Then, up pops a bloke straight out of the blue and things change radically. Who, even beyond a subject that had been dead to the group, would've had the connections to gather the Orchestra? Seems pretty obvious, though there may be undisclosed facts supporting the article writer's claim.

In liner notes for the compilation Another Arable Parable, Ryszard Szafranski states that the LP BJH "pioneered the merging of basic rock style with quasi-classical arrangements courtesy of Robert John Godfrey." Putting aside the ahistorical claim of "pioneering" (the Moody Blues had definitively done that two years earlier with Days of Future Passed), it's important to note that Szafranski shows that the album and not the group per se had been the focal point of the quasi-momentous occasion, "courtesy of Robert John Godfrey," a telling recognition, albeit via a third party with quite strong critical values, as the notes clearly illustrate.

2. On the original vinyl US release of Once Again, Godfrey is once more saluted as "Conductor and Musical Director" of the entire LP. On the CD remaster, he's again downgraded, to having "arranged and conducted" only two songs, two of the half-dozen shown in the legal case: "Galadriel" and "Mocking Bird," though, this time, his name appears in bold along with everyone else's. Powell again refers to the Godfrey/BJH work by saying that the unique sound was "the result of careful honing of their songwriting craft" and that "[t]he fusion of orchestra and rock band in concert was a powerful and memorable exerience for both performers and audience."

Moreover, Wolstoneholme is cited thusly: "I wasn't the instigator of heading in an orchestral direction, but I did embrace it wholeheartedly. Rather than dabble in it, I was totally convinced by the possibilities of orchestrating our music and saw it as the way forward.' At least in this quote, he's careful not to say who was responsible for the orchestral direction. Curiously, Holroyd is referred to as having "believed the mellotron had encouraged the band to write with the orchestra in mind." "Believed"? He, of course, was there and it seems rather strained to use so soft a word when actual knowledge would be as much his as anyone's. But then, these notes were written well after the court case, now weren't they?

A very key instance occurs here. John Lees wrote "Mockingbird," a song for his wife-to-be, but the band, Lees included, was unhappy with it. Enter Robert John Godfrey, who slowed the tempo and added in a lush orchestral element. The result now? "[A] majestic piece that was to become a major part of Barclay James Harvest folklore and would still feature in live sets thirty years later." This, from the guy that the band or label, co-defendants in the lawsuit, had sanctioned to write the band's history for the remastered re-releases.

3. The original vinyl U.S. release of Baby James Harvest credits Martyn Ford this way: "Thanks to Pete Tattersall, Martyn Ford, and John Bell." Below that is printed: "Produced and Arranged by Barclay James Harvest for IMA Limited." Quite a shift of emphasis and one which the remaster would first bolster through an even more sniffing disdain, then, oddly, disagree with. Its opening page doesn't credit Ford at all, let alone Tattersall or Bell, but the liner notes, again by Powell, plainly state that Ford was now "conductor and orchestral arranger for studio sessions and special concerts." A pretty weighty contribution to be so twitted on both LP and remaster, no? The band's afffections for this very important aspect of its sound had shifted significantly. Those same notes claim Godfrey had been "dismissed" as "resident musical arranger." Dismissed? The guy who may well have been as responsible for the early successes as the band itself? Hmmmm.

4. Baby James and Short Stories were very different in texture and cohesivity, as well as in overall production, arranging, and writing values, a fact noted by nearly all scribes. Confirming it, in fact, was that same writer hired by EMI to put history to the Another Parable Arable compilation, Szafranski. Of Short Stories, he says: "the general tone of the album was found to be patchy. The strain of having to follow such an illustrious predecessor [Once Again] became more evident on further listening. No memorable melodies were to be found and the overall production suffered from a murky, shallow depth." He goes on to note Baby James as an "[a]lmost exact reproduction of previous themes, the album broke no new ground. It seemed inspiration was at an all-time low and disillusionment was fast setting in." Yes indeed, Godfrey leaves and the band immediately nose-dives. Coincidence? We may well think not. For two LP's, they flounder, Ford being no Godfrey, until running into Rodger Bain, who recognizes the band's ensemble strengths and rehabilitates the whole approach. As to the elevation of Martyn Ford, Szafran refers to that transition by showing that it was "a second 'back-room' modification." "Back-room," eh? Hm. With smoke and mirrors perhaps as well?

5. Barclay James Harvest and Once Again are universally regarded as the band's masterpieces, over and above all the other great music they emitted. Those high-water marks had Robert John Godfrey, the rest did not.

