The Dave Faulkner Song Credit Controversy
For those who have not read through the rest of the site in any detail, here’s the tale of the song credit controversy in a nutshell.
In mid-1977, drummer James Baker and bass player Dave Cardwell left The Geeks (arguably Perth’s first bona fide punk rock band) to form The Victims with Dave Faulkner. The Victims rehearsed feverishly and played their first public gig at the Governor Broome Hotel, East Perth, 3 weeks after forming. They would not have been able to gig so soon had they not taken as their core repertoire a bunch of fully complete Geeks songs that Baker had co-written with me during The Geeks’ short but highly productive life. No member of The Victims sought my permission to take these songs as their own, or at that time acknowledged my part in their creation. I was too pissed off to broach the subject back then. I had little to do with Baker or Cardwell during The Victims period, and spoke barely a word to Faulkner. Thinking back, I handled it badly. I should have made my grievances clear to the parties concerned.
When The Victims EP (eponymously named, but also known as No Thanks to the Human Turd) came out in 1978, it included 3 Geeks songs that I had co-written with James Baker: TV Freak, High School Girls and Disco Junkies. I do not have the EP, but I believe there were no individual song credits.
In February 1978, Perth journalist Ray Purvis wrote a feature article on The Victims in now-long-defunct newspaper The Sunday Independent, in which two of the songs I had co-written with Baker, High School Girls and Flipped Out Over You, were attributed to Baker and Faulkner. I wrote a furious letter to Purvis, detailing the facts on the creation of those and the other Geeks songs The Victims had taken as their own. I stated emphatically that Faulkner had had nothing to do with the writing of any of them.
Purvis did not reply. However, I have to assume he mentioned my letter to James Baker, at least, because when The Scientists’ Pink album came out in 1981, my name appeared in the credits for two of the songs, I’m Looking For You (a Geeks Baker/Buncle original) and Teenage Dreamer (which derived from a Geeks song called I’m In London).
When The Victims compilation album, All Loud On The Western Front, was released by Timberyard on vinyl in 1989 (and re-released on CD in 2005) there were 4 Geeks songs included: Flipped Out Over You, High School Girls, TV Freak and Disco Junkies. Flipped Out Over You was credited to Baker, the other three to Baker/Faulkner.
I re-established contact with James Baker in the late 80s (we even had another stab at a band in the 90s). When I brought up the topic of the Geeks song credits, he explained that he was immersed in his band projects at the time of the Timberyard release, and simply didn’t think about who wrote what. I believe him. I bear him no grudge. And for the record, whenever the topic of the Geeks song credits has come up, he has always acknowledged my part in co-writing them. Indeed, he does so in writing on this site: see James Baker On The Geeks.
In August 2005, shortly before the launch of this site, on advice from the Arts Law Centre of Australia I emailed Dave Faulkner’s manager. In the email I detailed my grievances, and requested that Faulkner take action to have his name removed from the songs I had co-written with James Baker in The Geeks. Faulkner responded with an email to me that appears in its entirety below.
On reading this email of Faulkner’s, James Baker provided a written response, as follows:
Dave Cardwell, too, has provided a written piece for this site, in which he states:
With Geeks co-founder and singer Lloyd also confirming my songwriting collaboration with James Baker in his Perth Punk Memoirs, the evidence is overwhelming that the Geeks songs should rightfully have been credited to Baker/Buncle from the start, and that Faulkner should never have been credited with having any part in their creation.
There’s the backstory, then. And here we throw to Dave Faulkner.
Ross Buncle, 2013
Dave Faulkner’s emailed response (published in full, unaltered, as he requested):
Thanks for your email. Despite the long passage of time I do recall vividly that period of my life.
