Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The Guardian diary has been keeping an interested eye on the story of the Jazz singer who went AWOL - or perhaps didn't. Yesterday, they were fretting that maybe it was all a publicity stunt:

We're aware, of course, of the irony of this column ranting on journalistic standards, but we still begin with the curious tale of the disappearance of singer Madeleine Peyroux. Last week Madeleine's record company, Universal, informed the press that the singer had done a runner (again!) and they were "considering hiring a private detective to track her down". Naturally we missed the story, assuming it was simply one of those silly-season tales - a publicity stunt, perhaps, invented by her record company - but as ever we were widely out of line with the consensus. The Independent's Stephen Khan, in a 1,543-word opus on the subject, reports: "Here was a 31-year-old American woman on the cusp of greatness, being compared to Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan as her new album Careless Love received rave reviews, and suddenly it appears she wants none of it." Meanwhile, over at the Times, Adam Sherwin suggests: "Her disappearance is unlikely to be a publicity stunt, however, like the one dreamed up by the Clash in 1982 to drum up ticket sales." Oh really? We heard Madeleine was at her home in the country all the time. Or as the singer's manager puts it: "She is absolutely fine and has always been absolutely fine." Solid work, gentlemen.

It was Universal's Linda Valentine who sent out the offending press release, so we call to check if she's still desperately seeking Madeleine. Have you tried calling her at home, we ask? "Er, what do you think?" she stutters. Well, we think that if you made that call you'd discover that she's there. "She's turned up fine. It is called capitalising on a situation rather than a shameless publicity stunt," Linda explains. "A bit like Drongo's goal for Arsenal on Sunday." Er, Drogba for Chelsea? "Ah yes, that's it. That's too much for me." You don't say.

So far, so murky. Today, though, they return to the story with a curious new development:

More on the curious tale of singer Madeleine Peyroux and her record company, Universal. You'll recall Universal sent out a story that it was considering hiring a private detective to track down the artist, who it accused of doing a runner. She was (of course) at home all the time; and as we hear Madeleine is unhappy about the stunt we ask her manager, Cynthia Herbst, if there'll be any action? "We never, ever publish lies to the press and this has all been lies," says Cynthia. "Madeleine is feeling really disappointed that anybody at Universal would do this. We're not going to the battle ground, but we're taking the high ground." Cynthia is asking Universal for "a complete retraction and an apology to Madeleine". Developing, as they say.

So... from where we're sitting, it seems like Madeleine had had enough of sitting in draughty breakfast TV studios and went home; Universal, in a bid to try and save face and develop some sort of press coverage, cooked up the story of her 'disappearance' knowing full well she was cutting her toenails in front of the Jay Leno show back in New York. We'd love to be a fly on the wall at the planning for the next album promo campaign - "So, Maddy, how would you like it if we claimed you were dead?" Indeed, the whole murky business suggests that the Universal press office has more than a little in common with that kid on the Channel 4 documentary last night, who managed to dupe into his friend into believing that, in order to meet the Queen, he had to stab him.

Hang about a moment, though: There's more. Today's Independent reports that Madeleine is being sued by an ex-boyfriend, who claims that he discovered her, only to be abandoned:

[William] Galison, a jazz harmonica player, is claiming that much of the present interest was due to him. He will tell the court that he in effect rediscovered her playing in a bar in New York in 2002 during the seven-year period in which she "vanished" after the success of her debut album, Dreamland, in 1996.

He told The Independent yesterday that the couple immediately teamed up after the meeting - playing in a series of influential venues such as New York's Bottom Line and Joe's Pub. They also performed with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra before an audience that included the former prime minister John Major and his wife, Norma. In the meantime they also moved in together, he says.

We're not sure if the detail about John Major is thrown in here to try and make the story seem a little more glamorous. Doesn't really work, does it?

"We were romantically involved. She lived with me, she was eating my food. We were romantically involved and we had an amazing act. But suddenly she stopped working with me," he said.

He says Peyroux used the album they had co-funded and recorded at a studio in Brooklyn as a demo for the Universal-licensed label Rounder. After their relationship collapsed, Galison tried to market the record with another label. But the company dropped it after being contacted by lawyers for Rounder, he said.

In a letter to the co-founder of Rounder, Ken Irwin, Galison said: "I am concerned about Madeleine's career and her psychological well-being. You know well that Madi has a history of attempted suicide. Now she finds herself facing a federal lawsuit with no representation and everything to lose. If God forbid, Madi should harm herself as a result of the stress of this episode, it will be her handlers - those who encouraged her to lie and betray her friends for their own selfish motives - who will be to blame."

Ooh, he's quite the charmer, isn't he? It's a pity he went to the effort of writing a letter - the normal way to do this would be to go up to Ken Irwin, wave a picture of Peyroux, and mutter "Pretty thing, isn't she? Be a shame if something... happened to her... pushed her over the edge..."

Rounder's lawyers have suggested that Galison may be using the legal dispute as an "ill-advised attempt ... to trade on the name and reputation of Ms Peyroux to boost his career by passing off an inferior version of a Madeleine Peyroux album".

They also claimed to have obtained "directly and from Ms Peyroux, evidence of numerous incidents of physically and verbally abusive behaviour by Mr Galison against Ms Peyroux".

Galison claims the allegations of abuse are libellous. Peyroux's lawyers will tell the court that such has been Galison's behaviour that the singer has contemplated filing criminal harassment charges. He denies the claim.

So... is that all clear, then?


Anonymous said...

The music biz. Dontcha just love it !


Hey there.

The charmer here, Madi's diabolical ex-boy-fiend.

If any one in your camp would care for any facts regarding the lawsuit against Rounder Records, Madi Peyroux and her manager and lawyer, just contact me at

Here are a couple, whether you want them or not:

I never claimed to have "rediscovered" Madi. I met her when she was pretty much down and out, and with me as her musical director, she started playing serious gigs again and went on to get the rounder/ Universal deal.

I did not sue because I felt I deserved credit for Madi's success. I sued because Rounder and Madi's lawyere and manager tried to crush an album that I have the right to commercialize (with royalties to Madi) by US copyright law. Unfortunately, Madi seems to have allied herself with her "handlers", probably because they could sue her for not telling them that I was the owner of the CD.

If Universal and Rounder get away with squashing my company and this CD, they will set a precedent for any other major label to steamroll any independent label or artist. If you prefer artistic autonomy to multinational corporate hegemony, wish me luck.

My letter to Ken Irwin was sincere. I was not threatening to murder Madi as your blogger suggests. I sent that letter to Irwin nearly two years because i know Madi and her history as well as anyone and i had genuine concerns.

Finally, I don't think the "disappearing Madi trick" was a publicity hoax. Madi was obviously melting down before she left the UK. Check out the reviews of her Edinburgh concert.

I think that rather than take responsibility for Madi's exhaustion, her manager pretended she didn't know where Madi was. UK Universal was justifiably pissed and released the detective story to pressure Madi's people to tell them what the heck was going on.

Madi's manager, Cynthia Herbst, is the paragon of integrity that has been saying that "Got You On My Mind" doesn't exist for the past two years, while it has sold nearly 40,000 copies and garnered rave reviews.

The lady is factually challenged.

Thanks for posting this.

Will Galison

ojak said...

Thank you, your article is very good

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