6. Godfrey went on to found The Enid, which issued the magnificent debut LP In the Region of the Summer Stars for London/Buk in 1976, five years after Once Again. If there were any doubt where BJH's lush classical side had fled, one needed only repair to this remarkable LP to locate it again. Summer Stars is a wonderland of depth, insight, maturity, and strange marvels, an issuance standing as another proof that progressive rock held a hidden adjunct to the brilliant neoclassical world. With only a foursome, Godfrey had matched and even outshone BJH in their own game, replicating what he'd done for his erstwhile partners via orchestra, this time with only four men, obtaining as rich a sound as is possible from a quartet.

7. The court agreed with Godfrey that he had indeed been significant in his authoriality and put the legal stamp on his firm right to claim so, certainly for BJH's best song ever (Dark Now My Sky, one that even the band members regard as their zenith), as well as their enduring signature (Mockingbird), and others besides, to a degree the two parties differ on. It would be interesting to see the court's actual words and settle that matter but neither has offered them to the public.

8. A particular sentence of the judge's words, the finale of the suit, quoted on the BJH site, is mysterious: "I dismiss the two actions." Two actions? Godfrey was suing BJH, what was the other action? Had he multiple actions into court? Had there been a counter-suit from BJH/Polydor, perhaps? The latter seems probable, as it's a standard legal strategem. And, obviously, 'dismiss' has a different meaning in Britain than in America. On these shores, a dismissal brushes the entire matter out the door; in Godfrey's case, he at least was able to gain an important moral victory: a just claim to a rightful co-share in a group-created intellectual property, for whatever good it may do him, especially in view of Polydor and BJH's obstinacy (Polydor, as is readily shown in the CD's, following the usual piratical industry practice, is the true copyright holder, not BJH, exactly the sort of inhuman action Robert Fripp has long inveighed against).

A Small Legal Education

Now, while law may be held in universal esteem, lawyers are not...except amongst themselves. This is not an accidental sentiment, especially not when held so unanimously. The barrister's typical feeble attempt at injured irony, "Yeah, everyone loathes a lawyer... except when he needs one, dammit!!!," is cogent only to those unfamiliar with the fact that we lowly non-esquired commoners find need of them only because they and their ilk (judges, etc.) have made the system so byzantine, labyrinthine, and perplexing that none dare approach without a shyster, a very nice package of self-fulfilling traps. That is, we need lawyers only by way of the hard and inescapable reality that they have made us need them. Try going to court in pro personum (i.e., all by yer lonesome, Jeeter) and see what that gets you. At minimum, you'll be spending months gearing up and learning as bizarre a set of procedural antics as any madman could wish to occupy his every waking hour, as ensorceled by innumerable impertinent minutiae as by stultifying savagings of both the English and Latin languages, a condition the best professor of the land would rend his thinning hair over. And that's before you expend countless hours in actual research (the 'discovery' phase) for your case.

However, some amongst us are fascinated by law while repelled by the quagmire that prevents society from realizing its intent. That's right, the courts in no way facilitate the law, they commodify it to the gain of its certified denizens and distance its effects as remotely as is (in)humanly possible from the mass it purports to "serve." In this country, it's now a verity that "money = justice"; more accurately, it's well known that money used within the legal system obtains not justice but escape from it, far far more often than not. That knowledge and the actions that propagate it are on the increase, not the reverse. Since the physical halls and tomes of the system themselves could not have put such corruption in place, not being themselves possessed of intellect or ability, if this does not lead the average citizen to understand how the water carriers for it have became synonymous with weasels, then such enlightenment is not forthcoming and we leave them to their deserved vagarious rewards at the hands of those who smile and reach for their bank accounts when a rube walks in the barristered door.

That has all been said to give the reader a patch of ground to stand on for the following. While writing the overview of Barclay James Harvest's catalogue, I became aware of the altercation between them and Robert John Godfrey. It was a matter that had been kept well away from the public, though it should have of vital concern at least to the progressive music community... which, it hardly need be said, is served by pseudo-journalists mostly moronic beyond reason. The further I delved into the situation, the more I was intrigued. Like any good reader, I followed the matter to find out what the conclusion had been. When I reached that finale, I found it to be no climax at all but rather the usual legal tomfoolery one exects when confronting Leviathan. This would not do, so I set out to see if I mightn't be able to put things straight at least for my own mind's sake. The text on the BJH site indicated that they would in no way be friendly to an approach to the matter (see for yourself), so I instead contacted Godfrey. To my inquiry as to whether he'd be willing to answer a set of questions designed to nail sundry matters in the incident to a set of verities, he replied, in an e-mail of 16 May 2005:

"I don't see why not - I would be happy to try and answer your questions."