I first met James Baker at the first Cheap Nasties gig, at the Rivervale Hotel which happens to be the same suburb of Perth where I grew up. That night he and I decided to try and form a group together even though James did say he was already rehearsing with a band, the one you say was later called The Geeks. James told me at the time that he didn’t think you and Lloyd were “stylish” enough, or words to that effect (he was always harping about “style” and about Johnny Thunders in particular – his all-time favourite “stylish” person). I don’t say this to add insult to injury or re-open old wounds but only to set out the circumstances surrounding James’ decision to team up with me as I remember them. James suggested we ask David Cardwell, who was also in The Geeks with him, to play bass in our new band. James took me to a Geeks rehearsal so that I could observe David Cardwell’s ability on bass and see if he was “right” for The Victims (I thought he’d be O.K.). There were no other ulterior motives involved but as a fan of this “underground” music (underground at that time, anyway) I was very interested to see how “cool” (or not) your band was: we were all of us pretty passionate about (so-called) Punk Rock and were always keen to meet up with any other devotees and I recall meeting you and Lloyd there. Some of the songs The Victims later performed were definitely played at that rehearsal.1
James was (and, no doubt, still is) an entertaining and sociable fellow and a great raconteur: he often spoke of grand experiences he’d only recently had seeing (and in some cases, meeting) the Ramones, the Pistols, Damned and many other now-legendary artists playing in London and the U.S. in 1976. His stories sounded far-fetched but they had an undeniable ring of truth about them. I believed him then about all that and I still do today. I have to say, I was rather impressed at that time by James’ larger-than-life personality and when he subsequently insisted to me that he had in fact written all The Geeks material by himself, I believed him about that too. I now realise that was a fantasy (at best). The way he described his songwriting process for those songs was that he would sing to you all the guitar riffs and the melodies that he’d made up and then you would “interpret” that into chords etc.2 When I later came to write songs with James we would do the same thing, ‘Disco Junkies’ being one I remember well. I don’t believe I had heard that song performed by The Geeks because I vividly recall James singing me the song’s main riff (which was new to me) at a Victims rehearsal, and then his correcting me when I didn’t have it quite right. How was I to know that the same process hadn’t also been the way all the songs were originally written, composed by himself alone as he had always maintained? I didn’t suspect then that he was only teaching me things that had been apparently previously created by you.3 Tone deaf (as you claim) or not, he knew enough to know when it sounded right to him. I think it would be an interesting exercise today to hear how different my interpretations of “James’ songs” were to the way they were actually written by you two together – trying to figure out what notes he was trying to sing in his tuneless way involved a lot of trial and error but it WAS creative in unexpected ways.4 Let me state for the record, I have never heard a recording of The Geeks in any form whatsoever, played to me by James or anyone else.5 It wouldn’t surprise me (now) that James may have had one himself but I never knew about it. I am pretty musical myself: ‘(I’m) Flipped Out Over You’ is one that I remembered well from that single Geeks rehearsal and it wasn’t hard to learn, given that James knew the arrangement and had all the lyrics. The same goes for ‘High School Girls’ and ‘T.V. Freak’ so there probably wasn’t much variation from the original Geeks versions of those songs when The Victims performed them, though you now say I changed the melody for ‘High School Girls’ significantly. ‘I’m Looking For You’ and ‘There Is No Way Out’ I’m not so sure about: I seem to recall James having to “coach” me pretty much through the chord structures and riffs until I had them “right”. Again, I stress, he always claimed the songs were wholly his own work.
The Victims eventually had quite a large repertoire of original songs. Besides the many songs that I wrote alone, James and I also collaborated on countless others. The reason I still feel sure today that James’ and my other collaborations (that is, other than those ones you claim to have co-written) were actual wholly-new songs and not just James’ “re-creations” of past efforts with you (or other people) is that in these songs he didn’t sing me any melodies or riffs at all, but would only write lyrics, usually inspired by something that had just happened to us, or inspiration from a late-night movie (and/or drinking session). Of course I now question how the earlier songs he’d “written” for The Geeks were so fully-formed when none of his later efforts were, but at the time it didn’t occur me: I just enjoyed having all the extra musical input myself and never gave it a second thought. You said in your letter that James took “almost all the original Geeks songs with him as well as performing some or all of them at various times” with The Victims – of the nine songs you claim you wrote with him, the Victims played seven (recording four of them). I have never heard of ‘I Wanna Be Slick And Pick Up Chicks Like You’ nor ‘I Like Iggy Pop’ and The Victims never played them. ‘I’m In London’ rings a bell with me as the title of a song that wasn’t “working” and I recollect James rewriting the lyrics to become ‘Teenage Dreamer’. You mention in your letter that your contribution to this song was finally recognised when you were credited as a co-writer with James on the Scientist’s first album, thus re-inforcing (sic) your claim of sole authorship, with James, of the nine songs that were in the Geeks repertoire, yet you somehow failed to mention that the credits from the same album list ‘I’m Looking For You’ as having been written jointly by James, you, me and Kim. What’s the truth, Ross? Does the Scientists album support your story or mine?6 From the evidence of The Scientists album, James’ story at that moment appears to have been that ‘Teenage Dreamer’ was written by you two together but that ‘I’m Looking For You’ was his own song and that each of the other co-writers received their credit for helping to “midwife” his song into a chord and melodic structure. Whatever songwriting credits may or may not have appeared on the so-called ‘Pink Album’ by The Scientists all those years ago (which was several years after The Victims broke up), it wasn’t decided by me anyway. However, it is rather disingenuous of you to only mention the evidence that supports your claims and disregard any other inconvenient facts.7 Kim Salmon would have also had to rely on James’ “faulty” recollections as to how the songs were created (stories that apparently changed over time), just as I had done when James and I worked together in The Victims.8 The reason James did or did not give you credit for these songs at various times are best known only to himself and I suggest that’s where you look to resolve those issues. As for myself, I’m happy to not be associated as writer of any of those nine songs, good, bad or indifferent as they may be, and regardless of any actual contributions I may or may not have made.
