Black Crowes Talk About Free Agency

The Black Crowes are currently enjoying a radio hit with “What Is And What Should Never Be,” a track taken from the “Live At The Greek” concert album with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Now the Crowes are turning their attention back to some lingering business matters.

In October 1999, the Atlanta rockers split from Columbia Records and American Recordings, who jointly released the Crowes’ last record, “By Your Side,” after the labels unwittingly failed to exercise their options to keep the Crowes signed to a contract.

During a recent interview with The Black Crowes and Jimmy Page, Crowes frontman Chris Robinson and guitarist-brother Rich Robinson talked about how securing their freedom was what actually enabled them to put out the “Live At The Greek” album on Musicmaker.com (see “Jimmy Page, Black Crowes Discuss ‘The Greek’” ).

“We
are free
agents,”
Rich Robinson said. “We’re off of Columbia, because with Rick Rubin switching distribution all the time, there’s bound to be some things [contractually] which fell through the cracks. And it was just a matter of how. And all lawyers are like this, and all law is like this.”

“You say ‘lawyer’ as if it’s a bad word,” Chris Robinson said.

“It is,” Rich replied. “So someone’s interpretation of [our contract] was different, and fortunately for us, Columbia’s interpretation was wrong.”

“In a very real and legally
binding way,”
Chris interjected.

“We
were in an option period which [Columbia/American] had to pick up,”
Rich resumed, “but they thought our next record would be the option period. So we’re free and clear completely. If we weren’t free, we wouldn’t be allowed to put this record out with Jimmy.”

Even though The Black Crowes and Jimmy Page were able to release “Live At The Greek,” the Crowes found out that they were contractually prohibited from including their own songs on the recording.

Unfortunately, a certain provision in the contract means the live versions of The Black Crowes’ “No Speak, No Slave,” “Hard To Handle,” and “Remedy,” featuring Page on lead guitar, will likely never be issued in any format.

“On all major label contracts,” explained Rich Robinson, “or
99 percent of them, which I just found out was standard for any artist, we’re not allowed to re-release any song that has been released on a label until two years after our contract has [expired].”

In the meantime, The Black Crowes say they are continuing to work on a new studio album and that they’ve already compiled more than 15 songs, some of which reflect the time the band has spent with Page.

“We’re just writing right now,” Rich Robinson said. “I have personal tapes of stuff that I’ve made, and Chris has notebooks of lyrics that he wrote, so we’re sort of getting together right now and recording.”

“We have about 17 things,” Chris Robinson added.


“That are finished,” Rich said, “and a bunch of others.”

“I just can’t wait to hear what you’ve got,” Jimmy Page said, “because I think, as far as their writing throughout the albums, [their writing] has really matured all the way through. The real [testament] of that is the last album.”

“This new record, you can definitely hear Jimmy’s influence on us,” concluded Chris Robinson, “[especially] after doing those shows.” [RealAudio]


The Black Crowes’ next show will see them play Joe Riley Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina on April 1, along with Filter, Matthew Sweet, and Apollo Four Forty.