Heartened, I prepared a set of questions designed to exhaustively cover ground in such a way that they answered the questions or objections any opposition might care to pose before they even uttered them. These were necessarily detailed, as all legal work must be, but by no means as prolonged or redundant as a really incisive prep would have to be in order to obtain a positive court decision. We weren't in court but I nevertheless wanted to clarify matters left murky on both the Barclay James Harvest and Robert John Godfrey sites. Too, as a graphic artist, musician, and writer, I was exceedingly curious to see how this crucial matter of intellectual properties and a very, to my mind, important case reconciled with my personal notion of justice, as well the one that seemed to prevail in law journals here in America. Therefore, I sent these questions on May 25, 2005.

Upshot and Aftermath

There was no immediate response from Godfrey. I hadnít expected such. I was requesting a fair amount of input and he might well be involved in matters that disallowed attending the interrogatives. However, itís known to me that HotMail is quite prone to a decent freqency of losing transmissions (Iíve had it happen at least two dozen times, as have many), so, on June 15, 2005, I wrote to ensure my questions had reached him:

"Hello Robert: As I hadn't heard back from you, it occurred to me that you mightn't have received the questions I sent; hence, I'm writing merely to ascertain if you have indeed received them, not to pressure you for answers (please take as long as you need). Have you?"

This is the response I obtained:

"Dear Marc, I have received the list of questions and quite frankly I balked at the task - I really don't feel like revisiting all this in such detail. Furthermore most of what you want to know is on the Enid website: [and] tml.

If you would like to visit me, I would be prepared to discuss these things with you to your heart's content, but I do not wish to participate in an email dialogue - I am too lazy and not really all that interested in what is past - Mel is now dead - Les and John have apparently gone their separate ways and we are all getting on.

Kindest regards,

Robert John Godfrey."

In point of fact, most of what I wanted to know was most definitely not on those sites, nor on BJH's (again, the reader can readily prove this for himself). This was, of course, a 180-degree turn-around from his initial interest. It was puzzling. A gentleman whoíd spent over two decades pursuing his rightful and proper interests with much expenditure of time and effort, avid to rescue justice from an adversarial monolith, who'd then basically been screwed by the system, obtaining legal admission regarding his property rights only to be instructed he could not collect on them, and who, when contacted about setting the record straight at least in the eyes of his music public, was not terribly interested.

Godrey had been at first quite willing, then was more than polite in his refusal, and the reasons for it made at least rudimentary sense: after all, heíd expended many many hours over many many years and must presently be tremendously frustrated at such a Pyrrhic victory... And yet, when given a chance to explore what was hidden from the public and perhaps prove the injustice of the ruling and the actions of Barclay James Harvest, he first says 'yes' and then 'no.' The writer is left to consider why. The first possibility regards precisely the above. The second is markedly less positive: would answering the questions have revealed matters in a way that mightnít reflect well on... someone?

In such circumstances, one can only relate one's own mindset in the same situation. Had I been so royally screwed by the legal system and by erstwhile comrades, I'd be permanently incensed and more than eager to get the facts out as widely as possible, no matter when the occasion arose. But then, not all individuals are as consumed by a sense of the impropriety of thwarted justice as I am... and are perfectly entitled thuswise.

Godfrey has held out that he would answer my questions were I able to visit him. On the one hand, thatís a very gentlemanly and generous proposition but, on the other, it's also quintessentially safe: I'm presently many thousands of miles away, separated to the very furthest end of the American continent (Manhattan Beach, a Los Angeles yuppie burg, three miles from the Pacific), abetted by an intervening Atlantic. The chances are excellent Iíll not any time soon want to spend thousands of non-recoverable dollars to help him put things to right for his own sake. Too, were I to indeed show up on the doorstep, I might very well find the same militation of sentiment I received in his e-mails: "Yes!...but...No!"

So, it's left to the reader to decide for him- or herself. The mysteryís not much more illuminated than when I began investigating it. I've perhaps parsed matters well enough to interest the onlooker that thereís a gross perversion of justice present, and hopefully indicated where the malefactor(s) are indicated by the court to lie, as well as piqued curiosity as to why anyone would be content to let such a grotesquerie sit, glaring. From that, you, o beneficiary of the outrages of a close-to-hand misfortune, may attempt to decide for yourself. At the very least, it's an interesting quandary: how would you act and react, were you the recipient of this weird admittance-denial of your rights?

The rest is silence.

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