As you know, at that time there was precious little money involved in any of this and we all knew next to nothing about copyright and royalties then. The Victims only pressed a thousand copies of the ‘Television Addict’ single, which of course is a “bona fide” Faulkner/Baker song, and the song on which the band’s reputation largely rests. All the proceeds of the sales of that went towards paying back the generous Victims fan who funded the recording and manufacture of the disc. That single also features ‘(I’m) Flipped Out Over You’ on the B-side, a truly great song and probably the best one that you and James wrote together (I believe). When THAT song was recently re-issued on the recent compilation ‘Tales From The Australian Underground’ it was me (and not James) who insisted on correcting the composer information to put your name instead of mine on the label copy. I admit I have yet to inform APRA of that change (slackness on my part, not malice) but will happily do so for this and all the other songs I’ve mentioned where it’s appropriate. The Victims E.P., which features ‘T.V. Freak’, ‘High School Girls’ and ‘Disco Junkies’ (and two other original Victims songs) only numbered 500 copies (and it took a long time to sell even close to that many) and that same generous fan never recovered his investment. Apart from the previously-mentioned ‘Tales From The Australian Underground’ set, I have never authorised any re-issues of Victims material, save for a Missing Link Records compilation that came out some time in the late ’70s/early ’80s, which included ‘Television Addict’ (that album also featuring a track by Norman Gunston, amongst others) and then very recently, the ‘Do The Pop’ compilation (‘Television Addict’ again) on Shock. More specifically, I played no part in releasing the ‘All Loud On The Western Front’ Victims compilation mini-album on Timberyard Records neither in it’s original vinyl form nor, more recently, on CD. I was unable to stop it then, and now, without incurring great expense and aggravation to myself but I remain very angry about it. Any credits and/or royalties you did or didn’t receive for the songs on those records was (and still is) beyond my control: they were released entirely without my consent. Recently David Cardwell has even contacted me chasing royalties he claims he hasn’t received for those same records. He told my manager that James’ latest claim is that I arranged the deal with Shock (in the case of the recent CD) and have been collecting the money. This is highly fanciful (to put it mildly): the first time I even heard about the ‘…Western Front’ CD release was when Dave Laing (from Shock, who only distribute Timberyard) told me in a ‘phone conversation that it was about to come out. This came as a complete (unpleasant) surprise to me. I had actually been in contact with James off and on for over a year to discuss the idea of finally getting a definitive “official” Victims compilation out ourselves. The very reason I called Dave Laing was to ascertain if he would be interested in releasing such an album (ask Dave Laing about this yourself). That album will now never see the light of day since James chose to work with Timberyard again. James and Timberyard will no doubt have their own view of these matters but from my point of view the ‘All Loud On The Western Front’ mini-album(s) represents a gross abuse of me and my work. I received one modest payment some years after the first vinyl release without any accompanying statement of sales and/or royalties earned. I was lucky to get even that, it seems. As for what James and Timberyard might have made themselves on these records I have no way of knowing.9 When planning the now-aborted Victims “official” album I told James I had three requirements: 1) that Timberyard were NOT to be involved in any capacity because I didn’t trust them after the dealings regarding the vinyl album, 2) David Cardwell had to give his consent to the project and would be paid any royalties due to him, and 3) that you, Ross Buncle, would finally get the credit, long overdue, for any of the songs you and James composed together, something which I thought James finally had come close to acknowledging.10 None of this will happen now. I’m afraid James’ involvement in all of this speaks for itself. If James cared even a little bit about the rights (or wrongs) of anyone else most of these grievances would certainly never have arisen.
