Recently, Ears To The House reported on a long-running legal case brought against Trax Records by Larry Heard and Robert Owens. They claim they were never paid royalties for works released by the label dating all the way back to 1985. Trax’s initial response was to try and dismiss the case altogether, and proceedings were dragged out for over two years.
The case was eventually resolved by returning the master and publishing rights of the disputed works to Heard and Owens. They received no money, as it seems Trax did not have the funds available to pay – so they had to solve matters in a different way. A much larger case involving a number of other Trax artists from the label’s early days is currently underway.
But across the Atlantic Ocean, another case is currently ongoing – and there seems to be none of the brotherly solidarity seen amongst the largely American artists from Trax’s early days. Manchester’s Gerald Simpson might not be the most famous name in house music, but his song “Voodoo Ray” from 1988 under his A Guy Called Gerald alias is undoubtedly up there with the most well known.
He revealed last year he’d never been paid any royalties for this track, and that he wanted to get the rights back to “Voodoo Ray” and a number of other releases put out by Liverpool’s Rham! Records between 1988 and 1991. The original label, which was associated with a record shop in the city, collapsed in 1992 – Simpson has previously claimed they did this to prevent having to pay him royalties owed.
A new label also called Rham! Records was registered on Companies House in 2019 and is run by a man called Barry Lancaster Smith. Ears To The House understands Smith was associated with the original label, working alongside Peter Leay – who isn’t involved with Rham!’s current incarnation and has been dead since November 2020.
Smith believes Rham! still own the rights to A Guy Called Gerald’s older material – Simpson claims no written contract was ever signed and that the original label’s rights to his music died with their demise. Hence why there are legal efforts ongoing – but unlike in the Trax case, there seems to be one big difference.
There seems to be no great clamour to show any solidarity with Simpson – and we can’t help but wonder why. After all, on the face of it, the stories being told are all very similar – young, slightly naïve artist signs track, label rips them off in return. Where are the other British artists who were releasing music at this time? Is it seriously possible that Simpson was the only one who got unlucky?
We don’t believe for a minute he’s an isolated case. Legal matters are obviously ongoing – but if Simpson is successful, we have the feeling there could be more cases by British artists. And some solidarity from their American cousins might just make the task a little easier…