A View from David Kushner

Grey Tuesday

A clever bit of homespun sampling has triggered a wave of controversy across the Internet. Brian Burton, a.k.a. DJ Danger Mouse, a 26-year-old studio whiz in Los Angeles, mixed music from the Beatles’ classic White Album with vocal tracks from…

  • February 26, 2004

A clever bit of homespun sampling has triggered a wave of controversy across the Internet. Brian Burton, a.k.a. DJ Danger Mouse, a 26-year-old studio whiz in Los Angeles, mixed music from the Beatles’ classic White Album with vocal tracks from rapper Jay Z’s recent release, the Black Album, to produce – voila - the Grey Album. It’s two great albums that sound uniquely great together. And it’s ticking a lot of people off.

EMI, the company that owns the rights to the White Album, fired off cease-and-desist letters to the legions of sites (and stores) that were trafficking Burton’s hit mash-up. This Tuesday, in response, a coalition of webmasters, crying foul over what they perceive to be a reactionary blast against postmodern art, declared the day “Grey Tuesday,” making Burton’s songs readily available for 24 hours (though many of the tracks still remain online).

Since Burton wasn’t selling the Grey Album, it certainly seems like an overreaction to pull his tracks down. Mash-ups are sonic collages, pure and simple, and, in a certain sense, very good for the labels’ business. After all, there are probably plenty of Beatles fans out there who would never appreciate Jay Z - and vice versa - if it wasn’t for Danger Mouse’s spin.

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.