For what it’s worth, I truly believe that, when The Victims were starting, had I suspected that I was performing songs even partially written by someone outside of the band I would probably have not wanted us to play them. One of The Victims hallmarks was always that we wanted to write our own songs and not be a “covers band” like all the other bands in Perth at that time (those that were outside of the punk scene, anyway). Many of my favourite Victims songs were never recorded and I now regret that we never had the opportunity to commit those to vinyl for posterity instead of those four Geeks-related songs that are there instead. In some ways, that would have been a shame (especially in the case of ‘(I’m) Flipped Out Over You’) because those few songs you wrote with James would be completely unknown today.
You admit that you have never tried to contact me in all these years (nor contacted APRA, I presume) to set the record straight, as you see it. I honestly haven’t thought too much about any of this, other than to occasionally wonder how much of the music James actually wrote with you and/or by himself. You say: very little.11 From my own experience and the advantages of hindsight, I would now agree with you. Whatever the reality may be of the creation of these songs, James’ lyrics WERE often amusing and a few of the many songs that he and I wrote together I still rate highly. Obviously, I’d love to hear the recording of The Geeks you mentioned, not only to shed some light on this ancient mystery (history?)12 but also to hear some of his (and your) songs in their original form. I will be contacting APRA as soon as possible to remove any claim by me to the songs ‘(I’m) Flipped Out Over You’, ‘High School Girls’, T.V. Freak’, and ‘Disco Junkies’ and any of those other five songs if they are in fact listed on their books. I doubt there has been anything significant earned by these titles in publishing royalties anyway but I will happily pay you whatever I may have earned from them, if that can be determined. Apart from that, it’s up to you and James to once-and-for-all decide amongst yourselves what bits each of you wrote of your nine Geeks songs. Good luck!
P.S. Ross, if you wish to publish this on your website my sole condition is that you print this letter in full, without deletions or additions.
The case is closed, then, on the creative origin of the Geeks songs: they were co-written by James Baker and I. All Geeks members confirm that, as does Dave Faulkner in his letter above, and as evidenced by his prompt action in officially having his name removed from the writing credits on the APRA register.
I considered the matter done and dusted and would have been content to have let it rest without further comment until I came across news of the 2012 release of the Japanese vinyl compilation album of Victims songs, which Faulkner cuttingly entitled Sleeping Dogs Lie. It didn’t unduly bother me that as co-writer of the Geeks songs included on the album I had not been consulted about the album’s release – indeed, I would have been surprised if that courtesy had been extended to me. I would have assented to the songs I co-wrote being included on Sleeping Dogs Lie anyway, so no big deal. But that title – that bothered me.
Why? Well, to me it seems pointed, implying that previous accounts (ie: limited, to my knowledge, to this site) of the facts behind the Geeks/Victims songwriting credit controversy are lies. That pissed me off, because I have been scrupulously open and honest in my account of the facts and have put enormous effort into telling the full story in accurate detail and in the context of the period. And as stated and re-stated ad nauseum, my claims to have co-written the Geeks’ songs with James Baker have been fully supported by all members of The Geeks – and accepted as true by Faulkner! So what’s with that Sleeping Dogs Lie title?
Dave Faulkner’s album liner notes leave no doubt that it IS the songwriting credits issue to which the album title is alluding. In the notes he trains the spotlight of blame on James Baker. James tells me that Faulkner did not show him the liner notes in advance of the album’s release. Whatever, James and Dave have settled their differences, so let sleeping dogs lie, I say!
I’ve been told that during The Victims’ reunion gigs in 2015 (playing under the moniker The Television Addicts) Dave Faulkner has more than once given a public shout-out to me (“if you’re out there” – I wasn’t) and credited me as co-writer prior to the band performing one of the Geeks songs. That’s the end of the grudge-holding. As far as I’m concerned, all is now resolved. Thank you, Dave.
Ross Buncle, 2013
(with concluding comments June 2015)