Record company zaps draft song

By James Henke

Enlisted Times, July 1980

IT'S A SAD FACT OF American life that everything is governed by the taste of somebody who adds up numbers and covers his ass to keep his job," Frank Zappa says about Mercury Records' refusal to release his latest single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." "As long as we allow these things to continue, this is what we get."

According to Zappa, the single – a typical Zappa antidraft song, with such lines as "Roller skates and disco / Is a lot of  fun / I'm too young and stupid / To operate a gun" – was rejected by a middle-management executive at Mercury/Phonogram, Zappa Records' distributor in the U.S. and Canada. "We sent the single to him as part of the normal process," Zappa recalls. "He said, 'I was in the army and I don't like the words to this song.' We said, 'Okay, if you don't like the song, we'll put it out ourselves.' Shortly thereafter we severed ties with Phonogram."

Mercury President Robert Sherwood disputes Zappa's version of the story, insisting that the song's political content had nothing to do with Mercury's decision "It was a practical marketing decision," Sherwood says. "He had no new album coming out for a very long time, and you can't properly market a single in this country without it being on an album. I happen to like the song very much, but I don't think it's going to be a major Top Forty hit."

Sherwood also says that the termination of the distribution deal with Zappa Records had nothing to do with the single. "It just wasn't a profitable association for us," he adds.

Columbia Records has since agreed to manufacture and distribute the single, and, according to Zappa, discussions are under way regarding a permanent North American distribution deal with the label. CBS distributes Zappa Records in all countries except the U.S. and Canada.

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