40-Sad Lover’s Waltz-Camper Van Beethoven. A Viking Funeral Pyre.

Sundsvall A Viking Santa Cruz.

Please make some donations</


In May of 1990 Camper Van Beethoven unexpectedly* broke up while on tour in Europe. We were up near the arctic circle in Sundsvall Sweden. This beautiful and remote town on the Gulf of Bothnia seemed a fitting place for an ending. Figuratively and literally at the end of the road. Yes I know the E4 continues past Sundsvall but it seemed to me at the time it was about as far north as you could go before you left the refined “cultured” Europe and entered the wilder arctic region. Sundsvall, with it’s university, banks, shipping, industry and tech is one of the places where the Nordic arctic integrates back into the rest of Europe.

Sundsvall also has a habit of burning down. At least 4 times in the last 400 years. And I do mean the whole town burning down. So for two reasons we could not have picked a better place for the band to break up.

Hotel that was the scene of the dissolution of CVB

We made this strange dispirited trip back to the UK. We weren’t speaking to each other but we had to ride together for 3 days and several ferry rides back to London. Our tour manager Howie, made us play one more show in ÖrebroSweden. Just so we had enough funds to make it back to London. We would have run out of cash otherwise.

The traveling minstrel business™ is not what people think it is. You make very little money on the road, and you have these enormous up front costs. And if for some reason you don’t get 90% of the way through a tour you usually lose money. That’s why I hate it when these new media music theorists opine about songs being promotional tools for touring and then the musicians are supposed to make all there money from touring revenues. It’s an iffy proposition that you make any money on a tour, even when you plan it carefully. All it takes is one broken arm or skull fracture. Every band on tour in Europe is always one makeshift toboggan ride with a drunken Finnish transvestite away from financial disaster.

A lot of people are surprised at Cracker and Camper Van beethoven’s frugality when we tour. Minimal crew, no tour bus, vans and trailers, budget hotels etc. But consider that the idiots running around playing the same size venues we play in tour busses (at $1000+ a day) are going home with no money. Or worse owing their record companies and managers money. Part of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven’s longevity is due to our business model. Another part is the Fission-Fusion(insert link) cycle that Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven unconsciouslydeveloped. But that’s another story.

So breaking up in Sundsvall Sweden was an unmitigated disaster. Without the last 2 1/2 weeks of tour revenues the band fell short almost $20,000 of what was expected. Further the tour was already a net loss even as planned. Virgin records had agreed to make up that shortfall. approximately another 30,000 dollars. The record company gives you a check at the beginning of the tour, and a final balance when you complete the tour. This is called tour support. This was very common in the day, and a figure like that for a two month tour of europe was not uncommon. The tour support was actually a loan against OUR royalties from sales of our CDs/Cassettes/Albums in europe. So like most bands we viewed it as an almost fair trade-off. Certainly nothing to quibble about. If we could achieve the same level of popularity in Europe as the states we would be sitting pretty. In order to do this we needed to extensively tour the continent. Tour support was viewed as a way to prime the pump. Also because of the way royalties are figured artists are almost always un-recouped. Unless we went gold or platinum we weren’t gonna see any record royalties anyway. It was like monopoly money in a way.

But since the band broke up a funny thing happened. Buried in the fine print of our tour support agreement were a couple clauses that really screwed us. First the record company was not obligated to pay the balance of the tour support agreement. And really why should they? We didn’t finish the tour. Second the tour support loan was now re-coupable against ALL royalties owed to us. Including what is called publishing royalties.

Publishing royalties are monies due to the songwriters. They are for everything from radio play, television and film licensing. Also-and most importantly- the record companies have to pay the songwriters for each cd/cassette/album/download sold. Whether the record is recouped or not. These royalties are substantial. In some cases larger than the Artist royalty. Notice the distinction. Songwriters as opposed to Artists. They are often not the same thing. They might overlap but not exactly.

The publishing royalties were very much not monopoly money. There were publishing monies due to us for sales of albums the last couple years. A funny quirk of the music business only 50% of sales are counted at the time of sale. the rest are doled out over a period of two and 1/2 years. In order to account for returns. And since i was the principal songwriter a disproportionate share of these royalties were mine. As soon as the band broke up, those publishing royalties disappeared. $30,ooo dollars of non-monopoly money.

With the net loss from the tour about $40,000 dollars evaporated.

Back to the traveling minstrel business for a moment. So we weren’t making money from records. We were no longer getting the subsistance per diems and stipends for touring and now the publishing money had gone away. Our band bank account was wiped out. We returned to the U.S, unemployed and dead broke. I didn’t even have an apartment to return to as I had let mine go and put all my stuff in storage. My parents were of very modest means and i couldn’t rely on them for a handout. If i wasn’t such a thrifty Scot and managed to tuck away 5k the previous couple years i would have ended up homeless. I very nearly did anyway. It was by and far the single stupidest thing we ever did as a band.

That fateful day in Sundsvall we should just piled all the instruments, amplifiers and luggage in the long boats set them ablaze and pushed them into the Gulf of Bothnia. A true Viking funeral. It would have been more enjoyable way to lose 40,000 dollars. And it would have enlivened the miserable trip back to the UK.

The last song Camper Van Beethoven ever played in it’s first incarnation was Ambiguity Song. That was the last song of the encore in Orebro Sweden. However in that set we played another lovely song from one of the early records. Sad Lover’s Waltz. I remember that this was the song that that evening put a lump in my throat.

*It’s hard to say any band unexpectedly break up. It’s amazing that you can hold together a group of 5-6 young men and women in their twenties for an extended period of time. When the band is a collective rather than a single person or two to three person partnership the band is bound to break up. It’s just a matter of time. Longevity is also highly dependent on the power hierarchy of a band. Flatter structures are less stable. Note that i’m not saying longevity of itself is always a good thing. Solo artists have the longest longevity but are prone to go through the longest cycles of bad records.

traveling minstrel business™ is a trademark of zendixie™

Please make some donations</

03 Sad Lovers Waltz


[INTRO & BREAK:]

[G]-[C]-[G]
[G]-[C]-[G]
[G]-[D]-[C]-[Bm]-[Am]-[G]

[G] One step for boys,[C] one step for girls, step a-[G]-way
One step for you,[C] one step for me, step a-[G]-way
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz[D] that’s just the sad lovers’[C] waltz[Bm]-[Am]-[G]
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz[D] that’s just the sad lovers’[C] waltz[Bm]-[Am]-[G]

One step for anger, one step for pain, step away
One step for right, one step for wrong, step away
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz

[REPEAT BREAK]

One step for boys, one step for girls, step away
One step for you, one step for me, step away
One more step makes three, and three steps a waltz
Don’t take the third step, cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz


1 comment

  • Dylan

    Dylan NY

    Add the music notes

    Add the music notes

Add comment